Downloadable content rarely receives the same scrutiny as its parent game. It’s not quite taken for granted that DLC is a bad value, but it is certainly a creeping suspicion of the informed consumer. It’s refreshing, then, that Burial at Sea – Episode 1 offers a bite size portion of the main course instead of the tasteless imitation some have come to expect.
Burial at Sea drops the player into Rapture, the underwater objectivist utopia from the first two Bioshock games, right as society seems to be a powder keg ready to blow. You’re still Booker DeWitt, but this time you work as a private detective hired by Elizabeth to . . . well, I’ll stop there. In such a story driven game, the less I share, the better.
The game offers fans of the first two Bioshocks an illuminating glimpse into the day-to-day life inside Rapture before its collapse. Citizens discuss the pressing issues of the day as you walk by, generously heaping story fodder for series vets and setting the stage for those who started with Bioshock: Infinite. Rapture looks noticeably more pleasant when the lights are on, the water stays outside, and hulks in diving suits aren’t trying to skewer you with their drill-fists. Of course, the ugliness is still there, underneath.
|The environments are astonishingly detailed.|
|This scene? Hidden and totally optional.|
Burial at Sea – Episode 1 is a campaign that I’ve heard others claim they completed in less than two hours. While I can certainly understand a “point A to point B” playthrough being so thoroughly abbreviated, that is a blistering pace compared to my own. I stopped to absorb every conversation, every environmental detail, every secret. I ended up taking four hours. I imagine the length of a playthrough will vary drastically based on whether one is just playing a shooter or exploring Rapture.
Featuring a fan favorite setting, tried-and-true combat, and even a cool battle with a Big Daddy, Burial at Sea – Episode 1 also sneaks in exposition as far as the eye can “sea” (get it? Sea? Rapture’s at the bottom of the sea. I’ll see myself out). It’s well polished and worthy of the Bioshock name, but could be a bit short for some players’ tastes. To mitigate that, one thing is certain: you’re much better off splurging on the season pass containing all DLC for $20 than paying $15 a la carte for part 1 of Burial at Sea. Now go get it, and try and wrap your head around that ending.