The third installment of the Bioshock series is finally here and it’s packed full of awesome. Once again gamers can expect not only a well-polished first person shooter – but a unique and thought-provoking narrative that sets Bioshock Infinite apart from others. This game is a total gem with only a small handful of flaws. It is dramatic, immersive, and plays almost like a film at times.
Bioshock Infinite’s gameplay is slick and fast-paced. Plasmids (from Bioshock 1&2) are now called vigors which are spell-like abilities that are cast with the left hand, while the right hand is used to switch between two weapons at any given time. This set up saw some criticism as it makes it difficult to experiment with different weapon combinations, and when you run out of ammo you’ll just need to find another gun altogether. It does add a dose of realism though – and many gamers will relish the added challenge. There’s a variety of weapons and vigors to play with here but it won’t take too long for you to settle into a combination that does the job effectively during most combat situations. However – the firefights in Bioshock Infinite still require quick decision making and improvisation to survive so don’t expect to rely on a single strategy the whole time. If you find yourself stuck in a room with only a few rounds left and a freaking Patriot charging at you, be prepared for pain. Patriots are huge motorized robots modeled on George Washington and are easily the best enemy in the game.
A particularly cool inclusion that affects the flow of combat in Bioshock Infinite comes in the form of hooks and skyrails. Leaping around and flying off a skyrail at break-neck speed to literally stomp an enemy into the ground is pretty damn riveting. Although the concept sounds pretty wild and unconventional, it works to incredibly well and sets the game apart from other shooters in a big way. Another neat touch is the character of Elizabeth who is not by any means your average damsel in distress, and even provides vital support in combat by providing ammo and health drops at most needed times. She can also physcally alter the battlefield by ripping open the fabric of space-time which is also… well, pretty damn useful. Elizabeth’s AI is worked out fine for most of the time but unfortunately the same can’t be said about the enemies who left a little to be desired.
Bottom line is – Bioshock Infinite’s gameplay is pretty exciting at first but by the latter stages it tends to feel somewhat repetitive. It should be mentioned that the final battle is hugely underwhelming – but luckily the ending is still incredibly good courtesy of some very clever writing so it’s not entirely a big deal. It’s fair to say that the gameplay is still pretty good, but the narrative is the better part of this game.
Sights + Sounds:
You’ll notice within minutes that Bioshock Infinite is a stunningly beautiful game. Columbia is a gorgeous and colourful metropolis with a number of memorable locales. The city is vibrant and diverse – expect to walk down bustling city streets only to turn a corner and find a quiet park or back-alley. There’s even a beach. You’ll find yourself stopping multiple times along your journey to sample the surroundings – the whole city feels incredibly realistic and lived-in. The darker, grittier sides to Columbia become exposed as the game progresses, and the artwork for these locations look just as awesome as the brighter ones. Graphics are sharp and particularly eye-popping if you have a decent PC. Columbia also gifts Bioshock fans with a breath of fresh air following Rapture’s intensely claustrophobic halls we explored in previous titles.
Bioshock Infinite would not be half the game it is without such a stellar soundtrack. The score has been carefully crafted to complement the visual stylings and works to great effect. Reccuring themes and melodies are catchy and interesting. Combat music is appropriately wild and unsettling. Even pure silence is used occasionally to raise tension, only to be dramatically interrupted by a rushing crescendo of strings at a vital moment. Bright, choral sections reflect the religious themes of the game spectacularly. Minor tones match the darkness and desperation that permeate Columbia’s underbelly. There are even a some interesting arrangements of modern songs to be heard along the way – look out for an old-school rendition of “Tainted Love” at a particular tavern in Shantytown.
This is where Bioshock Infinite really shines.
The story surrounding rugged protagonist Booker DeWitt, the maniacal Zachary Comstock, and the enigmatic heroine Elizabeth is extremely detailed. The story unfolds in bite-sized pieces as the player progresses through the game, constantly hungering to uncover the secrets within Columbia and the mystery surrounding its various citizens. There’s loads of intrigue as Booker tries to make sense of the reasons he’s even come to the city, and why Comstock always seems to be one step ahead of him. Previous instalments of the Bioshock series are revered for their complex philosophical undertones and Infinite is no exception. There are tons of biblical references, historical references, and even deeply relevant societal issues explored here that even get as gritty as class warfare and racism. The inclusion of all these themes is what makes Bioshock Infinite a pretty special game and its ambition pays off without seeming overly pretentious despite its scale and complexity. It’s a lot more confronting and involving than your average first person shooter.
I feel as if the success of this game really boiled down to how real the characters felt- and think they all came out great. Elizabeth is particularly awesome and some of the banter between her and Booker are downright hilarious. Seeing as she’s been locked up in isolation for all her life until Booker breaks her out, its fun to see her explore the outside world with child-like curiosity despite her shockingly vast intellect. The contrast of Booker’s somewhat stern demeanor with Elizabeth’s never-ending inquisitiveness is highly entertaining from the very start. The Lutece twins also deserve mentioning as stand-out characters – this pair will appear sometimes during your mission and offer you some valuable hints and insights. They also seem to possess some valuable knowledge regarding the deeper riddles of Columbia.
Bioshock Infinite is a type of game that does not grace our consoles very often. It’s not quite perfect, but it has the courage to take a bunch of risks and shows audiences that video games can be a little more mature and complex than some might think. It’s fun, compelling, and tells an awesome story in a very unique way. The few issues I noted concerning gameplay elements amount to little when the overall experience gels together so well. Infinite will easily be a contender for game of the year, and rightfully so. Play it!