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BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds DLC

Bioshock Infinite divided its gameplay into clear sections where Booker and Elizabeth explored the floating city of Columbia in a story-based adventure, and other sections where the pair were swarmed by enemies in fierce combat. The first of three DLC packs arrived this week giving players a combat-focused experience with virtually no story content. Titled Clash in the Clouds, it drops Booker and Elizabeth into very familiar surroundings for a few hours of “More of the same” gameplay, and it seems that the developers at Irrational Games are saving the story-driven content that players want for later.

This first DLC pack is a set of four challenge maps where players fight through waves of enemies using mechanics that are identical to what was seen in the main game. Each of the four maps is divided into fifteen waves with a short break in between.

Players can’t use their leveled up Booker from the main campaign, and they can’t bring their gear either. They also start without their “Infusion” upgrades, but completing a wave will grant a bonus of either an Infusion or a piece of gear. Booker does have access to every weapon in the game, right from the start, but these also bereft of any upgrades earned in the main campaign.

Players can select their load out however they like before each wave, and afterwards they can use money they gained from killing bad guys to upgrade their weapons and vigors. Initially there is a limited selection of vigors, but all of them can eventually be bought once players earn enough money.

Players will probably be disappointed to learn that there are no new abilities, weapons or enemies, and nothing from Clash in the Clouds can be carried over into the main game. The locations are all new, but are still strongly reminiscent of ares from the campaign. While there are only four maps, some waves use a different start point, and there will often be subtle changes to the layout in each wave. Booker will find Skyrails missing in some waves, and the “Tears” that Elizabeth can open will sometimes vary too.

Although the designers have done fairly well for what is essentially a bunch of challenge maps, Clash in the Clouds is definitely not the DLC pack that players have been waiting for.

Unfortunately, simply blasting through the sixty levels isn’t terribly difficult (Especially for players who use all of their money early on to fully-upgrade. The whole thing could be played in an evening by skilled action gamers.

In keeping with the wholesome Americana themes, there are also “Blue Ribbon Challenges” for each of the sixty waves. These are special achievements earned by completing a wave with certain restrictions. These restrictions range from killing a certain number of enemies with a specific vigor, to beating the wave within a time limit, to some genuinely difficult ones like taking out a level of snipers by only using a shotgun.

Booker grows more powerful as players progress and accumulate upgrades, and most of these Blue Ribbon Challenges require players to have a powerful, leveled up character.  Thus they provide a reasonable amount of replay for completionists who want to take a second tour through the content.

It will also take more than run through the game to earn enough money to upgrade every weapon and vigor, so that will give the obsessive-compulsive yet another reason to keep on playing after beating every wave.  While there isn’t a multiplayer component, there are leaderboards where players can share their scores.  Players gain points for staying alive through each wave, and for making stylish kills, so there are bragging rights to surviving all fifteen waves in one go.

In addition to the four challenge maps, there is also a new location called the Columbian Archeological Society. This is small set of rooms in a museum that can only be accessed from Clash in the Clouds. Booker and Elizabeth can spend they currency they earn in the DLC pack to unlock a few bonuses around this museum. Mostly these are things like music from the soundtrack, concept art, character models and “Kinetoscope” movies.

True these bonuses are a bit lackluster, but diligent players who poke around enough will find some very interesting secrets hidden in the Columbian Archeological Society.

Those who play through a couple of waves then think about quitting should definitely stick with Clash in the Clouds long enough to ferret out some of these hidden adventures in the museum. There are new voxaphones that address some backstory in the main campaign, a hidden “Tear” to a familiar location elsewhere in Columbia, and there is even a little teaser encounter that hints about the next two DLC packs.

Hardcore fans will probably find these little morsels enough to justify the effort of sticking it out to the end of the challenge missions, however the overall feel of Clash in the Clouds is that it’s a placeholder piece intended to give fans something to chew on while waiting for the good stuff

Fortunately Irrational games has also released a trailer for the next DLC pack. This will be called Burial at Sea, and is a two-part story-based mission that will take Booker and Elizabeth to Rapture before the fall of that Objectivist Utopia. There are some overt nods to film noir, including an alternate Elizabeth depicted as a femme fatale.

Given how similar it is to the main game, it’s very difficult to recommend Clash in the Clouds on its own. Burial at Sea looks to be the real meat of Bioshock‘s DLC, and true fans would probably do better grabbing the Season Pass which includes Clash in the Clouds, along with both parts of Burial at Sea and some bonus goodies for use with the main campaign.

Clash in the Clouds is available now for $4.99 on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (At 400 Microsoft Points). Check back with Explosion.com for more on Burial at Sea after it launches.

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