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Bioshock: Infinite Review

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Irrational Games has delivered a moving and refreshing sequel to an already excellent series.

The Basics: single player, shooter, semi-linear, mature narrative, sequel

Gameplay: Pretty good. They’ve made some innovative moves with the new Plasmids (now called Vigors) and the FPS genre, and like most innovative games, there were some hits and misses.

Narrative: Superb. Heavy and thought-provoking themes, a mystifying setting, and superior character development. The journey this game takes you on makes most other games look like badly written children’s books.

Visuals: Great. This carnival-esque city in the sky instills a sense of childlike wonder and curiosity. Vivid detail and incredible facial expressions make the setting and people truly come alive.

“The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…” –Rosalind Lutece, 1889. These are the cryptic words that Irrational Games chose to place on the cover of Bioshock: Infinite. The catch is that the game takes place in 1912, and Rosalind Lutece is dead, yet there she is, right in front of the protagonist in the very first scene. How is this possible? Who or what is the subject?Why are they desperate? Thankfully, Irrational Games has made it a joy to explore and investigate such a captivating situation.

Where am I going? Who are these infinitely strange, yet likable Luteces?

Where am I going? Who are these infinitely strange, yet likable Luteces?

You take on the roll of Booker Dewitt, a self-serving mercenary, who isn’t necessarily evil, but is in enough of a pinch that wrongdoing has found him. “Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt” are the only words of instruction that he must follow, but as the remote lighthouse he has been taken to turns out to be very different from what it seems, it’s clear that this job will be getting worse all the time…

How much vacation time do you think these employers give?

How much vacation time do you think these employers give?

Gameplay: The shooter aspects of the game have dramatically changed compared to the rest of the series. They’ve added a shield and several types of guns to the equation, such as snipers and RPGs. Most guns have two different manufacturers that add diversity to your arsenal, much like the different brands in the Borderlands games. For example, the Huntsman Carbine sports better accuracy and and ammunition reserves, while the Burstgun fires in three bursts to deal plenty of damage. Shooting is fairly smooth, if a little awkward. Looking down the sights never feels quite right, and there is no way to change the controls. It isn’t the most polished shooting mechanics, but they’ve definitely gotten the basics.

Melee appears again in the form of a Sky-Hook instead of the infamous Wrench. It works very similarly to the previous Bioshocks, and you can even do finishing moves when an enemy is low enough in health. The Sky-Hook can also attach to various hooks and rails placed in each level, so that you can slide around at high speeds while gunning down enemies or drop in for a powerful melee attack from above. It keeps the gameplay dynamic and makes shooting targets more challenging in a good way.

He's not going to survive this.

He’s not going to survive this.

They’ve also changed up the Plasmids in a lot of ways. Now called Vigors, the powers are no longer simple elements: fire, ice, electricity, etc. They’ve kept the electricity and replaced the rest with some very creative new abilities. They each have their own alternate uses as well, which can be used by holding LT/L2 instead of tapping it. Most of them simply double as mines, but some vary. The Undertow ability, for example, can be tapped to send a wave that pushes back enclosing enemies or held to send a giant tentacle out that brings in an enemy close for melee attacks.

Both guns and Vigors can be upgraded in shops with Silver Eagles, the one and only currency in the game, thank goodness. No more worrying about how much Adam vs. money vs. upgrade points you have. Increase damage, range, efficiency, or whatever suits your needs at the creepy vending machines scattered around Columbia.

The longer you hold LT/L2 with the Charge Vigor, the more powerful it becomes.

The longer you hold LT/L2 with the Charge Vigor, the more powerful it becomes.

Now, the entire reason Booker Dewitt is in Columbia battling with countless foes is simply to bring his employers a mysterious girl. Yes, the entire game is an escort mission. But not to worry, Irrational Games has not only made Elizabeth stay out of the player’s way, but also designed her abilities and AI in a way that helps the player throughout the entire game. She takes cover when combat begins, so you don’t have to worry about protecting her. When you’re low on Health, ammunition, or Salts (the equivalent of Eve or Mana), she finds some and tosses it to you in the middle of combat. When you’re looking through vending machines, she’ll find some money for you. She spots important items like lockpicks and Voxophones and points them out to you. Her mysterious powers even allow her to alter certain aspects of your environment (called Tears), such as adding a section of cover, a specific weapon, or a friendly turret to the area. Players will be thankful she’s around on more than one occasion.

Faded objects can be selected for Elizabeth to bring into existence. Pretty nifty.

Faded objects–Tears–can be selected for Elizabeth to bring into existence. Pretty nifty.

All of this ties in well to the much improved level designs. Bringing the city out of the ocean and into the sky permitted more open and varied areas. Rapture could feel cramped and left little room for maneuverability. Booker runs faster than either of the two previous protagonists, which can make a dramatic difference in shooters. The implementation of skyrails and changing the level itself through the use of Tears keeps the surprises coming, rather than using a repetitive formula for each setup.

Definitely a big change from Rapture's levels.

Definitely a big change from Rapture’s levels.

Narrative: I have words for this. Marvelous, outstanding, exceptional, thorough, thought-provoking, spontaneous, and downright brilliant. Irrational Games has presented us with a masterpiece that, like a favorite book, will leave players wishing it wasn’t over. 20,000 more words than the average novel and every single one counts. So enriched and developed are its literary devices and methods, one could write a book report on Infinite, but I’ll save that for another day and just dive into the major themes and high points.

Almost immediately after entering Columbia, fanciful church walls introduce you to the heavy Christian influence found throughout the city. The themes focus around the backwardness of how these “good Christian people” aren’t quite as nice as they may seem. The Prophet has some very extreme views, and it’s here that the game gets very controversial. The idea that this religious city is blatantly racist, sexist, and overtly controlling can be taken the wrong way pretty easily (as well as the racist and sexist comments themselves). Many players have been offended by one or all of these themes, and one of the artists almost resigned over it.

To say that the city is filled to the brim with religious fanaticism would be an understatement.

To say that the city is filled to the brim with religious fanaticism would be an understatement.

But when observed more closely, the game is simply trying to say that evil comes from all corners of humanity, even the least expected ones. It says that absolute power corrupts absolutely, whether it’s a greedy businessman or a prophet. It looks down not on religion or the races and genders themselves, but on the rampant ignorance of the time period. It criticizes the joining of Church and State, segregation, and unjust gender roles by actually showing players how bad it was, rather than pretending it never existed.

Yes, it's awful and yes, it's how things truly were.

Yes, it’s awful and yes, it’s how things truly were.

So if you can get past the questionable moments in the game, you’ll be delighted to discover how expertly the characters are done in terms of actually making computerized people seem human. Take Elizabeth for example: she has been locked away in a tower for her entire life with nothing but books and a Big Daddy (in the form of Songbird) to keep her company, so she looks upon Columbia and its oddities with both a sense of thrilling discovery and apprehension. She’s torn between her desire to help those who suffer unjust fates and her understanding of what needs to be done, and through this inner conflict, she builds a strong relationship with Booker Dewitt as well as the player.

What really brings the world alive is the way that this standard of detail and realism isn’t reserved for the two main characters alone. Each and every supporting character has a healthy amount of depth and individual characteristics, right down to the ones that simply stand off to the side as part of the environment and gossip about their neighbors. Incredible dialogue, real facial expressions, and realistic personalities come together for some of the best character development in the industry.

Everything about Elizabeth  makes her seem like a real person, and as such, players will grow to like and even care about her.

Everything about Elizabeth makes her seem like a real person, and as such, players will grow to like and even care about her.

So with real social/political issues and real people, all that’s left is a captivating setting to bring it all home. The Bioshock series is credited for daring to bring a shooter to the depths of the ocean, and now it takes us to the clouds in an even more imaginative city. Cheerfully decorated carnival booths demonstrate wondrous Vigors, explain the painstaking technology that went into creating Handymen, and offer charming mini-games among other things. An artificial beach accommodates content civilians as they gaze upon a glimmering ocean that drops off into a bottomless waterfall. The whole experience is tailored to invoke the player’s sense of curiosity and wonder. Players that seek a thought-provoking, enraptured experience need only turn to Bioshock: Infinite.

Welcome to Columbia.

Welcome to Columbia.

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Bioshock: Infinite Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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Leah Freed

Leah has always been an avid gamer from the time she was a small child. Combine that with her passion for the world of literature and you get someone with an acute interest in the narrative aspect of games. She wants to contribute to the development of narratives and see the industry grow to be recognized as the art form that it truly is. In the meantime, Leah enjoys cosplaying as her favorite characters, placing in Tekken and Magic the Gathering tournaments, delving into captivating novels, sleeping under the stars, and pretty much any adventure that presents itself. With an incredibly high appreciation for spontaneity, Leah looks forward to the many escapades a career in the gaming industry will inevitably provide. Favorite Game(s): Mass Effect series Favorite Genre(s): Literally anything with a compelling narrative.

1 Comment

  1. Profile photo of XGpredator
    08/27/2013, 10:50

    Best game ever !

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