Review Bioshock Infinite

Written by Twisted Ideas

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After numerous delays the long awaited next installment of Bioshock is finally here. Bioshock Infinite startled everyone when they have left Rapture for a bright and colorful city in the sky. What new changes will come with this new setting? You will just have to open a few doors to find out.

Story

The year is 1912 and Booker DeWitt, a private investigator, is living on hard times trying to reconcile his debts. Booker is hired to find and return a girl named Elizabeth to New York from the floating city of Colombia. Colombia, lead by the charismatic Zachary Hale Comstock, seems like a religious utopia where no wrong can be done; Actually, Colombia thrives on the slavery of people of color causing hostilities. Branded with the label of False Sheppard, Booker realizes how willing the people are to follow Comstock’s words to have him killed. Booker has to fight his way to save Elizabeth who isn’t all she seems.

Gameplay

Bioshock Infinite is a first person shooter similar to the previous two games. There is an array of weapons but you can only carry two at a time. You have seemingly magical abilities called vigors. Vigors are mostly offensive abilities to subdue rather and deal damage overtime; Vigors can be charged to change its properties. You have a health bar that can only be recovered by food and health packs, salts needed for vigors and armor that regenerates overtime. Each of these bars can be increased with an Infusion. If you die you are revived with more ammo and salts if low at the cost of cash and enemies will restore health.

Booker can improve his combat abilities by buying upgrades, using Infusion or finding gear. You are encouraged to look around the area to find money, health, ammo, lockpicks and occasionally you will stumble on some of these upgrades. You aren’t intended to upgrade everything in the game so you have to choose what you want to upgrade.

Infinite introduces a few new gameplay mechanics. First are the Sky-rails which Booker leap to with his sky hook. You are able to shoot or leap attack against enemies use it to reach new areas. Enemies are also capable of following you on the sky-rails as well.

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Always wear your safety helmets in case of falling DeWitts.

The second main mechanic is Elizabeth. She’s invulnerable so she’s actually helping you more than you are her. She can open locked doors and safes giving you bonuses. Any mandatory door is opened with a hairpin so you won’t get stuck if you don’t have a lockpick. She occasionally finds health, salts, ammo and money if you are running low. Elizabeth has the unique ability to open tears in reality to summon allies, supplies or new environments to add more strategy to fights.

Graphics and Sound

Bioshock has always had an almost porcelain look. Characters and most everything usually had light shine off them unnaturally and the “normal” looking characters looked like cartoons. The game looks much better now and everything looks more natural with the improved textures. The people still look a bit cartoonish but that’s probably the visual style they are looking for.

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Elizabeth, I know the dentist isn’t your favorite place in the world.

The music in the game much like the previous installments uses period music often to help drive feel of 1912. The ambient sounds are reminiscent of the series but with lighter tones and more upbeat.  The voice actors have done a great job. Booker is the first protagonist to be voiced and this story would be lesser without it. The shining star is Elizabeth’s voice actor. She could have easily been unlikable or a stereotype but her dialog along with her interactions with the world are great.

Rant

It’s hard to say much about Infinite without running into spoilers. Irrational Games intentionally crafted this game to tear apart your perceptions of how you think the story and the game will play out especially if you have played either of the previous games. This is one of the rare games where the gameplay helps drive the main theme of the game. There is a multilayered story dealing with religion, race, science, the rich, the poor and so much more. By the end there will undoubtedly be aspects plot that will go over the heads of players. It warrants at least a second playthrough if only to help wrap your head around everything.

Fundamentally, Infinite feels similar to the first two games but a couple of design choices I feel make the game more difficult. You no longer carry health packs or salts (EVE) to restore yourself and only having two weapons at a time leaves you out of ammo frequently. Elizabeth can’t always bail you out a bad situation. The game isn’t designed for you to buy all the weapon and vigor upgrades but it isn’t apparent on your first playthrough. You could end up buying expensive upgrades on things you won’t use.  The skyhook gameplay was underutilized and it’s hard to hit somebody when you’re moving that quickly. They only really serve to justify having enemies on top of buildings. This makes combat more chaotic and it can be difficult to spot where you’re being shot while you’re scrambling to find cover, health, ammo, etc.

For anyone who has played a Bioshock game you know that there’s this urge to look through every piece of loot. This can slow down the pace significantly as you might spend half an hour making no real progress. This is fine if you like looking through everything and have the time to do so. The problem I have is that you cannot manually save so you have to reach a checkpoint whenever you want to stop playing.

It’s nice to finally get out of Rapture. It was overdone once Bioshock 2 was announced because it was too familiar and was forced to build on top of the first game. The game was still fun and it was interesting hear about the aftermath of Rapture but it wasn’t necessary. The new setting of Columbia actually lets Irrational trim the fat and allow for new gameplay experiences.

Final Thoughts

Bioshock Infinite wanted to tell a great story that can only be told through the interactivity of games and it succeeds. This isn’t the cash grab that Bioshock 2 felt like. The final product justifies the numerous deals because they didn’t need to compromise the gameplay or the story. The gun/vigor gameplay is as fun as ever without going overboard. The skyhooks didn’t work as well as I would have liked. The tears added a new layer of strategy and the new gear system forces you to choose between the bonuses you want for when you need them. On the surface Bioshock Infinite just looks like a stylish shooter but there is something special here, you only have to open a few doors to see it.

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