The very first story-based downloadable content episode for BioShock Infinite has finally been released, giving us a chance to revisit the sunken city of Rapture. The transition from the terrifying heights of Columbia to the horrifying depths of Rapture is a welcome change, but whether or not the sense of adventure carries over is another story.
What do you get when you take BioShock Infinite, slap some nostalgia on it, mix that into a bowl of film noiresque narrative and then set it to "bake?" BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1. You start the game as protagonist Booker DeWitt, in the now-familiar Private Investigator office that appeared in nearly all of the flashbacks in BioShock Infinite. Like all good noir stories, this one starts with a girl walking into the office to offer our man a job. As you might have expected, this girl is Elizabeth, and she's rocking a brand new 'do and an attitude to boot. Did we mention she pretty much smokes cigarettes throughout the whole journey? Yeah, this definitely isn't the naive, Rapunzel-esque girl we saved from the tower in Columbia.
She offers you a job: save a little girl named Sally. In keeping with Rapture's mythos, little girls all around the city have been disappearing, only to become Adam-harvesting Little Sisters. Booker is hesitant to take the job, but then Elizabeth shows him the picture of the little girl, it turns out that Booker actually has ties to the girl and took care of her for a while, so he takes the job and goes off to rescue her from her fate.
Tracking down Sally turns out to be a reasonably easy affair and only has you exploring a few of Rapture's points of interests. While the environments we see are all-new (an entertainment district full of shops, an abandoned department store building and Sander Cohen's personal club), fans who have played through BioShock and BioShock 2 will feel right at home with all of the art deco structures and features. There are also many non-player characters scattered throughout the DLC who help populate the city, so it's cool to see Rapture vibrant and full of life, right before it goes to hell and becomes an underwater gauntlet full of splicers.
It is with the city itself that Burial at Sea - Episode One provides its own contrasts: you'll explore the brightly-lit parts of pre-fall Rapture while interacting with its citizens and then be whisked away to a own of Fontaine's buildings that has been condemned to the bottom of the sea, cut off from the rest of the city. It is in this sunken department store building that you'll spend most of your time fighting. It is also in this spot that you'll feel most at home, since it's a dilapidated series of hallways, rooms and abandoned areas that is constantly under the threat of being completely taken over by the seas.
As Detective DeWitt, you'll have access to weapons and plasmids, although with slightly different flavors than the ones you're used to from BioShock Infinite. You can find the usual gun types like a revolver, a machine gun, a bolt-action rifle, and a shotgun. But there's one new weapon that's a little more exotic. About halfway through the DLC, you'll come across a funky gun called the Radar Range. This microwave gun looks like something that's more likely to appear in a Fallout game, but it's available for you to zap your foes. If used continually on a human target, that target will explode due to the massive amounts of radiation. It's actually quite satisfying to use on the many annoying splicers littered around the different floors of Fontaine's building.
You'll also have access to a new plasmid called "Old Man Winter," which works similarly to the old Winter Blast plasmid, except this one can be set as a trap, a la the Vigors in Columbia, and can be used to freeze running water in order to create ice bridges. And, as always, you'll be able to utilize the ol' freeze-and-melee combo to easily shatter enemies.
There are many new mods you can add to your weapons to give you an edge in a fight, but they can get too costly and you'll likely finish the DLC before you amass enough cash to pay for decent mods. The best tactic to use in battles is to use plasmids and melee attacks to help conserve your limited amount of ammo. Don't forget that you can bring in helpful items thanks to Elizabeth's ability to create Tears, which she explains as being the result of a new plasmid.
One issue I had with the Tears in Burial at Sea - Episode One is that they were mostly recycled items from BioShock Infinite's main story. While it's certainly in keeping with the game's whole "alternate worlds" conceit, bringing in automated gunners and Motorized Patriots feels a little too familiar. The only really notable new Tear is a samurai warrior that runs around and slices up splicers, but I would have liked to have seen the alternate worlds thing really taken advantage of and have some more anachronistic devices be made available for use.
Burial at Sea - Episode One only takes a few hours to complete. Once it's actually over, you kinda get the feeling that you might have rushed the experience because it's so short. The ending is par for the course of a BioShock narrative, but might be jarring to a few people, especially since some of the major players in the story seem to act out of character. As long as you keep the "constants and variables" theme in mind, you'll make it out alright.
In the end, Burial at Sea - Episode One is only a passable experience due to its length and the amount of content found within. With that said, it still has me wanting to play the next few episodes of DLC immediately. And, at the very least, it reunited me with some old friends, like Booker and Liz, as well as some even older enemies. Is it short and sweet? Yeah. Is it worth the price of admission? I say, "Yes. Would you kindly go and download it?" But you're a man (or woman), so you know that you're able to choose, rather than obey.
This review is based on a digital copy of BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 for the PC that was purchased for review.