At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey PC/Mac 2K Games Irrational Games 1
Requirements Also on...
The same as BioShock Infinite. PS3, Xbox 360

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2 review

Note: This review should not spoil this second episode of "Burial at Sea", but as the DLC is set after the end of BioShock Infinite, and follows directly on from the first episode, it may spoil either of those if you have not completed it. So, go do that first, then come back to find out about the final chapter.

BioShock Infinite's second story-based expansion, Burial at Sea - Episode 2, increased its perceived importance when studio head and series creator Ken Levine announced that developer Irrational Games would essentially be shutting down as part of his quest to move beyond big-budget linear story games, with himself and a few from the team to focus on smaller digital-only games. Suddenly not only are we looking at the final chapter of the BioShock Infinite story, but we are looking at the final send-off for the team in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA.

This second chapter in the narratively-important Burial at Sea expansion is a fitting demonstration of the team's abilities to tell an intriguing story that interweaves between the events of all that we've witnessed across the series. In fact, it goes beyond merely referencing events, but pulls them together so that all the parts of this multi-game story are now dependent on each other. If you care about the narrative in this series, then this will be essential playing.

Yes, that's the hands of Elizabeth

Yes, that's the hands of Elizabeth

Even if you have little invested in the story that Levine and team have been telling, there is still an exciting chunk of action to enjoy. You finally get to take control of Elizabeth, shortly after the events in the shocking ending to Episode 1. For reasons that become clear early on, Elizabeth can no longer open tears to summon help from parallel worlds and of course she won't be there as an assistant to the player, providing ammo and health packs in desperate times. As a result the pace of the game is slowed, with a more stealthy approach required when dealing with splicers and Big Daddies in the submerged city of Rapture. There are still guns, but firing them seems wasteful when there's few opportunities to replenish, although thankfully Elizabeth isn't adverse to consuming a few Plasmids, so if the silent avenue fails - or sometimes to aid such an approach - there are various powers to unleash in limited quantities. There are times when you wish you could just be let loose with these exciting genetic enhancements, but the stealth aspect provides interesting variety and a notable challenge to help this episode stand out in ways beyond the story telling.

As before, Burial at Sea is very focused on telling that story, that vision of Levine's, so progression is fairly linear and while it's essentially a progression of fetch missions, there is scope for branching out a bit in the search for background-filling audio diaries, with non-essential rooms providing greater context to this intriguing world. There's nothing as epic as the final battles of BioShock Infinite, but there are some great moments here as you get caught in the battle between Rapture's master Andrew Ryan and bitter rival Frank Fontaine. Through it all, the wonderful Art Deco-inspired architecture of Rapture is once again on show - and there's even a chance to return to some sites in Colombia - as Irrational Games attempt to push the most out of the now-aging Unreal Engine 3.

This could be our final look at the strange world of Rapture

This could be our final look at the strange world of Rapture

While it's possible to pick up Burial at Sea's second episode without the first, you would be missing an important chunk of the story if you were to do that, so consider both parts as part of a whole. Episode 2 might have fewer narrative shocks than the first, and sometimes feels a little like it was a closing studio tidying up before they left, but together they enhance the BioShock story, making them a worthwhile £16 investment for any fan. And thankfully they're both enjoyable to play too.

Ratings

Overall Burial at Sea - Episode 2 is our final chance to explore Irrational's vision of the series, and possibly our final trip to Rapture. The switch to taking control of Elizabeth instead of Booker is more interesting narratively than it is mechanically, but it's still a shake up and combined with Episode 1, it makes for one of the more interesting downloadable expansions in recent years. 8/10

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