BioShock's Burial At Sea Part 2 Is The Return to Rapture You've Always Wanted
In Part I, you played as Booker DeWitt, a young investigator in 1958 in Rapture -- despite the fact that Booker DeWitt was born in 1874. Elizabeth walks in with a case for you to solve -- a missing child -- and the game kicks off what was ultimately a by-the-numbers romp through Frank Fontaine's department store turned prison. While Part 1 gave players a gorgeous look at a pre-Civil War Rapture, the gameplay and combat were flat -- only the end-of-chapter battle against a Big Daddy had any real appeal.
In Part II, you play as Elizabeth -- and Irrational Games has overhauled the entire experience to create one of the better stealth games I've played lately. It's not a perfect implementation, since this is a DLC rather than a full stealth game, but unlike Booker's massive frame, Elizabeth relies on attacking from the shadows, knocking out opponents, and manipulating turrets (and the occasional Big Daddy). As the player, you have watch out for walking in glass or water -- both make noise), and evade the insane Slicers that crawl over Fontaine's sunken department store.
Atlas has the Little Sister you came to Rapture to rescue, and he's not going to release her unless you help him -- but enabling his bloody revolution will kick off the Civil War that began on December 31, 1958 at the Kashmir. So who matters more -- the lives of the Rapture populace, or one little girl? By focusing on a stealth approach rather than gunning your way through opponents, the BioShock Infinite team recaptures much of the atmosphere that made the original BioShock great.
This is the BioShock sequel that we never got -- call it "Return to Rapture" -- and it's marvelous to see the city with a new engine seven years after the original game (none of the characters from BioShock 2 appear here). It's a great trip down memory lane and it's worth picking up for that reason alone.
What follows next includes spoilers.
You've been warned!
The Rapture - Columbia Connection
Burial at Sea explains how so many common cultural facets connected the two cities across time and space -- and it's Elizabeth's fault. The tears she created in time allowed Jeremiah Fink of 1894 to collaborate with Yi Suchong in the 1950s. The two men worked together (or stole from each other whenever possible) to solve problems like Little Sister imprinting, Songbird's manufacture, and the Vigor / Plasmid problem.
One of the major differences between Columbia and Rapture that <em>isn't</em> explored in the DLC is why Rapture's citizenry went collectively insane with gene splicing while Columbia, which had the technology for nearly as long, didn't. I suspect there's a twofold explanation: First, Rapture's culture was explicitly founded on the hedonistic pursuit of personal desires, which were aggressively fueled by sea slug stem cells. Given that the city rested on the bottom of the ocean, gathering ADAM was a fairly simple process, and use exploded among the get-ahead-at-any cost community.
Columbia, meanwhile, is built on the kind of hyper-Christian mentality that emphasized tolerance and moderation in all things -- including the use of alcohol, drugs, and by extension, Vigors. While no direct remarks are made on this (and the religion of Columbia, with its portrayal of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin as angels could only loosely be considered Christian), there are cultural and economic factors in play between the two cities. At one point in the DLC, Fink remarks that the costs of these deep sea diving expeditions to retrieve ADAM are absolutely ruinous. Columbia, floating in the clouds, has no easy way to retrieve the stem cells that make the Vigor/Plasmid economy tick -- and even Columbia's technology pales in comparison with what's available in Rapture.
A Farewell to Rapture
The last chapters of Burial At Sea Part 2 bring the plot of the DLC full circle, connecting it intimately with the larger BioShock Universe. Elizabeth -- at least, this universe's version of her -- is intimately connected to the events that put BioShock's Jack on a plane over the North Atlantic. Left unexplored is the question of how an Elizabeth can exist at all after Booker's fateful decision at the end of BioShock Infinite, though I suspect the answer revolves around Rosalind and Robert Lutece -- the quantum superpositioned twins who narrate the original game.
With Irrational Games now shut down in the wake of Ken Levine's departure, it's not clear if there are more BioShock games to come, though the studio has promised that it plans to expand the franchise. If it does, I hope it finds a new setting and a different story to tell. Ultimately, as wonderful as it was to return to Rapture, it reminded me that characters like Ryan, Fontaine, and Rapture itself were more engaging than Comstock or Fink in Columbia.
I'd love to see a remake of BioShock on the UE4 engine, but the story of Rapture has been told. Ken Levine's six-year quest to tell a bigger story than the original had lofty goals but ultimately fell flat in comparison to its predecessor. As amazing as it was to once again see Rapture looming out of the darkness or to hear the mournful, wail of a Big Daddy searching for his Little Sister, I'm ready to let Rapture sink beneath the waves -- and see what else the lighthouse has to offer.