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Review

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: November 11, 2013
  • X360
  • PC

Water pressure.

There's always a lighthouse. There's always a man. And now, there's also a gimmick.

Episode 1 of BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea isn't a story that sheds new light on BioShock lore, but is rather a story that stitches together two worlds in ways that don't enhance either of them. The original BioShock's underwater objectivist dystopia known as Rapture was a unique and fearsome place, a testament to the chaos and uncertainty that emerges when man worships himself at his own altar. BioShock Infinite's floating city of Columbia was both a monument to manifest destiny and a tombstone marking the human empathy that perished when the city was born. Burial at Sea uncomfortably merges the two worlds, and diminishes Rapture's enduring legacy in doing so.

Burial at Sea is about moments. Beautiful moments, sad moments, perplexing moments. They often tug at your heart or stimulate your imagination, but fail to coalesce into a lucid whole. The opening is such a moment. Elizabeth enters Booker DeWitt's office, but she is not the Elizabeth you once knew. It is December 31, 1958, a storied date in Rapture's history, and Elizabeth is not a wide-eyed young woman, but a femme fatale who slinks into the room seeking Booker's assistance. Booker lights Elizabeth's cigarette with his bare flaming finger, rather than a lighter. Elizabeth blows smoke from the side of her mouth and shows Booker a photograph of a young girl and the girl's doll. Elizabeth wants Booker--that is, you--to find this girl. You, too, know this girl, and her identity is the mystery that catalyzes this short, story-driven adventure.

It's a cryptic opening that shares thematic ties with BioShock Infinite: again, you are off to find an unknown girl for reasons that you don't yet comprehend. Striking visuals and sounds at first intimate suspense. Elizabeth's high heels clatter on Booker's wooden floor, and the office's half-closed window blinds cast a band of shadows on the dingy wall. And when Booker follows Elizabeth out of the office, suspense is briefly replaced by nostalgia. You are not in Columbia, but in Rapture. No gods or kings. Only man.

This is not the largely abandoned Rapture of BioShock. It is alive and thriving. I was drawn in at first; this was a side of the city I hadn't seen. Men in bowler hats discussed the philosophies of the day ("What does Ryan say? Petty morality? You can keep it"), and women occupied themselves by applying makeup outside of busy department stores. But it soon became obvious that these people weren't living in this world, but functioned only as audiologs, created for my consumption. Of course, you could say the same about the citizens of Columbia, who spoke their lines only when you neared them, and otherwise remained in their poses, silent as mannequins.

The result is an adventure with fantastic sights and sounds that don't come together in a meaningful way.

The difference is that BioShock Infinite was an entirely new world, and overheard conversations were part of the discovery process. As one aspect of a fully imagined adventure, BioShock Infinite's dialogue contrivances barely registered with me. In this 90-minute side story, I was struck by how scripted the conversations were. This is because I had discovered Rapture already. As wonderful as it was to see a vibrant city nearing its inevitable collapse, these people weren't telling me anything I hadn't heard before, or giving me new perspective. They living automatons parroting the same themes of individual righteousness that BioShock had already fully explored. The idea of melding the universes which contained Columbia and Rapture sounds fascinating because of what new insights into the human condition it could offer, but Burial at Sea fails to delve further than the series has already gone before.

Booker remains an efficient killing machine.

Nonetheless, there's true power in seeing known characters and places in a novel light. Again, Burial at Sea is about moments. An angelic walk down a sterile white corridor turns to horror as you come face-to-face with performance artist Sander Cohen, whose painted mustache and piercing brown eyes remain ever menacing. I will remember his theater for its red velvet curtains, its stoic audience members, and its smoky air--not to mention, for the horrors that I witnessed there. I will also remember Burial at Sea's ending, though not just for its symbolic and visual impact, but also for how plainly the game telegraphed it.

On the whole, however, Burial at Sea comes across more as a who's who of Rapture than as a powerful story on its own. And I say "story" rather than "game" purposefully: combat is more of an afterthought here than it has ever been in the BioShock games, and the action elements aren't easy fits in a world that wasn't thematically or architecturally designed for them. Granted, vigors are called plasmids here, but there's no obvious explanation for why they're named as they were in Columbia, or why they differ from the original BioShock's plasmids. This alteration is an overt contrivance, given how Burial at Sea otherwise goes out of its way to present its version of Rapture as otherwise adhering to the history we've already learned. And even outside of thematic and historical concerns, characters don't always act in consistent ways. For example, after urging you to turn a valve, Elizabeth then acts shocked that you've turned it, even though it was her request--and even though the game requires that you do it to continue.

Next stop: housewares and appliances.

Soon after you arrive in Frank Fontaine's derelict department store, you find gear that allows you to perform melee attacks on splicers from a good distance away, which makes Burial at Sea remarkably easy. Nevertheless, there are other methods of killing your foes, including a new weapon called the radar range, which looks like a desk fan and emits beams of deadly energy. You can also take splicers down from above: BioShock Infinite's skyrails and skyhook take on new names, but they function the same here as they did in Columbia. They're significantly less enjoyable to use in the confines of Fontaine's store, however, where there is too little space to traverse, and no open vistas to instill the joy of grinding the rails. Elizabeth's ability to tear holes into space-time and bring helpful objects like gun turrets and ammo stashes into existence is also an odd fit: Elizabeth provides a brief explanation, and Booker immediately starts to order Elizabeth to create tears, as if he innately understands the full extent of their potential in a matter of seconds. This unwieldy cramming together of elements that don't mesh comes to a head in the final boss battle, during which taking to a skyhook can result in a quick demise for reasons that aren't readily apparent.

BioShock Infinite's ending implied an endless multiverse of possibilities. Infinite men. Infinite worlds. Infinite stories of oppression, self-discovery, and redemption to tell. Columbia itself is an intriguing place soaked in history and delusion, with a lifetime of tales its citizens might have told. Rather than telling those tales, Irrational Games focused on a flawed what-if scenario and crafted an equally flawed story to fit it. Burial at Sea seems a prime example of the tail wagging the dog, and the result is an adventure with fantastic sights and sounds that don't come together in a meaningful way.

The Good
Beautiful sounds and visuals
Several standout moments with intriguing allegorical implications
The Bad
BioShock Infinite's mechanics and narrative devices don't make sense in Rapture
Easy, throwaway action sequences
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for BioShock Infinite

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd is an unabashed BioShock Infinite lover, and completed Burial at Sea - Episode 1 twice. His first playthrough was on the Xbox 360 at the San Francisco offices of a PR agency. He later played the PC version in the GameSpot offices.

Discussion

518 comments
manfatale
manfatale

Men discuss philosophies and women put on makeup. It wasn't even like that in the game lol, both sexes were discussing. 

Anyway great review! 

se007
se007

Are the reviewers actually invest time in games they review? There are audio logs, that clearly indicate that plasmids/vigors were stolen by columbians from rapture through a tear, it also explanes rapture's "need to know theaters", that also could have been stolen from columbia. Same goes for the air grabber, Elizabeth mentions constant and variables, and anyone who finished infinite should recognize this remark and accept this explanation, I also think that pneumo tubes are fit pretty well here. What reviewer is failed to mention is that combat feels better in this DLC, less frantic and tiresome than in a main game because enemies are not overwhelming and with less plasmids it became more condensed, and not to mention that stupid 2 gun carry restrictment has been fixed. Aside from that there's also great story and stunning art direction. I would've given it 8 easily, but because of its brevity (for observant player it's actually about 2h30m, not a 90 min. as mentioned in review) it deserves 7.

NTM23
NTM23

I guess I can understand and somewhat agree with the cons here if I take a step back, but as I went through it, I absolutely enjoyed my time with it. Going back to Rapture and seeing its vistas and hearing its sounds was delightful, as well as hearing and seeing old characters mixed in with the new. I liked it a lot. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending; to spoil very little if anything, I will say that I felt it was a bit too gruesome and evil feeling. I don't necessarily agree about the tear thing, I felt her explanation was good enough. 


You hear over the PA about how in Rapture, you see strange things every day and have to get used to them, so it fit in well with that. Furthermore, in the end, the whole thing about the tears crossing into the world of Rapture made more sense to me when it otherwise shouldn't. I mean, a Patriot vs. Big Daddy? That's weird, but I thought it was also cool. I kind of wish they would have added some dialogue in there for 'Booker' as he fought, because that's a part where it seemed like he was fine with it even though the Patriot kept yelling the name Columbia.


I also feel like the Suchong/Fink story pretty much covers the reason about Vigors. I won't spoil it.

DomZeal
DomZeal

Just finished it. This is absolutely a fair score. The game is so disappointing, I couldn't agree with the idea of returning to rapture at the first place, and indeed what I see here is a strange combination. This DLC doesn't deserve $14.99, it has no replayability, because it's just an linear FPS and even the story is boring. Anyway, Mr. VanOrd gives us a surprising but very reasonable review again.

flameon12346
flameon12346

Do anyone know when the second part of this DLC is coming out? Just updating this question here to see if anyone know now.

Beagle050
Beagle050

Just finished my second playthrough, which took me about 2 days (~2 hours / day). I have to say that I mostly agree with Kevin's review. This DLC is fairly mediocre.

Sure, it's entertaining, but the DLC itself seems pointless. It adds nothing to the original Infinite. The storyline itself is pretty bland compared to Infinite's heavy storyline. I wasn't expecting a storyline anywhere near Infinite's since this is DLC, but the story was threadbare even for a DLC.

What sucks about Burial at Sea is it's a series of anti-climaxes culminating into a final anti-climax of a battle. You're just running around shooting and stabbing splicers in what feels like one mission. The most interesting part was the beginning, and after you leave Cohen, nothing interesting but combat happens. It all feels like one big "last level." 

The scripted splicer spawns were predictable and samey. I got surprised a few times, but nothing interesting to talk about here. Infinite wasn't perfect either, but at least the methods by which the enemies attacked you were more varied. 

The level design was mostly good minus the pointless / 'wrong' skyrails and skyhook. It was fun to once again ride skyrails and perform sky attacks, but it made absolutely no sense. 

None-the-less, this is a decent DLC and worth the cost. It wasn't boring or unplayable - it just needs a little help. Hopefully Burial at Sea part II has a more engaging plot and more diversified gameplay.

6.5/10


Conscrumptured
Conscrumptured

I finally got around to playing it. Not the greatest piece of content, but definitely worth more than a 5. But to each their own.

I agree that $15 for the short DLC is preposterous, but I purchased the season pass at a discounted price of $10 so I feel happy being able to play them both for cheaper.

coolkilla117
coolkilla117

To all the people complaining about the continuity issues in this DLC, pay attention and grab all the audio logs, it will largely be explained.

CoRiNi
CoRiNi

Just finished this one in probably 2 hours or less. Too short, yes the combat was fun and I'm pretty sure the hard difficulty is harder than it was in the original game, but $15 for a very short DLC is a little bit too much, I'm glad I had the season pass.

max-hit
max-hit

It's okay for a DLC and the game has the same great mechanic of Infinite. The problem is that it's over before you know it. I was just getting warmed up.

macca366
macca366

Why is the skyhook and the sky rails in Rapture?

I would rather another story in Columbia myself. Where did the songbird come from and who is he? I'd like to know. I honestly thought one of the twists in Infinite would be that songbird was a different version of Booker.

kocur
kocur

sky rails and vigors in rapture? comm´n, you can´t be serious!

infinite´s shallow and simplified checkpoint/no-death combat sucked already, now we have to encounter this in the city where the player was embraced by deep and dark atmosphere, could explore, interact and just enjoy the tactical opportunities offered by the great engine.

infinite in rapture is a heresy, like pissing in a sanctuary. just get the hell out of there and better cancel the complete series so we can remember it as it once was.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

Terrible framerate problems, crap storyline (so far), feels chucked together at the last minute, ie no planning went into dlc (it appears) before launch of the original game.

Also charging people for 3 pieces of DLC content, and giving only 2, splitting one of those in half to create a "third" piece of DLC for the season pass... that's borderline fraudulent and absolutely unethical from a business point of view.

krayzie88
krayzie88

I played on hard and never had a prob with ammo. Only did with Eve.

Some things are not warranted in the game but its still decent as a dlc. I'd give it a 7 (7.5 if it was longer)

55584623
55584623

i am a little confused(specially since i usually agree with reviews from Kevin).

i started playing the DLC and i think is quite solid! i really like the low ammo thing, keeps forcing you to think before running into battle. 

it is not incredible of course, but a 5? really?

joesguy
joesguy

So people don't have a problem with the contrived mess Infinite was, but this DLC doesn't get the pass because.....meh.

gbrading
gbrading

Got to say I disagree with Kevin on this one. Sure it's short, but I felt it was worthwhile and I enjoyed it throughout. I'd say 7.5. Also I though the combat was pretty challenging because the severely limit the ammo you can carry. However, it is a bad value proposition if you're just buying it standalone though; definitely worth waiting for a Steam Sale.

Lohdown
Lohdown

I started playing this last night and I couldn't stop thinking about how bored I was while playing.  I absolutely love Bioshock, but this DLC pack is horrible.  I couldn't even make it all the way through it was so bad.

tjp77
tjp77

I just finished it, and I mostly agree with this review. And the original Bioshock is pretty much my favorite game of all time, so I was disappointed. 

They made so many stupid mistakes here, I just can't believe that Ken Levine allowed this game out the door. I realize its just a DLC, but this is important subject matter to the fans, and it deserves to be treated with more respect. Now, I think the storyline is good, but the execution was pretty shoddy. 

For one thing, I wanted to explore the pre-disaster Rapture much more than we were allowed to. I was so excited to get out into the world and interact with all the inhabitants and see the familiar sights before everything went to hell, only to spend a cursory amount of time exploring a very limited area, then being quickly shuttled to a ruin that looks just like the Rapture we've seen all along, where most of the game takes place. 

I could have lived with having almost no action whatsoever, in favor of a fun and interesting noir detective story in pre-disaster Rapture, even if its just to set up an action-packed second act. 

And I completely agree about the totally incongruous way they applied Infinite's combat elements to this game. The weapons and plasmids and gear just don't seem to fit, and comes off as lazily tacked on just for the sake of getting this game out the door. Ditto for Elizabeth and her tears... a little more time should have gone into making that fit the universe. And the skyhooks should have been left out altogether. 

I'm curious about part two, because they definitely have potential to make it interesting, between what we know is going to happen to Rapture and the way Elizabeth left off with Booker... I just hope it comes out a little bit better than this one. 

jblp24
jblp24

Game reviewers must focus on objectives alone. 90 minutes? I spent over 4 hours playing this DLC, and I still skipped some because of the never opening door bug. And except for that, it was good. I'm a big fan of the VanOrd, but he lost it on this one.

bigevil1987
bigevil1987

Just finished the expansion, mostly agree with Kevin's review. Definitely took me longer than 90 minutes to complete but I also explored every corner because I love the franchise. I did think it was fairly mediocre though, the story doesn't really go anywhere and his point about Booker suddenly knowing how to utilize the tears is accurate, that kinda bugged me too. 

kenundrum7
kenundrum7

I didn't want to believe Kevin, but as I played it, I think he is right.

Except with the possibility of infinite dimentions, the mechanics make as much sense as  any other.

flameon12346
flameon12346

By the way, do anyone know when is episode two coming out?

Ronin893
Ronin893

Calling it mediocre is a bit much I think.

angetrox
angetrox

I appreciate the idea. I think the game is very short but the story is amazing ... I wanna more of Burial at Sea

uklegendkiller
uklegendkiller

It's a shame to hear that Burial at Sea isn't any better, but I'm still going to download this just to experience it. Rapture is one of the best (If not the best) Game worlds created this generation and to explore it one more time is a bonus for me!

rhadoopo
rhadoopo

In some ways, the game truly was a disappointment. They managed to screw up the main highlight of Bioshock, the story. Everything felt in this DLC extremely rushed. The idea of the ending was brilliant, but its pacing was way too fast. Compare that to the 10-15 minutes for preparing the ending of Infinite - it really set the mood and kept you immersed in the story. Here, it was too sudden to actually appreciate the awesome idea.

Evanrocknuma
Evanrocknuma

When they mentioned it was short, I was expecting something as breezy as The Walking Dead 400 Days (not that 400 Days is bad at all).  It seems to be about 1 hour of semi-interactive cinematic and 2 hours of combat.   I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth and the Bioshock universe, so I'm a tad biased and would personally score this DLC very high.  However, objectively, I think the 7-7.5 rating other sites have been giving it seems more on the mark.  Dedicated fans will get a lot more out of this than casual players.  


I recommend starting this out on 1999 mode.  It felt a lot different than in Infinite and provides a real scarcity of resources/ fear of death.  Every time I died in Burial at Sea, it was because I made a bad choice.  The battles never felt cheap like the Siren battle did in the main game.

Alecmrhand
Alecmrhand

Kevin is my favorite reviewer and generally, he is right, this is a mediocre DLC......until the last minute.....then i crapped my pants and picked my tongue up off the cat (she was laying at my feet), and i got it.

The game play is fine, the busy work is fine, but the spooge blast to the face in the last minute made it all worth it, and gave it all purpose.

Ken Levine, you blasted genius.....i didnt think you could do it to me again, but you did. I cant wait to see what comes next.

So yeah maybe its a "5" until the end (I think that might be due to its short length more than anything), but the reveal still makes playing this a must if you are a Bioshock fan.

Excuse me now while i go swap out my skivvies....


RussianMeatClob
RussianMeatClob

Spoilers:

You take a hard D in the B at the end of this.

Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

A supposition.

Ken Levine wanted to make a game by itself, like Bioshock. The publishers said

"What? A single player game by itself in this day and age? Pffth, no. We need multiplayer! Everyone wants multiplayer, the focus groups told us so!"

So Ken Levine argued for hours abut why this was a waste of time.

"Well we need SOMETHING to make it feel like people got their money's worth. I know, we'll add a season pass! That way we make MORE money on top of the retail price and we don't need to deliver much, as long as we deliver something!"


So Ken sighed and went back to work, knowing he'd need to make some content within 12 months or get completely scewed by the higher ups.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

They said they'd change the gameplay to be more like Bioshock, but it honestly looks the same as Infinite. When I heard those rails would be back I already felt uneasy. Love what they tried to do but it's pretty sucky that they didn't go the full way.

Kaz32
Kaz32

Hm, Miss Utah Marissa Powell's facepalm moment. Sounds like an interesting read!

kamikazeespleen
kamikazeespleen

@gbrading Yeah the combat was definitely challenging. I liked the new plasmid as well and the noir pre-BioShock 1 Rapture looked gorgeous. I honestly thought the only worthwhile part of the story was the very end though. I was very surprised I had finished it by that point. I managed to finish it in just under 2 hours while taking it slow. I'm glad I got it in the season pass; I wouldn't be happy if I had gone and bought it separately.

socratese5
socratese5

@tjp77 

Yeah I agree, good ideas, I would also like a noir detective story in pre-everything goes to hell Rapture.  I think wandering around and discovering what the hell happened to bring it all down would be fun.

Itmeow
Itmeow

@uklegendkiller A lot of his issues seem to be with nit-picky things that came up when crossing the concepts of Infinite with the city of Rapture, such as vigors/plasmids. I finished it last night and thought that over all it was good, though the length was rather disappointing. The story could have built up to the conclusion a bit more but if you liked Infinite I think you'll like this. There are a lot of those little moments where they were obviously nodding to things, and if you're a fan of the series you'll enjoy it.

focuspuller
focuspuller

@rhadoopo Burial at Sea is well put together for something done in a short amount of time. All that being said it's the results that speak for themselves.

I enjoyed this but I'm reserving full judgement for the second part. But so far so good.

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

@Evanrocknuma it is more of a 7.0. (its not terrible - its all right ).. just wished it featured some more levels and big daddies, even explaining them would be nice..... maybe that's explained in episode 2 (probably stomping round as one)

Kaz32
Kaz32

Heres her answer to the question of why women earns less than men even though women are the primary earners in 40% of US's family. “I think we can re ... relate this back to education and how we are ... continuing to try to strive to ... [smiles] ... figure out how to create jobs, right now. That is the biggest problem in ... I think, especially the men, are, um ... seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to ... create education better so that we can solve this problem.”

What a dumb brunette. I don't know if she's worse or miss South Carolina.

Owner34
Owner34

@cousinmerl @Evanrocknuma I was really hoping we'd get to be a part of the shit hitting the fan on New Years. Maybe it's just me, but I was looking forward to more Rapture-esque things besides being in Rapture

Kaz32
Kaz32

Oh yeah, in case you're wondering why I post something about the sponsored link right now, its because I don't care about Gamespot reviews anymore. Seems like its all just a way to get materials for feedbackula by making the reviews bait people into commenting negative stuff. Good thing is most people now seem to catch on and just treat reviews like this as a chat board, like in GTAV and Arkham Origins. Oh well, its fun though. And good thing that people here for the dlc is more calm than the ones for the full review of a game.

Kaz32
Kaz32

I never said I hate the review, in fact the reviews are well done and it shows good insights of the games they reviewed. I said now the review is only there for Feedbackula material. I saw it myself, for big games like Last of Us, Batman Origins and GTAV specifically. The pattern is all there, it seems like Gamespot decides to go "aw well, this is a huge great game. I don't want to write a review that every critic already put out, so I'll just make a review that is slightly less than the other reviewers! Its still a good score but it'll add views to this review and fuel feedbackula comments." Its the truth I bet, and look at how many people got to the reviews and spread nasty2 things to the reviewers. It has gotten so bad, that me and 5 to 10 other people in those reviewsJust settle down and comment on the crazyness while discussing which ice cream to buy tonight. That's just a truth and fact, you don't need to be a tool and defend the reviewers for something that is so obvious, it'll just showed me that YOU are the butthurt one for not accepting this circumstance. Grow up.

d-man
d-man

@Kaz32 More like, Feedbackula has inspired kiddies like yourself to behave more politely in the comment threads for fear of ending up looking like a dunce in front of everyone when the next episode airs. Only a daftly cynical person with the ego of a child would believe the professional journalists of a gaming review site were conspiring to trollbait. Grow up.

d-man
d-man

@Kaz32 It sounds more like you are the only one who is butthurt. If the reviews suck so much, why read them? It's just some professional journalist's opinion, you know, the whole point of a review site, you aren't obligated to respond negatively, or at all-- but if you do choose to act like a twit, it's only fair that it ends up on Feedbackula. If anything, Feedbackula is teaching all you kiddies to be more polite about what you post in the comments. Consider yourself educated.

BioShock Infinite More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    BioShock Infinite is a first person shooter where players assume the role of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt who is sent to the flying city of Columbia on a rescue mission to save Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned since childhood.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 5027 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate BioShock Infinite
    Developed by:
    Irrational Games, 2K Games
    Published by:
    Aspyr, 2K Games
    Genres:
    Action, Team-Based, First-Person, 3D, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco