Here it is then, the final piece of Irrational and Ken Levine’s adventures with the Bioshock series. With Levine’s decision to close down the studio, the only Bioshock content we’ll be seeing in the future is if 2K decides to put a new team together and go on ahead without the game’s inspirational creative lead. Today though, we’re here to see how Irrational bow out on one of the most respected legacies in gaming.
To fully appreciate everything that Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 2 has to offer, you really need to have completed not only Episode 1 and Infinite, but also the original two Bioshock games. Gameplay innovations are thin on the ground here, but Burial at Sea carries on where it left off by serving as a tribute to the fans and a link between the worlds of Columbia and the underwater city of Rapture.
Instead of hopping into the boots of yet another version of Booker/Comstock, you find yourself popping on the heels of Elizabeth as she tries to track down Suchong for Atlas (from Bioshock 1) who is holding Sally (the Little Sister from Episode 1) hostage. Elizabeth is travelling alone, but frequently speaks with Booker on the radio. Well, a version of Booker that lives in her head at least. It’s a touching relationship despite what we know of the events of Infinite and Episode 1 as this is a version of Booker that Elizabeth has broadly separated from the Comstock paradox. Thankfully, third time around, the mind-bending narrative is more evenly spread, easier to fathom and doesn’t clumsily hit you with an information overload in the closing scenes.
Locations are more varied this time around too, with the game even beginning in a suspiciously picture perfect Paris (where Infinite’s Elizabeth always dreamed of escaping to), before heading back under the waves to Rapture and even through a dimensional tear to Columbia again.
Speaking of tears, Elizabeth doesn’t have any of the powers we saw her use to assist Booker. Instead, she must sneak, bludgeon and shoot her way past the splicers and the Vox Populi. Stealth plays a greater part in the game than before, mainly thanks to ammo being in short supply.
Elizabeth’s high-heeled shoes easily alert enemies when moving on wooden floors. So crouching or moving on soft carpets is the way to go. Elizabeth can take enemies out with a single melee blow when attacking non-alerted enemies, whereas hitting alert ones will only stagger them. With broken glass and puddles to avoid too, I initially thought I was in for an engaging stealth challenge. Unfortunately, the AI has nosedived and enemies rarely notice you unless you jump right at them, so melee takedowns become all too easy.
Weapons involve the familiar hand cannon pistols, shotguns and radar range. They’re backed up with the new crossbow with tranq darts, knockout gas clouds or noisemakers to distract enemies. Plasmids are in the mix too, Peeping Tom allows you to turn invisible and see enemies through walls, making stealthy takedowns even easier if you can keep your Eve topped up. Old Man Winter (ice blasts) and Possession are joined by an Ironsides plasmid, a short-lived shield that absorbs enemy bullets for your own weapons. A neat idea, let down by the fact that you have to invite yourself to be shot in order to use it and even then, you have to rely on the enemy actually hitting you.
When you’re not clubbing dopey splicers on the back of the head, you’ll be performing a few basic fetch quests in a semi-open hub world of Fontaine’s part of Rapture before heading back to Columbia. Irrational have thankfully given us new locations to explore rather than rehash old ones though. That’s not to say there aren’t some welcome familiar names and references. Thanks to the handy objective arrow, you’re free to head in the opposite direction to explore every room, vent, locker and desk drawer in order to track down all the compelling audio diaries and plasmid boosters.
This concluding episode does rely on you knowing your Bioshock history, but if you’re up-to-date, this DLC is packed with references, nods and even a few downright huge revelations that will make you want to play through the other games again. Be sure to check out John Shirley’s book too (Bioshock Rapture), which acts as a prequel to the original Bioshock. Like Episode 1, this was always more about fan-service and story than any sort of gameplay innovations, but that’s fine with us.
- A fitting end to the Bioshock Legacy
- Dialogue is excellent
- Scene framing is startlingly good
- AI has become dumb
- Plasmid selection lacks impact
- What next for Bioshock?
The Short Version: I finished the episode with most of the hidden items under my belt in just over four hours, which in addition to the three hours of Episode 1, feels like a fair return for the season pass’ asking price. The gameplay and AI feels stripped down, but this is all about tying up the loose ends. As we’ve come to expect with every Bioshock game, the final revelations are nothing short of breathtaking and every shot from last few minutes is framed so beautifully that you’ll want it on your wall. Irrational Games, you will be missed.