Bioshock Infinite Review (360)
It always starts on a dark night approaching a light house. The soft murmurings between two unknown passengers provide just enough information to pique your interests. You don’t know much about who you are or why you’re on this godforsaken boat heading to an unknown location, but you do know you need to find the girl. A small photograph guides you in your quest. Everything feels vaguely familiar but not quite the same. Something is different. This time instead of descending into the depths of a leaky pit you transcend the known world into a new world, a brighter future and a new day.
Bioshock Infinite is the third game in the Bioshock franchise. But unlike the two predecessors Infinite acts as a precursor of sorts. As opposed to the dingy fallen city you would expect, you are greeted by the soaring heights of Columbia. Ken Levine and Irrational Games have been drip feeding us the details over the past few years, accumulating many E3 and other prestigious awards, which has all culminated in the marvel that lies in front of us now, although we did have some waiting to do after the 3 unexpected delays applied to the release. But trust me, it is worth the wait.
The story follows the rather mysterious Booker Dewitt who has a more than murky past with some spurious debtors. It was these debtors and their promises that have led him to arriving on Columbia and to the pursuit of Elizabeth. The to’s and fro’s between Elizabeth and Booker and the story of Bioshock Infinite are the true hooks that dig deep and keep you fixated. Not only are some of the twists almost completely, unforeseeable but they are some of the best twists in gaming stories this generation. It genuinely blew the original Bioshock finale straight out of the water. Even the setting is near perfect. The events take place in 1912, where there are vibes of racism and revolt as well as a new setting providing a world that feels different to the previous games, and that keeps the series feeling fresh and completely different.
Although the setting is imperative to the feeling of Bioshock Infinite nothing is more important to the story than Columbia itself. The Death Star poised on the clouds is truly the most interesting part of the story, enforcing its beliefs on those who live on the magic particle filled balloons (and subduing those who refuse to on the ground) steals the show. Initially it seems like the perfect safe haven floating above the world, but the sinister underbelly and motives boil to the surface as the story progresses. Even the beautiful skybox and skyline are something to admire. While traversing the city through the sky line you will stop just to embrace the scenery and see the distant areas you may never explore and wish you could.
Following on from the need to sit and stare at a skybox you will also want to plunge into every nook and cranny of Bioshock Infinite. The level of detail is astounding. Something as simple as hearing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” or an acapella recital of “God Only Knows” gives you pangs of familiarity while being something completely different to hear. You will find yourself mixing with the crowd of NPCs just to sit and listen and enjoy, something I have never really truly experienced in many games. Even the conversations and dialogue between passers by is something to behold. There is a great feeling of inclusion and understanding that comes from taking the time to listen, and that’s before you even listen to the real dialogue. And of course there is a darker side too.
The scripting of the game is phenomenal; at points it sent chills down my spine. Comstock bellows his orders and spouts almost poignant statements, occasionally bordering on a social commentary of our time, with an insidious twist and powerful delivery. You genuinely feel yourself emoting with Booker and Elizabeth when they start to get to know each other. At times you feel just as bad as Dewitt for misleading that poor girl. Then there is the “Voxophones” left scattered across Columbia, much like the recordings in the previous games, which provide more depth and expand on the story. Some parts of the story just become that bit better when you understand exactly what’s going on and you have a little more knowledge on the mysterious Lutece twins. Even just hearing the other side of the story from the Vox Populi on the recordings helps build the narrative frame and build the world.
Aside from the major aesthetics of Bioshock Infinite being completely different from the predecessors, the gameplay remains largely unchanged aside from the name changes. Adam is now simply called health and the terms Eve and Plasmids have been renamed Salts and Vigors, respectively. The shooting is still not quite on par with your modern day FPS and can take an hour or two to adjust too, but once you are over the initial bumps you will be headshotting with the best of them. The guns can still feel a bit floaty but the biggest change is the dramatically reduced arsenal at your disposal and the inability to carry more than two guns at once. These are quite odd choices as you then have to make a conscious decision to buy upgrades, as opposed to finding them like in Bioshock and Bioshock 2.
Then again there is more than enough money in the game to upgrade the majority of guns at least twice along with the plasmids and there is also Elizabeth the walking treasure and ammo magnet. Unlike the preceding games, you now have an AI companion in Elizabeth. For me Elizabeth breaks the game. It felt like there was no need to worry about ammo or salts as the second you ran low she tossed you some extra bullets or a nice big vial to aid you. It removed a great deal of challenge from the game as you could simply hide round a corner and wait until she found you some goodies if you were struck for bullets, bandages and the bottles of salt you needed. There are even points where Elizabeth will hand over her spare cash to help you. The irony is that Elizabeth is everything you want in an AI character, she is competent and helpful, constantly avoiding running into walls and actually helping you out at every turn, but somehow I felt like this worked against the game. It made it just a bit too easy.
A great addition to the mechanics however is the Skyhook and Skylines. The Skyline acts as both a melee weapon to be feared and a mode of transport. The Skyhook blows the wrench out of the water, especially when it’s gratuitously violent and satisfying executions leaves the oppositions head spinning and in pieces, it kind of feels like Batman has gone nuts with his grappler at times and I loved it. When you aren’t bludgeoning enemies to death you can also hang from hooks on elevated platforms and use the Skyhook to explore the city in the sky, leaping from building to rail to perform Skyline attacks and shooting from vantage points is unbelievably satisfying and different. There are even a few amazing scenes where you fly through the air on the rails over Columbia and you are astounded by the scenery while your heart pounds at the action as you avoid the Songbird, it was one of my favourite parts by far. Other new additions are the inclusion of gear, imagine different pieces of armour that give extra abilities and perks, and Infusions, stat upgrades for health, stamina and salts.
For all the praise that Bioshock has received very few have pointed out the elephant in the room. Bioshock does not capture the ominous and eerie atmosphere of the first two games and the enemies pose nowhere near as much threat. I was a bit miffed at the lack of ability to carry an absurd amount of weapons, but I got over it. One thing I couldn’t forgive was the lack of horror and terrifically twisted enemies. Sure, you have the Songbird and the Handymen, but you don’t fight many Handymen at all and you are completely denied your chance to even face off against the Songbird on the very limited encounters between you and the games coolest enemy. I miss the big daddies and little sisters. There are two rival factions you face as enemies, and they just don’t stick out. Even those with unique powers or attributes just didn’t make an impact. They still felt like they were more worthless peons that were to be dispatched with and withheld the progress of the story. The game also doesn’t feel as explorable either. For a world that I wanted to jump to every sky flotilla imaginable, I was normally ushered from area to area with very little backtracking or ability to do so. The game wants you to find all the collectibles, but doesn’t let you go back to find them, making it far too easy to miss essential story items, weapons or vigors.
Then again, if I forgot the comparisons to Rapture, Bioshock Infinite would be standing head and shoulders above the rest. I couldn’t really care less if there was no multiplayer because I didn’t get good value out of it in Bioshock 2 and found myself very tired of the online almost instantly. Bioshock was never a game for multiplayer. The achievements were also fun to get and can add extra challenges to the story. They even go as far to encourage you to explore everything the game has to offer, which achievements should do.
Bioshock Infinite’s story and dialogue are so good you can completely lose yourself while exploring all the detail in this city perched on clouds. The ending is mind blowing and almost impossible to talk about withous spoiling. I only wish the game was a bit longer and they had at least had some mention of the Little Sisters and Big Daddies. After all, what’s Bioshock without them?
So if you were never the biggest fan of Bioshock, you might find yourself enamored by Elizabeth’s shimmering personality or Booker Dewitt’s suave demeanor in the engaging world of reality bending and racism that is Columbia. If you are looking for more steampunk men in diving suits with bigass drills for hand carrying infantile drug addicted children for you to sacrifice, this might not quite meet your expectations.
8 manifest destinies out of 10Bioshock Infinite Review (360),