Irrational has (mostly) sunk beneath the gaming industry's ever-turbulent waves, but its spirit lives on. And by that, I mean the rather tumultuous work environment gave birth to one last piece of DLC before massive (and by many accounts, inevitable) layoffs struck. BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode One was a mixed bag, but Episode Two has a shot at going out on a high note. There are plenty of solid ingredients in place: we're back in Rapture, we get to play as Elizabeth, and apparently we can entirely avoid killing anyone if we want to. 1998 mode is a bonus option with a heavy emphasis on stealth, and if some referential fake box art is to be believed, it's rather heavily influenced by the original Thief.
The tattered ashes of Irrational explained 1998 mode in a blog post:
"Today we’re revealing the brand new 1998 Mode, which challenges gamers to complete the narrative using only non-lethal tools. This mode will be in addition to existing difficulty modes, and the aforementioned 1999 Mode."
"In Burial at Sea – Episode Two we put a focus on balance and stealth mechanics. As we were developing this new style of gameplay, we started to see people self-impose non-lethal playthrough’s. Given the fan reception of 1999 Mode, we thought it would be cool to give them another way to play Burial at Sea that challenged their mastery of stealth tools."
So there you go. If you disliked BioShock Infinite's rampant, not-quite-pointless (though not very effectively given a point) violence, this is a way around that. Sorta. Granted, stealth isn't an easy thing to bolt onto an otherwise not-really-stealth-focused game, so it could well end up clumsy and painful. If that ends up being the case, I doubt you'll see me at BioShock's going-away party.
I do hope it's good, though. BioShock's had quite a few ups (the first game's first half, BioShock 2, BioShock 2: Minerva's Den) and downs (Infinite's untapped potential, Infinite's awkward racism, those layoffs) over the years, but the series gave me plenty of memorable moments. Infinite isn't by any means my favorite game ever, but even it was strong in places. And while BioShock isn't dead (2K's simply giving it to another studio), this is the end of an era. So bye-bye-bye, BioShock. I got you this