I was surprised to be excited for Bioshock Infinite. When the original Bioshock came out in 2007 it had universal praise, I bought the game day one and hated it. I was one of the few people who didn’t think it was a work of genius. I liked the story, the world and the graphics just the gameplay didn’t connect with me. Fast forward to mid 2010 and against my better judgement I picked up Bioshock 2. I instantly loved it. I don’t know if it was the refinements like the plasmid/weapon combo or if the overall game felt better but I really enjoyed it. Finally in 2012 I replayed the original Bioshock, I got hooked and finally saw the great game that had eluded me for five years.
Story: This is where this series shines. A sort of prequel to Bioshock 1 and 2, the premise of Infinite takes place in a floating city called Columbia in 1912. Columbia is the antithesis of Rapture, it’s bright and open and instead of being created to escape political and religious persecution it was designed to be like “Eden” from the bible. The ruler of Columbia is “The Prophet” Zachary Comstock, he rules with an iron fist and preaches all kinds of religious nonsense.
The main character Booker has been tasked with going to Columbia and getting a girl named Elizabeth out. He is promised this will wipe away gambling debts he has been accruing.
Elizabeth is really the star of the game, she is a mysterious girl who can open “tears” which are essential doorways into other dimensions. She is with you most of the game and is never a burden, she picks locks for Booker and during combat with give ammo and health. This was an issue for be because it made the game easy and there is almost no penalty for dying. Playing through the game and learning more about her was interesting.
It’s very hard to talk about the narrative without giving spoilers, I’ll just say that the ending is one of the best endings I have seen in entertainment, not games, entertainment. People will be talking about this end for years to come.
Gameplay: The gameplay will be familiar to fans of Bioshock 2. There are now vigors instead of Plasmids, they work very similarly with a new option, if the user holds down the vigors button you can create a trap with them. In bigger fights this can be a real life saver. It will also be essential when playing on the harder difficulty.
The shooting mechanic is still great, Not the best but good. One beef I have with the shooting is that the aiming down the sights is handled by a click of R3, I have never found this intuitive in games and it leads me to shoot wildly as opposed to aiming. I feel that the shooting of the game would benefit from a different control setup. Also new is the sky lines, Booker has a special tool on his arm (That makes some memorable and gruesome melee kills) that can hook onto Columbia’s sky line system. The sky lines are an integral part of a lot of major set piece fights. Using the sky lines allows a lot of variety in the fighting. There is also combat options while using the lines, you can shoot and if you time it right can do a jumping melee that is a very powerful attack.
Bioshock Infinite has done away with health packs and instead uses a shield system that is very similar to the Halo series. Throughout the game the player can find bottles to increase their health, vigor or shields. Thats not all to find in Columbia, searching every nook and cranny will yield money, items and voxophones. Voxophones are the audio logs to find in the game, they are interesting to listen to and shed some extra light on the world and story.
I did have a few issues with the game, in many ways it felt stripped down to me, there was no camera to gain advantages on enemies and the variety and number of enemies wasn’t enough. I never found fighting the people in Columbia to be as memorable as fighting the unpredictable splicers from the previous games. Guns and Vigors are upgradable but the upgrade system just didn’t have the impact on me, the guns look the same, even when upgraded they don’t receive any visual distinctions. Only two guns can be carried at any time now ala Halo. This took away a bit from my enjoyment as well. Overall I just felt more constricted in this game compared to previous entries in the series.
Graphics: Columbia is designed beautifully, the landscapes are colourful and world feels alive. Graphically speaking this could not be further from Rapture, and that’s a great thing.The art design is unique without being eccentric. Some of the vigor animations look really great. The actual quality of the graphics is a bit of a mixed bag, some animations look a little stiff and the people in the game are certainly not the best I have seen.
Overall: I am happy to say that Bioshock Infinite is an amazing game, it uses clever storytelling and a compelling world to hook players in and make them enjoy the journey. Save for a few minor nitpicks with the game play I can honestly say this has been my favourite game of 2013 so far.