The lights are on
Irrational Games is a unique developer in many respects. Over their long history, they have demonstrated a unique sense of style, creativity, and innovation that they are rarely, if ever, strayed from. With 2008's BioShock, Irrational crafted an experience that many consider to be one of the best that the medium has to offer. Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on Irrational as they set out to do the impossible and try to top one of the most critically adored games in recent memory. The result is this year's BioShock Infinite, and it appears that Irrational has not only crafted an experience that seems to surpass the original title in every way, but they have once again crafted an experience that will stand out as one of the best of this generation.
Irrational has always been known for their sense of place in games, and infinite is no different. To start, Columbia's intro is familiar, but at the same time, gives a very unique feeling sense to the world, and fittingly presents Columbia as not simple "Rapture in the sky". One thing made clear within the first few minutes is that, unlike Rapture, Columbia is different in that it is an actual living, breathing city. Citizens commune and chat, and while they may not always have interesting things to say, throughout the game, they bring the city to life in a way Rapture's Splicers couldn't. The city itself is beautifully crafted with detail put into every street and every store. The city comes to life with bright, almost painting-esque colors. The soundtrack is wonderfully scored and gives the world it's life, especially when in combat. Like the original, audio files are scattered, giving an insight to the world and it's inhabitants. These files not only give an insight to the world, however, as they also tie in to the larger story arc, which is finely crafted and with a cohesive set of characters that are prevalent throughout the entire tale instead of being confined to a singular level like the original game. This brings us to the two main characters in the story, Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth. The dynamic between these two acts as the central binding theme in the game. As Booker, it's your job to get Elizabeth out of her tower and to New York to pay off a debt. This dynamic ends up being one of the strongest bonds that you develop in a game in recent memory, making the endgame that much more satisfying. In terms of the endgame, I won't spoil anything, but the last 10 minutes end up being some of the most satisfying in recent memory.
Of course, all this would be for naught without a fun game at the core to make it worth playing. In terms of the gameplay, some things change while others stay the same, but all in all, the gameplay makes for some of the best in an FPS. The dynamic between powers and guns is largely the same, with Vigors replacing Plasmids this time around. The difference, however, is that, unlike the original, Infinite limits the player to two weapons at a time. While some may cry foul at the decision, this design choice adds a new layer of strategy to the combat, making you have to take stock of what you have on hand, what's in the environment, and changing your strategies accordingly. This is also where Elizabeth comes into play. Elizabeth has the ability to open these tears in the environment, giving the player something to aid him, from ammo crates to a turret to another route entirely. Elizabeth can only have one tear open at a time, so this forces the player to chose one advantage over another. Elizabeth also occasionally finds ammo, health, and energy for your vigors and throws them to you whenever you are in need of it. This is done often enough that it feels like she is contributing, but not so often enough that it feels like she's winning the battle for you. The fight is still largely left to the player to win. This also bring us the the other major change in the game, that being the health system. BioShock Infinite uses a combination of a health bar and a standard shield system. The player's shield will take damage until the shield has broken, and once the shield breaks, the player will begin to take damage to his health. The shield will recharge if the player hides behind cover, but health will only return if the player consumes food or a health kit, eliminating a stockpile of health kits. Salts, which power vigors, also are consumed immediately. This combination of new and old systems changes the game enough for it to feel fresh, but not so much that it feels like it's not BioShock anymore. The battles are fast paced, exciting, and the varied enemy types keep the battles from feeling repetitive. All in all, the gameplay fits like a glove, allowing the player to fully immerse himself in the story, as well as the fight to protect Elizabeth and discover what is truly going on in Columbia.
In nearly every way, BioShock Infinite is truly a rare game. It's rare when a game so successfully implements every feature it touts and then some. With this game, Irrational has done it again, and delivered a game that will likely be remembered for a long time. With Columbia, Irrational shot for the sky, and not only reached it, but surpassed it. Infinite's story, characters, gameplay, and fantastic world that easily trumps Rapture make this a must own for anyone looking for a unique and truly creative shooter with an interesting story and great characters.
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions in the comments section. This is my first review on GIO, so I'd be glad to get any feedback, be it positive or negative.
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