The second and final chapter of BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC is a decidedly poignant experience, least of all because it marks the culmination of the intricate, multi-dimensional narrative that begun a year ago with Irrational Games’ acclaimed cerebral FPS. More importantly however, it’s also Ken Levine and Irrational’s swansong for the series following his decision to downsize the company and move on to pastures anew. As the credits rolled, I was reminded that this is effectively the end of a long, captivating journey that begun in 2007, and one that may never be replicated as the future of the franchise remains ambiguous in the hands on 2K. For now though, I’ll gladly focus on why Burial at Sea Episode Two is the fitting climax for Infinite and a fine send off for Mr. Levine.
Episode Two picks up right after the events of its predecessor – reviewed here – and plonks gamers in the delicate high-heels of Elizabeth for the first time. Without spoiling anything, your exploits aren’t just limited to Andrew Ryan’s rapidly-crumbling Rapture, so be prepared to visit some familiar locations as Lizzie continues her quest to save Little Sister, Sally. You’ll also bump into a number of iconic figures from Rapture’s demise, though again, I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. Suffice to say, fans of the original will be happy as a pig in muck.
Playing as Elizabeth opens up a host of new gameplay opportunities. Whereas Booker relied more on brute force, Lizzie is less aggressive and more fragile, facilitating a move into stealth territory. Sure, you’ll still get armed with the likes of pistols and shotguns for when necessary, but it isn’t the forefront of the experience. Instead, gamers are encouraged to sneak past foes and deliver the killing blow silently using a melee attack. It’s not just a case of moving quietly either; you’ll have to pay attention to the surface you are creeping around on, and know when it’s safe to move or not.
I personally found the deft shift into stealth play a welcome break from the run-and-gunning depicted in BioShock Infinite’s main campaign, and it’s rewarding to use in combination with some of the game’s new plasmids and weapons. The Peeping Tom plasmid is particularly useful, allowing you to peek through walls or turn completely invisible for a period of time. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s bow has multiple functions, such as shooting knockout darts, noise-making bolts to distract foes and deadly gas. Indeed, while you can blast anyone you come across, it pays to methodically move through each area, taking advantage of the shadows and utilizing your new gear to avoid confrontation.
Lizzie can’t take much of a battering as you’d expect, so you’ll have to apply judicious use of medikits you’ll encounter, and conserve ammo where possible for time when combat is necessary. As with Infinite and Episode One, the bread and butter action of juggling plasmids and gunplay is as competent as it’s ever been, and strategically rewarding when you mix things up — it’s definitely not as pronounced as before though, and I found myself feeling like I had accomplished more when sneaking my way through the leaky corridors of Rapture. Pleasingly, the pacing is spot on, with tense encounters punctuated by eyeball-popping exposition, shedding light on some of the darker plot points while creating even more questions.
Irrational’s keen eye for detail isn’t lost amidst the underwater dystopian hellhole, and Episode Two continues the visual splendor laid down by its predecessors. BioShock’s aesthetics have never been about spectacle, but rather subtly, with each location brimming with atmosphere and history. Whether it be the remnants of a once-bustling market area, riddled with bodies and blood, or a eerie science lab full of the haphazardly-scrawled notes detailing the genesis of some of the series’ most iconic foes, Episode Two’s visuals are as memorable as you’d expect. Equally impressive is the voice acting, with Troy Baker and Courtney Draper reprising their roles as Booker and Elizabeth, respectively, with the same conviction and nuanced performance that made Infinite’s head-spinning narrative a joy to soak up.
Aside from the occasional bland texture rearing its head, Episode Two’s biggest crime is the general fetch quest template it employs as a catalyst for getting Elizabeth from A to B. Likewise, the puzzles aren’t much cop, which was always a disappointment for me personally in series renowned for its head-spinning plot line. Fortunately though, these issues are inconsequential in the long run, and top-notch pacing ensures things never get tiresome.
Fortunately, Episode Two remedies the one glaring issue that its predecessor had: game length. Here, Levine and co have fleshed out the final chapter in Infinite’s story, packing in over four hours worth of gameplay. Even better, the option is there for gamers to explore areas to uncover hidden audio recordings and complete the odd side task, fleshing out the overarching narrative.
All of this combines to create a fitting send-off for one of gaming’s most acclaimed titles of the PS3 era, satisfyingly interweaving all the plot points and delivering a knockout finale. And, while the loss of Levine and Irrational Games is lamentable, we can at least take comfort that the final excursion into the world of BioShock is among the most memorable and satisfying DLCs you’ll ever play. So, ‘would you kindly’ do yourself a favor and put your cash down this instant?