BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea episode one – preview

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A lick of paint and the Michelin star is in the bag –BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea takes you back to Rapture before the city’s fall


I'm Sorry. Really, I'm very sorry about the above admission. I've been trying to come up with a way to talk about BioShock Infinite's story-based DLC without giving away significant plot points in it and Irrational's 2007 masterpiece. Lord alone knows that the less players know about the stories contained in the cities of Rapture and Colombia, the more they're likely to be blown away by their first encounters with them. But there simply is no way to discuss Burial at Sea without offering up some details about the sunken dystopia of Rapture and the twisted denizens that inhabit it.

Still, is this such a bad thing? Burial at Sea is the very definition of fan service.

Not only does it offer an intriguing glimpse into the barmy universe of BioShock Infinite, where neither the motives of the characters nor the very fabric of reality can be trusted, but it satiates a couple of desires many fans of the original BioShock have had since the credits rolled on that game back in 2007. (Oh, and if you're not a fan, and you've yet to play either of the aforementioned games, I strongly urge to you stop reading now.)

You see, not only does Burial at Sea mark Irrational's return to the sunken city of Rapture – the beautiful and horrific metropolis they created for BioShock – but it returns players to a time before the city's fall. Ever wanted to see what Rapture looked like in all of its grandeur before the civil war laid it to waste? Now's your chance …

Much like in BioShock Infinite, Burial at Sea begins with the player walking the streets of an otherworldly city, only in this case, the floating platforms of Columbia have been swapped out for the glorious art-deco pomp of Rapture's submerged corridors and pavilions.

As the player guides Booker through his paces, they'll see familiar sights such as the Nano-Tubes, Big Daddies patching up parts of the city on the ocean floor and even an outlet of Rapture Records where they can listen to a rendition of Le Mer by Django Rheinhart.

As delightful as it is to return to Rapture, Irrational's creative director, Ken Levine says it's there as the best backdrop for his new story – and is less about providing a kind of 'greatest hits' experience for players.

"I had another story I wanted to tell about these people – Booker and Elizabeth – in particular," he says. "But I'd be kidding if I said there wasn't some desire I had to go and play back in Rapture."

"But the last thing I wanted to do was the whole 'midichlorian' thing and explain parts of the world to people that they didn't need or want explained. [Burial at Sea] is not about going back and explaining what happened back in Rapture. Rapture is a backdrop for this story."

Living for the city

Running on the Infinite engine, it looks utterly sumptuous; dark hard-wood panelling and gold plating contrasts beautifully against blood-red carpets and green banners proclaiming the strengths of Objectivism. Rapture's civilians chatter excitedly in the streets and the hubbub mingled with 1920s music makes the environment feel alive as a city.

"If you go back and look at Rapture in the original game," says Levine, "you'll find that your memory is kind of looking back through rose-tinted glasses. "

"The kinds of places we can build now – especially the fact that we can now have a population – we saw that as a huge opportunity [to revisit Rapture] to just see what life in it was like."

On the surface, Rapture looks like Andrew Ryan's dream working the way it was meant to, but if players prick up their ears, they can hear the first signs of dissent.

In BioShock's timeline, Burial at Sea takes place after the failure of Frank Fontaine's first rebellion. Ryan Industries is in the process of taking command of Fontaine's assets and Fontaine's small army of violent Splicers has been banished to an underwater prison in the dilapidated Fontaine Department Store building. Levine says the madness in Burial at Sea needed to be partitioned in this way for the sake of moving things on.

"That was a tricky problem to begin with," he says. "Once we knew we were doing Rapture before the fall, just picking up a gun and running around shooting people wasn't going to work."

"We wanted the game divided into the exploration of the city and into a traditional BioShock experience," he says. "We knew we had the central story of Fontaine's clash with Ryan, but we didn't know exactly what he did with Fontaine's gang."

"You ever seen Escape From New York? It's basically Escape From New York!"

Setting the scene

The DLC begins with an opening that would be right at home in a pulp dime-store novel. Private investigator, Booker DeWitt, is approached in his office by a mysterious woman named Elizabeth. He lights her cigarette with a snap of his fingers (using a flame Plasmid) and listens as she asks him to help her find a missing girl named Sally. Elizabeth comes on like a classic femme fatale; she seems to know more about Booker and Sally than she lets on and shadows play over her eyes. Booker takes the case and heads towards the den of one of Rapture's figures who has been known to partake in the odd bout of human trafficking – an artist with a couple of screws loose named Sander Cohen.

Seeing the worlds of BioShock and BioShock Infinite thrown into the mix together raises up its own set of questions. Is Infinite now part of the Rapture lore? Is Burial At Sea showing us one of the myriad parallel universes hinted at in Infinite? Levine is adamant that the strands tie together.

"It's Rapture prime," he says. "It's Elizabeth prime."

"There's a difference between BioShock and Infinite in that the focus was more on the characters in Infinite and their moral progression. The Elizabeth you see here is not the one that was dancing on the beach in Infinite – even though there are echoes of that scene here – she's more opaque."

"She is a product of the affects of people's ideas being put into reality. She didn't ask for any of it and all of it was put upon her. She's the embodiment of extremism."

Levine's sentiments hit home as I played through Burial at Sea. Elizabeth functioned the way she did in Infinite as a mechanic – she still opens tears and she still scrounges for resources – but the wide eyed, optimistic youth of Colombia has been replaced by a character who is altogether more cynical, darker and quicker to judge Booker. To be honest, she seems right at home in Rapture …

Source: Tablet Android

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