The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Irrational Games created two of the most memorable settings in gaming history: the underwater utopia of Rapture and the airborne city of Columbia. We saw these two fantastical worlds intersect in the first episode of Burial at Sea, but how are they connected in the larger BioShock universe? The second episode answers that question, picking up the story immediately where the last one left off.
In the first episode, Booker delivered scaled-back mechanics from the base game. You control Elizabeth this time, and it requires that you change your whole approach. She lacks Booker’s offensive options, and she also doesn’t have a friend tagging along to throw her health and ammo when the situation gets grim. The result is tense and deliberate stealth-focused action that has a lot in common with the classic Thief games (a connection made even clearer by the non-lethal “1998 Mode” homage).
The gameplay shift opens up new opportunities for powers and weapons. A tranquilizer-laced crossbow bolt is ideal for single-enemy situations, but your mission isn’t always so easy. If a room is full of splicers, you can fire a noisemaker to make them crowd together, then shoot knockout gas to take them all out of commission. Combined with old and new powers, your skillset has plenty of flexibility.
Elizabeth’s coolest ability allows her to see enemies and notable objects through walls. She can also use this power to turn invisible. I spent more time isolating and avoiding enemies for knockouts than I did in full-blown combat. The stealth adds more of a cat-and-mouse flavor to your encounters, but you still have the tools to fight if you mess up. This is still a BioShock game (don’t expect to be memorizing patrol patterns or anything so intricate), but the additions build on the old mechanics in ways that we didn’t see in the previous installment.
This episode concludes the Burial at Sea story arc, which is one of the highlights of the whole experience. I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say that fans of the series will enjoy the returning characters and the way the worlds of Rapture and Columbia intertwine. Finishing Episode 2 is bittersweet, since it’s the last piece of content created by Irrational Games as we know it. However, Burial at Sea also ties together the landmark creations of the talented team in a satisfying way, making it an appropriate curtain call for this amazing studio.
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