I have a lot of feelings on BioShock Infinite. Anyone who knows me on certain social media channels can attest. Deep down, I harbor a lot of love for what Irrational Games tried to do, but the resultant is anything but groundbreaking or amiable. In fact, my animosity for the title far outweighs any affection I quietly keep to myself.
The text below contains spoilers for BioShock Infinite, so read at your own risk.
I take issue with the storytelling and lack thereof. I take issue with the overall absence of character development. I take issue with the blatantly “plagiarized” elements. I take issue with the fundamentally boring mechanics of play.
There are a lot of things wrong with BioShock Infinite, but the recent downloadable content announcement coupled with a yawn-worthy wave-based arena shooting gallery (complete with insipid rewards like pieces of the soundtrack for you to “enjoy” while standing around or 3D character models) are just disgusting icing on a disgusting cake.
Irrational must think us fools. And we are.
Nay, I say thee, Irrational. Nay, for I am no fool.
I see through your clever ploy, trying to sweetly unite your flawed groundwork with the beloved undersea utopia, reimagining your one-dimensional disembodied voice of a character as some très cool noire detective with an equally bland cupcake of a girl transformed into a bad bitch with a checkered past and dark lipstick.
The biggest problem here is that you, Irrational, are saying, “We give up. We surrender. We realize that Columbia wasn’t that interesting, nor did we breathe the life we should have into it. We’re taking you back to Rapture, a place that has already been built, has all the interesting bits, and inserting two reimagined characters into its setting, because our first pair was not good enough.”
I mean, you’ve already lifted all the cool ideas from BioShock; implementing the science-y Plasmids as substandard and incongruent Vigors, aping the flesh and metal Big Daddies for both the spiritless Handymen and inconsequential Songbird, and, above all, explaining everything away in plot because someone in Columbia is literally stealing those ideas from Rapture. How convenient that there’s not an original element here.
Clearly, Burial At Sea is meant to be a distinct timeline, separate from the events of BioShock Infinite and at least prior to those of BioShock, as it takes place in a pre-catastrophe Rapture, not the one seen at the end of Infinite or in either of the prior BioShock games.
Problematically, and knowing Irrational’s tendency to be self-referential with just a few examples above, the obvious choice here would be to shoehorn the Booker and Elizabeth from the BioShock Infinite’s main continuity into this expansion, because the devs are oh-so canny and clever! Unless there’s a plan to somehow explain away the destruction seen at the end of Infinite for the sake of a cute Easter Egg to make you point at your screen and go “OOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”, trying to be darling won’t win you any points if your aim is to craft a strong piece of story, something not necessarily seen in the thread thin storytelling strung along by faith in Infinite.
And what of playing as Elizabeth? There doesn’t seem to be any real point in doing it aside from offering a new opportunity for frustration, as Elizabeth is “not a tank” like Booker is (read: You may end up visiting the Vita-Chambers a lot). Let’s also consider that the only Elizabeth that can open tears is our canon leading lady, for she’s the one instance of the girl that exists in two realities simultaneously, so giving Rapture’s alternate Elizabeth a power like this is a straight up dodge and disregard to in-universe continuities, something of which Irrational is incredibly guilty of in the main game alone.
The real kicker, barring the above shark jumps, would be to guise the upcoming content as a prequel to BioShock, where your actions as Private Investigator DeWitt set the stage for the downfall of Rapture and the coming of Jack. See, now that would be a neat idea, but at the same, falls victim to the problem that Irrational are abandoning Columbia in favor of Rapture, because they’ve already established that Columbia just isn’t that interesting.
I mean, look at the first piece of downloadable content, Clash in the Clouds. It’s not a new opportunity to explore the skyborne city, it’s just another excuse to pump bullets into dudes so there’s no need to flesh out Columbia. Even taking a look at the map from BioShock, you’ll see that it provided a fairly wide open space to explore, even if the story took you on a fairly linear path to a set course of events.
A rhetorical show of hands—how many of you needed a map for BioShock Infinite? Positive that nobody, even ironically, raised their hands, because BioShock Infinite is a hallway. Columbia isn’t even remotely interesting because Irrational didn’t even try to make it interesting, and these two (or three, depending on your view) pieces of downloadable content are cops to avoid fleshing it out in any form as we’re, DUN DUN DUN, returning to Rapture anyway!
I’m calling you out, Irrational. You don’t actually care about Columbia as a setting. You never did. It was a stopping point on your cowardly return to Rapture as an M. Night Shyamalan-worthy plot twist, both in Infinite’s ending and this diffident downloadable content.
Would you kindly admit to your wrongs?