Events at the close of Bioshock Infinite left most gamers befuddled, perplexed and grappling with the concepts of multiverse theory. I am going to assume that you have played Bioshock Infinite to its conclusion and if you have not please do not read any further, as spoilers are unavoidable in this review and full analysis. In addition, as this is the end of the series and my trip through the Bioshock Universe I will also be discussing the endings of this game with full spoilers in Part Two. If you have come here seeking a simple recommendation for these games and the DLC I will simply say this: these two additional pieces of the puzzle are essential to ending the loop of Bioshock. So if you have played or intend to play any of these games, to get the most out of them you absolutely must play them all and that includes Burial at Sea parts one and two. Just to stress, there are world ending spoilers for the entire series from this point onwards.
Burial at Sea: Part One
Burial at Sea Part One opens with a meeting in Booker Dewitt's office, an older and more worldly Elizabeth pays you a visit with an offer. Elizabeth is rocking the 'femme fatal' look now and is elusive with details of the job, other than a little girl called Sally needs to be found and she was last seen in Rapture. Why Booker is now residing in Rapture is a mystery at this point so, for now, the player is prompted to start making enquiries about little Sally.
As you emerge from your office you are treated to a sight which will be poignant to anyone who has played the first two Bioshock games (I'm hoping all of you at this point). This game is set before the fall of Rapture and so residents have not become an army of mutated killers yet. This Rapture is also running in the Infinite engine and thus looks fantastic. In a strange kind of way, the underwater city does seem to lose some of its charm when the 'gone to shit' aesthetic isn't there. There is still an element of thoughtfulness, though, I like how there are gay couples as well as heterosexual ones: something many game developers don't even consider.
After a brief none combat section, Booker acquires some weapons and starts picking up plasmids as is standards in Bioshock games. What I find very odd is the way the developers have blended the two worlds of Columbia and Rapture. In this game, Sky-hooks and Sky-rails are now in Rapture, as is Booker's shield from Infinite. These gameplay elements have been ported over from the open areas of Colombia and as such don't really fit here. We also never saw these mechanics in the original game so while it works their presence seems out of place. There is always the multiverse to explain away these discrepancies in the lore and events in BAS Part Two could (just about) explain it. What I find very weird is that features which suggest a bigger game are still in place, the Circus of Values vending machines appear as do player upgrades: yet given the game is two hours long their inclusion feels like overkill.
There are certainly some pacing and continuity issues here but these are not so much of a deal breaker as a minor complaint. Burial at Sea Part One feels like it wanted to be bigger but maybe due to a smaller team the time in this return to Rapture feels stunted and far too short. With that said, the actual experience of playing through it was very fun indeed. In fact just going back to Rapture and seeing the city before it all went to hell is worth the ticket for entry. After a few light quests and some Infinite esk combat areas, your time with Elizabeth comes to a very climatic end which is certainly the highlight of this DLC. You can only surprise a player so many times before they are sat waiting for the for the nuclear twist so I would say putting expectations to one side will enhance the conclusion to this good, if brief, Part One.
Burial at Sea: Part Two (and full discussion with spoilers)
The opening sequence to Burial at Sea Part 2 is a stunning recreation of Paris and is easily on a par with the gorgeous scenes at the start of Infinite: if a little more compact and subtle. In Infinite Elizabeth talks about her desire to visit Paris more than once and which makes this scene even more meaningful. However, this is just Elizabeth's imagination running wild and after it turns into a nightmare she then awakes on the floor next to a dead Comstock. It also turns out that Atlas and his men have arrived on the scene shortly after events from Part One. Thanks to the help of an imaginary Booker (think Tyler Durdan in Fight Club), Elizabeth gets a temporary reprieve from Atlas and makes a deal to get them back to the main city.
At the end of part one, it transpired that Elizabeth had actually travelled to Rapture to chase down one of the last Comstocks, who had travelled to rapture to forget his past wrong deeds. While trying to force a little sister out of the heating vents a big daddy hears the screams and shows up: killing Comstock with a drill through the chest. This was Elizabeth's plan all along because she wanted to seek revenge on Comstock for being responsible for baby Anna in another reality getting decapitated, instead of just losing a finger. What we now learn is that Elizabeth was so consumed with the moment she failed to help Sally, however, matters are far worse for Elizabeth because she was also killed by the same Big Daddy that eviscerated Comstock.
At this point the game does an admirable job of explaining what is happening: why is Elizabeth still there even if she is dead? Why Does she now have her once lost pinky? The overall situation is that when Elizabeth died, she became very much like Robert and Rosalind Lutece. She then asks the twins to take her back to Rapture and in the process loses her powers due to a quantum superposition. Elizabeth returns back to Rapture so she can be at peace with what happened to Sally the orphan and like Dewitt: to pay her own debut. With the realisation that Elizabeth is now just a normal girl and one who will never leave Rapture: she digs deep to finish the job she came here to do.
Into the breach, one last time.
Over the course of all the Bioshock games, we have seen some amazing events play out in unforgettable settings. It is to the credit of all the developers of the Bioshock series that this last journey has such a rich and deep vault lore to dig into.
From the very start of Part Two, we see places such as the staging area for little sisters, a children's play area that is already introducing the concepts Ryan believes in. As we move on we also learn that Professor Suchong had known about Columbia all along and had collaborated with Jeremiah Fink to create many of the wonders that exist in both places. It was the Sea Slugs that granted the ability to rewrite DNA and as such make Plasmids/Vigors possible. But it was the R&D that Fink did with Songbird that then helped Suchong create the Big Daddy/Little Sister system. As it turns out Suchong found the tear that Elizabeth had used to travel to Rapture in part one and managed to reopen it with a Lutece device.
Elizabeth now formulates a plan with the help of an imaginary Booker giving her hints along the way: she must fix the Lutece machine and return to Columbia to acquire a Lutece particle. These are what makes the city of Colombia float and so now Elizabeth intends to use one to float this sunken part of Rapture back to the main city. The problem is that the device is broken and here we see the first major quest open up. While looking through Suchong's lab Elizabeth finds a blueprint for the Lutece device and on it deciphers the elements are actually code showing what she needs to fix the machine. I have to say, the well-animated way this is presented to the player is lovely and this artistic style is also used for activities such as lock picking.
Cunning and crossbows
Of course, the big difference with part two is that this time we are actually playing the game as Elizabeth, the only snag is that due to the quantum superposition she has lost the ability to create tears. So the developers have done an absolutely magic job of making the gameplay reflect this change. You effectively cannot engage with enemies toe to toe but instead move around quietly: picking them off one at a time. The Sky-hooks have remained from Part One but now actually have a huge role to play as it gives Elizabeth a Batman esk ability to leap around in the rafters assessing the danger below. If you hold crouch when landing Elizabeth lands quietly, even floor types and broken glass all have to be considered when leaping down.
You can pick up some of the old weapons like pistol and machine gun but these are almost useless, the game really pushes you to use stealth but it is so much fun I didn't mind one bit. You also pick up a few Plasmids along the way, one of which is called Peeping Tom. This gives you the ability to see enemies and useful items around you and even once upgraded go invisible for a short amount of time. In actual fact all the Plasmids get upgrades which compliment this new stealthy approach. Possession now causes surviving victims to fall asleep when it wears off and frozen foes forget you were there when they defrost.
Of course, any fashionably sneaky person wouldn't be seen dead these days without their crossbow and Part Two does not disappoint. Normal bolts can take enemies down with a single shot, noise makers lure goons to that spot and the gas arrow can take out groups with a single shot. You can even climb up and use the ventilation system John McClane style, to out manoeuvre the brutes that will bash your head in as soon as look at you. In a few areas, you can also turn the wandering Big Daddy's on unsuspecting bad guys which can thin the crowds: as long as you watch from a safe distance. With all this considered and the very short supply of resources, 2K did a masterful job of turning the combat we all knew and loved on its head and even at the eleventh hour were not afraid to change things up.
All the doors and what's behind all the doors.
While Elizabeth is acquiring the quantum particle from Columbia we see a fascinating scene involving the Lutece Twins and Daisy Fitzroy. As it turns out Fitzroy was spoken to about Elizabeth in the main game and told that when she arrived she would have bait Elizabeth to kill her. Once again, the Lutece twins are pulling the strings which will ultimately lead to the killing of Comstock. In fact, Elizabeth actually sees Booker and herself from the main game as she passes in a lift. I wonder the next time I play Infinite what will happen if I turn around at that point...
While the ending was good and seeing Rapture again fascinating, Part One was ultimately too short and never really got any steam. Here we have a whole new combat style, some absolutely stellar story elements but the very best part of Part Two is the way you get a tour of all these fascinating nods to the Lore of Bioshock: the Bathysphere showroom is one such location. As you try and return to Rapture with the quantum particle Suchong blocks your path and demands a lock of hair from Finks Lab in Columbia, the idiot not realising that Elizabeth is the little girl from the tower. Fink's Lab is a gold mine of answers to the mysteries of Bioshock, for example, the way Songbird was imprinted on Elizabeth is actually the same research as for how Big Daddy's imprint on Little Sisters.
After returning to Rapture you raise the sunken part of the city as promised but as we already suspected Altas (Fontaine) betrays you in the form of chloroform and a rag. You awake two weeks later and are subjected to a horrific torture scene where Atlas attempts a transorbital lobotomy to get information out of Elizabeth. Turns out this 'Ace in the Hole' Atlas seeks is none other than the activation phrase from the first game: 'Would you Kindly'. Once again Atlas is forced to set you free to acquire the phrase from Suchong's lab because the turrets are coded to kill Atlas and his goons. This visit to the labs where the Big Daddy's and Little Sister research took place once again peels back the layers of history. There are some truly amazing scenes here including one where the Little Sisters help a wounded Big Daddy (with some prompting from Elizabeth). In the original game, we followed the stories of many characters so we know that Dr Suchong eventually met a sticky end after hitting a little Sister: it's here where we get to enjoy that sequence in the flesh. The irony of this scene is that it was Elizabeth who inadvertently solved the problem of Big Daddy's imprinting onto Little Sisters and if she hadn't travelled to Rapture: Big Daddy's would not have been protecting the Little Sisters in the first game.
With the Ace in the Hole acquired you return to Atlas, unfortunately, his word is about as useful as a three bob note. He beats Elizabeth to death with a wrench but not before she gives him the phrase that controls Jack in the first game. In her final moments, Elizabeth sees that in one of the realities she had been aware of the sequence of events she just started (basically the first game) ends with Atlas (Fontaine) getting killed by the Little Sisters and Jack rescuing them (including Sally). I found this ending incredibly sad, after all, it was Elizabeth who I was emotionally invested in and not Sally. Yet as we should know by now happy endings are never that simple where Ken Levine is involved.
So Bioshock finally comes full circle it is now clear that Elizabeth was the catalyst and trigger for so many events in the series: including the fall of Rapture in the first game. The first two games were packed with amazing dialogue and story but they also had an awesome set of game systems to play with. As we moved into Infinite the way you could manipulate these systems seemed to take a backseat and moving forward: it became more about the plot and story progression. With that said, I find all the games in this series offer their own distinct experience whether it's the exhilarating first trip to Rapture or the awe-inspiring vistas of Columbia. Bioshock now belongs to 2K and with Ken at the helm of a substantially smaller team the chances of us ever seeing anther Bioshock game are slim, but I actually think I would be ok with that. I have enjoyed the Bioshock games for years and I will for many more: every gamer should at some point sink into the depths of Rapture and sour above the towers of Columbia.
I just want to say a huge thank you to Ken Levine and all the people who worked on Bioshock over the years. You gave gamers one of the most breathtaking digital worlds we have ever seen and for that, I am truly grateful. Thank you for reading my review and final analysis of Burial at Sea Part One and Two.