There's Someone Under the Sea 

The first episode of Burial At Sea continues the story of BioShock Infinite in a way that will thrill those who love the series while causing newcomers and casual fans to scratch their heads. Steeped in fan service and daring to add more questions to the diluted lore of the BioShock universe, Burial At Sea provides a quality experience for BioShock fanatics and is unapologetic in its pursuit of the morally ambiguous and visually shocking.

I watched the first E3 trailer for BioShock Infinite back in 2011, and the trailer was the catalyst that sparked my love for BioShock and Irrational Games. While the various nods and tie-ins to the original were completely lost on me at that time, I looked at Elizabeth as she healed a horse through the use of a tear, rift in space and time which allows Elizabeth to alter her reality by superimposing the reality of a parallel universe onto her own to gain a desired effect, with amazement. The trailer portrayed a desperate struggle on a floating city caught in the middle of a civil war. Despite the depth of moral and social satire in BioShock Infinite's narrative, the most important aspect of the narrative can be summed up in nine words. "Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt."

Burial At Sea continues the general theme of BioShock Infinite - Elizabeth propositions a struggling private detective, Mr. DeWitt, with finding a young girl named Sarah who is but one victim in a string of kidnappings - with a return to the setting of the first entry in the franchise, Rapture. Ryan's underwater utopia is on the brink of collapse as the populace has grown weary of Ryan's power and broken promises. The rumored death of Ryan's only true rival, Fontaine, has done nothing to repair his image among his detractors. While Ryan is nowhere to be seen in this story, his influence hangs over the first thirty minutes of the game as you walk among the patrons of Rapture and listen to their conversation. This first section features no combat as you walk the streets of Rapture taking in a setting that previously has only been depicted after it has crumbled and succumbed to the menace of Splicers. The breath-taking setting and underwater surroundings will thrill all fans who have desired to see a thriving Rapture.

After an interesting encounter with Sander Cohen, you and Elizabeth descend into Fontaine's sunken department store which is now a prison for Splicers who were sympathetic to Fontaine. At this point, you will complete a few objectives that are forgettable, get a plasmid that is not really new, and one very memorable weapon late in the campaign. While the setting of Rapture and the anticipation of the narrative-changing twist pulled me through the two-to-three hour campaign, combat felt uninspired and safe. There is an unfortunate lack of variety and openness to encounters due to the scarceness of supplies and claustrophobic nature of Rapture's design. Irrational obviously wanted the use of the melee attacks to factor heavily into encounters. The melee attack is the only weapon without a consumable resource directly tied to it and creates a more personal, visceral experience which distinguishes itself from BioShock Infinite.  

Constants and variables are a recurring theme in the BioShock games. However, in Burial At Sea, there are many more constants than variables. The Sky-Hook and the Sky-Line from Columbia have been repurposed for use in Rapture. Plasmids and Vigors are interchangeable terms. You are still searching for a girl because of a debt, albeit a different kind of debt. So many aspects of Burial At Sea feel derivative. On a narrative front, these two cities, Rapture and Columbia, share many things. Naturally, their worlds would be alike, but from a gameplay perspective, it feels uninspired. I am not saying that the game is bad, but Burial At Sea has limited appeal despite breath-taking moments and fantastic polish.

The world is unfailingly beautiful.  Enemy AI is consistent and matches the rage-filled nature of Splicers. The dialogue of the citizens of Rapture captures the natural feelings of people caught in a war that is not their own while questioning their perceptions of morality. Splicers spew the nonsense of pathological madmen and brain-washed schizophrenics. If you are willing to stay your hand and quietly observe, Burial At Sea becomes immensely satisfying. You are given the tools to dominate your environment, but not the artillery. In this way, Burial At Sea caters to the slower pace that the developers intended.

There are some issues with the game that extend beyond one's opinion.  While backtracking, a particular door that requires loading before it will open got stuck in an endless cycle of loading. This same door opened correctly the first time that I used it. After picking up the Radar Range, the new weapon that turns enemies into ticking time bombs, I was unable to pick up any of the weapons lying around the environment or those that should be able to be obtained through tears. Due to the brevity of the campaign and the consistent visual fidelity throughout the story, these glitches are minor annoyances and not game-breaking.

The ex post facto addition of tears being present in Rapture causes more questions to arise. Why would these tears have not been mentioned in Rapture before? The influence that Elizabeth has on Rapture may have created a different universe from the original BioShock. In the BioShock franchise, there are an infinite number of Raptures and Columbias. If you get caught up in how one aspect or another of Burial At Sea may not fit into the canon on a chronological level, you will limit your experience with the game.

The most significant change in Burial At Sea is Elizabeth. Mr. DeWitt is unaware of the events of BioShock Infinite. However, Elizabeth makes many illusions to her knowledge extending beyond that of Mr. DeWitt. Elizabeth is more mature, seductive, and mysterious. The events of BioShock Infinite have eradicated the hopeful dreams of a naïve Elizabeth and have replaced those dreams with a cold and focused mission set in a reality that she manipulates at will. The mature and darker tone of Elizabeth is paralleled in the setting and theme of Burial At Sea. There is very little room for hope or redemption in the claustrophobic halls of Rapture, and there is very little room for hope and redemption in the first episode of Burial At Sea.

All the events of this expansion take place on December 31, 1958. The significance of this date is immediately apparent to all BioShock fans. It is the beginning date of the Rapture Civil War. The inclusion of this date cannot be a coincidence, and it makes me extremely excited for the next part of this DLC.

7.75/10 "A Great Re-Introduction to Rapture"

Burial At Sea will make no sense to those unfamiliar with the franchise and little sense to casual fans of the series. It is aimed toward the most informed, diehard, and open fans of the series. The story is dark and depressing, and it does not get better. Irrational Games has crafted a tale that is designed for its fans and should not be experienced by those unfamiliar with Rapture or the events of BioShock Infinite. The recreation of Rapture could not have been better executed, and the interpretation of Elizabeth post BioShock Infinite is equally praiseworthy. If you desire to return to Rapture for an experience that is tailored to fans, Burial At Sea is a great option for you. The halls of Rapture are truly uninviting to any outsider who would dare to walk down her dark corridors.

Review Note: (Review written using a digital copy of Burial At Sea on Xbox 360)  

Originally published by N00b Magazine