When I first saw imagery of BioShock Infinite, I immediately lost interest. I fell in love with the underwater world of Rapture and I didn’t believe Irrational Games could create an engrossing world out of a handful of buildings in the sky strung together by wire – and after the shocking departures at Irrational and the odd no-show at last year’s E3, I felt I dodged a bullet by not getting my hopes up. In most cases, I hate having my intuition proven wrong, but this one of those rare exceptions when I proudly bend over and take my lashings, as BioShock Infinite blows the previous two games out of the water and shifts the franchise in a magnificent new direction.
I’ll try keep spoilers to a minimum, as BioShock Infinite’s story is truly one that must be experienced first-hand. Any “spoilers” I happen to let slip are given away in the trailers and other promotional materials, or are simply unavoidable if I want to give Infinite a proper review.
BioShock Infinite blows the previous two games out of the water and shifts the franchise in a magnificent new direction.
BioShock Infinite puts you in the shoes of Booker Dewitt, a man with the devil on his shoulder. See, Booker is a gambling man. Like most men who gamble, his winning streak was bound to come to an end. Now with a pile of debt over his head, he’s given one last chance to put his past mistakes behind him before they swallow him whole. All he has to do is find and retrieve a girl and bring her to his mysterious employers, who will then wipe his slate clean. Sounds easy enough, right? Nothing is ever that easy.
BioShock Infinite (PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: March 26, 2013
MSRP: $59.99 [Buy Now]
This girl Booker is looking for is the lovely Elizabeth and she’s a girl unlike any other. From the moment you first lay eyes on her, you’ll see that she’s something special. I found myself falling in love with Elizabeth. I had emotional investment in her character and felt like less of a man when she wasn’t around. I don’t think any other video game has affected me the way BioShock Infinite has, at least not in terms of character development.
I found myself falling in love with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s inclusion in BioShock Infinite does the unthinkable and creates the world’s first escort character that doesn’t hamper the experience. She adds so much to the game and not only on an emotional level, but also in terms of gameplay. She will look around the area for ammo, health, and salt (think mana for your Vigor powers) when you need them, find and toss you a coin or two when she thinks you might want to buy something at a vending machine, pick those pesky locks, and even point out interesting areas in the environment. Not only that, but she has a remarkable power that is a game changer and such a key plot point to the story, I’m afraid I won’t be able to talk about it without spoiling things. If you don’t want to know about this power for the sake of not spoiling an amazing portion of the game, skip the next paragraph.
The power I speak of is Elizabeth’s ability to create rifts in the world. Wherever she sees a tear hole, she can open rifts and create gateways to another world. This allows her to pull support items and constructions from a parallel world into the current world of Columbia. Nothing beats having her pull a RPG through the rift to give you the firepower you are in desperate need of. Unfortunately, while these rifts are her greatest power and a joy to use when you need them, they can also get annoying, real fast. When you hover over a tear, it makes a loud “whooshing” noise and summons a slightly transparent rift where the tear is. This can prove distracting when you’re in combat and have to deal with sudden “pop-ups” of rifts whenever you accidentally hover over a tear. Some of the rifts used for taking cover are quite large and often in the middle of the battlefield. You can imagine the pain this can bring on when you’re trying to take out a group of guys and having an astral projection block your way.
Much like Rapture in BioShock and its sequel, the city of Columbia is just as big of a character as the main protagonists. Columbia is essentially everyone’s ideal version of heaven. It’s a beautiful city in the clouds where children play, people laugh, and the pristine architecture makes me dripping wet. Everything is damn perfect thanks to Father Comstock, the self-proclaimed Prophet of Columbia. Much like Andrew Ryan in the first two BioShocks, you’ll love to hate Comstock over a course of minutes, as his true intentions aren’t hidden from Booker, who doesn’t easily fall for religious propaganda.
At first I was worried that the religious overtones would result in a cringe-worthy experience along the lines of reading through Reddit’s /r/atheist subreddit, but I found myself proudly shocked at how religion was perceived in Infinite. I’m the least religious person in the world, so when “heaven” quickly turns to shit, I always have a shit-eating grin on my face. Even if you are religious, I think Columbia’s downfall should be an eye-opening experience for those of blind faith. I wouldn’t call it disrespectful to religion, but it’s certainly more realistic than most people will care to admit.
Travel around Columbia is often done by Skyhooks, a revolver-like handheld melee weapon that doubles as a grappling hook of sorts. It allows you to jump onto rails and travel around the map, all while shooting at enemies and scoping out the battlefield. While the Skyhook is fun to use, it’s not without its far share of headaches. You can only latch onto a skyrail when you are almost directly under it, and even then you might find yourself having a hard time getting the “jump to” prompt to appear. The use of skyrails is quite inconsistant. You’ll be able to jump huge gaps from skyrail to skyrail, but will have the hardest time jumping onto one when its within arm’s reach. When the skyrails are operating at full capacity, you’ll have a blast using them.
BioShock Infinite never seems dull, until Elizabeth leaves your side. That’s because, at its very core, Infinite is a first-person shooter. There’s tons of shooting down the scopes of various weapons and using superhuman powers brought on by Vigors, and that’s not a bad thing. The combat stands on its own, but it certainly feels flat when you don’t have Elizabeth nearby. Luckily, most of your time in Infinite has you two inseparable but there are points where she won’t be with you and that brings the sudden realization that she’s the star and not the gameplay.
Any complaints to be had with BioShock Infinite are so insignificant, I almost feel bad for admitting that they exist. But they do and I feel they are worth mentioning. The most common bug I’ve encountered in BioShock Infinite is one where Booker finds himself stuck in the environment This has happened to me around five to seven times during my first playthrough. Once or twice, I was in a weird area trying to go places I wasn’t supposed to, so I didn’t mind getting stuck like the idiot I am. But there were also times where I would get hung up on thin air for an amount of time that resulted in the consideration of reloading a save. Luckily, after a few seconds Booker manages to get unstuck, so I never ended up losing progress. It’s a pain, but not a big enough pain to take away from the perfect score Infinite deserves.
I’m also a little disappointed in the lack of diversity between the enemies BioShock Infinite introduces. You often find yourself pit against common folk with guns, and that’s pretty boring. The robotic presidential Patriots stop being interesting with each encounter and swapping machine guns for rocket launches doesn’t really change gameplay. The most interesting enemy isn’t even an enemy at all, and that’s the Songbird.
The amount of detail put into BioShock Infinite is so high, I found myself with my jaw on the floor every time I opened a door…
The eight hours it took me to beat BioShock Infinite were hands down the best eight hours I’ve had this console generation. I was so immersed in the world of Columbia, I couldn’t wait to see where the story went next. Irrational Games have created a living, breathing video game that feels more alive than any open world gangster simulator ever released. The amount of detail put into BioShock Infinite is so high, I found myself with my jaw on the floor every time I opened a door and explored a new area. BioShock Infinite is everything video games were meant to be. Sure, there’s some bugs and personal issues I’ve had with it, but none of them make BioShock Infinite less of a masterpiece. Without a doubt, BioShock Infinite will go down in history books as one of the greatest games ever made, and for very good reason. If any game deserves the highest praise imaginable, it’s BioShock Infinite.