Videogame fans cried out in unison as industry legend Ken Levine announced that he’d be closing down beloved BioShock developer Irrational Games a few weeks ago. However, the office was not to be boarded up until he’d seen the third and final instalment of BioShock Infinite’s DLC out of the door. Now that the dust’s settled, what are we left with? Does it provide fans that ponied up the cash for the Season Pass over a year ago an experience worthy of the wait? And, perhaps just as importantly, is it a fitting final chapter to a series that we may never hear from again?
Following immediately on from the shocking finale to the first portion of Booker and Elizabeth’s ‘Burial at Sea’ side story, it’s not long before you’re thrust into the irritatingly noisy high heels of the matriarch of the multiverse herself. Unlike her accomplice’s thirst for chaos, Liz is less willing to get her hands dirty, and encourages you to adopt a resolutely hands-off approach whenever possible.
This means that stealth is the first order of business, making air vents, dark corners, and carpeted floors – yes, really – your best friends. She may have a smaller health bar and no armour ability, but she’s not completely defenceless. Elizabeth can still wield a firearm like the best of them, and will acquire plasmids as you progress, including a combination of those exclusive to Episode One and Infinite, as well as a new addition called Peeping Tom, which allows you to see the outline of enemies through walls as well as go completely invisible for a short period.
Additional stealth tactics include muffling the sound of your landing when leaping down from skyhook-able locations, and now, rather than simply spectating as locks are picked for you, actually doing it for yourself. Upon interacting with a lock, a 3D model appears before you with the selection icon skipping randomly between several tumblers. The choice of any will unlock the door, but land on a red and you’ll trip an alarm, attracting any nearby enemies. However, land on a blue and you’ll be rewarded with the alarm itself, which acts as an equipable piece of ammunition for your crossbow.
The crossbow allows Liz to take out foes with sleep darts, knock a group of enemies unconscious with gas darts, or cause an impromptu gathering with the successful lockpick-rewarded alarm darts, and enables the all-important ranged stealth approach. On top of this, provided that they have their back to you, or are unaware of your presence due to Peeping Tom, striking an enemy will allow you to render them unconscious. If they have spotted you, you can still melee to momentarily stun them, but you will be unable to knock them out until they’ve lost sight of you and given up the search.
Unfortunately, from a gameplay standpoint, Episode Two is slightly less interesting than its predecessor. As Elizabeth spent much of her life in a tower reading books, her perception of the world around her is based on theories and diagrams, and at a couple of points – lockpicking included – you’ll bear witness to an elaborate animation of an object being taken apart and viewed from different angles, where a single button press will amount to your interaction with it. Also, while the map feels relatively expansive, you’ll once again formulaically visit each section, one at a time, to collect an item or speak to an individual that will advance the plot, which the gameplay takes a back seat to.
There’s no way of knowing whether or not Levine planned his winding down of Irrational Games at the design stages of the DLC’s narrative, but Episode Two does its very best to tie up any loose ends that connect the original BioShock to its floating counterpart. The end result is a whirlwind of familiar faces, madcap explanations, and insane plot twists and reveals. It’s all something that the game gets away with thanks to Liz’s universe-hopping tendencies, and while it’d be a stretch to call any of it overly convenient, so much narrative is crammed into its four hour runtime that the majority of it may move past you so fast that you’ll fail to process it all, leading to some frantic Googling and frenzied forum reading to find out what you just witnessed.
In all, while we wholeheartedly hope that this isn’t the swansong of Irrational Games' groundbreaking series, it certainly wouldn’t be a sour note to go out on. It somehow manages to become even more baffling and convoluted than the main game, but it’s a fascinating ride from start to finish, that goes a long way to connecting the events of Rapture to the larger, tear-based theories explored in Infinite. In spite of its flaws, this is a must-play for fans of the franchise.
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode Two is available now for £11.99/$14.99. Have you wrapped up the story yet? What do you think is next for Irrational Games’ seminal series? Plunge into the comments section below.