BioShock is a narrative driven series that’s defined by its grand adventures and fascinating locations. Unfortunately, these hallmarks do not apply to Clash in the Clouds, the first of three DLC expansions for BioShock Infinite. This is a mostly gameplay focused affair, with the emphasis on action rather than exposition.
All four of the add-on’s maps are based upon locations from the single player campaign, and feature fifteen waves of progressively difficult enemies. In essence, it’s a standard horde mode, so expect to die frequently before quashing the last enemy of each level.
While you’ll be zipping around, er, ziplines, carefully offing foes, one thing that the extra does differently is allow you to earn upgrades to your shield, salts, and health as you work through the waves. These enhancements create a sense of progression, which helps to stave off the onset of a pending rage quit. Similarly, your score is converted into cash, which can be spent on weapons and vigors, which will last for the entirety of your Clash in the Clouds career.
Given that the sky was literally the limit, it’s a shame that Irrational picked such a predictable path
And that’s a good thing, because protagonist Booker DeWitt just isn’t powerful enough to complete every wave at the beginning of the DLC. This is an extremely difficult outing, and will punish you for even the slightest mistake. Enemies will rush you, and hiding in corners is no longer a viable tactic. Expect to use the speed of skylines as a substitute – and to fail a lot. This expansion requires a level of combat prowess and perfection that many fans of the franchise may not be willing to strive towards.
Fortunately, there’s the lure of unlockables to at least keep you engaged. Within the central hub of the DLC there’s an empty museum that can be furnished with a variety of BioShock Infinite collectibles, ranging from mannequins to concept art and more. But while it can be rewarding to steadily bring the barren museum back to life, it’s very frustrating being forced to choose between vital weapon upgrades and more items for the exhibit. As there’s only one currency, you’ll constantly have to debate your desire for more goodies versus essential items to help you to progress. Still, at least there’s a lot of content on offer if you intend to unlock it all.
But it’s unclear whether series fans will be willing to invest for very little reward. With such a large amount of grinding required to obtain everything, this is a tough proposition. Perhaps the addition of co-operative multiplayer would have made the time-sapping effort more bearable; its absence is blatantly obvious given the nature of the add-on.
There’s no doubt that the expansion will find an audience, and many will enjoy it enough to ride a rail to the top of the leaderboards. But given that the sky was literally the limit for BioShock Infinite’s first add-on, it’s a shame that Irrational Games picked such a predictable path to further the experience. Clash in the Clouds is an entertaining extra in bursts – but it’s hard not to feel a little stung by its uncharacteristic lack of imagination.
BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds is available now for £3.69/$4.99. Are you satisfied with the add-on, or are you waiting to dip your toes into Burial at Sea? Let us know in the comments section below.