Irrational Games may be no more, but with the closing their studios comes probably one of the most emotionally moving and mind-blowing DLCs I’ve played in a long time. For anyone whose played the newest installment of the Bioshock franchise, Bioshock Infinite, probably knows what I mean when I say mind-blowing. As if the games didn’t already have enough trippy time lines and alternative universes to make you dizzy now comes the last chapter of Elizabeth and Booker…and it’s a dozey! Not only this tie up the loose end in Infinite, but it also takes those loose ends and connections them to past events in all three games.
Now I’ve had much debate concerning this review as it’s nearly impossible to proceed without giving anything away. So, with that said, EXPECT POSSILBE, ALMOST CERTAIN, SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK INFINITE!
The game starts off with a very noir-esque feel, with a sultry dame coming to a private eye for help in finding someone of interest. This dame is of course Elizabeth (one of her alternate versions) and the private eye is Booker, still a debt-riddled, guilt consumed shadow of a man as he was before. Elizabeth comes to Booker with a request. To help her find a missing child, a child that Booker himself had tried to find once and failed. Elizabeth has a particular interest in this child, so intrigued, Booker takes the job.
One of the first and obvious things that fans are going to notice is the local. Instead of the floating city of Columbia, we return to the familiar local of Rapture. Unlike the first Bioshock, Rapture looks astonishing majestic and breath-taking. A true metropolis and marvel, it’s a brief look at really beautiful Rapture once was. Set in the early months before underwater city’s ultimate downfall, we get a never before look at just how the city inhabitants lived in Rapture, the “free” idea society that they embraced, as well as the seedy underbelly that threaten to destroy it all.
OKAY, SPOILERS HERE! I must emphasize here that given what we’ve learned from Bioshock Infinite about Elizabeth being a multi-universe being, it’s pretty made obvious right away this isn’t the same Elizabeth we saw in the main game. She is a more darker and colder version that her previous self but still possesses the knowledge of past events. You get the feeling that Elizabeth’s presence in Rapture has far more to do with Booker than with the child she searches for. But that’s giving too much away just yet.
Playing as Booker, you will need to seek help from some of Rapture’s infamous and no so trust-worthy inhabitants. Expect to see some familiar faces from the first Bioshock game. The information they give you will send you deep into the underbelly of Rapture, into the sunken portion of the city where business man Frank Fontane’s business once stood. Here is where Rapture starts to look familiar with busted pipes flooding water everywhere, Splicers running amock and all of them gunning for you.
I got to be honest; there isn’t anything ground-breaking or incredibly inventive here in this DLC. It’s pretty much more or less the same thing that players have seen in previous Bioshock games. The only difference here is that we get to play with Bioshock Infinite toys in a Rapture playground. If you’re used to the familiar, well, you’re going to get a lot of that in this installment. But don’t get too comfortable. Burial at Sea part 1 is short. You can expect to complete it roughly around an hour to an hour and half (and that’s if you’re like me and like to hunt for all the mini-recorders and such). Still, that’s not to say that this DLC isn’t enjoyable.
I was greatly intrigued to see how Rapture used to be in the early days. It was very Gatspy- esque that looked extremely appealing with people enjoys the spice of life to the extreme. It gave me a better understanding of the vision Andrew Ryan had for his metropolis, and only added to the tragedy of how it all came crashing down. The mood was definitely creepy in certain parts. A hail back to the early days of when players first came to Rapture. There were moments where you would come across a disturbing scene of Splicers trying to lure a Little Sister from her cubby hole with candy and toys just to get at the Atom she possessed. As short as the DLC is, taking the time to stop and look over the creepy tit-bits here and there makes it all the more involving.
Now while Burial at Sea part 1 was too short of some fans tastes and left more questions than answers, Irrational Games quickly and creatively remedied that with the second half . It’s here with this installment that the true beauty and ingenious writing of Bioshock takes hold and connects the series together in a way that most fans may not have expected.
This time around, players take control of Elizabeth and experience her multi-dimensional world through her eyes. As well as the consequences of having such a power.
Please bear with me here. I’m really trying not to give too much away for both this DLC as well as the story of Bioshock Infinite. Something I’m finding easier said than done. What I can say is this much: through a series of events in part 1, Elizabeth finds that her presence in Rapture has not only caused trouble for her and her existence in the universe, but has also attracted attention from some very unwelcome people who plan to make trouble for Andrew Ryan.
For the first time ever, we get our first look at the man who would become Atlas, the antagonist who was the voice over the radio for our man Jack ( the protagonist of the first Bioshock game). He has plans for revolution and he employs Elizabeth who promises him to get him back to Rapture in exchange for the girl she’s been searching for. With very little choice and knowing that Atlas will probably kill the girl, Elizabeth agrees. All the while, Elizabeth finds herself very much at a disadvantage. Her power of creating tears have unexpectedly disappeared and with very little ammo to call her own, Elizabeth is pretty much right for the taking. She will have to rely on her wits, her lock-picking skills and mysteriously enough, the voice of Booker guiding her through a radio to get pass all that stands her way.
This is where game truly gets creative. Unlike with Booker, Elizabeth can’t very well take her enemies head on with guns blazing. As I said before, her best weapon is her wits. The whole core of this game is that it’s all stealth, and it does it very well. Using the Sky-hooks or air vents, you’ll have access to higher platforms or areas that you can step up a trap for enemies so you can get around them. Or a more effective method is to use a patrolling Big Daddy as your temporary ally to take out enemies. You have to take your time so you don’t attract attention from Splicers. This is far departure from what players are used to in the Bioshock series and it’s a good thing. The stealth element gives the player so much room to experiment with, even for a DLC. It shows great potential and adds an extra element of tension to already creepy game. This is something that I hope to see in future games of Bioshock.
Perhaps the best moments of the game was the moments you as the player realize that the world of Rapture and Columbia are connected in so many ways. In many ways, Burial at Sea is more of a prequel to the first Bioshock game than an add-on to the third game. Almost all questions you had are finally answered. Questions such as how the Big Daddies were created, how Atlas was able to return to Rapture and launch his New Years attack, and even more interesting, how Jack was able to get to Rapture that night of his plane crashed at the light house. It all connects in the end in a heart-breaking, yet beautiful bittersweet finale. It’s been a long, long time I experienced a game ending that where it was both tragedy yet fulfilling where I could walk away and say, “That was good.”
Overall, this was a great note to end on for Irrational Games. This may not be the end of the Bioshock series but with this DLC, is certainly feels as one. You come away with the better understanding that the whole premise of these games was hope and redemption. That even the best intentions can become the worst decisions you could ever make. That absolute power corrupts absolutely. There are many things I love about the Bioshock series from its haunting atmosphere and characters, to the dark character of humanity that comes out when given the power, and how hope comes in many forms. My hope for future installments of the series is that these themes are future explored and reimagined with darker themes and even more memorable characters.