The scene is set before… no, after… or, perhaps… no-one really knows. In the kaleidoscopic world of Bioshock Infinite, the when doesn’t quite matter so much as the where.
As the enigmatic Lutece twins propose:
“It’s a matter of perspective”.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Half a year on from Bioshock Infinite‘s primary exploits, the release of Burial At Sea had us taking the plunge back into the decrepit cesspit that is Rapture; the only city to exist leagues beneath the sea. Not only was this the setting of Bioshock’s first two installments, but also the DARK AND dank environment in which Elizabeth and Booker DeWitts’ roles in the series would come to emphatic ends.
Despite seemingly and definitively bringing Booker’s existence to a sharp halt in the final moments of Bioshock Infinite, Burial At Sea takes advantage of the ‘infinite timelines’ narrative; brought to light by Elizabeth shortly before the main game’s conclusion. A clever move by the developers, which allows for a seamless transition into a world in which another version of Booker is still very much alive and… not so well.
— Lauren Hall (@lauriebethall) March 26, 2017
An art-deco-esque Elizabeth approaches Booker for his investigative services, with the ambition of locating ‘Sally’; a young girl formerly under Booker’s care who has since gone missing.
From here, we finally step through the taunting door to Booker’s office and into a version of Rapture that is new even to those who have conquered the series’ previous two segments. The surroundings are familiar and yet, oddly polished. The desolate city of which we nostalgically reminisce is nowhere to be found, as we instead continue through our neoclassical surroundings in the hope of locating the missing girl.
Though, this is Bioshock after all – so things must quickly take a turn for the worse.
Elizabeth and Booker find themselves stranded in a sunken department store located on the sea bed. From here they must fight through splicers and darkness alike, in a setting which greatly juxtaposes the varnished sky-set city of Infinite’s ‘Columbia’.
It is from here that the real game gets underway.
Part One dishes up a healthy helping of the Bioshock fans already know and love: blasting through enemies with bullets and plasmids whilst actively conserving fleetingly sourced ammunition – a true delight to be savoured upon the gaming palette. The smooth combination and execution of these features distinctly reveal just how far the game has grown since it first established its roots.
Where once the player had to select either their weapon or ability of choice, Infinite’s offensive duality brings a slicker feel to surroundings once approached from a position firmly established on the side of caution. Initially however, the integration of this style divided opinion among the Bioshock fan-base.
Where some believed the new system buffed the original games’ jagged edges, others argued that the option of a tactile approach had been thrown out of the window. In response, 2K and Irrational Games launched Part Two, in which a lack of tactility became a thing of the past and the mechanics get truly interesting.
In the add-on’s final half, the player takes control of Elizabeth, only without the advantage of her ‘tears’. Bullets are far less effective, with the advantage of surprise heavily ‘nerfed’ instead. Incognito one-hit ‘kills’ are far more greatly emphasized than in the main game and, without a shield, player death is swifter upon detection.
For these reasons, a stealthier and far less direct approach must be adopted; a style that might be somewhat foreign to experienced players.
The move serves as a brave yet innovative step from the developers, spearheaded by the genius of their interpretation of an idyllic ‘La Vie En Rose’ Paris and its descent into ruin; a conduit for the foreshadowing of Elizabeth’s paralleled fate and downward spiral in fortune:
The sheer uniqueness of the DLC, in its two varying characters and playing styles, make it an installment well worth investing your time in. So often we fork out for additional content that is nothing more than the supplementation of an unfinished story, rather than something that furthers a completed one. Burial At Sea irons out the origins of Bioshock before neatly aligning all three of its narratives with a sharp, final twist.
So few games age well, with the likes of Half-Life and Pokemon acting as prime examples of games that retain their ‘replayability’ factor years after release. Its about time that the Bioshock series and its DLC are recognised as having this potential also. Whether it be another five years, or maybe even ten or fifteen in the future, Bioshock can and should permanently remain close-at-hand for anyone who thinks themselves a true gamer.
Now, if your haven’t already, ‘Would you kindly’ go ahead and experience the phenomena that is Burial At Sea for yourself.