While I fell in love with the original Bioshock soon after purchasing my Xbox 360 and ran through the sequel shortly afterward since I just couldn't get enough of it, I was originally hesitant to purchase Bioshock Infinite. A large part of what I had loved was the creepy atmosphere of Rapture and how the game had combined the first person shooter genre with survival horror. Infinite on the other hand was set on a floating city, and I didn't think that open world would excite me as much. I was also nervous about the need to navigate the skyline, something that originally sounded a bit like 3D platforming, and various mentions I'd seen where they were trying to make the game more challenging by not giving you all your special powers to access at any given time. Since I'm not that great a player, I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it through the game.
However it was many glowing reviews that primarily focused on how good the
story was that inevitably drew me in and made me decide to give it a
chance. Since I'm writing this review, you can probably guess that I
was in fact able to beat the game, and you are right. Of course, I did
play on easy difficulty, but that's pretty much a given for me when
we're talking about games.
While it has been a while since I played the other two games, I feel
confident in saying that they did up the difficulty this time around, at
least for my own personal skills. You're not really limited on your
vigors (aka magic) as once you find a vigor you have the skill - it's
just that you only can have two at the ready to switch between. But you
can easily jump into your inventory of them and select another one when
you need it. What you are truly limited on is your guns, as you can
only hold two at a time. You're able to store all kinds of ammo all
over your person to the point that a real man wouldn't be able to move
because his pockets would be so stuffed, but we need realism so no you
can't hold a pistol, shotgun, and a machine gun. Don't be
silly. This is a fairly minor complaint though, as at least on the easy
setting, your enemies drop their guns and there were also tons of other
guns just lying around waiting for me to pick them up. It's difficult
to do that in the middle of a fight, but not impossible.
not a fan of shooters, the combat sections were definitely my least
favorite part of the game. I would find myself wishing to just continue
the story instead of having to fight through yet another wave of
enemies. While it may just be the fact that this type of game play was a
near constant struggle for me, I'd also say that the combat is not well
integrated into the story. Sure, the bad guy wants to stop us by
sending his men after us, and there is also a revolution going on so
there are bound to be fights that you're going to stumble into. I just
never felt like slaughtering all those men was really important to the
main story of trying to help Elizabeth escape. Or maybe it's just that
the fights don't really change at all throughout the game, the only
differences being that the men eventually have heavier armor on and have
more brutal weapons. I know that's largely the point of shooters, but I
guess what I'm saying is this should have been something more like an
adventure game where more focus could be put on using puzzles to unwrap
the complexities of the story.
That disconnect meant that I
probably didn't take full advantage of the vigor system like I should
have. I found myself being really impatient and just trying to shoot
everyone. It was quite frequent that I saw the message "Remember to use
your vigors!" after a fight because the game was chiding me for not
taking advantage of them. So what I'm saying is I may have made this
game harder on myself than it needed to be.
The story itself is
worthy of the praise it's getting. While definitely not Rapture,
Columbia is a well built world that has its own atmosphere, relying more
on shock this time around rather than creepiness. Once again, they've
put music to great effect to aid the atmosphere, using both old songs of
the time period along with re-imaginings of modern songs done in the
old style to go along with the fact that this is set in an alternate
universe from our own. Some of the songs are so different that I didn't
recognize them at first, and I hope they are able to release a
soundtrack at some point so I can have them all. There is an "inspired by" soundtrack, but it doesn't have any of those great covers on it.
there is the journey of our protagonist Booker and your companion
Elizabeth. They went to great lengths when the game was being promoted
to assure you that you would not have to protect her the entire time
throughout the game, and that she was not just there to be a love
interest. They were not lying. Elizabeth actually ends up being more
like a game genie code almost, the way she will toss you ammo and first
aid during battle and then coins while you are exploring areas. She
even points out where to find lock picks in case you are rushing through
an area and miss them yourself. She also does not have a health bar at
all. There were times when I had to laugh because she was supposedly
taking cover from enemies but she was actually more in their way then I
was. Lucky for her the bullets just passed right through her. Her help
does have limits though, especially the further you get into the game.
There were times when she would shout to me "I'm still looking!" which
I'm guessing is probably some time related bit of code where she wasn't
going to give me another freebie for a certain amount of time even
though I was running low. But she saved me more often than not, and at
some points of the game I didn't see any point in purchasing ammo when I
knew she would just give it to me once the fight started.
my occasional frustrations, I mostly blame them on myself and my poor
skills at playing these types of games. People who are more comfortable
with shooters would probably have a much easier time of it. While the
final battle is a sharp increase in difficulty compared to a lot of what
you have been doing previously, it's not impossible. And the fact that
it is a battle rather than a specific boss makes for something a bit
more interesting than this type of game normally throws at you. The
story most definitely makes it all worthwhile, and it hits some great
emotional notes while also having a bit of humor tossed in thanks to the Lutece twins. If you follow me on twitter, you may remember Jak and I pretending to be them on my birthday this year.
The rest of the review under the cut will deal with spoilers for the end game.
the final battle is done, the game continues for quite a bit. It's not
just a cut scene explaining it but actually allows you to continue to
control Booker, making you feel like you're more personally involved in
what's happening while they dump exposition on you. I'll also admit
that I gasped out loud when we were suddenly in Rapture. I loved that
world so much, and a part of me was thinking that the game was going to
somehow find a way to connect the threads between the two worlds,
showing how Columbia could lead to Rapture. Unfortunately, it didn't
really do that.
I thought the slowly unfurling story of realizing
that Elizabeth was actually Booker's daughter, and how he lost her so
many years ago was really well done. It was heartbreaking to experience
that revelation with him and be able to do nothing. The game really
took it's time in explaining it, and since quantum theory isn't exactly a
simple concept, that was a very good idea. That twist is great and it
all makes sense and works really well. But then in the last few moments
the game decides that isn't enough and drops yet another bomb on you, of Booker and Comstock being the same man.
And instead of explaining it in any given way, it literally just fades
to black. It's clear they were going for a WTF moment, leaving you with
that thought while you sit through the credits. There's then a very
quick scene after the credits that's basically just the Inception spinning top moment.
problem I have with it is that the game seems to be suggesting that
every man has in him the ability to be a racist overly religious
dictator, a revolutionary who would fight completely against those
ideas, and a man who doesn't care about any of that and just wants his
daughter back. I feel like that's taking too many leaps or at least not
giving us anywhere enough of the big picture to understand how that
could happen. When it flat out suggests that the only thing that
dictates him becoming evil is whether or not he is baptized, it's just
plain wrong. There's also the fact that the post credits scene, of
Booker going into the room to look for baby Anna, happens later on the
timeline than his baptism. So if drowning him at his baptism means
anything beyond that point in time is erased, than Anna was never born.
You can't use that moment to kill off the bad guy but also let the
good guy live. That's cheating.
Like any other shocking
revelation ending, the further away I get from it, the less angry I am
and more forgiving I feel about the whole thing (I finished the game months before this review was posted). While I still don't
entirely agree with the idea, I can appreciate it for what they were
trying to do. It's also a much better ending than either of the
previous BioShock games got, and a lot stronger than nearly any other
series I can think of, except for maybe Metal Gear Solid.
do find myself wondering where the series can go from here though. The
appearance of Rapture was certainly a suggestion that the stories were
linked in some fashion, and largely felt like an ending for all of it,
not just this one story.
There's also the fact that from System Shock 2 to BioShock Infinite,
they've only barely tweaked the formula. Someone contacts you to meet up with them, and when you finally
do they are not who you think they are, and the bad
guy isn't entirely a bad guy like you thought they were. The mechanics
of game play are also repetitive, with vigors/plasmids/psionic abilities
recurring in similar fashions throughout the series. While there's an
element of fun to being able to use them, I can't help but think they
are starting to feel old hat at this point. If they do come out with
another game, I think they need to strongly reinvent the wheel in some
fashion to try to make this series feel new and refreshing again.
That said, I can't deny that I will be purchasing Burial at Sea, the Rapture set DLC for the game. I love Rapture, and I love the idea of getting to walk around the place before it all went to hell. I just have a feeling I'm still going to be a bit annoyed with the game play.