Reviews

BioShock Infinite – Review

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Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 18+

Praise. Praise everywhere. The lateness of this review has at least given me the chance to observe how the world has reacted to BioShock Infinite before adding my own quiet voice to the sea of others. So let’s be pretty straight here: my overall opinion doesn’t differ very much from the majority. But still, I’m not going to give Infinite a free ride. Like any game it has its good points and its bad points, so let’s try to delve into this thing and figure out what makes it so great. Get the coffee out, kids, this is a bit of a long one.

Set in the year 1912 the game follows the story of one Booker Dewitt, a failed Pinkerton agent with a bit of a dark past, who is hired to go to the city of Columbia and bring back a girl by the name of Elizabeth in order to wipe away his debts, whatever they may be.  There is a slight hitch in the plan, though, because the city of Columbia is literally soaring through the clouds,  its glorious buildings, streets and parks held aloft in the sky by strange technology.  Founded by one Zachory Comstock, a highly religious man worshipped as a Prophet by the city’s inhabitants, Columbia was built as a symbol of America’s ideals at the time, and as a means of introducing and imposing those ideals on the rest of the world. Eventually, though, a major event leads America to disavow Columbia and the city simply vanishes  into the clouds, never to be seen again, becoming little more than a legend fueled by the occasional reported sighting.

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First impressions are always important and your arrival in Columbia certainly stands as one of the better introductions to a game world.  Your first forays into the city sets the scene perfectly and paints Columbia as a character in itself, just as important as the people you’ll meet along the way. The city is awash with color and stunning scenery, and the opening hour of the game gives you the chance to walk the streets and watch the people, soaking up the sense of culture and history that every building, statue and brick exudes. Just as much as the dialogue, Columbia tells a story. This is a peaceful, happy place it seems, one that you’d happily live in given the chance. It’s a vibrant, charming city, full of smiling people and visual spectacles that will leave you awestruck. Like the city of Rapture, though, not all is as well as is seems to be in Columbia. This beacon of light, this floating utopia, has a dark heart. The Founders, who make up the cities wealthy ruling class, literally worship the founding fathers of America in a strange. They also support the concepts of American exceptionalism and have a very Aryan attitude, believing that the other races are beneath them. They treat the blacks and Irish that make up the city’s menial workforce as sub-human, barely worth the time it would take to kick them. This is the dark heart of Columbia, it is a city of racism and ideals that we in today’s world find repulsive, a stark contrast to its joyous visual style. It’s like a Disney world gone horribly wrong, all sunshine and laughter on the surface and all black and evil on the inside. On the other side of the metaphorical fence are the Vox Populai, a  rebel group made up of various races and ideologies fighting against the ruling class. It’s a civil war just waiting for something to come along and light the fuse, with Booker and Elizabeth caught in the middle.

In its themes Infinite doesn’t hold back, exploring  belief, science, nationalism, race and more throughout the 12-15 hours it takes to get through the story, venturing onto ground that games don’t usually like to tread, though I did find myself wishing on occasion that Irrational had bitten the bullet and really delved deeper into the themes at times, because ultimately while it tackles the subjects it never really feels like it’s making any meaningful points about them. But then I suppose it’s better to leave that up to the player, and that exploring  them further would have likely meant story would have gotten too muddled as a result, something of which it already guilty of in small amounts. As you move through the story you’ll learn more about Columbia, Comstock, the strange events surrounding the city and much more, all of which is compelling stuff. There’s several different plot threads woven together beautifully by the game’s writers to tell the complete story, with each one more intriguing than the last, creating a riveting tale that requires you to actually pay attention and think about what is going on, rather than just have all the facts and answers handed to you like most games are intent on doing these days. It really is a masterful story , and easily one of the greatest of this console generation.

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Having said that, I would say that the story does occasionally lose focus, with plot threads being introduced and never getting fully explored before they’re whisked away in favor of something else. And then there’s the occasional little plot-hole or slip-up that can briefly yank you out of the deep sense of immersion Infinite creates. These never detract very much from the plot, though, leaving you to bask happily in the glow of a powerful, emotional story.

At the core of it all is Elizabeth herself. Since you have to escort her for the entire game there were two problems that Irrational faced when creating her: first, she has to be a character you can love, someone whom you absolutely want to listen to and learn more about as the game goes on. The second is, of course, ensuring that she doesn’t feel like a burden when the action gets going, a problem other games often face. On both accounts Irrational have passed with flying colors. Elizabeth continues the visual theme by having a very Disney princess aura, from the way she is dressed to her exaggerated and fluid movements. To be more precise, I would liken her to Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Again, first impressions are massively important with a character like Elizabeth, and just like your introduction to Columbia your first encounter with Elizabeth is handled very well, almost instantly forming a connection between yourself and her. She has been locked in a tower for her entire life, never allowed to see the outside world and jealously guarded by a massive creature known as the Songbird. Her first foray into Columbia is one of wide-eyed wonder as she dashes from place to place, admiring various things with all of the amazement of a child. She is lovely, charming and entrancing, leaving me with absolutely no alternative than to admit that I may have sort of accidentally fallen in love with her. Sorry, Trip from Enslaved, but that’s how it has to be. She is one of the most engaging videogame characters ever created – a bold claim, I understand, but one that feels justified – and I’ve no doubt she’ll be remembered as such. Over the course of the game you’ll learn all the various facets of her personality, her wants, desires, likes and dislikes. Don’t let her demeanor fool you, though, she has a spine of steel. You see, Elizabeth has the power to open tears in the fabric of the universe, bringing in objects from other dimensions, or even allowing travel between them. This is, of course, central to the story, and throughout the course of the game Elizabeth’s personality shifts and changes in a believable way as events send both her and Booker down paths they never expected.

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It’s really the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth that is the driving force of the narrative, the thing that players will get the most personally involved in, especially since we embody Booker and see events unfold from his perspective. While the world burns to the ground around them it’s Elizabeth and Booker’s relationship that we orbit, with everything else having to settle for a grudging second place. In an unusual choice for a game with a first-person perspective, Booker is not a mute character, he has a distinct voice and personality, which the writers aren’t afraid to use.  At first it can be a little strange to be inhabiting a fully developed characters body, one who already has a defined history and personality, but it quickly proves to be for the best as the story simply could not have worked if Booker never uttered a word. That all important connection with Elizabeth could never be formed otherwise. In a sense, it’s true roleplaying as we become the character of Booker Dewitt.  His own personal journey through the storyline is just as important and engaging as Elizabeth’s, though it can be easy to forget it when you’re staring out of his eyes. Having a defined personality for a character that the player will embody is far harder than simply keeping them mute, yet Irrational have pulled it off with aplomb. Booker is a dark, brutal character with numerous layers to his personality, and it was a genuine pleasure to learn more about him and get to understand him.

The dialogue between Booker and Elizabeth is also superb throughout, bringing both characters to life . Their relationship is a tense one, and some of the moments they share are genuinely emotionally charged, something for which I can only bestow endless praise upon the actors for, who have made both Booker and Elizabeth feel like real people.

As for point two, Elizabeth is never a burden during actual gameplay, for several reasons. The first is that she’s entirely capable of taking care of herself: she’ll often run ahead of you and explore the level on her own whims when you’re walking about, murmuring appreciatively at things she finds interesting and even tossing you money she discovers lying around. During combat enemies won’t target her, either, so you never have to be worried about failing a mission because she decided to wander straight into the line of fire, and neither will you ever find her getting in your own line-of-sight at the most unfortunate times. Better yet, Elizabeth will actively help you out during a fight, tossing you ammo, med-kits and more mid-battle that she finds lying around the place. On more than one occasion she saved my ass by doing so. It makes her so much easier to form a connection with because she’ll literally save your butt during fights, though I would say that she is sometimes too generous with items.  The only downside to all of this is that there’s no sense of danger surrounding Elizabeth: you know she can’t be hurt, or that nothing can happen to her outside of scripted events. This is the trade-off for ensuring that having to escort a character is never a drag, I suppose, but sometimes I almost wished there was a sense of danger surrounding Elizabeth in combat, a sense that she could be hurt  so that I’d have to desperately fight to keep her alive, taking risks I wouldn’t normally to do so. It’s funny, really, all those times I’ve complained about characters I have to escort dying during combat, and here I am wishing for it. It’s also a bit of a shame that we don’t have many chances to interact with Elizabeth in various ways outside of the scripted events – a wasted opportunity on Irrational’s behalf to flesh out Elizabeth further, I feel.

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Usually I don’t tend to broach the subject of the game’s ending in reviews, yet with BioShock Infinite it really is impossible to talk about the game without mentioning the ending. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers here, though to be entirely honest it’s killing me inside that I can’t talk about it in-depth. Anyway, back on track.  The writers behind Infinite manage to an epic ending with twists and turns that comes out of absolutely nowhere, leaving you stunned, mildly bemused, more than a little questioning and definitely open-mouthed. It’s an ending that is bound to split opinion fiercely: some will love it, others will hate it; Some will find it deeply satisfying, some will not. Many will likely find it confusing, while others will enjoy pouring over every little detail.  It is, above all else, a surprisingly layered ending. . There are plot holes to be found in the ending, which is bound to frustrate some. Even more confusing for some people is that some plot holes are only actually plot holes if you subscribe to a certain way of thinking.  Personally I found the ending to be utterly entrancing and deeply satisfying, though the more I think about it the more nitpicks I find with it – never enough to somehow ruin it, mind you. It’s rare that a game’s plot requires actual thought these days, for the player t have to sit down and think about the events that took place, working out the details, but that’s exactly what Infinite does. It’s easily one of the best videogame endings I’ve seen,  one that will doubtless be talked about for a long time to come, and deservedly so.

Violence is very much a central theme in BioShock Infinite, and as such it’s a far more combat heavy game than either of the first two games, with waves of many, many enemies intent on denting your face being common. In some ways, then, BioShock Infinite has given in to the modern gaming industries fascination with shooting stuff in the face, but it does at least fit in with the narrative, even if Booker being a one man army capable of literally murdering his way through hundreds of enemies is pushing it a bit, but I’ll get back to that later. If you’ve played the previous two BioShock games then the core combat mechanics and general feel of it will be instantly familiar: the right trigger on the controller lets you blast people with the assortment of guns that you can pick up around the way, while the left trigger controls Vigors, which replace Plasmids from the past two games but act in exactly the same manner. Given the creativity on display in Columbia the arsenal of guns at your disposal are a surprisingly mundane lot, offering up the standard shotgun, pistols, sniper rifle and machine guns that we’d expect to see in just about any shooter ever made. Having said that they are a satisfying bunch of guns to actually shoot, packing plenty of punch that makes ’em feel nice and meaty when you’re going up against the pesky bad guys.

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Speaking of which there’s a fair variety of enemies on offer, ranging from grunts who’ll die by the shed-load to the more fearsome motorized Patriots who are robotic versions of the founding fathers that carry around powerful crank guns. Infinite really doesn’t mess about with the enemy count, either: in almost every combat scenario, and there’s a lot of combat scenarios, you’ll face off against masses of them. The biggest baddie of the lot, though, is easily the Handy Man. These are dying people who have been grafted into a robotic body in order to extend their life, but that’s no good thing as during battle the Handy Men will cry out in agony, clearly deeply unhappy about their unsettling circumstances, though that doesn’t seem to stop them trying to stomp on your head. In battle these massive buggers are intensely aggressive, leaping around the battlefield with terrifying speed and mucking up your health pretty quickly. In some ways they’re BioShock Infinite’s Big Daddy, although sadly there’s no option to simply leave them alone like we could do with the iconic big guy. In fact, the Big Daddy ecosystem from the past two games is arguably the single thing I miss most in Infinite, since in its place we have a continuous stream of unavoidable fights.

As for the Vigors they’re also a surprisingly mundane lot, given the scope of what could be done with them. Again, those who have played the previous games will immediately see plenty of similarities in their effects. But lets assume you’ve never played the previous games and don’t have a clue what Plasmids were or what Vigors are. Essentially, they’re magic. They’re explained in scientific terms within the context of the game’s universe, but really the easiest way to think of them is as magic, the same type you see in fantasy RPGs and the like. Vigors come packaged in beautiful bottles lying around the city and once Booker drinks one he’ll gain an amazing new ability, such as being able to hurl fireballs, summon a flock of murderous crows to distract enemies and suspend foes in the air, leaving them ripe for a bullet to the head. Vigors can even be combined to a degree, so for example you can use the Shock Jockey Vigor to create a flock of electric crows that stun everyone nearby. With a total of eight Vigors to acquire throughout the game they bring a decent amount of options to the combat, allowing you to inject a small amount of strategy into the otherwise fairly straightforward action.

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However, while the different Vigors bring some small amount of depth to the combat you can only carry two guns at a time, unlike the past games, which feels pretty limiting. I make no secret of the fact that the two-gun limit of most modern shooters isn’t  a convention I’m all that fond of, believing that while it works in realistic shooters it really doesn’t have to be used all the time. You’ll  quickly find your favorite combination of Vigor and gun, and then likely never shift from using them, simply buying upgrades along the way to keep them on par with the enemies who can soak up more damage as the game goes on. The reason for that is that there’s some definite balance problems in your arsenal: some Vigors and weapons just feel more powerful and useful than others, and so players will likely find themselves gravitating toward them. As such I strongly urge anyone who picks up the game to remind yourself to experiment with different loadouts, rather than get stuck in a rut. As for the upgrade system, it didn’t feel like an integral part of the game. I never felt like there was an actual need to upgrade weapons and Vigors, and I also missed the visual upgrading of weapons that we saw previously.

The third big factor in the combat is the Skylines, a much touted feature in the build-up to BioShock Infinite’s release. Early on in the game Booker gets access to a Sky Hook, and by using this you can leap up to any Skyline in the area and ride along it at great speed, allowing you to get around the battlefield quickly and even launch deadly flying attacks by leaping from the rail and landing on an enemy, insta-killing grunts. Standing out in the open for too long in Infinite is deadly as both shield and health drain quickly, so the Skylines combat this problem perfectly, lending engagements a fantastic sense of speed and mobility. The game’s combat is easily at its best in the large areas with looping Skylines and plenty of verticality,  which is why it’s so disappointing that neither of these things actually feature more prevalently in the game. Thinking back on my time in Columbia there really wasn’t that many times when the Skylines were fully used, and nor where there that many large, open environments that made full use of the Skylines and the verticality they could bring. Much of the early footage of BioShock Infinite shown off to the press showed off large combat environments where there was plenty of verticality and space to move around with loads of Skylines, but sadly these seem to have been largely removed from the completed game, replaced my mostly small, straightforward environments where you just shoot the bad guys and move on. Yet using the Skylines in those few large areas is truly exhilarating, make no mistake of that. There’s nothing quite like leaping up on a line, riding up to a high platform, grabbing a sniper rifle, popping some heads and then making a leap of pure faith back down to a distant rail. They truly are a fantastic addition to the game, and bring much to the combat when they’re implemented fully and truly.

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And then there’s Elizabeth. Not only does she help you out by tossing you ammo and Salts to power your Vigors, but she’ll also casually rip holes in the fabric of reality to give you a strategic edge over your foes. By opening up a tear you can bring through whatever was on the other side, ranging from a handy ally in the form of a turret or Patriot to Skyhooks which give you access to vantage points. Weapons and medical kits can also be brought through, as well as chunks of cover. The only hitch is that only one tear can be open at any given time, so you’ll need to think carefully about what you value the most. Tears certainly bring an interesting dynamic to the combat, though they don’t alter it as much as I thought, or hoped, they might. Again, it feels like Irrational could have let their imaginations run a bit wilder with what tears could do. For example, there’s a brief section in which Elizabeth opens a tear and a train comes hurtling through. Imagine how cool that would have been during combat, using the train to give you a bit of respite and maybe even crush a foe or two.

But now that I’ve talked about the mechanics of the combat, do I actually think it’s good? The simple truth is that I felt it to be fun, but not particularly great, and I think that for two particular reasons. The first is the simplest one: the core mechanics feel a little loose. There’s a certain floatiness to the shooting, and ultimately there’s not all that much depth to each fight. For all the options in combat Vigors and tears can provide, the enemies don’t require any degree of intelligence or cunning to dispatch. The second reason is that there’s just so much combat that by the end of the game it was starting to feel like a chore. In the previous two BioShocks enemy numbers tended to be small, yet every fight felt quite dangerous and brutal, but in Infinite it’s just waves and waves of bad guys, and slaughtering my way through them all began to become tiring rather than fun. Every battle is a bloodbath, a violent full stop punctuating the storyline moments. For all of the depth of the plot, BioShock Infinite is a generic shooter in disguise in the sense that it wants you to simply shoot stuff in the face, and then rinse and repeat until the next thoughtful moment comes around. It’s mindless violence, in other words, and while to a degree that suits the narrative there’s just so much of it that eventually it just no longer feels justified and actively harms the game as a whole. There’s little interaction with the people in the world of Columbia outside of shooting them, which feels like a real lost opportunity on Irrational’s behalf, since the few times when you do get to spend time with the people of Columbia provide the best moments in the game. There’s nothing like the Big Daddy where you can opt to avoid combat, either: everything and everyone in Columbia just wants to kill you, and it can become tiresome to go through that. A few moments where stealth or diversionary tactics were possible would have really helped to break up the pace a little more. As it stands you’ll literally blast through the entire population of Columbia by time the end credits roll around, and I’m just not sure why it had to be that way, other than the simple, and understandable, fact that Irrational needed to sell copies of Infinite, and the best way to do that is to ensure it appeals to the shooter masses by having lots and lots of action. And let’s be clear: I’m not condemning Infinite for being violent, because it really does have to be, it’s just that it’s too violent. The core combat mechanics are fun, but just not good enough to hold up this amount of fighting. To put it bluntly then, the gameplay which constitutes a vast majority of your time with Infinite is good and satisfying fast paced, but nowhere near the same level of quality as the story. It doesn’t revolutionise the FPS genre.

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We do also need to touch upon the punishment for failure in BioShock Infinite’s combat. Dying in battle on Columbia is not exactly a big deal. Should you fall upon the battlefield Elizabeth will quickly revive you just a little away from where you went down, the only penalty being that you’ll lose some cash and your enemies will have regained a small amount of their health. If you happen to have no money when you die, then never fear because you’ll be revived anyway. As a result you can win absolutely any fight in BioShock Infinite by simply running out, shooting a few rounds, dying and repeating the process until all the enemies are dead. On the plus side this does mean that even the most utterly useless player in the known universe will be able to experience the storyline in its entirety, which is certainly good, but on the negative side it does mean that there’s really no sense of danger at all in combat. You can’t fail. Quite the opposite really, you can’t lose. It’s an even more forgiving system than the past two BioShock games. However, for the more hardcore player there is a light at the end of the tunnel: 1999 mode. Unlocked by either completing the game or entering a certain famous cheat code on the main menu this is the highest difficulty setting available, in which ammo, health and Salts (which power Vigors) all become much harder to find. Enemies also become far harder, though sadly this is due to them dealing more damage rather than being more intelligent. Death in 1999 works much the same as the other difficulty settings, with the exception being that dying without any money equals game over.

Jumping back a little to my brief sentences about it earlier in this review, Columbia is just as much of an important character as Book and Elizabeth. Following up from the delightful creepiness and claustrophobic atmosphere of Rapture is no easy thing to do but Irrational have done it again, creating a truly memorable game world for us to traverse.  On a purely technical level BioShock Infinite, the console version at the very least, is by no means at the top of pile with some moments of blurry textures and occasional slow down, but on a purely artistic basis it’s a beautiful looking game. It is, as I said earlier, at its best in the opening hour of play where you have a chance to walk the streets of the city without everyone immediately trying to introduce your face to fast-moving metal objects. Here you can watch the people move about the streets, living their lives, and appreciate the many beautiful vistas that come from having buildings floating in the sky. You can admire the mechanical horses that pull carriages  and marvel at the city’s architecture where every building is different yet linked by fundamental aspects of their design. The city is swimming in color as well, which is always nice to see in a generation of games that have been defined by grey, brown and slightly different grey. Irrational just have a certain way with the presentation of the world that makes it truly amazing to explore, and their art-style is simply outstanding. Earlier I described the city as a Disney world gone wrong, and it’s a description I honestly can’t emphasis more. It’s just so gorgeous and colorful, which is of course the perfect contrast to the dark themes and bloody violence.

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Irrational’s ability to tell a story through the environment is also still very much intact. By simply walking the streets of Columbia you can learn so much about its history, people and culture, fleshing out the world of BioShock Infinite and giving Columbia the sense of being a real place. The world is just filled with a fantastic attention to detail. Every poster and statue you see gives you a tiny bit more insight into the story and helps build the larger picture. In terms of freedom Columbia is a pretty linear place and the environments are generally fairly small, but exploration is always rewarded with plentiful amounts of items to be scrounged. Speaking of which, why do people leave so many hot dogs and coins lying around in bins and containers in general? By time you’ve looted your way through a few bins you’ll be fat and rich. The true reason for exploring the world of Columbia, though, are the Voxaphones, which flesh out the story massively. These Voxaphones are audio recordings made by various characters from the story, and provide plenty of important insights into the plot. In most games audio logs don’t feel like they’re worth the time to hunt down, but in BioShock Infinite they’re so genuinely interesting and flesh out the narrative so much that searching every nook and cranny to find them is hugely compelling. My only complaint with them is there’s some information in some of them that feels very important to the main storyline, yet they’re quite easy to miss, especially for more impatient players.

However, to be fair though Infinite creates a fantastic sense of immersion it should be said that if you spend too much time in those quiet moments with the citizens of Columbia is does begin to unravel. Past their few lines of dialogue you’ll notice how people don’t really react to you at all, or how events repeat on an endless cycle. Columbia feels like a real place as you move through it, but stop to admire aspects of it for too long and that sense of immersion can crumble.

People could also certainly make the argument that BioShock Infinite’s storyline is pretty self-indulgent at times, especially the ending which almost literally throws a tonne of exposition at your face in the span of twenty-minutes, for the simple reason that it couldn’t present most of the information to you earlier in the game without you figuring everything out and ruining it all. In fact, truthfully the argument could even be made that BioShock Infinite is a bit full of itself, or to put it another, more brutal, way, it has its head up its own arse. It is an argument, upon some reflection, that I can accept some people making and I could certainly understand it if somebody accused the game of being such, though I personally wouldn’t. That’s always the danger with a story of this nature, I suppose. Hell, even I felt like there was a genuine threat in this review of my speech becoming too flowery and poetical in an effort to describe the game. The point is that there were a few brief moments where I almost felt like the writers were trying to be a little too clever and that it backfired. Perhaps that’s just me, though. I’d certainly be interested to hear if anyone else felt this way.

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There are certainly other flaws within Infinite as well. Considering this review is already passing the 5,000 word mark I’m not going to subject you to me dissecting them all, since most of them are relatively small, yet it’s still worth mentioning that they do exist, if only to dispel any notion that Infinite is somehow a perfect game. Mostly they’re just little things, little slip-ups on the game design front that can momentarily ruin your sense of immersion or bits of storyline that don’t quite work, such as one section in which Booker tells Elizabeth something and she doesn’t react to it, yet five minutes later when Booker mentions it again she does in an explosive way.

Just a day or two after I finished up Infinite me and my entire household came down with a vicious infection that left us bed-ridden for nearly two weeks, hence the lateness of this review. Thanks to some seriously strong antibiotics I’m back on my feet, but still struggling to concentrate. The reason I tell you this is because in many ways I don’t feel this review adequately describes Infinite or picks it apart and examines it as well as it should. Hopefully, though, I managed to get my points across well enough.

Once all is said and done I don’t think BioShock Infinite is some perfect masterpiece that revolutionizes gaming like some reviewers out there seem to be  declaring. It doesn’t have the same impact that the original BioShock had because gaming in general has moved on since then and grown. And it’s also worth noting that this game has a very different tone that the past two games, ditching the creepy, horror aspects entirely, something which may not please certain fans. It’s a game with flaws like any other, yet it is still undoubtedly a fantastic, beautiful piece of work. It tells a sublime story that will drawn you in and spark countless discussions over its idea and its ending. Meanwhile the actual gameplay is fun, yet not utterly brilliant. It’s the weakest aspect of the game, though I do stress that even BioShock Infinite’s weakest aspect is still very good. Above all else I feel like in many ways Bioshock Infinite is going to be the game cited most in the ever-growing argument that videogames are art, held aloft by those that present videogames as such,  simply because of the themes it has running through its storyline. It’s an argument I’m going to completely ignore here, because it’s a complex subject and one that doesn’t have a place in a review. So why do I bring it up? Because the fact that Infinite will likely be viewed as such describes quite well what sort of game this is: thought-provoking.

This is an outstanding title, which is why that despite its flaws, of which there are quite a few, I feel the score I award here is justified. It’s not perfect, but the combination of utterly enchanting narrative and fun gameplay makes it as worthy as any game can be for the highest score, a score which I’ve not actually handed out since changing to a 5-point system. BioShock Infinite, you, my friend, are truly masterful.

The Good:
+ Captivating story.
+ Fun combat.
+ Amazing world.
+ Elizabeth.

The Bad:
– Some plot holes.
– Some small problems.
– Combat doesn’t live up to the narrative.
– Combat feels like it actually gets in the way of the narrative at times.

The Verdict: 5/5
You might wonder how a game I describe as having an outstanding, masterful storyline but less impressive combat can score a 5 out of 5. The simple answer is that as a complete experience it truly is spectacular. It’s amazing. And you need to play it. This feels like a perfect example of what games can be; a unique, interactive way of telling awesome stories.

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3 replies »

  1. Great review. I haven’t gotten around to Infinite yet, but one thing I like from the reviews I’m seeing is even people who really enjoy it overall are admitting its faults and questioning certain aspects that feel arbitrary. (Like you point out, the combat not always serving the story.) Criticism shouldn’t be black or white, and it’s nice to see people being able to admit that something they like has problems, instead of just being like 10/10 OMG AMAAAAZING. (I know there are people doing that, too.) It’s how we’ll eventually make games better.

    • Hey Joel,

      First, thank you for the comment and I’m glad you liked the review. That means a lot to me.

      Absolutely! BioShock has sparked a lot of fascinating discussions, and the vast majority have been refreshing in the sense that, as you said, people are willing to admit its flaws and talk about them without degenerating into abuse. I don’t think any game can be truly perfect, after all, though I suppose you could argue that something like Pac-Man (the original) is perfect in the sense that it does what it set out to do perfectly. But otherwise games are never perfect, and Infinite is no different.

      And when you start messing with plot elements like Infinite does, you’re always bound to have some holes. Again, it’s quite amazing to see the various debates that have popped up, and even more amazing to see that people are heading online to brush up on various aspects of science so that they can explain the holes or point out news ones.

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