‘BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea’ Review: Welcome Back

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Written by Jason Nawara, @JasonNawara

It began like any good story; with an empty bottle of bourbon and a knock on the door from a beautiful dame. Naturally, things went to hell faster than Fontaine’s department stores were sunk to the bottom of the ocean after he crossed Andrew Ryan. Let’s just say this girl knocking at my door made for an interesting New Year’s Eve.

The first Bioshock: Infinite story DLC is here – Burial at Sea. It’s also known as the grand return to Rapture, the same underwater city gripped us all in 2008 and we caught a glimpse of at the end of, well… SPOILER ALERT!

At the end of Bioshock: Infinite, we took a trip down to Rapture much to the dismay of Songbird. It was a brilliant nod to Ken Levine’s ever-expanding universe full of infinite possibilities. When you wake up as Booker DeWitt in Burial at Sea, you aren’t the Booker sent to Columbia to get the girl in order to wipe away the debt, in Burial at Sea, you’re Booker DeWitt, Private Eye 50,000 leagues under the sea. A mysterious girl just knocked at your door, awakening from another drunken stupor. It’s the stuff hard boiled legends are made of, and a pre-apocalypse Rapture is a stunning location for a mystery.

Bioshock diehards will see plenty of little nods to the “Shock” universe, and after playing through the titles over again for Ghosts of Gaming Past, I’m hyper-aware of these acknowledgements of the previous games. When Booker first steps out of his office, we see the bust of Andrew Ryan. Below him, women fawn over a baby in a carriage, not unlike the first few minutes in Bioshock when a splicer is gushing over a lonesome revolver in its own carriage.

The juxtaposition is disconcerting, knowing that these people, chosen citizens to what was supposed to be a Utopian society for free-thinkers and those who found societal norms impossible to comprehend on the surface would soon become blood and Adam-thirsty demons. Rapture was supposed to be the answer, but as we all know, things didn’t work out that way.

It’s this calm before the storm-look at Rapture that is so fascinating. The bright, lively colors featured in Infinite’s Columbia are present in pre-disaster Rapture, with art-deco structures gleaming with beauty as the bustling ocean moves past the vast windows placed throughout Andrew Ryan’s greatest accomplishment. Stopping and listening to conversations taking place between citizens of Rapture really drives home the fact that in 1958, Andrew Ryan truly did make something incredible, and had an idea that was meant for good, but my god how it became perverted. Concerned citizens discuss Fontaine, Ryan’s rival and Bioshock antagonist.

Gay couples openly congregate (a clearly progressive tone of the inhabitants of this underwater city pervades throughout) and artists and scientists alike take in the beautiful scenery. Rapture has never looked so good. Even when the proverbial crap hits the fan, sending Booker and DeWitt further down the rabbit hole and into locales reminiscent of the dilapidated Rapture we know and love.

The action is fast and furious, with Plasmids (not tonics, but still the powers of the tonics featured in Infinite) shaking up action with some nice variety. Touching on that plasmid/tonic thing; it’s important to not that this isn’t the same Rapture we visited in Bioshock. And what I mean by that is that this is a butterfly effect Rapture. In this universe’s infinite possibilities, this is one of a million billion Raptures on December 31, 1958. That probably explains the air hooks, the Plasmids, Booker and somewhat Elizabeth. I don’t want to give away too much…

You’ve probably read some negative reviews about how the game is “short” with a certain three-lettered site whose acronym will forever be ambiguous stating that they beat the game in 90 minutes, thus it gets a lower score. I can’t stand for that – If you play this game to find all of the secrets, hints to the rest of the universe and in general take in the sights, your playthrough will likely run 3-4 hours.

That’s not bad for $15, considering how much a movie costs nowadays, but I absolutely can’t wait to play Burial at Sea a second time when the second chapter of this DLC launches. Considering the incredible scope of the DLC, I have no problem with the cost – especially if you own the season pass, which makes this far cheaper overall.

The sound design harkens back to Bioshock, where “Circus of Value” will jingle through your head over and over, with all of the high-quality gunshots and bloody gurgles you would expect from Irrational Games ringing in your head. It’s good stuff.

If you played any game in this series, you’ll feel comfortable here, with the combat getting hot and heavy after about 30 minutes of no action, which I absolutely adored, by the way. I mentioned this in my Bioshock: Infinite article; I want more story and less action. Shoehorning in waves of enemies is not what we need, Mr. Levine. Gone Home, Dear Esther and other games have proven that we don’t need piles of bodies to feel gratified, and that’s the main reason why I loved this DLC so much.

The beginning of the game, in which Booker and Elizabeth explore Rapture’s many boutique shops for an invite into Sander Cohen’s latest… Piece of art is fantastically well-realized. Seeing these characters and locales before the fall of Rapture was fascinating, and Levine’s writing is still second to none. I can only hope for more plot conveyed not through leftover tapes but via scenes unfolding right in front of me.

The Final Word: This is a must-own for any Bioshock fan. If you’re not a fan of Bioshock, or you don’t think this somewhat light on action return to Rapture is worth a damn, then why are you even reading this review? Downloadable content like this has to be graded purely for the fans of the series, and in that case, the only logical thing to say is that this is brilliant and great fan service. It’s made for us, and we should own it.

Now would you kindly go out and get the Bioshock: Infinite season pass?

  • blake3371

    Literally just bought this. Trying hard not to avoid work and just start playing it now.

  • Danny Hudson

    It has got the outstanding features which makes addicted to the game.