I stopped reviewing strategy guides on a regular basis for the very simple reason that it’s kind of tricky. You run out things to say about them fairly quickly. After all, provided it tells you what general direction to go in and what’s going to be waiting for you at the end of that dark tunnel it’s pretty much doing its job. In fact, it would be hard to actually write a bad strategy guide, now that I come to think of it – you’d need to sit down with the intent of deliberately leading innocent players to their death. Still, I figured that the guide for Bioshock Infinite was more than worth a look, so here I am. Let’s do this. I’d cue some dramatic music or something, but frankly I don’t think it would really fit the situation.
Let’s start the beginning, then, because things tend to get confusing if we don’t. Before the guide proper even begins there’s a single page foreword by Ken Levine, from which I can shamelessly plunder a good qoute that fits in with this review:
“I like strategy guides. Always have. I like poring over data. I like the concept art, the dev team commentary. I like having another part of a game I love that I can put on a shelf. I’ve been carrying a strategy guide for a 3DS game in my backpack for months as I travel on press tours and other Irrational business. I find it comforting to know: I am equipped. I have knowledge.”
Levine’s words reflect my own strange love of strategy guides. The rise of the Internet and the ease with which it can be accessed pretty much make strategy guides redundant, and yet there’s something strangely appealing about owning one, especially a well-written and detailed one. I’ve got a load of guides sitting on my shelf about 10ft away from me. My Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion guide is incredibly worn, a visual indication that it was my holy bible for a long time. Of course the Skyrim guide is sitting next to it, but it doesn’t have the same awesome aesthetics of the Oblivion guide.
The foreword from Levine is a nice touch, but then we move on to the truly important stuff, namely advice on how to kill things. Okay, not quite, because first the guide runs through the basics of the game, from how 1999 mode will murder you in your face to using the Skylines effectively. It’s all stuff you’ll learn in the game, of course, but it’s still nice to have it all down on paper, and no strategy guide would be complete without it.
It’s not long before we’re on to the more interesting stuff as the guide hits the weapons section, each page adorned with a nice image of the weapon in question so you can admire ’em, and possibly drool over ’em as well. In here you’ll find the exact stats for each weapon, detailing how much damage it does, its rate of fire, its critical hit multipliers and more. For most people these stats probably won’t ever matter, but when it comes to games I’m a gun nut and love to know the specifications of what I’m working with, so if you’re like me then this chapter is one of the most important aspects of the entire book. Numbers, people, numbers, they’re the future. The book also lists all the upgrades available for each gun, how much they cost, how they affect the weapon and where they first become available for purchase. Again, handy stuff for those that like to know the numbers behind everything. And then it moves on to talking about strategy for each gun, how best to use it and the like. For veteran gamers this is largely moot, but the advice offered for each weapon is solid and should help some people get the most out of their guns.
After that the guide moves on to the Vigors and gives them much the same treatment as the more traditional bullet-spewing sticks from the previous chapter, detailing the exact stats of each Vigor and its corresponding upgrades that you can pick up along the way. However, one thing that is different is that you’ll also find the possible Vigor combos as well, allowing you to get the most out of your mad powers and be the most effective killing machine since Super-Man decided that this boy scout bollox wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Of course you’ll also find advice on how best to use the various Vigors, and again that advice is pretty solid and worth a read.
Then we move on to the Gear section of the book where it (surprise) talks about the various pieces of randomized Gear you can find strewn around Columbia. There’s nothing to special here: it tells you the name of the Gear and what it does. Simples. And then it tells you about the guaranteed gear and where you can find it. For your information there’s only 5 pieces of Gear in the game that will always be the same – the other 34-pieces are randomized, so you never know what you’re getting. Once that’s out of the way it presents something more interesting in the form of two-pages of build ideas where it suggests good combinations of Gear for certain play styles and the best ways to take advantage of them. However, since most of the gear is randomized this section isn’t the most helpful, though it is a good idea at heart.
In keeping with the theme of strategy and statistics if we skip forward toward the back of the book we’ll find a chunky 23-pages dedicated entirely to the enemies you’ll face off against and slaughter in vast droves in BioShock Infinite. Within these pages you’ll once again find detailed statistics regarding their health and damage output, as well as information on the various ranks and variations they come in so you know what to expect as you progress. For most of the cannon fodder enemies the guide provides just a few sentences on tactics, but there’s considerably more space devoted to the more dangerous enemies, outlining the attacks and tactics they employ and how to deal with them, such as which Vigors are most effective. At the risk of repeating myself the advice offered here is once again solid. You’ll figure it all out quickly enough in the game through experimentation, but if you’re getting your butt severely prodded then there’s some good tactics to be found within these pages.
Of course the entire centre of the book (spanning 161-pages) is completely devoted to providing a clear and comprehensive walkthrough of the entire game, including maps of every section and clear instructions on how to tackle each area. The guide will point out any handy items and weapons lying around that you should grab, and most importantly lists each and every Voxaphone location, even going so far as to provide a transcript of each one, which is a very nice touch indeed. Locations of Kinectoscopes, Telescops and Transfusions are also shown, so there’s really no excuse for failing to unlock those Achievements/Trophies. When new enemies are introduced the guide will quickly run through what to expect from the encounter and how best to deal with them, although it would have been nice if they also printed the page number for the corresponding enemy in the enemies section of the book so that you could quickly flick through and study your foe in more detail. A nice bonus is the inclusion of brief snippets from various members of the Irrational team peppered throughout the walkthrough, talking about the area you’re in or a particular character or enemy. It’s just a shame that there’s so few of this snippets as the insight they provide is much appreciated. And that’s not all as the guide will also list any new stock in the vending machines, provide other quick comments on characters and locations, list any new Vigors or weapons you’ll gain access to in the coming section, tells you how to solve the Vox Ciphers and more. I honestly can’t fault the walkthrough section of this book: it’s detailed, knowledgeable and has good presentation, as does the rest of the book, and goes above and beyond when it comes to providing information.
The final section of the guide is reserved for Achievements and Trophies, where you’ll find some advice on how to unlock various ones. Again, solid advice here, but nothing special.
As I came to the end of this review I thought long and hard about how to score guides. What constitutes a good guide, and what constitutes a great one? To try to answer that I poured through my own collection of guides. Eventually I concluded that an okay guide simply provides a barebones, simple walkthrough. A good guide provides a detailed walkthrough and additional game information. A great guide goes above and beyond with a detailed, well-written walkthrough that provides extra information, considerable material on various game mechanics and perhaps even some cool bonus stuff from the developers, like comments or artwork.
Brady Games basic BioShock Infinite strategy guide firmly falls under the “great” category. It does more than provide just a good walkthough, it gives the locations of handy items, and every collectible, as well as offering sound advice on how to tackle the world. It throws in some great information and tactics on the enemies you’ll encounter and tools at your disposal, and even a few developer comments along the way. It’s only topped by its big brother, the Limited Edition guide, which boasts a replica key from the game, developer interviews and concept art.
+ Well written.
+ Some nice touches.
– Couple of small flaws.
– Most of the tactics and advice isn’t that in-depth, though that’s partially because the game’s combat is not all that complex.
The Verdict: 4/5 – Great
Strategy guides may be struggling with the existence of the Internet, but Brady are still producing high-quality products. It’s a damn fine guide that will serve you well.