Few people would argue (reasonably, at least) that this year’s Bioshock Infinite had one of the best video game stories of all time. Gamers were more than excited when Irrational Games announced that they were continuing the story of Booker Dewitt and Elizabeth via downloadable content. We finally got what we wanted in Burial at Sea Episode 1, but was it worth the wait?
The game starts out with an interesting twist: A fully grown, older Elizabeth walks into a dingy office occupied by none other than Detective Booker Dewitt. Elizabeth is tasking Booker with finding a young girl named Sally, whom Booker already declares dead. Elizabeth guarantees that Sally is not only alive but that a local artist, Sander Cohen (sound familiar Bioshock fans?) knows more about the disappearance. After Dewitt lights the sultry Elizabeth’s cigarette, they take a walk outside…and into a pre-civil war Rapture!
This plot point is not so much as surprise as it is marvel; the DLC was touted as a return to the fabled underwater city of Bioshock lore. However, Ken Levine and the fellas at Irrational rebuilt Rapture from the ground up using the Unreal Engine 3 that was used to build that gorgeous flotilla called Columbia and the entire Bioshock Infinite world. The change is absolutely stunning! All of the colors are bright and vibrant (since the city has not been torn apart by splicers yet; it’s the New Year’s Eve before Rapture started it’s descent into oblivion) and the inhabitants are cheerful, stuck-up and very talkative about a couple of guys named Ryan and Fontaine. I will admit that it took me a bit to get used to idea of Rapture not crumbling down and burning all around me as Eve crazed maniacs talk to themselves in the shadows…but that all changes pretty quickly.
After finding a mask to get into an exclusive Sander Cohen party (which is pretty effed up all the way around), you and Elizabeth are introduced to the crazed artist himself. Anyone who remembers playing the original Bioshock will remember the maniacal Cohen and his torture-porn art stylings. He is in rare form here and gives one of the more memorable performances of the game. After a brief encounter with Cohen, he sends you to where he knows Sally is being kept: the sunken Fontaine Department Store. For people who didn’t play the original Bioshock, Fontaine was a gangster posing as a businessman that was trying to wrestle control of Rapture out from under Andrew Ryan’s grasp. Ryan essentially sinks his entire department store and all of Fontaine’s spliced out lackeys to the briny depths of the ocean as punishment and a warning to any opposing his utopian society.
Well, the underwater store is not only in danger of imploding at the bottom of the ocean, it is also rife with baddies and you’ll need to mow these crazies down in order to find out where Sally is. Along the way, you’ll run into the all too familiar audio logs from some of Rapture’s denizens, a new plasmid (yes, not the Vigors of Infinite) called Old Man Winter and a sweet new weapon called the Radar Range . The Radar Range is a handheld microwave emitter that will hurt enemies to the point of exploding them into paste (with splash damage to boot!). It’s cool. There are also some cool new gear (which I honestly wished could be transferred back into Infinite) and some new Tears that you can have Elizabeth open for you.
The story takes a nice little twist at the end, which I won’t spoil here, and culminates in another jaw dropping moment. I’ll say this: Ken Levine can write a video game story. Even though said moment isn’t quite up to the level of mindjob that the ending of Infinite was, it is every bit as spectacular. The gameplay is largely unchanged from Infinite and that is fine with me! Irrational even managed to add an “Air Grabber” (aka, Sky Hook from BI) and rails to add more variety to the underwater Thunderdome that is Rapture. The weapons are from Rapture instead of Columbia so there’s more of an industrial, gritty feel…which fits the atmosphere perfectly. I will give you a hint here: bullets, health and Eve are in very low supply on any difficulty so use them wisely. Burial did add a stealth kill that will eliminate any splicer in one hit, so use it in order to save your ammo.
As I sat here and racked my brain thinking of what I could say that was a negative to this excellent piece of DLC, I could only come up with one: it’s short. Even for someone who meticulously searches every nook and cranny for all the goodies that Rapture has to offer, the game still clocked in less than three hours. Some may say that is much too short for a $15 download, but I feel that you get what you pay for in story content here. Yes, it’s short but that doesn’t take away from what Burial at Sea does best: tell a killer story with beautiful graphics in a mesmerizing world. Any Bioshock fan would absolutely love this extended look into this fascinating world and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed any of the previous entries. Just like with Bioshock Infinite, the wait was worth it and it makes me that much more excited for Burial at Sea Part 2.
Burial at Sea Ep 1 is what I wanted in DLC when it came to BioShock Infinite. It takes the mind blowing revelations given to us at the end of the game and uses them to create an all new adventure, but with strong connections back to the source material. Combat feels identical to Infinite, so don’t expect anything more, and the length is acceptable for Season Pass holders, though maybe comes up a little short if you’re paying the full $15 for it. But at the end of the day what Burial at Sea Ep 1 comes down to is a incredibly well told story, and I’m not sure what other reason you’d need to to go pick it up.