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Bioshock Infinite

About This Game:

Systems: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: 03/26/13
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K games
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Length: 12 hours (on medium difficulty)

Bioshock Infinite has been on many gamers’ radars for the past few years. Before, Bioshock was about the incredible underwater city known as Rapture. This city and its tenants took center stage in both Bioshock 1 and 2, opting for a less personal and one that is more about the setting. This worked amazingly well and gamers around the world fell in love with Andrew Ryan and his creation. Some were healthy skeptics about Bioshock Infinite, though. Without the series’ landmark setting, what could this game possibly have left to offer? Bioshock Infinite really proves that it is more than just Bioshock in the air, and even elevates itself above the other games in the series (sorry, that was quite punny…).

Presentationj

Bioshock Infinite isn’t going to blow anyone away by having mind-bending realism, but it doesn’t need to. The art style chosen for the game fits in well with the universe still looks fantastic. This is the first game in recent memory that doesn’t look ugly up close. Even games like Crysis will get muddy if you get too close to an object. Whoever did the texture work for this game deserves a huge pat on the back, because I was constantly blown away by the game’s level of detail. You can see the texture of canvas paintings, as well as the brush strokes. This insane level of detail, as well as a great lighting system, make this game look completely unique while also grounding it in reality. In the first Bioshock games, the environment was dark and gloomy to match the game’s story and characters. Columbia is bright and vibrant, but subtle details hint at the darkness hidden behind the curtains. The game also runs very well, even when everything gets very hectic and there are tons of enemies (and allies) on the screen. The frame rate would drop for me at random moments, but this is most likely due to my PC, not the game itself.

 

This is the first taste of Columbia you get. Enjoy it while it lasts, that sky is about to be filled with black smoke.

This is the first taste of Columbia you get. Enjoy it while it lasts, that sky is about to be filled with black smoke.

What everyone wants to know is if Columbia has made itself as memorable as Rapture did in the first games. The answer is a resounding yes. Buildings float towards and away from each other, giving that great sense that it is bigger than it appears. The city feels alive, especially at the beginning when you can just watch and witness people enjoying a carnival and all of its attractions. Columbia is more than just “Rapture in the sky” it has it’s own unique perks and stands on it’s own as a fantastic setting.

Story

As with the other Bioshock games, the biggest draw here is the story. Ken Levine, the game’s director, has been proven multiple times as a visionary genius. His legacy lives on through Bioshock Infinite as his best tale yet. The first two Bioshock games focused on Rapture and the people who inhabit it. This approach made the story fit anyone, but it also made it less personal. Bioshock Infinite does things the other way around. Columbia is such an interesting place, but this time the setting takes a back seat to a personal, emotionally driven story. You play as Booker DeWitt, a war veteran who is in deep debt and has no choice but to do some dirty work to get out of it. He is tasked with saving Elizabeth from captivity, and bringing her to New York unharmed. The speaking protagonist is such a departure from previous Bioshock games; I was honestly a little worried that it wouldn’t work or it would feel out of place. Now, though, I am very grateful for Booker. He is such a deep and honest character that the player can’t help but sympathize with him. That, plus he is a total badass. He was constantly reacting to situations similar to how I would; he was real. That is what makes Bioshock games so great. The characters are a little crazy, but they are still realistic in their motives and through their actions. Even Elizabeth, the girl who follows you through most of the story, is a completely enthralling character.

 

The citizens of Columbia see the founding fathers as gods.

The citizens of Columbia see the founding fathers as gods.

The game never lets up on twists and turns, and makes you constantly wonder what is coming next, all the way up to the conclusion. Man, that ending. I thought it was going to be hard, hell, nearly impossible for Irrational to beat their previous “Would you kindly?” ending of Bioshock 1, but this takes the cake. The game’s conclusion is one that only gets better the more you think about it, and I love endings like that. It also puts the entire series into perspective, explaining that while the first two Bioshocks and this Bioshock may not be in the same world, but they are in the same universe (people who have beaten the game will get it).

Gameplay

Even with its incredible story, my favorite part of this game is still its gameplay. It is just so incredibly fluid and fun, while being incredibly innovative all at the same time. There are two main things that are completely unique to Bioshock Infinite: the Sky-Hook, and Elizabeth’s power. The Sky-Hook is this huge, hand-held, mechanized hook that has multiple uses. It is your base melee weapon, which leads to some pretty brutal executions, and functions as a way to zip quickly back and forth across the battlefield. The player can use the Sky-Hook whenever they see a Sky-Line and this gives the player a huge above ground advantage. You can pounce enemies from Sky-Lines, or ride them to eventually find cover or even secret hidden areas. I was worried that the Sky-Hook sections were going to be completely scripted, but they aren’t and this was implemented to a beautiful degree. In one section of the game you have to jump from a Zeppelin to seemingly nothing below. You have to wait for the right moment to grab onto the Sky-Line with your Sky-Hook, or you keep falling to your death. The fact that the game gives you complete control of this device makes it more fun to use, and makes firefights evolve in a natural way.

 

Menacing enemies? Sure, but Big Daddies they ain't.

Menacing enemies? Sure, but Big Daddies they ain’t.

Also helping the gameplay evolve are Elizabeth’s powers. Long story short, Elizabeth can make certain things appear around the battlefield. The things you find are specific, so you can just spawn the same thing over and over, but you can switch back and forth between things as many times as you want. A seemingly empty battlefield with have the option for Elizabeth to put cover for you to hide behind, or for a freight hook to appear that you can latch onto with your Sky-Hook for an higher ground advantage. This leads to firefights never being similar to one another, and trying out different combinations always pays off.Even Elizabeth herself is helpful in the middle of combat, but probably not in the way you would think. The game quickly quells any fears that this is just one large escort mission when it deliberately tells you that you don’t have to worry about Elizabeth in combat, she can handle herself. She handles a little more that herself, though, because she is constantly helping you throughout combat by tossing you ammo and health, and is actually greatly missed in sections where she isn’t at your side. This is how having a companion in a game should work.

 

Elizabeth is just as important for gameplay as she is in the story, making her the perfect companion.

Elizabeth is just as important for gameplay as she is in the story, making her the perfect companion.

The game also has its own variations of plasmids from the other Bioshock games called Vigor, and these powers are unique enough to feel different from the other games and fit in well with the new setting. The AI is smart in this game are rarely lets up on you when you are struggling in a fight. I did miss the charismatic Big Daddies a little bit, but there is enough here to fill in their void. The big addition here are Handy Men, which are guys in hulking, mechanical suits that have huge, metallic hands. These foes are tough to bring down and definitely bring a Big Daddy-esque feeling to firefights. The only problem with this is that there is no enemy that stands out as much as the Big Daddies. There is a Songbird that follows you and Elizabeth around and impedes your progress consistently, but he is never really fleshed out that much. Big Daddies had a certain presence about them that made the player say, “Okay, I’m about to get in a good fight”, but nothing in the game really gave me that feeling. Handy Men come close, but not close enough.

 

Overall

I will not shy away from the fact that Bioshock Infinite truly is the best game I have played this generation. It seems fitting that this console generation goes out with a bang. After the 12 hours of playing this game, I am clambering for more. I want to go through the game all over again to pick up those subtle hints that are always left in Bioshock games for people who know their conclusion. This game is the perfect example of flawless game design. I can’t even say that it was rough around the edges, because it is the smoothest experience in recent memory. Of course, nothing is perfect. But Bioshock Infinite comes damn, damn close. Bravo.

Pros:
  • Perfect storytelling.
  • Perfect design.
  • Fun, fluid, innovative, and addicting gameplay.
  • Columbia is just as memorable as Rapture.
Cons:
  • No "save anywhere" feature.
  • No Big Daddies, or at least an enemy as intimidating as they were.
Bioshock Infinite
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About the Reviewer: Cooper

I'm a college student who's passionate about video games.


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