Trying to tie together all the story strands of the first and third BioShock games is a pretty tall order.
Will it live up to the promise? My review below, First published at SquareGo, will tell you.
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 2
Irrational Games Studios
It’s been a long road from the aeroplane over the sea above Rapture’s lighthouse, through the darkly lit gloom of Booker T. Dewitt’s office, to the soaring heights of Columbia’s city in the sky.
To have come to what is, at time of writing, understood to be the final chapter in the BioShock story, should come with a sense of bittersweet enjoyment to any fan of the games. It’s unfortunate that this is marred ever so slightly by the flimsiness and ham-fisted perfunctionary feeling inherent to Episode 1 of Burial at Sea.
Having largely wasted the opportunity to take the characters from Infinite into the iconic aquatic city of Rapture, the game being more concerned with trying to play on the expectation of the player than telling a good story, this second DLC instalment feels oddly like the intended sequel to BioShock Infinite. This time instead of focusing on the Rapture-world Booker, we play as the Femme Fatale sidekick version of Elizabeth, who has ended up in a strangely weakened and semi-amnesiac state after the end of Episode 1.
This Elizabeth isn’t the quantum void tearing, all-knowing superhuman we know from Infinite, probably as that’d require near impossible feats of game design and storytelling to convincingly portray. Instead she is reduced, for plot reasons, to a human state, with all the foibles and weaknesses of mortality and a single universe existence.
But luckily she’s a dab hand at sneaking around, and is dead aim with a tranquliser crossbow, and soon enough even manages to get her hands on an invisibility-bestowing, supersense plasmid called Peeping Tom, facilitating this into the stealth game entry BioShock fans probably never really wanted. However, this is where the game really shines, and the predator-like stealth gameplay makes Elizabeth into an shadow-moving assassin (lethal or not, according to your playstyle) allowing a less frenetic experience but one no less tense.
Without spoiling the plots of either Episode, Elizabeth is forced by Atlas to help raise the sunken Fontaine’s Department Store back to Rapture, and in return he’ll make sure that lost little girl Sally goes unharmed. Thus follows a series of fetch quests and switch triggering all across Fontaine’s store, Columbia and Rapture city itself. Yep, the game ties into moments, characters and scenes from all across the BioShock games… Well, except for BioShock 2, that is. The events of which are not merely ignored, but also flatly contradicted, in a move from Irrational Games Studios that is understandable but not entirely welcome.
This revisionism also unfortunately lifts the lid on one of the biggest issues with Burial at Sea Episode 2, the retrofitting of events from both BioShock and BioShock Infinite to suit an expanded combined storyline. It’s easy enough to see why with the quantum rift concept, the Lutece twins and the revisiting of both game worlds why there would be a temptation to let players do a “Back to the Future 2″ and sneak in and around familiar scenes, subtly influencing events. However, in doing so Irrational have contradicted not only the plots of BioShock, BioShock 2 AND created plotholes for Burial At Sea Episode 1, but also made mockery of their own biggest character failure in BioShock Infinite.
One of the biggest problems in Infinite, was the controversy of Daisy Fitzroy, a character of great potential who was summarily written off in a ludicrious moment of weak convenience plotting, only to now be given an equally ludicrious revision, which is about as effective and believable as a band aid stuck over a gunshot wound.
Added to this is as surfeit of cute but unnecessary character cameos, an unexpectedly brutal and horrific torture scene, and a closing tie in of some Big Daddy/Little Sister lore, which both confounds and contradicts existing history. All of which sadly weakens what should be a genuinely fitting and clever close to what has been one of the most interesting game series of the last ten years, and the final bow from the now disbanded Irrational Games Studios.