The lights are on
It’s nice to see that some things are as good as advertised. Before Bioshock Infinite even launched, countless fans expressed their overwhelming excitement, holding the game to almost unrealistically high expectations. For the benefit of gamers everywhere, Bioshock lives up to expectations. This review will cover all major aspects of Bioshock Infinite, from characterization and story to gameplay, but no excerpt from this review can honestly do Bioshock justice. You will just have to experience Bioshock Infinite for yourself to see why it is a title that truly cannot be missed.
Colombia is everything you'd want in a setting and more.
When gamers first experienced Rapture in the first Bioshock they were amazed by the subaquatic city. Rapture felt real, and the 1960’s city founded on individual achievement was a hit with fans. Columbia is everything and more. Set in 1912, driven by its own political ideals and moral beliefs, Columbia seems like a perfect utopia to a casual observer. One of these casual observers happens to be Booker Dewitt, a former Pinkerton Detective, who is sent to Colombia to bring a mysterious girl to New York. Colombia at first seems like the eighth world wonder to Booker, until he uncovers the uglier side of the city. Bioshock tackles themes like racism, nationalism, and religion head on; every piece of sensationalist propaganda or voxphone furthers your knowledge of Colombia and its double sided nature. As a whole the locale is interesting, fresh, and filled with unforgettable characters. Colombia is undoubtedly one of the most memorable settings I’ve had the pleasure of playing in.
Colombia is a new and unparalleled setting, but gameplay remains largely unchanged from previous entries. Instead of using plasmids to defeat foes, Booker uses vigors, which are more less the exact same thing. This mechanic is still just as fun to use, but anyone looking for any major shake ups will be disappointed. However, the most interesting gameplay aspect of Bioshock is Booker’s new melee weapon, the skyhook. The skyhook serves two purposes, as Booker may use it as a potent melee weapon performing deadly assassinations, or he can use it as method of transportation. The latter is the more interesting, giving Booker unique opportunities like traversing skylines or getting towards vantage points. This makes exploring Colombia much less cumbersome and supplements the tried-and-true vigor gameplay.
Yep...things are about to get messy.
However, vigors, firearms, and the skyhook are not your most useful asset on the battlefield, rather it is your in-game companion, Elizabeth. Elizabeth has the ability to create “Tears”, which allow her to bring in objects through inter-dimensional portals. This allows Booker to call upon skylines, turrets, or cover to use to his advantage. While you escort your companion throughout Colombia, she is never intrusive or burdensome, rather, she stays out of the line of fire and tosses Booker health and ammo. If anything, it seems like she is escorting you. However, Elizabeth is not defined by her superhuman powers, but by her development and growth throughout the story. Never has an AI companion seemed so lifelike. As she explores the city of Colombia, she interacts and makes subtle remarks about things that catch her eye. Small steps go a long way towards making a more believable character. The only character that really connected with me on this level is Alyx Vance from the Half Life series. Elizabeth stands tall as one of the most memorable character of this cycle, and hopefully she can serve as an example for characters of next-gen gaming.
One of the best elements of Bioshock Infinite is its masterfully woven plot, yet for the sake of spoilers, I’ll refrain from discussing some of its greatest and thought provoking moments. What starts out as a simple tale filled with segregation and religious extremism shifts into a truly moving masterpiece dealing with alternate realities and the prospect of endless possibilities. The narrative dips and weaves unpredictably, though like many timeless stories, multiple playthroughs are necessary to get the best experience Bioshock has to offer. With memorable characters, the striking setting of Colombia, and a fresh narrative, Bioshock Infinite has convinced me that video games can be just as potent storytellers as books or movies.
No game is without flaws and with all the praise Bioshock Infinite is getting, it is time for a reality check. Combat is no doubt the weakest point of the game, and the problem is only amplified by the tedious boss fights. A particularly annoying boss seems to be haphazardly thrown into the game for the sake of padding, and the final battle is beyond grating. Booker is forced to clumsily target airships, defend his ship’s engine (that just so happens to be completely exposed to all incoming fire.), all while being bombarded by endless waves of bullets from sponge-tastic enemies like the Mechanized Patriot. This makes for one of the most frustrating boss fights I’ve experienced in this console generation. Other cosmetic issues like rough textures and some overused character models do detract from the experience, but they are hardly worth mentioning.
These guys were admittedly awesome.
A few meddling issues aside, Bioshock Infinite is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had with any medium, and just writing about makes me want to play through the game again. With everything it offers, you are doing yourself an injustice to not check out Bioshock Infinite, if you haven’t already (You are a gamer right?). Like any timeless adventure, Bioshock Infinite is worth your time, no matter what reality you call home.