My lover stands on golden sands
Graphics and art
The original "BioShock" relied on a stylized art deco/steampunk hybrid aesthetic, while "BioShock Infinite" embraced a colorful, cartoonish depiction of early 20th-century Americana. "Burial at Sea" combines the two, and the result is pretty impressive.
Unlike "BioShock," which took place after Rapture had already fallen into chaos and destruction, "Burial at Sea" captures Rapture's heyday, complete with elegant carpets, bright arcades and a plethora of well dressed ladies and gentlemen.
The cheerful, refined façade of Rapture falls away almost instantly once Booker and Elizabeth reach the city's lower levels, and the leaking windows, gloomy corridors and eerie lighting from the original "BioShock" return.
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The only real issue with the visuals is that it's hard to slow down to explore them. Elizabeth spends the first 20 minutes or so careening at full speed from one location to another, and following at her clip leaves a ton of interesting bits of level-design unseen.
Music and sound
Music has always been a strong point of the "BioShock" series, and "Burial at Sea" is no exception. Whether it's jazzy tunes to entertain Rapture's elite or ominous orchestral pieces that play while you're exploring Splicer-infested ruins, the score is always appropriate.
As always, period-appropriate songs make effective appearances, including a cover of "La Mer" (better known to English-speaking audiences as "Beyond the Sea") by Django Reinhardt that fans of the first game will remember well.
Troy Baker and Courtney Draper reprise their roles as Booker and Elizabeth, respectively, and each one does a phenomenal job. Elizabeth's husky, femme fatale demeanor, complete with one-liners referencing the events of "BioShock Infinite," are both delightful and immersive.
The bottom line
If you want more "BioShock Infinite" — and really, who doesn't? — it's hard to say no to "Burial at Sea." Reuniting with familiar settings and favorite characters is admittedly not the most daring direction for the series, but playing it safe has resulted in a polished experience that's much more likely to elicit smiles than groans.
There is the question, however, of whether a series that toes the line as much as "BioShock" does should be commended for treading familiar territory, even if it does so very well. At $15, "Burial at Sea" also does not deliver a ton of content for its high price point.
"Burial at Sea" will be hard to gauge until all of the episodes come out, but on its own, the first episode is a worthwhile experience that delivers just enough content for the "BioShock" faithful — and not quite enough for anyone else.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
"BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Episode 1" requires a copy of "BioShock Infinite" to run.
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: First-person shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac
OS: Windows Vista Service Pack 2 32-bit
Processor: Intel Core 2 DUO 2.4 GHz / AMD Athlon X2 2.7 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX10 Compatible ATI Radeon HD 3870 / NVIDIA 8800 GT / Intel HD 3000 Integrated Graphics
Hard Drive: 512 MB available space
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible
OS: OS X 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion), 10.9 (Mavericks)
Processor: 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Dual-Core)
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 3870 / NVidia Geforce 640M
Hard Drive: 512 MB available space