As Irrational Games are winding down operations they deliver the final piece of the Bioshock Infinite saga.
If you're allergic to spoilers and have still to play the first episode of Burial at Sea - you should do yourself a favour and play it before reading on...
The time has come to tie all the loose ends together in the Bioshock saga, at least as far as its creator goes - as Ken Levine has decided to wind down Irrational Games, start anew and give up the Bioshock franchise. If you've played the first part of Burial at Sea you'll remember that we parted company with Booker DeWitt at the end of the episode. But nothing is what you'd expect as episode two starts out at a café somewhere in Paris, with Elizabeth as the main character.
We really have to bite our tongues not to spoil too much, but let's just say that several old acquaintances will pop up once the adventure continues down in Rapture. The shock of being able to experience the underwater city in 1080p and with ultra settings on PC that we felt with the first episode has worn off a little as we take on the new adventure.
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It is also noticeable that the graphics engine is starting to show its age. Since last autumn the new consoles have seen release and the Bioshock Infinite tech wasn't cutting edge at release, and now it's really starting to show its age. The lighting is still very good and used to good effect, but the environments are somewhat lacking, with poor texture work and it isn't as rounded as we'd like to see. Thankfully this is compensated by the brilliant design that makes us stop several times as we gaze in amazement.
As you're playing as the decidedly less-powerful Elizabeth, you're equipped with some new tricks to stay alive this time around. The most prominent new skill is stealth. Early on you're given a plasmid that allows you to see enemy positions through walls and a completely silent crossbow. Walking in puddles and on broken glass makes too much noise and you're forced to play Bioshock in a new way. This is something we truly appreciate, but it feels as if Irrational have only begun to scratch the surface of this potential as we're only given a three hour adventure and you're soon given expanded offensive options with more guns and plasmids.
But for as long as it lasts this new style of Bioshock allows us the option of using vents to flank the enemy, use the environment to zig zag your way to unknowing targets, and offers weapons that allow for silent takedowns. But, after the first hour things change. The combat grows more repetitive and there is more transport. It turns out Ken Levine had a lot more story to tell and there's no escaping that fact.
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It feels a bit like we're being force fed story as there are two hours where we're almost given non-stop dialogue or tapes that clue us in on all of the connections. It's not a bad story by any means, in fact it's one of the most well-written stories we've experienced in a video game. We would even go as far as saying that it's of such a high calibre, and so well thought out, that it pushes the limits of the medium. Much like we've come to expect from Ken Levine.
This makes the concluding chapter of Burial at Sea difficult to review. One the one hand we're left with a game that doesn't quite hold up from a technical perspective, and that delivers the weakest action to feature in the series to date. But on the other hand the story continually surprises, shocks us and offers plenty of eye opening revelations. That's worth a lot in our eyes, and in the end the finale of Bioshock Infinite satisfied us. We may never get another true Bioshock game as Levine leaves the franchise behind, so it truly feels like an ending.
We only wished that all these great ideas that obviously were there for Burial at Sea could have been turned into a full game instead. With more developed gameplay, better pacing, and less force-feeding when it came to the narrative; this could have been the crowning moment of the Bioshock series. As it stands now, in spite of obvious qualities, it still comes across as something less than the magnificent ending it deserves.