Release Date: March 25, 2014Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PCDeveloper: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesGenre: First-person shooter
Burial at Sea – Episode 2 is the final story-centric DLC for BioShock Infinite, and it ends things in Rapture and Columbia on the highest note possible. The 6-hour journey serves as a fitting conclusion to the Infinite canon at large and judging from the recent and unexpected downsizing at Irrational Games, possibly the entire BioShock franchise as a whole. When we last left this version of Booker and Elizabeth, they were traveling through the depths of Rapture before its inevitable destruction, and tracking down the whereabouts of a missing little girl named Sally.
Picking up directly where Episode 1 left off, Episode 2 ramps things up on the story front, and it throws so many twists and intersecting narratives with previous events in the series that it will make your head spin. To say anything more about it would be giving away some of the magic that is Burial at Sea – Episode 2: even the opening segments are one giant spoiler, so for now I’ll just say they’re as breathtaking as they are unexpected and immersing. Fans of BioShock Infinite’s multi-dimensional ending are going to find a whole lot to love down this complex and interwoven road.
I was already impressed by the depth of scope that Irrational Games had implemented in Episode 1, but Episode 2 completely blows it out of the water (or under the water, I guess). From vast open-ended hubs with multiple branching paths to follow, to complicated optional areas with just as many hidden dangers as there are rewards, this is a full BioShock game here packed into a neat little package. Burial at Sea – Episode 2 is easily three times as big, if not even more, than Episode 1, and every time I thought I was nearing the end, a brand new area opened its arms before me.
Episode 2 manages to be completely centered on stealth, while at the same time feeling exactly like a BioShock game. It’s uncanny, really. New Vigors and Plasmids accentuate the ways you’ll work around the patrolling splicers and other baddies, from sneaking up on them while invisible, to throwing down a shield that converts their fired bullets into fresh ammunition for your weapons. A new 1998 Mode encourages a completely stealth-based playthrough, preventing you from killing a single target, and this really serves to highlight just how impeccable the level design in this game truly is.
But that’s not all: you’ll need to tranquilize enemies from the shadows with a special crossbow that supports different ammo mods, maneuver through air vents to get the drop on unsuspecting victims, engage in lockpicking mini-games, and take careful notice of the glass and water on the floor so as not to reveal your position to that splicer waiting just around the corner. The developers seem to have thought of everything here, and the presentation is smooth, precise, and extremely calculated.
The new stealth mechanics also bring back an old familiar feeling that I thought was long gone since the series’ gradual shift towards a more action-oriented experience: being afraid. Remember how scary it was every time you encountered a Big Daddy in the original BioShock? Well now try facing one here as Elizabeth, with a measly tranquilizer crossbow, and being explicitly told that you are unable to kill it. But then again, Irrational changes the rules just ever so slightly: you can now use your Possession powers to set the Big Daddy on the prowl and hunt down your other enemies. It’s like BioShock meets BioShock Infinite in a wonderful stealth casing, and it’s every bit as awesome as you can imagine.
But the best part about Burial at Sea – Episode 2 is that the adventure feels like a heartwarming amalgam of everything you love about BioShock, past and present. You’ll venture through the underwater Rapture, and before you know it, you’ll be soaring to new heights in Columbia. You’ll even run into more than a few familiar voices, from Atlas and Andrew Ryan, to Jeremiah Fink and Daisy Fitzgerald. Whereas Episode 1 was a short burst of action, Episode 2 is in it for the long haul, taking careful risks and making perfect use of every single thing it has going for it.
It’s just a shame, given how great BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 2 truly is, that the Irrational Games we once knew is sadly no more. But if this winds up being the last we ever see from the BioShock world and its plethora of intersecting universes, then there’s really only one thing left to say: what a way to go.