- Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Developer: Irrational Games
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Release Date: March 26, 2013
- Price: $59.99
- Official: Infinite
“This trip into the clouds will leave you breathless”
When the original Bioshock came out in 2007 it took the gaming world by storm. Bringing together an incredibly realized environment, a story that was above the norm, and graphics that were unlike any other; Bioshock earned huge review scores and great sales to go along with them. But there was one person who wasn’t as enamored by the game as the rest, me. While I enjoyed the details Bioshock brought to the forefront that most games ignore, I felt the team at Irrational Games missed the most important element, the gameplay. When you strip away the captivating universe and decent story, what were you left with? A relatively average corridor shooter, that’s what! That is my opinion of course and almost everyone disagrees with it, but the gameplay was not nearly as well done as the rest of the title. It was with this opinion that I was looking forward to Bioshock Infinite, but not outright dying to play the game. Would Irrational Games push the gameplay forward this time? Or would they stick to what earned them praise the first go around? Would Bioshock: Infinite be a new high water mark for videogames? Or just a story that tricks people into loving the game, perhaps more so than it deserves? In the end Bioshock: Infinite is both of those things, and that makes it pretty hard game to judge.
Infinite begins much as the original Bioshock, you find yourself out in the ocean and at the foot of a seemingly misplaced lighthouse. There is one key difference however, this time you have a goal, a true reason for being where you are, “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” Thus begins the story of Bioshock: Infinite, the story of Booker DeWitt and his attempt at redemption.
Sure Infinite tackles issues of racial inequality, poverty, extremism, and the horrors of the true American dream, but Infinite’s real story, the beating heart of the game, goes far beyond such ideas. The true adventure the player will find themselves on is personal and gut-wrenching and one that will make these other matters feel petty in comparison. This is as far as I will go in terms of story, but know that every detail in the game is carefully placed and all roads lead to an incredibly well written, presented, and told conclusion.
Much like the original Bioshock and Rapture, the city of Columbia is a pivotal character within Infinite. Not just polar opposites in terms of location, but also in presentation and feeling, Columbia is a true landmark in gaming. My first two hours of playing this game were slow and deliberate; I wanted to gaze out into the sunset forever, I wanted to read every piece of writing and explore every shelf within the shops. I didn’t make it to the real “start” of the game until much later than everyone else I knew who were also playing. The introduction to Columbia is one of the best openings I have ever experienced within a game.
Unfortunately you know that there is more to Columbia than the outer beauty it presents, there is always a dark heart at the center of such a distinct and successful metropolis. With radical ideals and the power to conform, Columbia and its leaders are foes worth fearing, in terms of story at least. Once the honeymoon period was over and the real game began, I was reminded I was playing a Bioshock title. While the open nature of Columbia does add some more room to maneuver and strategies to create, combat within Infinite it still just above average. The action is repetitive and also surprisingly simple, I went through the game on Hard and there was only one sequence near the end that presented any type of challenge.
For the most part the gameplay is the same as in the original Bioshock, you hold a gun in your right hand and a Vigor in your left. This base should be a fine starting point, but the game stumbles in its AI. The first Bioshock was fairly simple as well, but at least there the enemy would hide around corners or in rooms waiting to get the jump on you. Within Infinite enemies always seem to know where you are once they spot you (which itself can be a problem for them) and they will simply stand around and fire for the majority of their combat time. They may move around behind cover for a moment but then its quickly back to just standing out in the open waiting to be shot in the face. As these enemies are more sane and human than those in Bioshock, the AI should have reflected that level of intelligence.
While the basic functions of combat are familiar, Irrational at least added some additional wrinkles to the mix that help alleviate the tedium. One area is in the extra customization DeWitt can acquire in the form of pieces of clothing you can wear that enhance your abilities in different ways. This addition allows you to switch our your gear at any time to tackle situations in a number of ways. The other adjustment comes in the layout of the world, primarily with the Sky Hook and the Sky-Lines. In certain areas of the game you will see rails you can jump onto and ride along while fighting your enemies, allowing you to reach higher terrain or just getting the jump on a helpless group. While this system does add some variety at times, it never becomes as full featured or as important as you wish it would. Combat never becomes as exciting or as open as the famous E3 demo Irrational presented, and that is a shame.
Another important distinction between Bioshock and Infinite is in the form of your very important partner, Elizabeth. Shown at presentations and in trailers as an intelligent, caring, and useful ally, Elizabeth is just that, well, for the most part. Once you meet and group up the game tries to sprinkle some more interest into the combat, but while useful, it comes off slightly cheap. Elizabeth brings two interesting dynamics into the gameplay, one of which is far more useful but also one I won’t spoil here, the other not so much. The game tells you when you first meet Elizabeth that you do not have to worry about her while in combat, for “she can handle herself.” What this actually means is the team didn’t want to have to worry about her AI, I mean hell, they didn’t really worry about the enemy AI! During combat Elizabeth simply stands around or hunkers down, but is never targeted or even acknowledged by the enemy. This ignoring of her character allows you to “not worry about her” but also just comes off rather dumb. When you see an enemy you can kneel down behind a couch or column, but Elizabeth will just run out ahead and the enemy will literally pass right by her. This combined with her incessant need to throw you coins makes her come off more as a strange figment of your imagination than a real person, at least during gameplay.
This aspect of pulling you out of the experience doesn’t end with Elizabeth however, there are many areas of the game that just left me feeling confused. The folks at Irrational have gone to such terrific lengths to make the city of Columbia feel alive, just as they did with Rapture, with incredible attention to detail in the art, the buildings, and the story, but there is one key difference between the cities that ultimately becomes an area of annoyance; the people are still alive in Columbia. Once again the games AI, or lack-thereof, pulls you out of the amazing world you are travelling. From a hot dog vendor blankly staring at you as you steal his money and merchandise, to the parents and their children ignoring the crazy man with the bazooka in his hands, and of course to those enemies who are slaughtering everyone but the pretty girl who is standing all alone; the game just seems completely at odds with itself. If you are willing to go so deep with creating the visual splendor and back story to this universe, why not take the time and have the folks living in it react as they should? Also, why are there hot dogs in every bag, locker, box, and shelf in this world? Although I shouldn’t complain there, I love hot dogs! How can I get to a city like Columbia?
Two area’s that Bioshock doesn’t falter are its visuals and audio. This game looks great and will have you stopping in your tracks several times to admire its beauty. From its gorgeous opening moments to its darker closing chapters Bioshock is often times visually terrific, with only a few textures here and there looking outdated and out of place. While I am not a fan of its more cartoonish character models, that is an aesthetic choice that most will probably agree with. The games audio is another area of excellence, with music that sounds appropriate for the era and voice acting that is top notch. Every line of dialogue between Booker and Elizabeth and every audio log found are acted with perfection. Infinite shows a level of production that few games can match, but that all wish they could.
Although I have spoken negatively of the combat and AI, it is still perfectly serviceable in what it is meant to do, and that is to provide you moments of fun as it takes you throughout its story. While the entertainment provided isn’t as unique and ground breaking as I would like, it is primarily because the story and presentation are so top notch that I wish the gameplay to be just as grand! Indeed the reason you should play, nay, you HAVE to play Bioshock: Infinite, is because of the outstanding story it presents to you. Bioshock had one clever twist towards its conclusion that had everyone talking, Infinite trumps that in every way. Not only is the story more grand as well as personal, but it is as well thought out as you could hope for, allowing you to play the game a second time and see all of the clues and pieces deliberately laid out in fine fashion. Infinite doesn’t slip by with one twist that tricks gamer’s into liking it more than they should, it earns every ounce of respect it gets. From its beautifully realized world and fleshed out characters, to its fast and violent action, Bioshock is an excellent package that is well worth investing in and a game you will not regret spending money on at all. –Chuck
- + Amazing atmosphere
- + Story that is magnificent
- + Great graphics and audio
- – Combat doesn’t take any steps forward
- – Game offers little challenge