Throughout three games, the BioShock
franchise has been about the darkness lurking just beneath the surface. Whether it was the gleaming, art deco fantasy of Rapture that hid beneath it the follies of objectivism and free enterprise run amok, or the bright, shiny, and patriotic Columbia that hid beneath it racism and the subjugation of minorities and the working class, the series has made its bones on showing the downfalls of radical ideologies and has sparked more intellectual debate than virtually any modern franchise. With BioShock Infinite
's final piece of DLC, "Burial at Sea - Episode 2", Irrational bids farewell to the franchise and delivers a shocking summation to the pieces that were put into motion when Jack's airplane crashed near the lighthouse of Rapture back in 2007.Warning: There are slight spoilers to BioShock, BioShock Infinite, and "Burial at Sea - Episode 1" in this review. If you haven't played these experiences yet, GO DO THAT before reading on.
The banks of the river Seine in the shadow of the Tour Eiffel are about as far away from Rapture as one can get, but that's where we find Elizabeth; sitting, smoking, drinking some wine, and enjoying a croissant. A quick traipsing through the all-too idyllic setting belies the fact that all is not as it seems. Sure enough, the fiction soon fades away and we pick back up shortly after the events of "Episode 1" where Elizabeth finds herself in a disconnected section of Rapture that has been exiled and sunk by Andrew Ryan. Her foe from "Episode 1" lies vanquished next to her and a new gun is pointed at her head. From there, the game is on and a six-to-eight hour experience begins.
As is the case with most of the series, the story is one of the best parts of "Episode 2" and rather than spoil it, let the record show that it is fantastic. As Elizabeth sneaks her way through Rapture (more on this in a moment), characters from both universes make appearances and the nature of the bond between Rapture and Columbia is further solidified. While the inner workings of the story may make the brain hurt with multiverse possibilities and the potential plot holes therein (some of the problems of Back to the Future Part II
are all too omnipresent), it is still a joy to behold. Fans of the series will be delighted with who shows up, how they're incorporated, and how all of the many moving pieces of the two settings and stories link together.
Furthermore, playing as Elizabeth gives an entirely new twist to the series in that stealth plays a huge factor for the first time. Unlike Jack, Booker, or Subject Delta, Elizabeth is not a battle-hardened warrior and, while she can fight and does have weapons, sneaking through Rapture and past splicers represents an incredibly satisfying change of pace. To assist with this new mechanic, the "Peeping Tom" plasmid is introduced that allows Elizabeth to see enemies, vents, and other objects of interest through walls (when standing still) and, if the trigger is held down, become completely invisible, allowing her to sneak up on splicers and deliver a very satisfying melee blow that incapacitates them. While becoming invisible does drain Eve, upgrades for the plasmid are found as Rapture is explored, making "Peeping Tom" more efficient and even more useful. For those who are more combat-oriented, Irrational has also introduced an "Ironsides" plasmid that creates a shield which absorbs enemy bullets and adds them to your inventory. Infinite
mainstays "Possession" and "Old Man Winter" round out the plasmids for use.
"Episode 2" also introduces the hand-held crossbow to the arsenal. The crossbow is supported with three different types of ammo: a standard knockout dart, a gas dart which can knockout groups of clustered enemies, and a noisemaker dart which can draw enemies away from an area. With these new additions, along with the ability to enter and crawl through vents and a new enemy awareness indicator system, Irrational has transformed the combat-focused game into a highly-competent stealth-action adventure.
A bonus benefit to this more stealthy experience is that it encourages the player to soak in the new areas. Taking a methodical stroll through the episode's laboratories and learning about the process of just how some of the narrative facts of the franchise came to be will go down as one of the highlights of the series. Knowing that this is most-likely Irrational's last go-round with the franchise, it is evident that they poured a ton of love, work, and thought into this chapter.
Much like its parent game, the achievements of "Episode 2" will most-likely require multiple playthroughs. As an avid and borderline anal-retentive explorer, I still managed to miss four of the Audio Diaries/Voxophones needed for The Whole Story
achievement and will need to make a pass at beating the game on 1998 Mode
. That being said, there's nothing here to stop a completionist from going down the proverbial rabbit hole.
As the final part of BioShock Infinite
's Season Pass, "Episode 2" is clearly the best of the bunch and almost makes the season pass worth purchase on its own. While "Burial at Sea - Episode 1" was a slight disappointment
when it came to length, combat scenarios, and lack of depth, and "Clash in the Clouds" may scare off completionists with its frustratingly-difficult final achievements, the total package makes for a good investment (and good value) for fans who are just picking up the game for the first time. Having paid full price for the pass when it was announced, I can safely say that Irrational delivered on bang-for-the-buck.
As the swan song for Infinite
and Irrational's (probable) farewell to the franchise, "Burial at Sea - Episode 2" hits all of the high marks one comes to expect from the BioShock
franchise: great story, solid gameplay, interesting characters, and a story that begs further examination. While some detractors may get bogged down in the minutiae of picking apart a multiverse story (as they are wont to do) it shouldn't detract fans from enjoying Irrational's attempt at putting a bow on the franchise and bringing the story full circle. It may be some time before we get another lighthouse, another man, and another city, but for the time being, the circle is now unbroken.
- Amazing story & satisfying conclusion
- Great twist on the traditional BioShock gameplay
- Rapture has rarely been better
- Multiverses can make brains hurt
- Is this the last we get from Irrational/BioShock?
The reviewer spent seven hours sneaking through the scenes of the Episode, listening to splicer conversations, and piecing together the story. Throughout the course of these explorations he unlocked six of the game's ten achievements. The copy was obtained personally by the reviewer through the Season Pass.