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DownPlay Reviews #11 - Bioshock Infinite
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DownPlay Reviews #11 - Bioshock Infinite
on June 14, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Alternate dimensions are kind of a secret weapon when it comes to video game storytelling. There are literally infinite possibilities when you start creating other planes of existence, and this can be either a good or a bad thing. The upside to this development is that anything can be drawn from this situation to create a number of memorable new experiences. It’s also a breeding ground for the kinds of stories that the author is more interested in telling than in letting an audience experience it. You know, one of those “sit down and look at what awesome writers we are” kinds of stories, typically seen around the more pretentious indie game circles and Quantic Dream. So where does Bioshock Infinite appear on this spectrum? Well, after playing the intro to the original Bioshock in reverse, our new main character, anti-silent protagonist Booker Dewitt arrives in the floating city of Columbia, the citizens of whom have somehow managed to stave off asphyxiation long enough to construct the various mechanisms keeping the city afloat at 15,000 feet. So the story isn’t even remotely rooted in any form of logic, and again, this can be a good or a bad thing. Surprisingly enough, the game actually starts with a very well-paced tour through Columbia, observing these peoples ideal lives and first experiencing some of the recurring characters. Then a coincidence of epic proportions occurs and Booker is condemned as essentially Satan himself and the entire city is sent out to kill him. Through his journey, Booker has to find a girl named Elizabeth and escape the city with her in order to rectify some backstory that is only vaguely explained in the occasional flashback. The setting of the game is far and away my favorite aspect of this story. The city of Colombia, for all of its illogicalness, is a unique and vibrant location. Contrary to Rapture, Columbia is depicted as an idyllic place to live with a host people going about their daily lives before any of the action starts. I like this depiction because it makes it all the more bittersweet to watch crumble around you. There are many points within the middle of the story where the action stops and Booker and Elizabeth have a little character building while the oblivious citizens go about their business in the background. The story is very similar to that of the original Bioshock, a very event-based narrative, in which you solve one situation at a time in order to proceed to the next. It’s very well-paced, but where the original Bioshock grabbed our attention was in the plot twist. And without wishing to spoil anything, the twist near the end of Bioshock Infinite can be diplomatically described as anticlimactic, and realistically described as a piece of ***. The reason for this I believe is that the game fails to utilize its characters to their full potential. Booker switches back and forth between apathy and empathy seemingly on a whim. Elizabeth’s journey through self-actualization is about as engaging as you would expect, no more, no less. The villain, Comstock, is just an inch short of banana nut insane and therefore impossible to sympathize with. What made Andrew Ryan and Fontaine such effective villains is that they talked sense. The biggest disappointment is the entity known as the Songbird. The most threatening thing in the entire plot played off as a roadblock rather than the vital part of the plot it could have been. It’s encountered once after you find Elizabeth in an awesome chase sequence in which only brief glimpses of the massive foe can be seen. Sadly it never appears again until the very end, almost played for laughs as it becomes no more than your mechanized attack dog. The gameplay of Bioshock Infinite has taken a sharp detour from the previous installment, which focused on slow, foreboding atmosphere broken up by the occasional skirmish. Infinite, with its large outdoor setting features frequent fast-paced shooter action. The game now has a shield feature and a new skyhook mechanic as a method of enhancing the shooting, rather than simply adding to it as many games unwittingly do. So for all its similarities to what classifies as “modern first=person shooters”; regenerating health, two weapon slots, and the majority of the characters being unabashedly racist; it still manages to stand out as the more enjoyable and free of the genre. Plasmids also make a return in the form of Vigors, but their presence seems to be rather forced in for continuity since they’re not the large plot point they were in the original Bioshock. I also found myself not using them very much and dismissing some of them as completely useless. My personal weapon combination of Shotgun and Sniper Rifle eliminated any long and short range threat and thanks to the shield, Booker can tank so much damage that mid-range enemies can simply be run up to and one-shot with the shotgun. The large variety of enemy types typically makes for a unique combat experience but only two of these enemies are used to any significant degree. Two specific enemies pull the ghost children from Prey and show up at one specific location and never again. Enemies that had their own trailers built around them to show how much fun you’re going to have fighting them. Elizabeth also has her purpose in the combat as well, mainly just “not being a burden”, which she does accomplish. She also assists you by occasionally throwing you ammo, medkits, salts, or heaping piles of money. The stylized aesthetic of Bioshock Infinite, like I said about Dishonored in a previous review, really helps to set the game apart and give it a sense of charm that few other games receive from me. The sound design is some of the best I’ve ever heard. The ambience during non-action sequences is fantastically atmospheric. The cries of the Songbird, though horribly underapplied, are utterly terrifying. The weapons in the game explode with thunderous awesomeness. The enemies yell obscenities and other slightly comical things as they charge to their doom. The music subtly rages behind the action. It creates a very atmospheric experience unmatched by other shooters. Bioshock was a fantastic game, and while Infinite took a different approach in its gameplay, it still manages to continue that legacy. It’s far from perfect, but it does so many things right that I’d say it’s one of the best shooters of the year, possibly of all time. I’d recommend it to anyone based on gameplay, but a well-paced story completes the circle for a beautifully crafted game. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, DownPlay Reviews Next Week on DownPlay Reviews: Metro: Last Light
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