Written by Jason Nawara, @JasonNawara
The end of Irrational is upon us. The studio behind the BioShock series has been substantially down-sized by headmaster Ken Levine. With Burial at Sea episode two — the third and final piece of Bioshock: Infinite DLC — serving as a brilliant swan song for a studio that has given us countless memories.
Reviews are always subjective as all hell, and this one will obviously be no different. I’ll try my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, while at the same time addressing the ambiguous plot of Infinite and how the expansion’s first episode got us to this point in.
You know how some people love Donnie Darko and others absolutely hate it? Those are the kind of emotions Burial at Sea Episode 2 will evoke. That’s the best way I can put it without giving you spoilers, sorry. Just be prepared for the fact that the worlds you know will be turned upside down and the jangling loose ends of Bioshock: Infinite will fall and fill in the plot holes that bothered so many (especially me). In Burial at Sea, you step into the shoes of Elizabeth moments after the events in episode one.
What follows is 4-6 hours of pure bliss. In a change of pace in the gameplay for the Bioshock series, and particularly Infinite, stealth is now a focus. Elizabeth is far more fragile than Booker in a fight, so the “run in guns blazing” approach no longer works.
Instead, she must use her wits and and tactics to survive. Sneak past splicers, knock them out or use your cross bow if you don’t want to get into an all-out gunfight. It’s all very Thief-y, and it works extraordinarily well. Carpet muffles your footsteps, broken glass, of which there is a lot, creates quite the racket when ran upon. Take it slow, play smart, and you’ll be lead on a fantastic tale that actually gives us some brilliant lore for us diehards to devour along with the pure fan service that was the first episode.
This was played on a fairly high-end PC, with most settings on very high to ultra, so with that in mind — the game looked stunning. The unreal engine has never looked so clean and so detailed. The shadows created by the neon lights in the sunken utopia of Rapture look gorgeous reflecting on the water puddled on the floor. Every room you enter in this expansion is created with great care. This is quality DLC.
Sometimes you question what you’re paying for, but the sheer attention to detail justifies its expense. It sounded superlative as well. While I balked at the initial $15 price per episode of Burial at Sea, the amount of effort put into this release on every level is blatant. The voice acting is phenomenal, with Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper putting on the most impressive voice acting performances since Mass Effect. By the end of the episode, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, completely lost in the final loop we’ll ever see from the mind of Ken Levine.
My one issue with this DLC is that one – we know the Bioshock universes are ad infinitum, so what we are seeing here is nothing more than one thread out of many. Is the Rapture we see in Burial at Sea the same one we explored in the original Bioshock? Probably not. The most important question is: does it matter? This is not a macguffin and while some may claim deus ex machina, I have to disagree.
The ending of Burial at Sea will be debated for years. It’s our asking of Ken Levine, “Would you kindly wrap this up, give us a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the butt, then smash us over the head with a sledgehammer, please? Ken Levine, you are my favorite man-crush since David Lynch.
The revelation provides to us new eyes with which to look upon the Bioshock series. If this is the end, or middle, beginning, it doesn’t matter. There will always be a lighthouse, a man and a city. Take comfort in that.
Everything is changed now, and the only thing you’ll want to do after Episode 2 concludes is start up the whole series again (minus Bioshock 2). That’s all you could ever ask out of a piece of DLC, or a piece of art – it’s so good it makes you appreciate the whole of the catalogue that much more.
The Final Word: I like this episode more than the first, and even more than Bioshock: Infinite. It’s some of the best DLC I’ve ever played and cements the Bioshock series as a high watermark in videogame history. So many games are superfluous sequels made quick and dirty (BioShock 2), but the canon releases in this series are something to behold. A man in nearly-complete control of his vision in a market that rarely allows any kind of freedom. Bravo, Irrational Games. You went out on top.