- Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: Irrational Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.bioshockinfinite.com/?RET=burial-at-sea-ep1&ag=true
Bioshock Infinite is a good game; this much, the majority seem able to agree on. How good, and for what reasons, is another matter entirely. The first story-flavoured expansion, however, is pretty bad – and the fact that its most outspoken apologist is the lead developer should tell you something. Notoriously, you can charge through the whole thing within an hour without even trying. Two hours if you explore, and – possibly – three hours if you explore absolutely everywhere really slowly. This isn’t a game that should be criticised for its brevity, however; rather, it should be criticised for its shameless lack of imagination.
When this DLC was first teased, the basic premise oozed potential from every pore. The multiverse of Infinite allowed the story to return to Rapture, before its catastrophic fall. Booker was here to be a private eye, and Elizabeth his femme fatale client. Every last drop of potential in this idea is squandered within minutes, as you follow Elizabeth from checkpoint to checkpoint through a thoroughly disappointing rendition of an objectivist utopia. With an average running time of little over an hour the story has no room to breathe, with details and explanations poorly defined or missing entirely (and that’s presuming you’ve already finished the main game). The ending seems rushed and lazy, overly comfortable in aping that of the main story while ham-fistedly trying to offer a similar final explanation over seconds rather than minutes.
Rapture may well have been recreated here with all-new assets, but it pales in comparison to the vibrant opulence of the pre-disaster society ever so briefly portrayed in Bioshock 2 (which was, of course, developed by another company entirely). The problems present in Bioshock Infinite are – incredibly – amplified within this bubble of story. Most NPCs are still superglued to the floor, going through their brief scripts entirely oblivious to your existence; and when the scripts are read, they still stand around in uncomfortable silence until you move on. On top of that however, the NPC writing here is pretty damn sloppy. The reason Ayn Rand’s objectivist’s bible Atlas Shrugged is so utterly polarising (in short, the super-rich detached from reality love it, everybody else hates it) is because, no matter what you think of her views, she held them with unshakeable conviction and ferocious passion. The citizens of Rapture sound as passionate as a corpse.
When combat apologetically flops onto the scene, it’s even worse than that found in the main game. The shoddy level design means taking cover is often very difficult – not that this is much of an option when most enemies are programmed to simply run straight at you. Not even some new Gear and one brand-new weapon is enough to save the system. You get a few Plasmids, but nothing new; and the lack of ammo and Eve (felt especially on Hard) means you’re more restricted than ever in how you fight. Oh, and remember how Infinite had some of the worst boss fights ever seen? No lessons have been learnt here, with the final battle being a tedious war of attrition.
Elizabeth has a few good lines, and is as wonderfully acted as ever, but that’s about as positive as we can be about the story (such as it is). In fact, the most fun we squeezed out of this expansion was (a) watching Elizabeth complain and dance about as we tracked her through the iron sights of Booker’s gun when we became bored, and (b) coming across the button prompt ‘Eat Cheese’ whilst exploring tables.
The final insult, the last display of utter disdain for the player, is the £11.99 price tag. Completely disgusting for what you’re given in exchange. When the price is inevitably slashed in future, even if only temporarily, you can add an extra mark to the score below for every four pounds that’s taken off. And yes, that means that even free, Burial At Sea would only be worth 6/10.