Version Reviewed: PC
Bioshock: Infinite is a momentous occasion of a game, one that I wanted to play again immediately and the experience stuck in my head for days afterwards. Like finishing a good book, I was a little sad when it was all over. Some commentators are already calling it a watershed moment in the gaming medium and I’d be inclined to agree.
Infinite is an excellent game, but in the weeks since completing it I’ve come to think of it more as an important game due to its clever narrative and complex fictional universe. Like any good piece of entertainment, Bioshock: Infinite always has you wondering what will happen next and hungry for more, leading you from one epic set piece to the next and constantly making you more eager to discover the ‘big picture’, unravelling the many mysteries the game puts on the table. While you hop dimensions and interact with some of the most memorable characters in recent memory, piecing the jigsaw together is immensely satisfying.
The year is 1912 and you take the role of Booker Dewitt, a man with a mission to ‘bring us the girl and wipe away the debt’ from the flying city of Columbia. Through a lighthouse, your entry to Columbia is just as exhilarating as falling to the depths of Rapture was (despite any feeling of déjà vu you may have in the opening scenes.) Columbia is ruled by self-proclaimed prophet Zachary Comstock, whose daughter Elizabeth is the one you’re out to capture. Columbia’s ethos is one of xenophobia and white superiority and will create some feelings of discomfort, such as the police’s slogan ‘Protect Our Race’. Infinite juggles several difficult themes including racism, meta-physics and the American civil war. Incorporating such lofty subjects could have been disastrous but are tackled with care and finesse by Irrational, resulting in compelling adult entertainment.
The floating city of Columbia is incredibly well constructed. In Bioshock’s Rapture, the calamity had already been and gone leaving you to explore and make sense the wreckage. Infinite shows the city crumble in front of your eyes – something it achieves beautifully. I found sightseeing in Columbia just as enjoyable as fighting around it. Once you save Elizabeth the game transformed into my favourite escort mission. Sensibly Irrational made Elizabeth invincible during gameplay and she aids you by finding items, ammo and money – you’ll never have to instruct her to hide or to stay put and she is never a distraction in combat. Elizabeth can open inter-dimensional ‘tears’ in the fabric of time and space, some of which pop up in gameplay to aid you at your will, like turrets or airships.
One of Infinite’s strongest facets is the way Booker and Elizabeth interact and their relationship evolves – experiencing it through Booker’s eyes, Elizabeth is also seeing Columbia for the first time and her outlook contrasts with Booker’s war vet weariness. I must mention the stellar cast of voice actors too, especially Courtnee Draper, who delivers an unparalleled performances. There’s an Easter Egg in Infinite’s credits that shows that this was no average production for the actors involved.
Visually Bioshock: Infinite is a triumph, adopting a distinct animated look. In the game’s opening sections you’ll almost feel the warmth coming off the screen with rays of sunlight breaking through the trees. Gameplay is far tighter and more fluid than the original Bioshock, a game that I enjoyed but found incredibly clumsy at times. Infinite utilises a dual wield system of weapon and vigor (Infinite’s equivalent to plasmids) that offers satisfying weapon/power combos. It’s fun to experiment and the options open to you within the game’s numerous sandbox combat areas are mind boggling. It’s a shame the game doesn’t feature a ‘New Game+’ option, as some of the vigors will only become available to you in the game’s final chapters. I should also mention the skylines – cargo rails that weave around the environment and are incredibly fun to ride, giving you access to vantage points and hidden items to aid you in battle.
Infinite isn’t without its problems, though fortunately nothing that will spoil the experience. In the original Bioshock the hunt for loot could be a desperate endeavour as ammo was short and first aid kits had been expended. With Infinite on normal difficulty loot is in abundance as is weaponry and vigor refilling salts. Food and drink will have different effects on your health and salt but I quickly stopped noticing as I ran around the level mashing my keyboard like a mad glutton. Crafting and ammo types have gone too – and while the weapon choice is adequate, but there’s nothing novel beyond standard FPS archetypes.
Commentators have also noted that Elizabeth’s powers in combat are quite basic than they were suggested they’d be in previews, simply bringing in environmental features rather than any unique tactical options in combat. Personally this did not spoil my experience – but those with prior expectations may be disappointed. Finally, several key plot points are encased within the game’s voxophones – collectable audio logs like the ones in the original Bioshock. Some are well hidden and I fear most players, myself included, could unwittingly miss some of the plot’s finer details.
The above issues are negligible when looking at the game as a complete package. I haven’t got time to sing all of the game’s praises – such as the brilliant Lutece characters or Elizabeth’s guardian Songbird. I’ll leave them for you to discover yourself. Bioshock Infinite succeeds thanks to its pitch perfect execution and by being unafraid to challenge. If you’re a fan of story driven games, or just strong first-person shooters – you’ll have difficulty finding anything as compelling as this, I cannot recommend it enough.