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Friday, April 4, 2014

Burial at Sea ep 2 Review: heureux, heureux à en mourir

And with that, Irrational games is dead. The studio that personally justified my jump to the last generation, and breathed life in into a fictional world that's up there with wonderland and middle earth, is "restructuring."

Though this may not mean that the Bioshock series is "over," it's creator has washed his hands of it, and whoever takes up the mantle next will have a target the size of the entire critical community on his/her back. But there is one morsel left, the finale of Infinite's story DLC: Burial at Sea. A stealth based romp through Rapture's secret prison and a teary farewell to both Rapture and Columbia.

I know the general reception has been tepid, and I happen to agree with the majority of their points. The plot gets lost more than Carmon Santiago in a Where's Waldo convention, and the ret-conning of Fitzroy's homicidal motivation is as hamfisted as it is unnecessary. I've always thought the turn of Fitzroy from humble people's champion while in hiding, to tunnel visioned murderer in victory; was not only an accurate portrayal of actual uprisings, but a damning commentary of how violence begets violence ad infinitum. Really, a foreshadowing of the finale's multi-dimensional dilemma.

And while I had hoped Burial would at least answer more questions that it raised, and that we'd get treated to a heapin' helping of Andrew Ryan one last time, both of those hopes were dashed. I walked out more confused than I went in (why the hell do we care about SALLY?!), and Ryan only makes the one cameo. But you know what? This wasn't about giving me what I expected. I wasn't expecting the opening sequence to be so beautiful, so hilarious, and just so goddamned perfect. I wasn't expecting to see so much of ol' Frankie Fontaine, I will play though episode 2 just to see his last scene again. It's also just so goddamned perfect.

Hey it's the rumbler! Levine almost referenced Bioshock 2! That must have been painful for him.

I didn't think you could so easily remix Infinite's combat to strictly a stealth affair so easily. But it works like a charm. Playing as Elizibeth, but without her tear powers, is a world apart from Booker's bullet hell repertoire. But once you get oriented, Rapture becomes a much more dangerous and satisfying place. I'd say the whole episode lasts a solid 6 hours, if you really want to root around for plasmid upgrades and secrets. But but the real focus is on the story. As occasionally disappointing as it is, everyone is on point and the dialogue is razor sharp. I knew there were missing pieces here and there (Atlus sets you up to raid Ryan's compound and it never really happens), but I didn't care. They say a great movie is one with 3 good scenes and no bad ones. By that logic, Burial at Sea was a fine conclusion.

There's a fun stealth shooter/survival game underneath it's story driven exterior. But all you'll remember, and care about, is whether or not it ends. Whether it ends well and whether it sets itself up for a sequel. The answer is yes. This is a definitive end for Ken Levine's Bioshock titles. I liked it. I'll definitely play it again and have just as much fun with it. The fact I'll probably never see a game with this kind of budget from Mr. Levine again is saddening.

It feels like he's just getting started. It's a damn shame this is where he and Bioshock part ways. Even if you hated Infinite you owe it to yourself to see what they've done here. Even if you're disappointed, you'll still be fascinated. Because there are 3 perfect moments that will make it all worth it.

And with that, I say goodbye to Bioshock. Most likely, forever.

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