Review: Bioshock Infinite Burial At Sea Episode 1 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

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Burial At Sea Episode 1 is the first story-driven expansion to Bioshock Infinite which reunites players with the characters Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth.

Things are quite different to the main game, however, in this bite-sized two-hour DLC add-on.

For starters, the year is not 1912 and the setting is not the sky city of Columbia. Instead, it takes place in 1958 within Rapture, the underwater utopia seen in the original Bioshock game which developer Irrational Games has rebuilt almost from scratch with the same mechanics and engine used in Infinite.

In an alternate reality from Infinite, the adventure begins on the “eve of Rapture’s fall from grace” with DeWitt working as a private investigator.

When we first meet him again Booker’s persona appears unchanged from Infinite, but the same cannot be said for Elizabeth when she calls on him regarding a missing child called Sally.

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While she comes across just as enigmatic as before, her character and appearance are very much changed from the spirited young woman she was first seen as in the main game. Older and more mature, she is portrayed as a cigarette-smoking femme fatale – a seductive siren hiding a dark side and secrets.

After some light scene-setting and exploration the first-person shooter quickly becomes an increasingly sinister and scary hunt for the disappeared girl during which the triangular links between Booker, Elizabeth and Sally are unclear. It leads to an impactful ending (after a boss fight with a Big Daddy) which provides a cliffhanger going into Episode 2 due out next year.

Rapture is as visually arresting in its own way as Columbia was in the main game, but with tighter and more confined areas which alter the approach to combat.

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Stealth plays a more prominent part than in Infinite and being adept at sneaking up behind an enemy undetected to execute a one-hit kill is a good skill to have.

With the most frequently encountered foes being different types of the deformed Splicers, there are parts of this adventure which I think aren’t that far away from The Last of Us.

Weapons are the expected carbine, hand cannon, Tommy gun and so on, but one cool addition is the powerful Radar Range microwave device which when fired at enemies causes them to heat up and explode. Also different for Burial At Sea is the ability to carry six weapons instead of two.

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To stop players having too much fun with the weapons, ammunition is in short supply throughout the mission.

Fortunately, there is access to a selection of Plasmids, the special powers known as Vigors in Infinite which include the fiery Devil's Kiss, the electrifying Shock Jockey and new this time the icy Old Man Winter.

The Plasmids can occasionally be used to solve puzzles but most of the time they are used against enemies. Picking the right times and the right ways to use them can produce some satisfying results.

For DeWitt to use Plasmids he requires a regular intake of EVE, which was known as Salts in Infinite. The availability of this is also limited so part of Burial At Sea's challenge is to manage sparse resources effectively.

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Aside from Vigors and Salts, other components from Infinite also make an appearance, or at least equivalents of. These include the Sky-Hooks for moving around and the tears which reveal alternate universes.

Burial At Sea contains just about all the ingredients which made Infinite such an enjoyable and memorable game earlier this year.

But it is a very short expansion which is over far too quickly, and its severe brevity may leave some players feeling slightly short-changed for their £11.99. The season pass offers much better value at £15.99.

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In any case, Burial At Sea is fortunately sweet as well as short - and in particular the links back to earlier Bioshock games will be a real treat for those who have been fans of the series since it started.

I didn't get into it until the third instalment but that didn't stop Infinite becoming one of my favourite games of 2013, in fact one of my favourite games for the past few years.

Returning to it has been a pleasure in this compact chunk of DLC - and I now look forward to seeing where the twists and turns of the Bioshock story will lead next.

7.5 out of 10

Published by 2K Games, out now for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC – PS3 version played

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