God, Bioshock Infinite seems like so long ago already. It felt daunting returning to that world, and trying to remember all the details of its ending, but even moreso trying to bring myself back to Rapture, the city setting of the series’ first two games. Fortunately, the first part of Irrational’s expansion Burial at Sea only relies on a handful of story elements from past games, and uses Infinite’s multiverse theory to create a whole new story of its own.
Burial at Sea’s story seems to come out of nowhere and throw you straight into it, but its relative simplicity in comparison to the base game means this shock is quite easy to get over. Booker’s a private detective in Rapture, with his same old stories of drinking and gambling, and Elizabeth a no-nonsense, sassy agent for a mysterious client. It’s made pretty clear that you’re on the trail of a young kidnapped girl, and while Booker is forthright that she’s not his daughter, she’s clearly of grave importance to him and, strangely, to Elizabeth’s client.
The first hour or so is pure fan service for the die-hards of Bioshock 1 and 2, giving you the pleasure of seeing Rapture in its golden years. Well, sort of; there’s certainly splicers and they’re on the rise, but plenty of the city is living affluently in a 1950s whitebread aquatic paradise. There’s plenty of totally optional free roam and conversations to listen in on, shops to visit, stories to snoop into – imagine the beginning of Infinite, but in Rapture. It’s neat, and even though Rapture didn’t hit the spot for me nearly as much as Columbia did, even I got a real kick out of it.
The story gets darker after finding out (from a mad fellow players of the first Bioshock will recognise) the child is somewhere deeper and darker in the ocean, and it’s here we see a return to the dystopian setting fans will feel at home in. While it seems reluctant to add in too many new elements to combat – in fact, the only real gamechanger is the return of Elizabeth’s Tearing – it’s up to scratch doing Bioshock’s old tricks of messy headshots, chilling audio logs and haunting soulful music.
A plasmid named Old Man Winter is reminiscent of Bioshock 2’s excellent freezing attack, and provided you open the right doors with the right codes there’s even a new toy to play with. The only problem that without the real meaty setting of the first half, the later half really just feels like Bioshock by the numbers. Going room to room and slaughtering splicers is great if you just can’t get enough of Bioshock, but for the less keen, it’s certainly not going to change your mind.
Burial at Sea isn’t over yet, but what we’ve seen in this two-hour part isn’t bad. It’s nicely independent of the main storyline, and doesn’t feel like something Irrational forgot or were too lazy to put in before release. It also does a good job of blending the worlds of Rapture and Columbia much more cohesively than seen before – but it’s just not enough to really blow the lid off anything. Burial at Sea Part I: great fan service, but not quite a ‘must’.
[+Lovingly-crafted Rapture makes a vibrant return] [+Infinite’s gameplay feels right at home in Bioshock’s original city] [-Story never really takes off] [-Nothing we haven’t really seen before, for hours. A feeling of ‘is this it’?]