Review

BioShock infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2 Review

  • Game release: March 25, 2013
  • Reviewed: March 26, 2014
  • PC

The abyss.

In life, we make connections with others. We protect the ones we love as they protect us, creating ties that bind us for life. We can't forcibly create those bonds, and once created, they are not easily broken.

Burial at Sea - Episode 2 is about those kinds of personal connections. Like the disappointing first episode, this concluding chapter ties the Columbia of BioShock Infinite to the Rapture of BioShock and BioShock 2--yet it begins in neither city. Instead, you are in Paris, though it is not a Paris that ever was, but rather a Paris so perfect, so ideal, that even the most imaginative daydreamers could not have thought up a place of such sunny beauty. And no longer are you Infinite protagonist Booker DeWitt, but instead his talented ward Elizabeth, who had long dreamed of visiting La Ville-Lumière. Your initial stroll along the city's sublime terraces takes you past smiling couples and friendly onlookers, many of whom know you by name. This glorious opening recalls your initial stroll in Columbia, but when a sweet songbird lands on your finger and chirps along with the ambient music, it becomes clear that this utopia is too impeccable to be real. This is Paris by way of Disney, a place where Elizabeth's resemblance to Beauty and the Beast's heroine Belle is rendered even sharper by the numerous calls of "Bonjour!" from her many admirers.

Dreams never last. Elizabeth awakens from her reverie in Frank Fontaine's sunken department store with a gun pointed at her head and a game of Russian roulette under way. She is at the mercy of Frank Fontaine, aka Atlas, whose massive department store has sunk far below Rapture. Booker is there too, or at least an apparition of him, helping Elizabeth respond properly to Fontaine's interrogation so that she might stay alive and follow through on her promise to protect the little girl known as Sally. Where Episode 1 relegated Rapture's well-known citizens to a series of cameos, Fontaine has a major role to play in Elizabeth's adventure. He's a menacing presence, inherently untrustworthy, and a late-game scene in which he demonstrates his chilly inhumanity is so wildly disturbing and effective that for a moment, I was Elizabeth. I shared her dread, her contempt, and her resignation.

Some people can rework their fates. Some, unfortunately, cannot.

Some of Episode 2's attempts to create narrative and metaphorical relationships between Columbia and Rapture are too obvious, as if the game is leaping around shouting "look at me" (I knew what ammo to toss you because I read a lot about guns!), and tricky timey-wimey issues are glossed over with familiar fictional platitudes (I know this won't happen because it didn't!). Overall, however, Episode 2 leaves behind the first episode's uncomfortable meshing of incompatible game mechanics, and creates a coherence between narrative and action that even BioShock Infinite's main campaign never fully established. Elizabeth is not a natural murderer, and Burial at Sea, Episode 2 doesn't force you to play her as one.

That isn't to say that you don't have guns to shoot if you want to use them, though Elizabeth is so vulnerable that she can't participate in the straightforward shootouts that characterized BioShock Infinite. Instead, the episode prioritizes sneaking and subterfuge, equipping you with a miniature crossbow that shoots tranquilizing projectiles and darts tipped with knockout gas, and gifting you with a plasmid that allows you to become temporarily invisible and to see through walls. The result of this shift in approach is that big daddies are more ominous than ever. You cannot destroy them, only avoid or distract them. That hollow, soul-crushing groan that warns of a big daddy's presence caused my heart to sink into my stomach multiple times, knowing that I could never go toe-to-toe with the monstrosity that emitted it. Splicers, too, provide a fresh fear factor, given that you cannot damage them with a melee attack if they are aware of your presence; you can only momentarily stun them that way.

Lockpicking is no longer an automated process.

And thus Episode 2 rocks to a different rhythm than Infinite's previous adventures. The pace is methodical but not slothful, and while the sneaking isn't a crushing challenge, it requires some forethought. Occasionally, I would slink up to a splicer from behind and knock him out with a swift melee blow. Other times, I would take aim at a fiend from a balcony above and fire a tranquilizer dart into his neck. Every so often, I set icy traps using the winter blast plasmid, and then tricked splicers into crossing them by firing noisemakers in their general direction. And when I was cornered, a blast from a shotgun could cure my ills, though this was typically a last-resort option. I sought every nook and cranny, gathering lockpicks and performing a simple but enjoyable minigame to access locked areas or neuter pesky turrets. What a pleasure to explore Rapture not as a gun-toting maniac, but as a survivor seeking answers.

And yes, Elizabeth is a survivor here, incapable of opening tears and observing the endless versions of power-hungry men and the lighthouses that lead to them. You discover the circumstances that led to her loss of omniscience as you follow the game's natural trail, and the episode does a creditable job of giving narrative context to its own mechanics. Elizabeth's vulnerability in combat is echoed in her emotional vulnerability; she is merely human now, reliant mainly on her wits and her intelligence, and at the mercy of the sociopaths she must manipulate.

Meet your new best friend, the diminutive crossbow.

BioShock Infinite's conclusion left my mouth agape, but its narrative puzzles weren't impenetrable. Burial at Sea's finale, however, isn't so up front about its meaning. And so I have begun another playthrough, seeking clarity while muddling through on a difficulty setting that allows me access only to nonlethal weapons. My glee in doing so says a lot about the new episode's quality, especially in relation to the opening episode. Some strained metaphors and connections aside, the cities of Rapture and Columbia make for strange but comfortable bedfellows in BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2. More importantly, Elizabeth's journey is tense and rewarding on its own terms, and is one that makes Rapture as mysterious as it was the first time you ventured inside.

The Good
Well-paced, stealth-focused gameplay is a great fit for the setting
Fontaine is an excellent villain
Exploring Rapture is tense but not unforgiving
Makes smart connections between story and gameplay
The Bad
Some overly contrived plot points and metaphors
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for BioShock Infinite

About the Author

In spite of its post-release backlash, Kevin VanOrd still loves BioShock Infinite, even though he was gravely disappointed by Burial at Sea's first episode. He's on his second playthrough of the new episode, which took him about three and a half hours the first time through.

Discussion

113 comments
willmerfi
willmerfi

I know it was all about Levine giving closure to his Bioshock universe, so I can understand why he had to complete the circle. However, I hate that Bioshock lost some of the ambiguity that makes it the great franchise that it is. I also hated Elizabeth's send-off. I'm sorry but I cared much more about Elizabeth having a happy ending than a generic Little Sister I met two hours ago.

cws3e
cws3e

I felt burial at sea 2 simulaneous ruined both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite.  Those games were better games precisely because everything wasn't all wraped up into a nice little bow.  this is that bow, and the links between the two games is contrived and unnecessary and it cheapens both stories.

TheForthcoming1
TheForthcoming1

Lockpicking/picking lock always reminds me of Oblivion and Fallout 3/New Vegas :)

gbrading
gbrading

I enjoyed Episode Two much more than one, although I do feel Elizabeth's prime goal (to save Sally) doesn't seem justified. Only thing which would have made it better would have been a face to face chat with Andrew Ryan, but at least he's in there and you do get that chilling scene with Atlas.

DiamondDM13
DiamondDM13

Just finished this, after finishing Episode 1 two days ago... Man, I'm so sad to think that Bioshock is over...(I'm not playing any cash grabs that may ruin my memories of Bioshock and Infinite so...)

Boogy32
Boogy32

I am not even sure what to think about Infinite anymore. I think I like it, but I honestly don't know. It's really mixed feelings for my part. I think I like the story thing going on, but I definitely do not like the alternate reality part of it. Yeah I don't know anymore - It's annoying really.

TuxedAaron
TuxedAaron

Loved the gameplay of Episode 2.  I just wish there was a better story driving it, because in the end, it just felt very rushed.  While trying to tie the second game into the first is definitely ambitious, they didn't answers all the questions they needed to for it to ultimately work, like the main game did (primarily, why is ANY of this happening in the first place?).  And some of the answers they offered up only posed further questions that they didn't even TRY to answer.  Most of the connections we're looking for aren't there and there are some connections that feel tacked on, with no real payoff.  So in that sense, I can only give Burial At Sea a 6.0 - 6.5 and view it more along the same lines that I view something like Terminator 3.  It's an interesting stand-alone project, but it's not what I would consider canon in any way.

fursecu
fursecu

welcome to the club of eight! i knew the rating before i came here..just wanted to make sure

texasgoldrush
texasgoldrush

And really Minerva's Den >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Burial At Sea.

texasgoldrush
texasgoldrush

Really, this DLC sucks.

The main reason is...I do not care about Elizabeth's drive to save Sally because it is so underdeveloped. Once again, Levine simply does not know how to work with characters. There is no point in the narrative here it truly establishes why Liz cares about Sally specifically to risk it all for her. And really, by the dimension bending deus ex machina going on, it makes it worse...its all forced. Everything about Infinite and its DLC is forced, from the characters to the themes.

that's why Bioshock 2 is better...it actually developed the protagonists bond with the girl he is trying to save. hell the story of Mark Metzler and his daughter are more developed than the story of Liz and Sally.

gannon27
gannon27

Just finished  my first playthrough. Wow what an amazing end to a brilliant franchise. I must admit that I don't understand every little thing in the narrative and this episode poses a few new question marks as well, but overall I think I understand about 70% of it. For me it felt like a return to the first and second games but with a massive twist. Stealth is now the most important part of this game. Big Daddys are now invulnerable, while Elizabeth is the opposite. With no powers or heavy firepower, Elizabeth needs to use stealth in a big way. Upon finding the new plasmid. that gives you the ability to become invisible and see through walls, I always had it equipped. Although still short, it is much longer than episode 1 and you get a lot more bang for your buck. Awesome dlc.

theGerman5113
theGerman5113

Too bad GameSpot chose not to make a video review. I dislike text reviews.

aegis_kleais
aegis_kleais

Well, at least the quality on this episode was back on par with Bioshock Infinite. After a disappointing series of Season Pass content (an arena simulator and the first episode which looked almost comical in how low-budget and short the content was), Episode II at least goes out with a bang.


As with Infinite's main story, I had to replay many times for all the pieces to be put together (maybe it's just me, but time altering and multi-dimensional storylines always make my mind do a hard reset, which prohibits comprehension).  There was enough content in this episode to warrant it a justifiable and worthwhile DLC; I'm just sorry that I cannot say the same for the first 2 pieces.


Ultimately, Elizabeth suffers a sad ending here. The sense of powerless-ness in her current state is overwhelming at times, but she comes across as a strong character and a memorable one as well.

clasiker_raggim
clasiker_raggim

Explain me everything, I wanna know it all. What a silly approach from artistic perspective.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

I'm not one of those people who insists anything below 9 is a low score, but it's getting comical how many 8's have been given out here lately.

jhonMalcovich
jhonMalcovich

Now I need to find a deal for the Bioshock season pass.

noandno
noandno

I'm waiting Tom McShea's opinion.....

gannon27
gannon27

Great review Kevin. I am a massive Bioshock fan and I too was a little disappointed with the first chapter of Burial at Sea. However this second instalment more than makes up for it. One of the best dlc's I have played in awhile. I love how the game has now been turned into more of a stealth genre and you really feel that Elizabeth is very vulnerable. I am very close to finishing it and it looks like Irrational games have given it the ending it deserves.

virtualskill
virtualskill

Interesting. Disappointing though that they chose to end the finale of all of Bioshock with unclear explanations and metaphors..

cousinmerl
cousinmerl

its a better DLC then the last one, the use of stealth makes the game a bit more tense, but the plot feels a little hammered in to explain the original bioshock with jargon while not really explaining anything.
Still there's some good quality real time cut scenes and intro, lets hope their new projects feature some more solid plot lines.

naruto945
naruto945

Hey am I the only one who did NOT think the world of Bioshock Infinite was some utopia in gaming world design. It is not a place I would want to be in at the least bit perhaps its because im not white but when I see a review for this game and it describes the world as rich and "somewhere i want to go back to" it kinda irks me. I guess if i was white Columbia would be badass but otherwise its like saying i wanna go back to the way things were in the 50's plus a bunch of updated technology. But hell they still let people fly confederate flags like its nothing around here in the U.S. so its to be expected.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

Sounds like a solid improvement over Episode 1, which was a big disappointment.  That said, I've already traded in my copy of Infinite, so I won't be playing this.  I could stand to go back and replay the original Bioshock or its sequel, though, both of which I still find to be much more entertaining in terms of gameplay and character-building than Infinite ever managed to be.

thehdeer
thehdeer

@texasgoldrush  I agree. Even this, I also cannot understand this need of killing protagonists which was adapted in entire Bioshock Infinite franchise. Levine is always trying to seem smart, but he ruined it like always. No wonder that people lost interest in Bioshock and Irrationals announced bankruptcy :/

cws3e
cws3e

@gannon27  there is no twist, it was clear he was planning to wrap up bioshock with a nice pretty bow in the first 30 minutes, and it only took about 5 before you were flat out told the ending was going to end with elizabeth dead.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@theGerman5113  I have to admit I'm the opposite, I never watch the video reviews - I prefer to read at my own pace. I think it's because I don't like things spoiled, and I can better control the experience when I read it.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@naruto945  People don't like the setting because they believe in its politics--they like it because it's unusual and strongly rendered. I love going back to Dark Souls, but obviously I wouldn't want to live in Lordran; I love returning to Fallout 3, and I love exploring its world, but that doesn't mean that I'd want the real world to reflect it. These worlds are fantasies, and whether or not those they are peaceful or Utopian is irrelevant; people love all sorts of dystopian and apocalyptic settings. We like exploring them because they are rich with character and provide a sense of discovery, not because we actually want to live in places populated by racists, mutants, or violent shrubs. 

calvinsora
calvinsora

@naruto945  I think it's more because of the brilliance of the design, not because people want to live there. I love going into Rapture (particularly post-breakdown); not because I want to live among splicers and Big Daddies, but because it's such an intricate, creepy place. Much like how some love watching horror movies - to experience something on the edge, something different.

aegis_kleais
aegis_kleais

@marcusfeelius1  To each his own, I guess. Infinite tied with my all-time favorite game. It pushed boundaries no other game did, and had such overwhelming overtones of metaphysical philosophy as its underlying overtones to the storyline.


Not to mention, as far as gameplay mechanics go, The skyrail system for combat is about as much fun I've had in an FPS as I can remember.  I think the series does Irrational Games and it's crew quite an honor.

calvinsora
calvinsora

@marcusfeelius1  Because you... didn't like it? How does that compute to its overall worth among other gamers?

faizanhd
faizanhd

@marcusfeelius1  

"BioShock Infinite was my 2013 game of the year. It was a slightly controversial choice among people with no taste or sense of fun."

Most people calling Bioshock Infinite overrated fall into the "Pretend Intellectual Gamer" category from my experience. People who like to think they know all about gaming. But have never played a game before 2011.

naruto945
naruto945

@Kevin-V @naruto945  It doesnt come across that way when you (not saying you yourself per say) specifically say "its a world i actually want to return to" I forget who  im quoting but just that one word "actually" makes it to me seem as if that person wouldnt mind a real life version of said setting/place. Also due to the fact i myself have never personally read a review of an apocalyptic game where the reviewer explicitly states that its the world itself they want to return to and not the actual game/gameplay itself like ive seen with Bioshock Infinite.  This isnt the first games to tackle the issue of race but... this is where my laptop lost power and i lost my train of thought but imma wrap this up. We can type what we feel or what we believe to be true all day but facts are facts. All of a sudden now Bioshock Infinite has amazing graphics (it does i admit) and thats why we loved the setting is BS man. There is a massive grey area in these types of matters and one decision and/or action doesnt make you a racist but ignoring another "peoples" POV and subsequently acting as if "thats just the way it is" or redirecting the issue is wrong. IDK basically people should do/say what they want but be upfront about your feelings. I could respect a man who is a straight up biggot and constantly throws racial slurs more than the guy with the confederate flag in his front yard declaring "im not racist Ive got x number of (insert race here) friends.

IntegralReaper
IntegralReaper

@calvinsora @marcusfeelius1  Interesting opinions. For me, in a single player shooter the actual gunplay, the shooting, takes precedence over the story by a huge amount. Setting, story, are great, but they are frills added to the gameplay.


In Bioshock Infinite, I despised the gameplay, I hated the shooting. I did not find it fun one bit as a shooter. Many shooters I find 'mediocre' these days but Bioshock just felt really awkward, I didn't enjoy any of the powers, any of the enemies... it was not at all fun.

Cashmoney007
Cashmoney007

@faizanhd @marcusfeelius1  If people did not like Bioshock Infinite it is probably because they did not understand the story.  I still think Bioshock Infinite is a great game.  It is not perfect but what game is?  I liked the first two a lot as well.  I can always go back and play Bioshock Infinite.  I can't say the same for the campaign of ME3.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

@faizanhd @marcusfeelius1 I've been a gamer since 1980 and I think it's wildly overrated.  They came up with a new backdrop and the Elizabeth aid mechanic, then gave us the same game with one of the worst endings ever.

faizanhd
faizanhd

Sorry , that quote was from Ben "Yatzhee" Crosshaw. Forgot to put it down below.

naruto945
naruto945

@faizanhd  Its like i see youre comment about the dlc below and think "this guy knows whats up" then i see Bioshock infinite was your 2013 GOTY? I dont know what to think anymore.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@naruto945 @Kevin-V  This is a pretty inflammatory topic, that is hard to talk about clinically (and not saying it should) - I appreciate where you are coming from in the sense that you are of color and have a different perspective on the story of this game and are reading the reviewers in a different way.  


I do think you're internalizing this or taking it personally more than you should.  I feel like the reviewers did state that the world was actually eerie due to the fascism and whiteness of the world.  The scene where you have to <SPOILER ALERT> throw a baseball at the mixed race couple <SPOILER ALERT OVER> was called out in multiple reviews as being one of the more ugly and profound scenes in gaming. 



d-man
d-man

@naruto945 @Kevin-V  Perhaps you should find a new hobby if you are incapable of taking everything less than personally.

DefconRave
DefconRave

@youre_a_sheep @faizanhd @marcusfeelius1  In terms of cohesive world and atmosphere Bioshock 1 & 2 are far superior imo.


Gameplay is on par with Bio 2 but the world seemed so artificial (why you are the only one who uses plasmids when there are dispensers on every street?) and lacked the sense of dread of Rapture.

BioShock Infinite More Info

  • 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 5011 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Irrational Games
    Published by:
    Aspyr, 2K Games
    Genres:
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    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco