[Warning: While I'll try to steer clear of revealing the ending and major plot points, I won't shy away from talking about the game. So for those of you who wish to go into Episode 2 without a clue (or complete Episode 1, since this would spoil some of it), I'd recommend steering clear of this review for now.]
With the shocking and sudden announcement of Irrational Games closing for good, I imagine there’s a lot of expectations riding on BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA – EPISODE 2. Not only is this going to be the last (?) Bioshock game made, it is going to be the last game made by Irrational Games. And with the legacy of both a fantastic series and a landmark developer, it would be greatly disappointing if it didn’t go out with a bang.
I admit, I had my doubts about this one. Not that it wouldn’t be good; I had confidence there. But rather, I wasn’t sure just how great of a game it might be.
For starters, I wasn’t sure if Elizabeth would be a dynamic, playable character. Now, before anyone misinterprets what I said, I’m not saying Elizabeth isn’t a well written character or she wouldn’t be my choice as a playable character. Rather, protagonists are only as entertaining as the people surrounding them, and with Booker DeWitt dead and gone, I wasn’t sure how’d they’d handle Elizabeth. Just like DeWitt would’ve been just a typical detective without his complex relationship with Elizabeth, I imagined Elizabeth might not have the same impact without a great supporting character to bounce off of.
The biggest doubt however, came from my reception of BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA – EPISODE 1. It was an entertaining DLC, but not much else. The short length didn’t bother me as much as that it didn’t make the most out of the fact that it combined both BIOSHOCK and BIOSHOCK INFINITE. It was an interesting venture into golden age Rapture, but the storyline was subpar and the gameplay often felt jagged and frustrating from a botched attempt to utilize both game styles.
Make no mistake, however: Once the game started, gut instinct shattered any doubts I had of BIOSHOCK: BURIAL AT SEA – EPISODE 2 not being an amazing game.
Irrational Games could’ve taken the logical step, starting exactly where the first game ended—in a dark opening. Rather, it begins in a delightful and colorful version of 20th Century Paris. And just when you’re not sure what’s going to happen next, they pull you right back into Rapture, giving wist after twist. I’d talk about what happens next, but even in the first ten minutes there are too many exciting and important twists to give away.
In fact, I really can’t talk too much about the story, other than to say that most of your favorites from BIOSHOCK are back, there are some huge revelations even for BIOSHOCK INFINITE, and every important question left in the air since the series first started gets answered.
Not only is the story top notch, but having Elizabeth in the front seat was a brilliant decision. Like Jack or Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth sets out to solve her own mystery. With her powers stripped and the past behind, there’s a sense of tragic acceptance as she heads towards her fate. And, contrary to my doubts, the writing is strong with her interaction with others. [MAJOR SPOILER! SKIP PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T PLAYED] There’s also Booker… or “Booker”, since he’s a figment of her imagination. And although it’s good to see him one last time, it isn’t the Booker DeWitt I know. Yes, I know he’s not really Booker, but I miss Booker’s dry remarks contrasted with Elizabeth’s wit. And it’s a very much wasted opportunity to add some heartstring-tugging moments between Elizabeth and Booker. Whenever she does reach out to him, he simply reminds her that he’s not Booker, rather than using the opportunity for real father-daughter closure like I was hoping for. [END SPOILER]
The combat has also improved considerably since Episode 1, although it’s nowhere close to BIOSHOCK or BIOSHOCK INFINITE. With a single hit removing 90% of health in hard mode and little variety to weapons and plasmids, this becomes a first person stealth rather than a first person shooter. And while I appreciate scarce resources and brains over brawns, I wanted one last epic shootout that gave the same satisfaction as figuring out the perfect way to take out big daddies in BIOSHOCK or the swashbuckling railway fights in BIOSHOCK INFINITE.
I won’t spoil even a portion of the ending, other than to say that it is by far the best thing to come out of BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA – EPISODE 2. It ties up all lose ends of the whole series. Not only is this an amazing ending for BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEA or even just a terrific ending for BIOSHOCK INFINITE—this is the perfect ending to when I first set foot in Rapture all those years ago. A great ending to a memorable story feels like waking up refreshed with a feeling of awe. And it felt like I have awoken from a fantastic seven-year dream.
It’s a shame that this is the end of Irrational Games, but at least they went out with one helluva bang. No series is perfect and BIOSHOCK had its share of awkward missteps. But the series has never taken a step too far in the wrong direction, and BIOSHOCK is one of the finest examples of a video game series. And although I can’t see the future like Elizabeth once did, I have a feeling that Ken Levine and co. are going to come up with something just as surprising and wonderful in the future.
RELEASE DATE: MARCH 25th, 2014
PUBLISHER: 2K Games
DEVELOPER: Irrational Games
ESRB: M (Mature)