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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.
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
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