BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea DLC Review – Remix the Remix
Warning! This review features some spoilers for the ending of BioShock Infinite, which is essential to understanding Burial at Sea. If you haven’t finished the former, stop reading.
So we had BioShock, a game that reshuffled some of the basic elements of System Shock 2 and was set in an underwater city that had turned into a massacre, much like System Shock 2 was set on a space ship that had turned into a massacre.
Then we had BioShock Infinite, a game that purposely reshuffled the elements of BioShock, setting it in a flying city rather than an underwater one, but keeping a lot of the core pieces of the puzzle — as the characters of the plot are fond of saying, “constants and variables.”
And now we have Burial at Sea, the first of two story DLC add-ons to BioShock Infinite, which reshuffles the elements of Infinite and mixes them back into BioShock. We’re back in the underwater city, fighting the same old enemies but with slightly newer toys. Not to be cynical, but it’s hard to come up with a question other than: Why? What do we gain from returning to Rapture? How does this DLC inform the games we’ve already played? What does Andrew Ryan’s meglomaniacal vision add to that of Zachary Comstock?
A lot of those questions go unanswered, if they get asked at all, and the return to Rapture in Burial at Sea is a fluffy, messy one at best. It seems the thinking at Irrational Games was probably along the lines of, “Fans like Rapture, and they like Elizabeth, so let’s take Elizabeth to Rapture.” But there’s so much retread here and so little new to say, combined with some inconsistencies of mechanics between the two games, that the first portion of Burial at Sea feels like swimming against the current.
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Part 1 DLC
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Drunken failure Booker DeWitt, BioShock Infinite’s “constant” protagonist, wakes up slumped over the desk in his private detective’s office when the mysterious Elizabeth walks in, looking to hire him for a job. She whirls him into the search for a missing orphan Booker lost some time earlier, whom he thought had been killed — stupid, one should think, given that Rapture is always on the lookout for future Little Sisters. With a little cryptic prodding, the pair go running through a pre-fall Rapture on a mission to figure out what happened to the little orphan Sally.
From a story perspective, Burial at Sea feels incredibly thin. Booker is a washout, even moreso than at the start of his adventures in Columbia, and for all Elizabeth’s film noir swagger, she barely hazards an explanation for what’s going on, and Booker barely asks for one. There’s a heavy helping of 1958 style in Rapture, but as for the characters, we’re meant to fall back on what we already know as we go running through Rapture’s shopping districts: Booker has a debt, Elizabeth is his magic daughter (and is apparently kinda pissed at him), and Sander Cohen is crazy. There’s little if anything else to go on for most of the DLC.
Much has been made about the fact that the early portion of Burial at Sea, like the opening of BioShock Infinite, wouldn’t include any shooting. While that sounds good from a storytelling perspective, Burial at Sea fails to capitalize; BioShock Infinite has already limited your interactions with other characters to shooting them, and without a gun, you end up just running around stealing out of people’s handbags while they engage in bits of idle conversation.
There’s no storytelling benefit to not shooting — there’s barely much story told anyway. The non-shooting portion of the DLC also doesn’t last long; before too much time has passed, you’re into a sealed-off section of Rapture, replete with splicers that need a-murderin’. And it’s in combat that Burial at Sea really starts to fall down, as it tries to hybridize BioShock systems with BioShock Infinite.
The result, as our Mitchell Saltzman aptly put it, feels like a Rapture mod for BioShock Infinite.