Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date: Out now
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC,
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Price: £8.99, or part of Bioshock Infinite Season Pass
Episode One of Burial at Sea ended with a hefty-sized cliffhanger. Needless to say, the six month wait has been pretty arduous considering the quality of the narrative. That’s what makes the opening of Burial at Sea Episode 2 a peculiar lead-in. The first major thing you’ll notice is you’re now controlling Elizabeth rather than Booker. The second? You’re sat in a cafe in Paris.
But the view is beautiful. The opening moments of Burial at Sea Episode 2 are powerful in their own way, because they show the quality and capabilities of this now former development studio. This is Irrational Games’ last project, a team that birthed one of the biggest gaming franchises of all-time, and the developers are keen to show just what they can do in preparation for the ‘next project’, whatever that might be.At a time where everyone is talking about the new-gen consoles offering 1080p and 60FPS, most developers would be happy for you to forget your Xbox 360 and PS3 sat under your TV and look to the future. But Irrational Games have physically pushed the last-gen consoles to their absolute limit. And the results are glorious. Paris in the sunshine is strikingly beautiful. The spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower, reflections on the water, boats moving slowly through canals, painters producing fine art and a cherry blossom malting beautiful rose-pink petals all over the ground.
First impressions count for a lot and if Burial at Sea Episode 2 was supplied as a virtual CV, every artist involved with this DLC would get a job tomorrow.
After some brief exploration, we then dive headfirst back into the story. Elizabeth handles things very differently, taking a more stealthy approach around Rapture, compared to Booker’s all-guns blazing style. Elizabeth will need to creep up on enemies and take them out from behind, or fire sleep darts at her foes using her crossbow. Elizabeth’s attacks are a lot more effective when her enemies are not aware of her presence, meaning keeping out of sight is her best play. Walking on carpet softens her footsteps, whereas walking while not crouched will draw more attention to her. There are also glass shards on the floor which she’ll need to be careful about walking across.
Elizabeth can also creep into vents and plan her strategies accordingly, while keeping out of sight of her enemies.
Unfortunately, the developers decided that, towards the tail-end of the campaign, they’d forget espionage almost entirely, equip Elizabeth with a Shotgun and the new Radar Range weapon and have her go all out on her foes with Plasmids and bullets. A bit disappointing that a tone was set at the start of the campaign and not kept up to the end, but it does at least make sure the content has a sense of balance so you never tire of slogging your way through.
Narratively, Burial at Sea Part Two does, of course, continue the character development of Elizabeth and Booker. But it’s a more critically important DLC than that. The final half is full of revelations that are relevant to the Infinite story and indeed, Bioshock 1 and 2. This piece of content brings everything full circle. And despite the uncertainty it creates, there is a great deal of closure. It has a deeper purpose than perhaps many might expect and really is a proper farewell from Irrational Games to Bioshock fans in terms of how things are handled.
The content also manages to provide an incredible amount of travelling from beginning to end. As a result, we did notice regular frame-rate dips and stuttering, as well as some pretty severe texture clipping issues and erratic AI. Episode 2 does change several of Bioshock’s mechanics quite extensively with the stealth approach, creeping up on enemies, hiding in vents and the different surfaces, so it’s entirely possible existing AI behaviour from Infinite and Episode One likely exists in Episode Two and becomes confused when the player adopts a more espionage approach.
Still, the content is sound from start to finish, and despite the story seeming like it is about to go off on a tangent towards the mid-way point, everything slots together neatly and the final half of this content is one revelation after another. We were hooked!
- Nice switch up of mechanics to keep things fresh
- Beautiful art-style. Reminiscent of some of the highs in the Infinite campaign
- The revelations every Bioshock fan has been waiting for.
- Frame-rate dips and texture ripping
- Occasionally erratic AI
- Takes a while for the narrative to really get going and only really gets going midway through
4 out of 5
While no means a perfect end, Irrational Games have offered a truly memorable, fulfilling campaign as tribute to their epic career in the video-games industry. This is the moment many Bioshock fans have been waiting for and the new gameplay spins, along with the eventual narrative revelations, ensure you’ll stick this one out to the end and be glad that you did. Burial at Sea Episode 2 is the fitting tribute to Rapture we hoped it would be when we first caught THAT glimpse in Infinite. It’s been a pleasure to delve down into its murky depths one last time.