**SPOILER FREE REVIEW (read on and enjoy!!)**
I know the DLC has been out for a week, but for anyone crazy enough to still be holding out, I’m here to tell you to take the plunge. Returning to Rapture, the underwater utopia/dystopia of the first two games is an incredible experience. Longtime fans will be able to bask in Rapture’s pre-fall glory, while BioShock newcomers will be treated to a healthy dose of intrigue and lore. World building has always been Irrational Games strong suit, and once again it shines through. Level design is top notch, moving from well lit, high class shopping pavilions to run down, creepy department stores evoking the spirit and feel of the first game. Even though the DLC takes place in the claustrophobic underwater city, it finds ways to maintain the verticality of Infinite with multi-story levels, tiered battlegrounds, and cavernous buildings.
Combat, of course, is nearly identical to that of Infinite, which is a benefit. Encounters are violent, enemies are tough, and supplies are short, all making combat a tense and frenzied good time. I routinely ran out of ammunition and EVE, forcing me to play smart and get crafty. Traps and sneak attacks are your friends, and a quick bash in the head always works wonders. The game balances this hectic combat with some classic BioShock stalking moments. Enemies don’t randomly spawn in waves as in Infinite, they lurk around the environment, giving players ample time to set some stealthy traps or listen in on great ambient conversations. The feeling of hunting and being hunted from the original game is still present in these moments. Every once in a while, you’ll hear an enemy enter a room behind you, or pacing in the hallway, creating an eerie “stuffs-about-to-go-down” feeling just like in the original BioShock.
The story is where I run into problems. It’s a great story, don’t get me wrong; it’s another brilliant mystery loaded with intrigue, exploration, creepiness, and a healthy dose of typical BioShock WTF moments. My issue comes during the ending. It simply didn’t work. Imagine the amount of exposition and reveals in Infinite’s ending. Now compress that into under 5 minutes. It feels rushed, sudden, and overwhelming (and not in the good BioShock Infinite way). I expected a twist, so the ending didn’t shock me the same way Infinite’s did. I didn’t guess the exact twist, but I was braced for something. I know it sounds like a minor offense, but for a game with this pedigree, with this much focus on a carefully crafted story, dropping the ball at the finish line is a considerable issue. Not big enough to undo all the good moments of the story, of which there are many, but enough to make it feel awkward and slightly jumbled. The ride is great, but the train gets derailed right at the end. But let’s not forget that this is BioShock. Even though I had issues with the ending, it still left me craving more, it made me want the next part of the DLC just so I can wrap up the interesting story set up in the first part, so there are positive elements to it. I’m confident that Ken Levine and the amazing minds at Irrational Games will come up with another incredible experience when the second part releases sometime in the first quarter of 2014.
Overall, BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part One DLC is a great piece of story content. People have complained about the price tag and the game time ratio ($14.99 for 2-3 hours of game time)…they don’t know what they’re talking about. Burial at Sea Part One is an amazing experience for a reasonable price. I took my time and milked it for 4 hours. That’s equivalent to 2 feature length movies for the price of 1 3D movie. Plus, you can play it again and again to try new things and find all the hidden secrets. Besides, if you’re a fan of BioShock, returning to Rapture should be reason enough to dive into this DLC. I cannot recommend this DLC enough, it truly is a great gaming experience. If you’re looking to add to an already spectacular game, BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part One is out now on PSN, Xbox Live, and PC for $14.99 or as part of the BioShock Infinite Season Pass.