BioShock Infinite's "Clash in the Clouds" may not be the DLC we wanted, but it's well worth five bucks
When I was nineteen, I liked to spend my money on stupid things like Twisted Metal games and Star Wars action figures. So whenever I had to dig into the pool of funds that usually went toward those things in order to pay for necessities like food, I got a little grumpy about it.
Thankfully, there was Rock City Pizza, a sort of rundown pizza buffet that had taken over the remains of our local Chuck E. Cheese’s. Was the food good? Not really, but it was three dollars for all the pizza you could eat, and about a buck fifty to add a soda to that. So, for under five dollars, you could spend twenty minutes partaking in the sin of Gluttony and not have to eat again for an entire day.
This is kind of what the new DLC for BioShock Infinite is like – five bucks for a heaping buffet of cobbled together stuff. The thing is, the ingredients that make up “Clash in the Clouds” are a lot higher quality than whatever barely digestible synthesized food products Rock City Pizza was using. You have the flying city of Columbia, the incredibly innovative enemies of BioShock Infinite proper, and some of the best FPS combat we’ve seen all year.
That’s right, while we were spending all that time arguing about how unnecessary the combat was in Infinite, we kind of forgot just how damn good it actually was. “Clash in the Clouds” is here to jog our memories.
See, you have the Sky-Line, which was intended by Ken Levine and the rest of the folks at Irrational Games to be like a “combat rollercoaster” – and it totally is. Zipping around Columbia on Sky-Lines while blasting away at baddies with a machine gun is the exact sort of adrenaline rush we always want to experience in FPS games and rarely ever actually do.
And, as I mentioned before, those baddies are incredibly creatively designed. Whether it's the Handymen, who electrocute the Sky-Lines so you temporarily can't ride them, or the Sirens, who revive enemies you’ve already capped, this is the stuff great gameplay moments are made of.
All of this happens in four semi-new (recycled?) locations, each containing fifteen waves of enemies. It’s a bit like a single-player Horde Mode, though the waves here are typically pretty small. And every wave has an additional Blue Ribbon Challenge, which will earn you extra cash. In the earlier challenges, you’ll be asked to do things like kill the entire wave with just a shotgun, but later challenges are far more difficult. For example, one asks you to bring down three "Heavy Hitters," each using a different Vigor.
Getting cash is what it’s all about. You’ll get to spend it between waves upgrading your weapons and Vigors, and whatever upgrades you purchase are permanent. And once you leave a stage, you can go to a museum and spend your leftovers on things like character models and art. (You won’t, however, spend that on Twisted Metal games or Star Wars action figures.)
Now, I do have to mention that I encountered one annoyance here, though it was mostly my fault. I was up almost all night playing the Duke & Dimwitt Theater stage. At about 5AM, I finally took down the 15th enemy wave, and I couldn't figure out what to do to make the game send me back out to the lobby and tally my score. (Apparently, I had to destroy an engine.) So I was stuck. I decided to hit “Restart at Last Checkpoint” in the menu before realizing my last checkpoint was before I had started the Duke & Dimwitt Theater. I lost several hours of progress – thousands of dollars of in-game cash and over a dozen Vigor upgrades – and never even unlocked the achievement for it. I went to bed despondent and frustrated.
The weird thing is, I woke up the following afternoon (don’t judge me) and all I wanted to do was go back and replay the Duke & Dimwitt Theater. This challenge series is just so well-designed, and the permanent upgrade system is so damn fantastic, that even after losing all that progress I still want to keep playing this thing obsessively.
Sure, “Clash in the Clouds” is really just here to hold us over until the “Burial at Sea” DLC takes us back to Rapture, but it’s a five-dollar buffet’s worth of content at a five-dollar buffet’s price tag. Only, you won’t have a gut ache and feelings of glutton’s remorse afterward.