Warning: minor plot spoilers
I swore hand over heart that I would not spoil the resolution of Burial at Sea, so that will remain a mystery until the rest of you fine citizens get to enjoy it before the holidays. However, to give you a sneak peek at Burial at Sea: Episode 1, some spoilers will naturally occur.
You're Booker, Private Investigator; your office exists in the heart of Rapture in 1958. Elizabeth walks into your office, reminiscent of a scene from the Maltese Falcon, and employs you to search for a missing girl named Sally. You tell her Sally is dead, but Elizabeth has reason to believe she's still alive.
And from here, your quest in a Rapture set before the downfall begins.
BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1 (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release: Holiday 2013
Elizabeth informs you that she knows a crazy artist named Cohen (sound familiar?) who may know the whereabouts of Sally. After viewing the new areas Rapture has to offer, your first objective is to procure a rabbit mask that will grant entry into Cohen's secret party. This task introduces a new aspect of gameplay where Elizabeth distracts shopkeepers as you wait for the right timing to sneak into the back areas. I found it highly enjoyable and tense (in a good way), but also very brief as this particular mechanic doesn't show up again in the DLC.
Once you steal this mask, you enter Cohen's crazy little party. From there, those of you who have played the original BioShock can assume things get dark and twisted very fast.
Note: This is the last of the story I'll reveal.
The combat mechanics in Burial at Sea, including Plasmids, are very much the same as in prior BioShock installments. However, this time around resource management is much more prevalent than it was in Infinite. On medium difficulty I found myself often running out of bullets and Eve, thus having to conserve my resources to ensure I could make it through to the next area. This was intentional from a gameplay perspective, and I actually found myself getting more out of the combat situations versus the rushed combat mentality of BioShock Infinite.
Enemies are different this time around as well. They were much less likely to rush at me, and often times I could observe them milling about before they were even alerted to my presence. This gave me time to plan my attacks in advance, making it easier to strategically place Plasmid traps and route enemies. Despite the lack of resources I ended up feeling more accomplished at the end of my battles, which is something I didn't really feel in Infinite despite the numerous and often large amount of enemies.
The setting in Burial at Sea is gorgeous and colorful -- all assets have been redone, breathing in new life to Rapture. Bars, shops, art galleries, and even slot machines adorn the main area. One of the settings, a derelict department store, is an interesting space in its own right. Clothing, electronics, toys and various other relics from Rapture in the 1950s are scattered about in a creepy yet eye-catching way.
The pacing and overall design felt much more open than Infinite as well. So much more open in fact that at one point I had accidentally skipped two parts of a quest because I bypassed it. Enemies had cropped up in the meantime making it harder every time I made a mistake in my path selection.
Hidden areas are still prevalent in Burial at Sea, with Elizabeth always at the ready to help pick locks. Audio diaries are scattered about, providing extra context to what's happening in Rapture at the time and also some interesting tidbits regarding a certain "phenomena" occurring. I highly recommend not skipping these!
I fully completed this DLC and truly enjoyed it. In fact, I loved it so much that it makes me wonder why it's not a standalone game. I felt like it blended the best parts of both BioShock and BioShock Infinite; the combat was challenging and thoughtful, the story was captivating, and the pacing was perfect. Infinite was a fantastic game in its own right, but bringing Booker and Elizabeth to Rapture is literally a whole new world.
Burial at Sea: Episode 1 does not have a specific release date, but they do anticipate it coming out before the holidays. We'll do a full proper review closer to release. In the meantime, enjoy this ominous "Fact from Myth" video which foreshadows what may have happened after Elizabeth and Booker meet in Rapture ...