ANTISUN GREY Presents | A Brian Franklin Review
1Buried At Sea

The swansong of Irrational sees us back in Rapture, which to me at least is a more affecting world than Columbia. As Booker, we meet an Elizabeth who seems more world-weary than her Infinite-self and then we’re off to find a young girl called Sally, though for reasons initially unclear.

Our walk through a pre-civil war Rapture gives us peeks into the city’s societal structure: the Little Sisters, the Big Daddies, Andrew Ryan elevated to a godlike position, Objectivism taken to its logical extreme. And while the world is more of a non-interactive stage at this point, the setting evokes hints of the original Bioshock and drew me in pretty quickly.

Irrational’s art team is top of the line, no surprises there. The Art Deco look of the place is as beautiful untarnished as it was decayed in Bioshock. The views through the windows at the city beneath the waves remain a memorable sight – as memorable as the first time I saw such a thing in the Big O. As always I appreciate all the other little details: the record covers, conversations between citizens, the art in the gallery, the suspicious banter between the DeWitts. Bioshock had an incredible score, and the elements of Gary Schyman’s work here helps to cement the feel of Rapture.

Disturbed artist Sanders Cohen plays a central role in the first act of Burial at Sea, and he’s only a little less psychopathic than he would become in the events of Bioshock. It’s interesting to ponder on what he represents – art unrestrained by morality, art tethered to a muse only he can tap. Lives seem small beside his artistic demands.

What gets me about the scene where we interact with him is the apathy of the crowd towards the fate of his performers. Sure, they must have seen such happen to others before, but it is chilling that lives can be rendered so meaningless and that people could not even gasp or bat an eyelash. Like many elements in the Bioshock series, this could be taken as a clever social commentary.

The nuts-and-bolts game really starts after the DeWitts embarrass Cohen in front of his muse and they are sent to the ocean floor, to a sunken Fontaine’s Department store. Here is a vision of what Rapture will eventually become – plasmid-addicted splicers, deterioration, roaming Big Daddies, and the remains of people who didn’t make it. Hearing the voices of those doomed souls added to the atmosphere and constantly kept me invested in the world. Although this method of world-building is frowned upon in some circles I’ve always liked its use in Bioshock, and I’m happy that it returned in this final outing.

I enjoyed Infinite’s combat in the wide open spaces of Columbia, and the way in which it is incorporated here in Rapture isn’t bad. It almost doesn’t work, as the confined spaces of Rapture do not lend themselves easily to the type of action. But guns and plasmids are always a good combination.

The conclusion of the first act actually shocked me. Sally’s reveal as a little sister was expected, but Booker (i.e. Comstock) receiving a drill-bit to the chest as Elizabeth looks on, uncaringly? This was a great cliffhanger – surely he’d be back in the second part?

The second act picks up immediately after the conclusion of the first. Now we see the world through the eyes of Elizabeth herself. What follows is one of the quietest segments of any Bioshock game I’ve played. One thing I really enjoyed about Bioshock 2 was experiencing how everything changed when playing as a Big Daddy. I was slow, had an enormous drill-bit for a right hand, and formed part of the intricate Adam-ecosystem through my relationship with Little Sisters. Those things made that game so much more interesting to play than being another lithe guy with a gun.

"Psychology. Sociology. There's all kind of theories about how you sell something to a man." - Splicer

Playing as Elizabeth is very similar. The formula has changed; she’s more fragile, so there’s an intense focus on stealth and on thinking more deeply about how to use the environment to your advantage. At some points the experience evokes playing the sensational Dishonoured, as I crept around with a crossbow loaded with sleeping-bolts, following the route of a splicer discussing philosophy with himself.

I must say I enjoyed this part very much. It’s Elizabeth on her own, talking to a ghost in her head, laying bare her feelings and fears and up against a force she has no hope of defeating. That feeling of hopelessness grows with every step she takes until the final confrontation with Atlas. It was inevitable how it would all end, and at some points I was hesitant to keep playing. I cared about her character, which is something I didn’t expect after meeting her for the first time in Infinite.

At one point, when all is quiet, she tells (an imaginary?) Booker that she misses him. Under the weight of two entire games I really felt her emotion. She’s completely alone with no one to care about her, creeping towards her own end. It’s a powerful moment.

Almost every one of the characters Elizabeth interacts with is a villain in somebody’s book. In fact, so is Elizabeth, and I think she comes to realise this. Atlas embodies this Rapture-type of villainy. Ostensibly he’s a revolutionary, out to fight “the man”, but he’s more than willing to cross the moral event horizon to achieve his goals. It was great to discover the story behind those final weeks of Rapture and how Elizabeth and Columbia tied into it. Honestly, jumping between these two worlds in one game was fascinating.

The climax was perhaps one of the most bittersweet endings in games I’ve experienced in some time. It’s not bombastic. There’s no great twist of fate. Just another pointless death in a city below the waves. But it’s more than that – it is the culmination of a young woman’s journey across dimensions, and what seems to be the final send-off of one of the most innovative game studios of the decade.

A fitting end to the Bioshock saga. The gameplay does enough to keep you interested, but it's the story that you should be playing for. Highly recommended.

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