DLC Review: Burial at Sea – Episode One

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This title is DLC for BioShock Infinite.

Despite enjoying BioShock Infinite overall, my chief complaint with the game was that it sidestepped a huge amount of potential storytelling to focus on dimension-hopping nonsense. The setting and the gameplay were able to overcome that huge flaw, at least, but not so with Burial at Sea. What starts out as a promising jaunt into an unseen segment of the BioShock universe quickly devolves into a miserable slog through boring levels and an intensely, intensely stupid plot twist built atop the stupidest plot twist in the base game. No amount of Rapture is worth the misery this bite-sized excursion inflicts, or the lack of vision it proffers.

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Booker DeWitt, fresh off his swimming lesson at the end of Infinite, is living as a private investigator in the 1950s version of Rapture. Newer, sultrier Elizabeth hires him to find a little girl lost in the city, and you can probably guess how that turns out. Their journey will take them briefly through the bright and thriving halls of Rapture before its fall and into the company of one of the city’s most infamous figures. After that though it’s straight back into ruins and splicer dens in search of their wayward child. You’ll pick up a few new toys along the way and face some old favorites of the underwater metropolis, before having your chair kicked out from under you by an absolute atrocity of an ending.

I gotta tell you, as much as I hated the end of Infinite, it doesn’t hold a candle to the undiluted idiocy of Burial’s ending. Once again Irrational Games had a prime opportunity to explore important character moments and concepts, this time across two universes, and wasted it on expanding the worst part of Infinite’s end. You’re not going to learn a god damned thing about Rapture or any of its inhabitants, it doesn’t answer any of the lingering questions from Infinite, and it doesn’t even expand Elizabeth’s story in any meaningful way. Really all it does is add another facet of misery to Booker’s tale, one that was entirely unnecessary for a character that never got a true denouement to begin with.

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Don’t plan on showing up for the gameplay either, because this feels like a Rapture mod for Infinite that was cranked out in a weekend. I’ll grant that the first 15 minutes or so in vibrant, un-spliced Rapture is a pretty nice change of pace, and gives the city the much-needed grounding that Columbia got. But after that you are consigned to spend 90 minutes running around a ruined department store fighting exactly three kinds of splicers. For some reason the encounters are all heavy on enemies and light on ammunition, so much so that I was often starting a fight with no bullets. Vending machines are few and far between as well, which is a huge departure from the overflowing supplies of pretty much every other BioShock outing.  Beyond that the environments are sparsely detailed and feel repetitive, and there are no stand-out moments to any of the fights. Even the final boss is something you’ve done a dozen times in the original BioShock.

I honestly can’t imagine what Irrational thought they were accomplishing with this DLC. It expands on the single worst part of Infinite’s story, it drags Rapture into the mess and wastes it, and it offers hugely regressive gameplay that’s sure to disappoint anyone looking for more looting and shooting. The few good bits, the pre-fall Rapture and the new microwave gun, are hardly enough to justify suffering through this. I don’t think there’s anything that can justify this thing, as it only soils what good there is left in the series by association.

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