The lights are on
Don’t be misled by all of my references to the original BioShock. This isn’t solely a comparison to a masterpiece, it’s a review of Infinite. I know it may seem like heresy to critics, especially those at Game Informer, but I was never one of those people that was negative about the sequel to the original BioShock. I thought BioShock 2 was a great expansion to the lore of Rapture, with some awesome new plasmids and weapons, and a story that felt gripping and relevant, if less impactful. And in all of these aspects, Infinite fails to impress, making Infinite, in my opinion, less than the game which many critics have made the pariah of the BioShock series. Ultimately, Infinite is the most inferior game of the dystopia collection that Irrational has developed, and the fact that this is largely ignored by the critics is laughable.
I could not believe this, but the more I played Infinite, the more I realized how turned off by it I was. The previous BioShocks gave you a sense of atmosphere and dread, great close-ups and almost intimacy with the enemies, of all types, and an affinity towards your weapons due to the upgrades and the changes in physical appearance, not to mention how awesome the plasmids were. All of this was missing from Infinite, with nothing else offered to make up for it.
A large part of atmosphere is backstory, and the personality of the enemies you come across. You don’t hear them talk or scream or mumble quite as often as the original Bioshock, and in fact, for the most part, you can sympathize with either side. So here you are, killing scores of soldiers and revolutionaries who are simply trying to defend their city or free it, and just like Dishonored, you don’t really have a great emotional incentive to do so. This is not like the original Bioshock, where the citizens have gone insane, yet are uniquely cute and intriguing at points, where they have very interesting conversations and hilarious things to say to you and about you when trying to kill you. Instead, you are going against soldiers whose job it is to kill you, and revolutionaries whose job it is to not be stopped in bringing Columbia down. This could have been remedied by keeping the Vox revolutionaries as mostly allies throughout the entirety of the game, and being able to permanently turn the allegiance of some Founders soldiers. Of course, this would require more people to be in battle in order to really enjoy the experience, and as they’ve cut back in many other areas of the game, I’m sure this would have been too much for the game engine to handle. As it stands, there is one true enemy in Infinite, and you do not even shoot at him, not once. This leaves your true drive entirely up for interpretation up until just moments before the credits roll. It robs the player of a real sense of purpose, and thus, atmosphere is lost and you’re left playing just another chaotic first-person shooter.I had originally stated that I almost felt like the graphics in the older games were better than this one. But I now can unabashedly confirm that they are, in fact, much better, to the point that I am absolutely awestruck. This game looks nothing like the awesome screenshots all of us have grown accustomed to. This is as confounding as ever when you realize how many times Infinite has to load, not just with loading screens, but when you enter a different part of town, or turn back, it will go through a 5 second loading pause. What is it loading? The backgrounds almost seem painted like in the old days. Maybe the backgrounds should have been painted if they aren’t already, because you’ve really lost a lot of smaller details that were present in the original. Everything seems washed out, all the time, almost in full bloom effect, like the cheat available in almost all Ratchet and Clank games. Before you suggest I adjust the brightness, I've done it multiple times, and gone to both extremes, both on my TV and in the game. Irrational has the stubbornness to make permanent this ugly, overly bright washed out look in Infinite. In regards to the rest of the graphical detail of characters and atmosphere, it just seems like there's not a lot of horsepower being used, especially since you have what seems like many more loading points than previous BioShocks. The enemy character models don't seem very unique and aren't very sharp or detailed, I just don't understand what happened. BioShock released years ago, and it doesn’t really seem like more leeway was required with the engine enough to call for a graphical downgrade. For a series that has such a focus on atmosphere, this is a huge disappointment. Visuals are a large part of atmosphere.Another part of atmosphere is audio. There were numerous issues with sound I've had with this game, it started fuzzing out a number of times. It wasn’t anything with hardware because I experimented with other outputs while the game was running and changed games as well. It was Infinite. Regardless of glitches or poor programming, the music in this game seemed very uninspired, and if it was inspired, it was downright boring. This means all of the pre-recorded tracks, the cover tracks, and the original score. The best song in the game was the first song in the end credits sequence. And how can that even begin to improve this experience? It’s just a reminder of what a missed opportunity this game was, for me. The music is so lame it's depressing. One of the biggest influences on my opinion and memory of the original BioShock was the soundtrack, both the score and the period-specific tracks. I hate the loading screen in Infinite, and I mean every single time it pops up, which is a lot. The historic tracks are mostly snooze-worthy, the score is only neat when being helpful, as when you kill someone, especially the last enemy in the room, and the tracks where they are playing covers of songs from the future is a neat effect, but ultimately that's as good as it gets in game, and unless you are paying close attention and standing almost directly next to a phonograph, you can miss them easily.
The analysis of atmosphere is immensely pertinent because that was such a memorable and perfectly done part of the original BioShock. But this analysis hasn’t even touched what's gone wrong with the combat, which the original BioShock polished to a point of sealing the deal in regards to perfection. Most of the previous games contained pretty close quarters combat, and were only drawn out due to strategy and health level. Infinite seems more like Call of Duty than anything else. This game can be very fast-paced. You shoot fast and move quickly most of the time, and everyone is relatively far away from you, so you can't really get a good visualization of them. In combination with the speed of combat and the utter graphical failure resulting in overly bright environmental bloom, it's almost all a blur. It's all about shooting shooting shooting, no matter how many vigors you collect and how many times the game reminds you to use them. The biggest disappointment is the fast-paced lack of intimacy with your enemies, but the vigors being less inspired than plasmids is a very close second. Possession would have been a very enjoyable first vigor if it didn’t take half of your salts bar, and didn’t last all but a few seconds on the enemies or robots you try to possess. It was like Irrational was afraid to make you overpowered this time around, when feeling like you had complete control of a combat situation in the original was the pinnacle of payoff after being stressed out and nerve-wracked roaming the halls of Rapture. The only other vigor I truly enjoyed was Bucking Bronco, which lifts your enemies in the air and gives you the opportunity to pump them full of lead in a vulnerable state or stack other vigors onto them. Everything else has been seen in just about any game with magic, and done better in most. Another shocking revelation, to say the least.I am so sick of games where you spend the entire playthrough searching for money or gaining experience and collecting items and weapons and magic to only almost max out your player towards the very end of the experience. You finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labor, and the game comes to an end. Now a harder mode is offered, and welcomed, but you are not allowed to use all of that experience in that harder mode. What’s worse with Infinite is, where in the second to last chapter, you have access to hardly any ammunition and fewer salts to use your vigors, and you’re sitting there through the entire level at Comstock House wondering, “Why the heck have I been worrying so hard about searching all these corpses if I can’t use anything I have upgraded?!” So, at the end of the game and a start of a harder one, what’s the big deal if I can carry over my experience progress, so that I can actually thoroughly enjoy the weapon and magic elements you have so painstakingly developed?! No matter how they try to spin it, acquiring those abilities are not really story related, and even if they were, so what? It’s such an absolute waste of time to have acquired all of that stuff and not be able to play the game from start to finish and actually enjoy using it with some variety. I figured a developer like Irrational, or Ken Levine, might someday be the one to actually allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but wrong again. The plot would be the only reason I would play this a second time, and because it ultimately turned me off after maybe too much analysis, a second playthrough is not going to happen anytime soon.
The plot hooks are interesting and keep me going, but just barely more than Dishonored did—another game critically lauded which I disliked, much more so than Infinite. I know there are supposed to be negative and gripping connotations to the religious, racist, and extreme right elements in the introduction of the game, but I became kind of bored with it, sort of in the way that, “Hey, yeah, I already agree with you here, Irrational Games, so let’s get past the elementary lesson in cult-like mental behavior and get into the meat of this.” Further on in, the plot in Infinite has been done many times before, but has the unfortunate timing to come right on the heels of the completion of JJ Abrams’s masterpiece Fringe. This TV show explored so many possibilities to alternate universes that it makes Infinite look like an elementary introduction to the idea, and I mean that in the most demeaning of ways. Infinite really doesn't even scratch the surface of the possibilities, which leads me to yet again wonder if they even thought it through. The voxophone entries by the Lutece twins come across as attempts to obfuscate as opposed to scientifically elaborate and intrigue. Spoiler: And if anyone thinks the main characters being related, and being older and younger versions of other characters was an original idea, it’s been done for years, if not decades or centuries. The plot hook was more of a time travel conundrum than an alternate universe one, and anyone familiar with time travel stories has seen their fair share of an older version of self killing a younger version, or vice versa, and also a main character meeting their child or parent without even realizing it. End Spoiler. In other words, the final twists of Infinite just seemed recycled from other material, and we all know videogames are capable of much more. BioShock had such great inspiration and direction, I just cannot comprehend how Infinite came out of the same minds and talents. Needless to say, regardless of the intentions with the plot, the religious and racist themes running through this plot are far more irritating than poignant. I really just don't want to hear about these things in the way that they present them—it's so off-putting and simultaneously elementary and boring that it just seems out of touch and out of place, in time. They went so strong with the nostalgic and old-timey vibe that it's like they lost touch with modern knowledge. And to put a rotten cherry on top of all this mess, this game just reeks of an arcade FPS.
This is not the atmospheric, intriguing, plot-centric game I kept reading about. This is not the Bioshock experience I was looking forward to, and the shameless plug to the original BioShock during the final sequences is just a lousy attempt at bringing my undying nostalgia and love for the first into my thoughts for this poor follow-up. To be clear, the ending of Infinite did keep my attention, and I felt that the plot finally came through in some sense. But not only was it was too little too late, I found myself arguing with the conclusion’s theories, and not in a constructive way. And to endure that much disappointment for a slightly intriguing, if not flawed ending, is not really worth it to me. I am one of those people where the ending does not have to be the big payoff, the journey is where the satisfaction should be, and Infinite fails me there greatly.
I am really starting to question whether something is wrong with me. I was so hyped for this game. This is turning into a long streak of highly anticipated, critically praised games where I am less than impressed and I just don't understand, especially in light of the high critical praise of Infinite. This feels so uninspired overall compared to the original. I feel like Debbie Downer, being negative about all these sequels to massive games which are getting great reviews. I just don't get these reviews. There is great respect for Ken Levine in the gaming community, and I share that respect, but that doesn’t mean this game is a perfect game in any regard. Far from it, and even if I’m the only dissenting voice, or at least the only one not ashamed to be that “vox,” it has to be said. This game, in its entirety, not just here and there, or picking it apart at small blemishes, but as a whole, is a huge disappointment.That concludes my review of BioShock Infinite, but for some closing remarks, I have a bone to pick with the advertising strategy for this game.
From the original teasers showing Elizabeth catching a falling Booker through some roses floating over the city, to Elizabeth being the damsel in distress about to be hanged, this is not the game you came for, not that the false storylines set up by these ads would have made it better. For anyone that came to this game because of these ads, I’m so sorry for the false advertising. Just imagine if they advertised a film coming to theaters in a matter of days with footage and plot hooks entirely unrelated to the actual plot and footage of the film. In other industries, this is grounds for a very large class action lawsuit where your best chance as a company is a very costly settlement.
I agree with you 100%. There's nothing wrong with you. It really is just this mass delusion created by high-dollar media-brainwashing, fueled by people's own unrelenting nostalgia and general ignorance of quality media.