Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds Review – The Sky’s The Limit

The radio silence on the DLC for Bioshock Infinite was deafening. Irrational Games vowed to not work on DLC until Bioshock Infinite shipped. After that, a whole lot of nothing, but then rumors swirled that an announcement would be made in July. Right at the end of the month, we got not only the trailer for the two-part Bioshock Infinite campaign DLC Burial at Sea, but we also got the combat-focused Clash in the Clouds, which didn’t get much of a trailer because it released that same day.

A Slugfest

Bioshock InfiniteBioshock InfiniteClash in the Clouds has no story components; it’s 100% fighting. It has no selectable difficulty component like the main campaign of Bioshock Infinite does, though the challenge does ramp up nicely. If I were to place the difficulty of this DLC, I’d say it starts off somewhere between Normal and Hard. You’ll start by selecting one of four arenas; one is available from the start, but you’ll have to unlock the other three. After this, you’ll dive into the fray and fight a wave of enemies. Thankfully, you’ll know ahead of time what kind of enemies you’ll be facing, and you’ll have your choice any of any two weapons to battle them with. You’ll also have 4 tonics to start with, with the other four available for purchase.

When you begin the wave, you’ll see how many enemies you have left to kill before the wave ends. Killing enemies earns you cash, which you can use for upgrades between waves. Each wave has more cash: Wave 1 might give you $5 a kill, Wave 2 may give you $10, and so on. You also earn cash for head/heartshots, looting enemies, and other stylish kills. There are also Blue Ribbon Challenges, in which you will be instructed to complete the wave under restrictions, such as “Skyline Strikes Only” or “Only use zoomable weapons while they are zoomed in.” These Blue Ribbon Challenges are optional but earn large amounts of additional cash if completed and also unlock an Achievement or Trophy.

Without a storyline or narrative explanation to put you in the combat, Clash in the Clouds’ designers were free to craft arenas that are tuned to perfection. You might have hated the skylines in Bioshock Infinite, but the first arena makes use of them in a simple figure eight pattern that gives you aerial command, but leaves you open to attack. They’re not a free win, and enemies will be more than happy to use them to assault secluded positions. There’s ample cover, and plenty of useful tears that Elizabeth can open for you that can save your hair in the nick of time.

Bioshock InfiniteIn between waves, like I mentioned, you can upgrade your weapons and tonics. You’ll be returned to a central room with vending machines that sell weapon upgrades and tonics for cash. You can also spend your cash for an extra life, which allows you to keep playing without penalty, should you be killed during a wave. If you’ve completed a wave for the first time, you’ll get a piece of gear or an infusion to upgrade your statistics. That last part is kind of key to the whole experience and is my favorite thing about Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds. All upgrades are permanent, and persist between play attempts. If I buy a pistol upgrade, I have that upgrade forever. If I buy a new tonic, or upgrade an existing one, it’s mine to keep. Each time I play, I am stronger than I was the previous playthrough and I have a better chance of finishing all 15 waves or completing Blue Ribbon Challenges. I like this system, rather than having all my progress wiped each time I try again. I also have all the infusions and gear I earned from previous wave completions and once I complete a Blue Ribbon Challenge, it’s recorded and I don’t need to complete it again for record-keeping sake, unless I want to earn the extra cash that wave.

Not only do you save weapon and tonic upgrades, infusions, and gear, you even save leftover cash. While you could just carry that cash over into the next play attempt of Clash in the Clouds, you can also use that money to purchase concept art, character models, audition outtakes, and other kinds of gallery goodness. The area where all these are displayed is sparse to start, which is a great encouragement for you to fill it up with all of the stuffs.

If I haven’t made it clear enough, the fact that Clash in the Clouds continuous and permanent improvement throughout its “campaign” is the number one reason I like it. If there is only one thing I don’t like about it, it’s that each wave is always the same, with always the same Blue Ribbon Challenge. Now, I understand this has to be this way, as a normal course of events for single-player “challenge” DLC such as this. But if I’m trying to get to the later waves of an arena, and I have to fight the earlier waves to get there, it can be slightly annoying.

Bugs

Bioshock InfiniteIf you play on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, this section probably doesn’t apply to you. While I haven’t seen those versions of Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds, they don’t have the lighting bug I’m showing you here. This is a direct capture from my PC. Now, it may be my video card. It could be something else; you know how PC gaming is. I can tell you that I’m not the only person affected by this: Irrational Games does know about this bug and is currently investigating. I don’t know what the 5 GB patch I downloaded did, aside from including Clash In the Clouds, but clearly something with lighting was changed. Who knows, by the time you see this review, it could be fixed. However, for the time being, it does cause a pretty big problem: If you are trying to aim at an enemy, and you’re looking right at a light source like this, you’ll see double, triple, or quadruple vision. Good luck aiming.

Hitting the Bioshock Infinite Gym

With that bug business out of the way, Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds costs $4.99 on your platform of choice, but it would be a great buy at $9.99. I feel like $5 is a steal for this, and I’m honestly just getting started with the content. There may be no story here, and if you liked Bioshock Infinite for the narrative, you should look elsewhere. However, I always felt like Bioshock Infinite’s combat was such a giant leap above the original Bioshock‘s, and I won’t turn my nose up at more of it. The only thing I don’t like is having to replay waves I’ve completed before, but it’s not enough to keep me from coming back over and over to try and get just a little bit farther.

Ted played through Bioshock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds on PC. He’s unlocked the second arena so far, and has filled a few pieces of his gallery. 2K Games did not provide Ted a review copy of the game.

The specs of Ted’s PC are as follows:

  • Intel Core i7 920 (2.67 GHZ)
  • 12 GB of RAM
  • Regular Hard Drive (Not SSD)
  • Radeon 7850
  • Windows 7 64-bit

9/10+ Continuous improvement gives you a reason to keep playing.
+ Blue Ribbon Challenges and other unlockables result in seemingly tons of content.
-Every wave is always the same, which is monotonous when you are trying to get to later waves.
-Lighting bugs on PC.

Available on: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Version Reviewed: PC

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