Game: Bioshock Infinite DLC
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
A review of all three DLC packs released for Bioshock Infinite.
So, you’ve just released what many people would happily claim to be the best game ever, with a carefully crafted world and probably the most intricate multi-layered story ever to appear in gaming. You have to release some DLC for this game. What do you do? You rush out an arena combat mode called Clash in the Clouds it seems. It’s a series of four small maps in each of which you face fifteen rounds against gradually more difficult enemies. It starts off with just a few basic opponents and builds up to the final round where you go against a group of the toughest enemies in the game. For an added challenge, each round has a Blue Ribbon bonus if you complete it within a given limitation, such as only using a certain weapon, a certain vigor, only using environmental kills via tears or completing the round within a time limit. Completing these gives you extra money. If you die during a round, you have the option to either continue from where you were but with your score reset to zero or going back to the beginning. If you do continue, you lose the Blue Ribbon bonus for that round automatically regardless of whether you were still fulfilling the requirements.
Afterwards, the money you gain can be used on upgrades from vending machines, but can also be used to unlock bonuses such as concept art, models, the songs from the game and extra kinetoscopes. Rather than just being in a menu, these are unlocked in a large museum hall, which starts off empty and can gradually be filled up, with more people turning up to visit as more exhibits are added. It’s quite fun to unlock all of this, though there’s nothing too exciting really. It’s the only real motivation to keep playing though unless you really love the combat. There are online score boards so you can compare your performance with everyone else who has played if you’re interested in that sort of thing. The combat is very good, and the challenges do give you motivation to try out different weapon and vigor combinations and experiment with the battle system, but it’s still of limited interest without the storyline to keep you playing. And let’s face it, it’s the story and the game world that most people play Bioshock for. It really feels like they wanted to do the two part story driven DLC but had promised to make three, so sent this out as a stop-gap measure. If they’d allowed co-op play in it, it would have had more value, but as a purely single player experience it really doesn’t add much.
Far more in keeping with the Bioshock style is the second DLC, Burial at Sea - Episode 1. Exciting fans everywhere, it promised a return to the Rapture of the original game, before the fall that left it overrun with splicers. You again control a version of Booker Dewitt and have Elizabeth as your companion. Booker is a private investigator and the first hour or two of this actually plays out as an investigation, without combat and with Rapture still a thriving place. This is the best part as it focuses on what Bioshock does so well, the story. It’s fascinating to see pre-fall Rapture and hearing the conversations of the people living there with the advanced knowledge of knowing what is soon to happen to them all. The city does feel more claustrophobic than ever though, after the wide open skies of Columbia. After that it becomes a little more like the original Bioshock, throwing you into splicer infested territory. The combat is basically the system from Bioshock Infinite transplanted into Rapture, including a version of the sky-hook and Elizabeth’s tear opening assistance.
In story terms, it’s another plot that keeps you guessing and builds up to a surprise conclusion, although in this case it’s a bit more confused and sudden than normal, perhaps due to being only the first half of the story. And it includes some more scenes with the crazy Sander Cohen, which is always good value. It does feel very short, and I would have liked more time to explore Rapture in more detail before reverting back to the combat focus on the original game, but even so, for fans of Bioshock this is well worth a playthrough.
Burial at Sea – Episode 2 changes things by putting you in the role of Elizabeth, now without her tear opening abilities. It’s impossible to go too far into the story at this point without spoiling things, but it’s an extraordinary work that manages to tie the plot of Infinite and the original Bioshock together and bring everything full circle. It’s a thoroughly fitting ending to the series, and given the fact that Irrational Games are no more, it’s sadly quite possible that this really is the end of the series, or at least under the control of Ken Levine. If it is, at least they’ve wrapped things up well and ended on a high. It’s not quite up to the depth and complexity of the plot of Infinite but it’s still far beyond what most developers can achieve.
In terms of gameplay, without any noticeable change in mechanics, the game sneakily becomes a stealth game. There were always stealth options available of course, but in this DLC, it feels a lot more the focus of the game. This is partly down to playing as Elizabeth, who isn’t the violent soldier that Booker was, and partly down to the new Peeping Tom Plasmid. This Plasmid turns you invisible while it’s activated, and unlike most other plasmids, it stays active while you hold down the button and stops when you let go, gradually draining EVE as it goes along. It also allows you to see the location of enemies through walls. If you upgrade this power a couple of times, it ends up having no EVE cost at all as long as you’re standing still, making it an incredibly powerful stealth tool. It feels a lot like a Bioshock equivalent to the Blink power in Dishonored, less the teleportation side of things. Dishonored had already borrowed quite a lot from Bioshock, so maybe now it’s giving something back. The combat works well but the focus is on story as it should be with Bioshock. It’s short as you’d expect from a DLC, which is a shame, though it’s longer than the first episode and should give you a few hours play. It’s not up to the standards of the main games, but it’s still very good and worth playing for all Bioshock fans. Anyone not fully familiar with both the original and Infinite will probably find it confusing, but then there’s no reason they’d be playing anyway.
Arbitrary Final Scores:
Clash in the Clouds:
Burial at Sea – Episode 1:
Burial at Sea – Episode 2:
Is more Bioshock always a good thing? Tell us your opinions in the forum!