Bioshock Infinite was one of my favorite games of this year. The story was mind-bendingly awesome, the gameplay was fun and energetic, and exploring the world of Columbia was a treat. I was excited to hear that Burial at Sea, Infinite’s first story DLC pack, would be set in Rapture, the ill-fated, underwater city first featured in the original Bioshock. While Burial at Sea is an overall fun experience, it falls short of the dizzying heights achieved by both Bioshock and Infinite.
Burial at Sea is set in a pre-fall Rapture, and you once again assume the role of Booker DeWitt, the protagonist of Bioshock Infinite. Booker is operating as a private-eye while living in Rapture, and the whole experience has a strong film noir vibe, with Elizabeth now playing the role of vixen, setting our quest for a missing girl in motion. The noir style story is complemented well by the 1958 Rapture, and makes for a different Bioshock experience. Getting to see Rapture in it’s heyday is a visual treat, especially for long time fans of the series, and it is easily the highlight of the package. Walking down the gilded streets in Rapture has a distinct “promised land” feel, almost like what folks who dreamed of coming to America must have imagined when they heard the term “gold-paved streets.” While the city above may feel like main street in Disney, when you journey down to the Splicer-infested slums, it’s just like the dilapidated, broken Rapture you remember from the first game in the series, giving Burial at Sea a nice variety of locations for such a short experience.
When it comes to gameplay, Burial at Sea plays like a hybrid between the original Bioshock and Infinite. The core gameplay remains the same between both games, as you’ll be shooting enemies with a variety of weapons, including a cool new weapon that roasts enemies, literally. In addition, you’ll have access to a variety of powers, once again called Plasmids, as opposed to Vigors from Bioshock Infinite. Plasmids let you shoot fireballs at enemies, shock them into a stunned state, or lift them into the air to create easy targets. Old Man Winter is a new Plasmid created for Burial at Sea, allowing you to freeze enemies in their tracks, as well as to aide you in getting around Rapture. While Old Man Winter is heavily featured in the game, and quite useful, the other Plasmids serve little purpose aside from variety, as most confrontations in Burial at Sea can easily be handled with gunplay.
As I said before, gameplay mixes the minimalist, survival focused combat of the original Bioshock with the rip-roaring, bombastic style featured in Infinite. Like in the latter game, you’ll be able to zip along Sky-Lines (Pneumo Tubes), and utilize Elizabeth to aide you in battle, giving you health or ammo, and pulling in helpful objects, such as Gun Turrets, through Tears. Unlike Infinite, combat is on a much smaller scale, switching out large scale battles with tense encounters with a few enemies, like in the first Bioshock. The toned down battles certainly fit in much better with the style of Burial at Sea, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss bombastic sequences featured in Infinite. The tensions of fights found in the first Bioshock was also lacking, even with ammo being more scarce in this game, as I never felt like I was in danger of dying. Most enemy encounters were over before I even knew I was in a fight.
The story in Burial at Sea is a tricky thing to talk about because quite frankly, we don’t know all of it yet. This is only Part 1. While many mysteries were planted in this half of Burial at Sea, the second half is where most of the real answers will be found. Part 1 does a nice job of setting the story up, but it never really pulled me in like Infinite did, mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be getting answers until later. While it was fun to revisit the characters of Booker and Elizabeth, it ultimately feels like a hollow experience until more is known about where this story is headed. I will say that it does end on quite a cliffhanger, that has me excited to see what happens in Part 2.
Burial at Sea was a nice return to Rapture, and while I enjoyed spending more time with these characters, and definitely loved seeing Rapture in it’s prime, I can’t help but feel that more could have been done with this package. The hollow story and tension free combat feels like a very Bioshock ‘by the numbers’ experience. Burial at Sea is also a very short experience, clocking in at around three hours if you do everything. While those who bought the Season Pass have nothing to worry about, others might want to think hard if $15 dollars is worth such a short package. I hope Part 2 can deliver a more compelling return to Rapture.
*This review is based on the PS3 version of the game