Darling it’s better,
down where it’s wetter,
Take it from me…..
Yes we’re going back under the briny with the new DLC for BioShock Infinite,
This time instead of the city in the clouds, the story is returning to the underwater landscape of Rapture.
Will it live up to the hype or drown in it’s own glory?
First published on SquareGo
BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea – Episode 1
Irrational Games Studios
It seems like a no brainer. A surefire method for success. Take the tried, tested, and much beloved world of BioShock‘s Rapture; a city beneath the seas; and throw BioShock Infinite’s Booker Dewitt and Elizabeth into the noiresque mix.
Sat at the same familiar desk, in the shadowy, desaturated Private Detective office, Booker is dragged out on a case by the femme fatale styled Elizabeth. It begins cleverly, knowingly and with almost a wink to the audience. However it’s almost immediately crushed under the weight of expectation and it’s own inability to deliver what it promises. Partly due to the scope of the game engine and design, and partly because the story that Irrational want to tell, doesn’t allow for more complex interaction.
In many ways, Burial at Sea manages to take everything both right and wrong with Bioshock Infinite, and condense that experience into a two hour vignette, relocated to the city beneath the sea. The game starts off interesting, then drags on, with a lengthy traipse through a city you can marvel at, but never interact with. The four or five repeated faces of the people of Rapture each spout off a line or two as you approach, much like the citizens of Columbia did during the opening of Infinite; yet the difference here is that Booker knows these people, and this place. His inability to interact beyond listening to them seems false. Elizabeth seems equally out of place.
When Elizabeth strutts into Booker’ office, it’s clear to the player that there is a very different dynamic between them. This Elizabeth is older, graver, and with a clear motivation behind her actions. A debt needs to be paid, and this time it’s Dewitt who must follow Elizabeth’s lead to save an orphaned girl named Sally, one he’d helped, fed and grown to care about, before she mysteriously vanished. This being Rapture, it’s not hard to guess what probably ended up happening to her.
The majority of Burial at Sea takes place in the watery depths of Fontaine’s Department Store, sunk there by Andrew Ryan after Fontaine’s unsuccessful attempted political coup. The department store is filled to bursting with Fontaine’s former allies, who have gone mad and spliced themselves silly in the mean time. It provides a nice clean break in the narrative between the exploration of the conspicuously peaceful and civilised Rapture, and the action of the Department store.
It’s business as usual once the guns come out, as the guns, plasmids and even the Skyhook fitting back into the swing, crash and bang of things. The interface has merged the multi-gun style of the original game into the more solid mechanics of Infinite, and the locations, arenas, and opportunity for exciting gunplay is as present as ever.
The problem is that it feels horribly contrived. The nature of the narrative means that there has to be a deliberate obfustication of what’s going on, simply to build up toward a predictable, if nicely retro-iconic visual ending. It feels like an extended fan-service mod. The inclusions of more of Sander Cohen being batty and wonderful, audio logs from the deliciously amoral Dr Suchong and the opportunity to see Rapture realised in even more beautiful detail is great. But with the sad sidenote that it’s even more languid and shallow an experience than any of the previous BioShock offerings. We can only hope that the More survival-horror based Episode 2, where the player controls Elizabeth will make good on the promise of a return to Rapture.