I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Those were the first words that popped into my head when I started up BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 1, which is never a good sign. Like 99% of the world, I love the BioShock series, and BioShock: Infinite sits high on my game of the year list. It was a beautifully story-driven experience that still managed to be insanely fun and emotionally deep. The only minor detraction I had from the whole thing was the introduction of parallel universes, which is always a tricky can of worms to deal with.
My doubt of Burial at Sea stems from the fact that this facet, the sole puzzle piece that didn’t quite fit, is the one being expanded upon. Burial at Sea tells an interesting story, and while it plays just as fun as any other BioShock title, it’s a mere diversion that isn’t necessarily as clever as it thinks it is.
We take the role of Booker Dewitt once again, only this time he’s living in Rapture as a private detective with bad luck. In walks Elizabeth, sporting a new style and attitude, to tell him she knows the whereabouts of a missing girl he’s been looking for. Similar to Infinite, the two set off together to find the girl and piece together the mystery of her disappearance, as well as that of Elizabeth’s appearance.
It’s fairly obvious in the beginning that some big twist is planned for the ending, but the reveal is so telegraphed and predictable that it hardly has any effect. The fact that the DLC only lasts for about two hours also makes it too brief of an experience to become properly invested in. Yet as short as it is, Burial at Sea somehow manages to introduce a number of gameplay mechanics that feel odd.
Revisiting Rapture will always be a welcome experience, but a few changes have been made to this parallel version of the dystopia, and not all of them quite fit. For example, along with the gunplay and general gameplay, the sky hooks and vigors have been carried over and left the exact same. It’s jarring to see the elements of Infinite lying around Rapture, giving Burial at Sea a generally off feeling.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t play well, because any BioShock entry is going to be at least a little more interesting than your average shooter. Everything works exactly as it did in Infinite, and the new tears, gear and weapons are fun to play around with. However, the noir style that Burial at Sea is going for limits the gameplay, causing the DLC to feel like it’s been split into two parts. The first half of the game finds you rummaging through Rapture on a fetch quest, waiting until the back end to even give you a gun. From there, stealth is the new norm, as ammo, Eve and health are extremely scarce, making gunfights less riotous and more conservative.
This new approach sucks some of the life out of the gameplay, especially since the number of vigors available are limited. Running and gunning becomes a last resort instead of the norm, and it just doesn’t fit into Rapture that well. Much of these changes can be attributed to the fact that this is a Rapture from a different timeline than what we’ve played through before, but if this is the way they plan on taking future DLC, 2K might want to start covering up plot holes a bit better.
As much as I’ve ragged on Burial at Sea so far, it’s still a decent buy for fans of the series. Even with the changes made, the game plays just as well as Infinite did, and the story is an interesting (albeit unnecessary) extension of the main plot. Going back to Rapture for another adventure is a welcome idea, and the experience of wandering through crowds of high class philosophers and raiding their trash cans is reminiscent of the original classic. The series as a whole is built on such a solid foundation that it’s hard to find any fault with the gameplay itself; it’s more or less the ideas behind each game that make or break it.
When it comes down to it, that’s what Burial at Sea is missing: fresh ideas. Much of the experience feels like a playable cutscene, and the combat never builds up enough steam to be as immersive as it was in Infinite. A new weapon is introduced literally 20 minutes before the end of the game, which is a shame because it was an excellent addition to my arsenal. There were hints of new ideas to come, but nothing unique enough to warrant replays.
The only offensively bad thing about Burial at Sea is the price. For 15 bucks, it’s fair to ask for more than a two hour extension. There are so many games and add-ons that cost less and add infinitely more to their series. Whining about the price will always be a trivial matter, of course, but it seems ridiculous to pay that much for such a small amount of new elements.
At the end of the day, BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 1 is still a BioShock entry, and surely fans of the series will find something to like in this DLC. Just remember to keep your expectations a bit lower than before.
If you can look past the relatively high price tag and short running time, then BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 is a satisfying, if underwhelming, addition to the canon.