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Burial at Sea is a tough sell. Following on from of the best gaming experiences I’ve played all generation it was always going to be hard to capture that same level of quality. The intrigue of the story, the excitement of a new location and the enchanting introduction of Elizabeth all created such a wonderful game and for Irrational Games to then go in a completely different direction is an extremely bold choice. But do they pull it off? Let’s take a trip back to Rapture once again. But things may not be exactly as you remember them…
The opening of the game throws you straight into the swing of things as it has the leisure of assuming you already have some knowledge of the universe if you have already played Infinite. Once again we play as Booker DeWitt, tasked with mission of finding a little girl named Sally. However this time the motivation is that of one Elizabeth hiring the private investigator for his skills, though her own motivation in finding the girl remains unclear.
As you would expect if you’ve played any Bioshock game before the plot features a few twists and turns and plays out very similar to that of Infinite’s final moments. While the same level of shock is nowhere to be seen, mainly due to the short length which I’ll get to later, it is still an intriguing story that sets up Episode 2 very nicely. Seeing past Bioshock characters return is great (the Sander Cohen section being the best in the game) and I hope there will more of this to come in the next part to follow.
Maybe surprisingly the first third or so of the game features no combat whatsoever. I liked this change of pace as it really let’s you take in the wonderful environment and world without worrying about killing enemies. Considering this is our return to Rapture it makes sense we are given the privilege of being able to take in the world in all it’s glory and is a very nice way to start the game. However when the combat does return it is once again one of the most fun in the entire genre.
As you would expect the game does revert to more of the original game’s combat with a more haunting and scary feel to the encounters which is a joy to relive as it reminds you what made the original game so great. It does mix the two styles of combat rather well however. While having nowhere near the same level of speed and verticality that Infinite possesses, the fusion of fighting splicers while using Elizabeth’s abilities to create tears and the inclusion of a Skyhook rip off, it actually creates a new style that is unique to this DLC. Hearing the splicer’s casually talking as you enter a room before even seeing them is super creepy and the sound design overall is top notch.
As I mentioned earlier the game is quite short. I went through very slowly, checking every room and getting all the audio diaries and the game took me roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish. I would like to go back and play through again on 1999 mode as I did with the main game, but the urge to replay the story after seeing the game’s concluding moments isn’t a factor this time round.
The game does feel slightly rushed which is probably my biggest complaint/disappointment with the DLC. The NPCs at the start don’t interact like those of Infinite and the promise of seeing Rapture before the fall for the first time wasn’t fully capitalized like I had wished. Having such an important moment in the franchise’s history made is great and it’s such an interesting period that I wish it would have been given the proper sequel treatment. Had this been a full retail title with a more traditional development time as opposed to around six months, which is still very impressive when you think about it, it could have been as special as Irrational’s previous titles.
One of my biggest fears going in was that this would feel more like DLC for the original Bioshock instead of Bioshock Infinite, and unfortunately that fear was correct. As I mentioned the interesting fusion of the two combat styles was an unexpected joy, but with the game set in Rapture and having a slower pace overall it lacked most of the features that made me fall in love with Infinite. Columbia itself I’ve always found a far more interesting setting, skyline combat was completely unique, and the interaction between the game’s two main characters are all completely missing here. Elizabeth possesses none of the same characteristics that made her so memorable (this could be by design after certain events in the story), but I couldn’t help but feel slightly short changed after being completely spoiled in every area by Infinite.
Burial at Sea‘s biggest flaw is having to carry the burden of the Bioshock name, something which many people consider to be one of the best franchises of this generation. It couldn’t possibly have been as intriguing as the main games but considering how quickly it was made it is still a fantastic experience. If you love the gameplay and style of the series (particularly the original) then this is a fine expansion on the previous games. Just don’t expect your mind to be blown again by Irrational so quickly after Infinite. I’m sure they’re saving that for whatever they make next, but until then we still get a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit short experience, that leaves us counting down the days till Episode 2 even more.