“To Infinity, and Beyond.” Here is my honest review on the newest BioShock installment: BioShock Infinite.
GAME INFORMATION –
DEVELOPER: Irrational Games
PUBLISHER: 2K Games
PLATFORMS: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Will be available on Mac this summer)
RELEASE DATE: March 26, 2013
GENRE: First-Person Shooter
RATING: M for Mature ages 18+ (ERSB)
Take a look at my SPOILER FREE BioShock Infinite review!
Do I Have To Play Bioshock 1?
Bioshock Infinite is the 3rd game in the Bioshock series but, as the title suggests, it is in no way related to the previous titles. There is no “3” in the title, which makes this a very important point. This game stands on its own and as much as we can’t help but compare it to the previous Bioshock games, it’s safe to say that anybody, whether you’re a Bioshock fan or not, could play this game and feel comfortable with it. By that I mean, you don’t need to sit there reading through synopsis of the previous games or even play the previous games in order to understand what is going on in Infinite. It is its own game with the Bioshock familiarity that we all know and love. And if you’re not familiar with that, you’ll surely be exposed to it in a very refreshing way in Bioshock Infinite.
Who Are You And What Do You Want?
In Bioshock Infinite you play as Booker Dewitt (Troy Baker), one of the main protagonists of the game. The story starts off with him in search of a girl from an unknown place called Columbia. The details of this all are not only unknown to you, but also to Booker. All he knows is that by getting this girl, a lot of his problems will go away. So, he’s transferred to Columbia, the floating city in the sky…yeah, that caught Booker off guard as well.
Like all Bioshock games, the story takes place in the past. Infinite takes place during the early 1900’s during the growth of American Exceptionalism. And Columbia, represents this American notion in a very pronounced and distorted way.
Once you arrive at Columbia, you are immediately introduced to many of the game’s themes. One thing that Bioshock does best is depicting a piece of past/present societies and pushing it to the extreme in order to make a point or to make people think about different issues. Infinite almost takes it up a notch, adding more themes which have even been considered as risky and/or controversial by some (ex. religion, racism, patriotism, anarchy, etc.) But, instead of taking these themes as offensive, they should be taken as informative. The intent of Bioshock Infinite is not to manipulate people into siding with a specific belief nor to criticize, it is merely to make people analyze the possibilities of how the extremes of any belief/practice can corrupt.
Shortly after arriving to Columbia, you are introduced to Elizabeth. She is the second protagonist of the game, and what I would call, your partner. I say this because she doesn’t just follow you around and get in your way while you’re trying to keep from getting shot. She actually helps you out and throws you some useful stuff during fire fights. She also finds coins for you and is pretty handy with lockpicks 😉 When you’re in the thick of it, she will always stay under cover and is never in danger of getting killed, so you don’t have to worry about keeping her alive as well as yourself. Aside from this, she is an extremely well written character, with a lot of intrigue. One of my favorite things about the game was definitely seeing the relationship between Elizabeth and Booker flourish.
See some hints at the story in the game’s launch trailer. Watch the mysterious and powerful Songbird pursue Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth, who are trying to make a desperate escape from the sky-city of Columbia.
Columbia, The Female Personification of The USA
One thing we can’t deny, is how amazing Columbia is. Themes and concepts aside, the mere aesthetics of it are absolutely amazing. From the breathtaking visuals, to the catchy tunes playing in the background, and even the snazzy conversations the people are having around you, it is extremely easy to become mesmerized and truly immersed in this bizarre steampunk-esque world. This game brings a welcoming pop of color to the franchise and even though the storyline can get pretty dark, the contrast of colors adds to that feeling of distortion that every Bioshock game does so well.
The Vigor…and Vertigo…of The Fight
In all honesty, I am not a huge fan of first-person shooters. In fact, it is extremely rare for me to play first-person shooters. To top it off, this might sound unrelated, but it is, I promise, I get horrible motion sickness/Vertigo. So, I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m playing Bioshock Infinite. First of all, the whole first-person shooter thing always makes me indecisive but I thought to myself, well, I played Bioshock and loved it. This looks like a good game so, I should give it a try. But THAN I saw the skylines and the crazy roller coaster scenes in the trailers…that’s when I thought, no.
I was almost certain I physically would not be able to play the game because every session would mean me feeling like I was going to lose my lunch because of my motion sickness. But, after seeing more footage of the game I was dead set that I had to play this game. I did my research and found an anti-motion sickness product called “Sea Bands”. They supposedly help for motion sickness due to traveling, boat rides, and even morning sickness. I thought, “why not”. They cost me $6 on Amazon and they arrived just in time for me to try them out on Bioshock Infinite. I never once got sick enough for me to have to stop playing. Which is extremely strange for me because my motion sickness is VERY bad. And Bioshock Infinite has many scenes that would make any one suffering from motion sickness upchuck their last meal. I want to think that they helped cause there were times where I did feel a bit light headed but never woozy or dizzy.
Plus, the combat is SO entertaining that maybe the fact that I was having so much fun, flying through the skylines, trying to kill baddies, makes you even forget that everything is spinning around you. Whatever it was, those moments really got my adrenaline pumping. Another thing about the skylines is that you have full control as to how fast you go on them. You don’t have to zip right through them. Also, a lot of times you could even avoid the skylines. There are times where you can’t avoid them, but they’re not a huge part of the game, I just saw them as a once-in-a-while treat to spice things up a bit.
So besides your obvious gun-wielding, Booker also has what are called Vigors. They are powers that you get throughout the game and like most powers in video games, you have your “power” bar that drains every time you use it. Salts replenish your power bar and you can switch from a variety of different powers. All very useful and very fun to use. I found out later on that you could even combine the powers making hunting down baddies even more entertaining. Along with your power bar, you have your typical health bar (that does not regenerate unless you eat food or use med packs), and a shield (that does regenerate on its own).
OVERALL SCORES OF AWESOMENESS
STORYLINE – 9.5
In my opinion, the story of Bioshock Infinite was very intriguing. I loved the complexity to it. Even though sometimes if felt like the plot was getting buried under another plot, the overall story remained consistent throughout the game. This is made evident once you beat the game. What Irrational Games did with the story of Bioshock Infinite, could have EASILY been ruined and maybe even full of plot holes, but it wasn’t. People undoubtedly will be left with questions in the end, but not because there was something missing. More because it was so intricate and full of details, that you are left with the need to know more. I didn’t give this a full 10 because as much as I loved the story, there was still slightly lacking when it came to the main “villain”, Comstock. Especially when comparing him to Andrew Ryan from Bioshock 1. I, personally, would have loved to see more of him. The potential was there, but he was usually kept behind the curtain.
GRAPHICS – 9.5
The graphics were absolutely stunning but the only reason why I dropped half a point was because I did encounter a few minor glitches. For example, highlighted items that were meant to be picked up, but you were unable to. If I really wanted that item, reloading would usually solve the problem but sometimes it just wasn’t worth it depending on where your last checkpoint was. I also encountered a few glitches with NPC’s but mostly with lip syncing and character animation. Again, nothing major, but I did notice it.
AUDIO – 10
The soundtrack of every Bioshock game has been composed by the great Garry Schyman. Again, he does an amazing job with the music in Bioshock Infinite. It made the slow scenes interesting and the adrenaline pumping scenes epic. I still remember my favorite part in Infinite and a lot of it had to do with the music playing at that moment. Top that off with those catchy tunes playing in old record players and you’ve got yourself an incredible atmosphere.
The voice acting was also extremely good. Troy Baker as Booker Dewitt did a fantastic job. I was so glad that Booker was a voiced character. It only made me connect more with him and it made the scenes with Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper) much more authentic.
The sounds of the vigors, guns, and even the enemies were perfect. I especially loved the Firemen and the Motorized Patriots. The Firemen were engulfed in fire so every now and then you could hear them coughing because of the smoke and the Patriots would lecture you about patriotism, representing The Founders of the USA, sporting the American flag, while gunning you down.
INGENUITY – 10
This game is truly one of a kind because not only does it mix in extremely entertaining gameplay but it also depicts many themes that make you think. There are so many distorted messages and complex concepts in this game that as much as they could be confusing it is truly refreshing to see video games taking a step towards maturity when it comes to the concepts being presented. If you analyze this game, there are so many obvious and hidden messages everywhere. Not many games could claim to be “smart” games. But this one, definitely could, and that is worthy of praise. I truly hope more developers make games that are for a mature audience in order to present complex issues or analyze and illustrate reality in ways that when we’re done playing the game, we could spend hours or days thinking about the issues presented in order to make us understand more about our past, our future, our society, our tendencies, and even ourselves.
REPLAY VALUE – 8
The replayability in this game lies in its story. Your first playthrough will take in between 12 to 18 hours. I could see people going back to play the game to pick up on things that they may have missed. Especially the details that seemed to be insignificant. In the end, you realize that nothing was insignificant and everything was done for a reason so, if you truly enjoy the game, the curiosity to go back and pick up on those hints will be there. There is also the intrigue of playing it in 1999 mode (highest difficulty) as a challenge. I could be wrong, but after that, I don’t think many people would go back to playing it for a 3rd or 4th time.
FUN FACTOR – 10
Everything aside, this game was extremely fun. The gameplay was a blast, the combat was exhilarating, Booker and Elizabeth were one of my favorite duos in a video game and every conversation they had was an absolute pleasure to listen to, and the storyline was just so intriguing and fun to try to wrap your head around. The further the game goes, the more hooked you become, for so many reasons. Simply put, it was an extremely fun game to play.
Note: You can visit our BioShock Infinite ending discussion here if you want to talk about the ending.