BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Review (PC)

Irrational delighted and (bio)shocked the world when they announced that the story-based DLC for Bioshock Infinite was going to be set in the undersea city of Rapture. I’m going to say this right now in the opening paragraph: if you haven’t yet played both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite to completion do not play Burial At Sea or read any further in this review. I’ll dance around spoilers for both games but some will inevitably slip through, and many people may well have not finished Infinite yet (I’ve barely started Tomb Raider and that came out around the same time). For those people do not read any further until you’ve finished the game. Consider yourselves amply warned, now the rest of us can get to the review.

Burial At Sea takes place after the love-it-or-hate-it-but-either-way-you’re-confused ending of Bioshock Infinite. It also takes place in Bioshock’s Rapture, which of course happens after the downfall of Columbia, but before the civil war that tore Andrew Ryan’s capitalist utopia apart. Also Booker and Elizabeth are there, and while Booker is apparently part of this world Elizabeth is the stronger less naïve girl she was at the close of Infinite. Confused? You ain’t seen nothing yet...

Our Elizabeth’s all grown up. Also note: Big Daddy behind her

I won’t say anything more about the story except that you play once again as Booker, who in Rapture is a private investigator, and he’s hired by the mysterious Elizabeth (who he doesn’t know in this timeline) to find a missing girl who’s important to both of them somehow. While you do have to be well-versed in the lore of both Bioshock and Infinite, at least having played both to completion with a fresh memory of each, to truly appreciate the story it is well told and adds extra layers to both games’ stories. Let’s just say that Elizabeth has a particular reason for visiting Booker in Rapture, and you might not get the answer you expect at the end of the first episode. There is a nice nod to the very first Bioshock trailer too.

I wouldn’t be surprised though if many gamers didn’t give a jot about the story and just came to explore the world. While I loved Columbia I loved Rapture just a little bit more, and getting to return to it pre-downfall is something I was always going to long for. Attention to detail is one of Irrational’s strong suits and they don’t disappoint, as they bring all they’ve learned making Columbia back to Rapture. The first part of Burial At Sea is a free-roaming slice of one of the posher areas of the city, packed with law-abiding citizens and with no combat at all. Every person you encounter will either acknowledge you or continue a conversation which never repeats. You can visit the bar or various stores, gamble (which Elizabeth will comment on), or try to find every hidden item or nod to the world of Bioshock. The creepy Little Sisters-in-Training definitely win the prize for the highlight.

You finish the tour by visiting the still-brilliant-still-insane Sander Cohen, and from there take a trip to the second more combat-orientated part of the DLC. It’s this half that resembles the original Bioshock most closely, set within a sealed area of Rapture that’s falling apart at the seams with Splicers everywhere. Rapture is still a wondrous and terrifying place to explore, with this second half taking place in a ruined shopping mall. There’s something to be discovered in every corner, with most of the fun coming from activating the navigational arrow and then walking in the exact opposite direction. Usually there’s a large area to check out along with plenty of secrets, and the sheer quality of level design makes Burial At Sea a worthwhile purchase. You’ll want to explore Rapture, because you’ll be rewarded.

Aaah, the Rapture boardwalk. Nothing bad could ever happen here

As mentioned combat takes places entirely in this shopping district and is a neat combination of both the original game and Infinite. Splicers and turrets along with most of their skills and your weapons are pulled from Bioshock with a few tweaks, however the lethal Sky-Hook (in Rapture named the ‘Air Grabber’), Sky-lines (much shorter here), air takedowns, most of the Vigors/Plasmids, and of course Elizabeth and her helpful ways all come from Infinite. It’s an interesting mix for sure. The only real combat disappointment is the lack of wandering Big Daddies or Adam to scavenge (Plasmid upgrades are simply bought with cash)... although that’s not to say Big Daddies don’t feature.

While Plasmids/Vigors are mostly just the ones from Infinite and make themselves useful the same way, the one new Plasmid is Old Man Winter which freezes enemies in place (or water, creating bridges). Unfortunately enemies have it too, creating the powerful Frost Splicers. One of the areas where Bioshock is arguably better than Infinite is that enemies use their “magic powers” more readily, creating more fun foes to fight, and Irrational have brought that back along with Rapture. The combat in Burial At Sea is hugely entertaining, and yes you can carry all weapons at once now... although make sure on PC you assign a key to ‘change weapon’ as well as ‘Mouse Wheel Scroll’, because you have to hold it to get the weapon selection – Irrational could’ve made this less clunky for PC players. It has to be said however that on Normal it’s far too easy. I only “died” once in the entire episode, and that was only because I ran out of Eve and ammo (and hadn’t realised I was carrying all the weapons yet).

Anyone else creeped out?

Finally though we get to the one real flaw, if you can call it that, of Burial At Sea – Episode 1. If you explore absolutely everywhere, search under every seat cushion and table and in every hat box or bin for coins or lockpicks, listen to every part of every conversation, experiment with different weapons and plasmids, play on Hard and just generally do everything you can to make Burial At Sea last as long as possible... then you’ll finish it in 2-3 hours. I did all that except I played it on Normal and Steam says I took 2 hours. Anyone focusing on story or combat rather than exploring could clock it in less than one hour. It costs £9.99/$14.99. Ken Levine argues that they’ve delivered quality over quantity, and rest assured Burial At Sea is most definitely a quality piece of DLC. Rapture has been painstakingly designed and filled to the brim with things to discover, it all looks gorgeous with a wonderful combination of art deco and occasional film noir, and both the combat and the story (as it stands, “Episode 1” remember) are fun to experience. But I will still leave it up to you to decide if you think 2-3 (probably 2) hours’ gameplay, no matter how good, is worth £9.99/$14.99. It’s your money, after all. Personally I say either get the Season Pass or wait until the Steam Sale next month.

Despite the brief playing time and ease of combat on Normal I thoroughly enjoyed Burial At Sea – Episode 1. It successfully combines all the best elements from Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite into a satisfying package, and it should be pointed out that level-wise nothing has been reused from either game (unlike the superb Minerva’s Den, which was great but didn’t have much new). However, you have to be a devoted Bioshock series fan to get the most out of it and absolutely should not play it if you’re not planning on scouring every nook and cranny for secrets and dollars. It’s definitely a worthwhile purchase and I’m already itching to play Episode 2 which promises to turn the formula (and series) on its head, but it’s entirely up to you what price you pay for it. Xmas Sale starts a month from now, just to let you know.

Top Game Moment: Probably the ending, where everything finally slots into place and you’ll either be itching for the next episode… or shouting “is that it?!”.



By Voqar (SI Core Veteran) on Nov 13, 2013
Elizabeth is looking hot! Oh wait, didn't Levine throw a tantrum about people sexualizing his girl? Doh.