Name - Bioshock Infinite
Developer - Irrational Games
Publisher – 2K Games
Available Platforms – Xbox 360, PC and PS3
Bioshock Infinite, developed by Irrational Games, is the third installment in the Bioshock series.
Unlike the previous Bioshock titles, which took place in the underwater utopia known as Rapture, Infinite is set in Columbia, a city-state floating in the sky, styled in the theme of turn-of-the-century America. The plot of Infinite is focused on Booker DeWitt – a former Pinkerton agent with a troubled past, who is given a chance at redemption if he brings a girl named Elizabeth from Columbia back down to the ground, which, is not as easy as it sounds. Infinite carries over many themes, traits, and gameplay features as found in the past Bioshock titles to which the Bioshock fan can cheer to – but Infinite leaves out certain features of its predecessors which, can be called as somewhat questionable choices.
Carrying on the tradition of the series, Infinite grabs you by the helm right away by enthralling you with its graphic and audio qualities. Hands down, Bioshock Infinite has the best audio work that I have experienced in a video game. The voice acting, soundtrack, weapons, and even the background ambiance are done superbly well, in quality and finesse. The art direction, combined with the maxing out of the Unreal Engine that Infinite utilizes, is a breathtaking treat. The lethal combination of unparalleled audio and visual excellence, results in the creation of the living, breathing, and utterly believable city of Columbia. To replay the game would feel like revisiting the city, rather than simply to play it through again.
BIOSHOCK INFINITE GRABS YOU BY THE HELM RIGHT AWAYThe plot of Infinite is quite intriguing sometimes, albeit rather predictable. The journey to bring Elizabeth back to the mainland is anything but straightforward, and it takes you through nearly every nook and cranny of Columbia, where someone is always out for your head. As the previous Bioshock titles, there are distinct moral themes such as religion and capitalism, are to be found in Infinite. With the exception of racism, which was portrayed in the same way as our history books did in 4th grade. These themes are usually presented in a way which makes the player look at them through a different perspective. This series trademark carries over just as well into Infinite, and it very much so pleases me to say so. The locations in the game are varied and portrayed with exceptional artistic finesse, and the pacing of the game is well done, but nothing to write home about. While it is not anything truly extraordinary, Bioshock Infinite delivers a solid plot, laced with at times incredible environments and locations as well as the moral themes mentioned earlier, layered with fair pacing.
In the respect of gameplay, Infinite falls flat on its face. The two biggest let-downs in Infinite’s gameplay are the ‘shield’ system and the inability to pick up medical kits and ‘Salts’ to use at a later time. The shield massively decreases the difficulty of the game. By decreasing the difficulty the other staples of the traditional Bioshock experience, such as looting and using a variety of weapons and plasmids to overcome opponents, become no longer necessary. And in turn, this turns the game into a more boring, straightforward experience, as looting for survival and exploring nooks and crannies for bonuses and rewards are no longer as necessary as they were before. The removal of pickups is simply baffling. It makes killing the enemy a much less rewarding experience and turns it into something more tedious, which should never happen in a game. The AI in Infinite openly presents itself as mindless cannon fodder. They never take cover and will instead stand in an open space shooting quite poorly at you. For a highly-touted AAA title with a massive budget and a $60 selling price, this is simply inexcusable.
NONE OF THESE ENEMIES ARE AS CHALLENGING OR SCARY AS THE BIG DADDIES OF RAPTUREIn addition, there is a pathetic variety of character models in between the different factions that try to kill you. It isn’t 1999 anymore, and a game that boasts of high-level art direction such as Bioshock Infinite has no excuse to have only 4 models per faction. The intense fights that were had with the Big Daddies and the Big Sisters in previous Bioshock installments have been replaced in Infinite with the Patriot, the Fireman, and the Handyman. None of these enemies are as challenging or scary as the Big Daddies of the original Bioshock. To a series fan like me, that is very, very disappointing. With the exception of the Patriot, a motorized robot armed with a heavy machine gun which yells propaganda as it tries to mow you down; the enemies you fight are unimaginative.
What were known as plasmids in the previous Bioshock titles are now called “Vigors” in the Infinite universe. Ultimately, these vigors lacked punch, and were more focused on stunning the enemy rather than flatly trying to kill them. In the original Bioshock, I had some jolly and sadistic fun in burning my enemies alive and then finishing them off by dispatching a storm of bees to sting them to death, but there is no such fun to be had for me in Infinite. Sure, I can throw enemies into the air and shoot at them while they’re hopelessly floating around. Sure, I can shoo enemies away by hitting them with a jet of water. And yeah, I can summon a group of crows to poke my enemies for a while and make them look miserable. But really, there is only one vigor which, gives heavy damage right away, and the majority of vigors were focused mostly on distraction and minor damage. This led me to relying on only two vigors for most of the game, Possession and Devil’s Kiss, neither of which were as sadistically entertaining or gripping as the plasmids from the Bioshock games set in Rapture.
THE VIGORS IN BIOSHOCK INFINITE LACK PUNCHThe vending machines are another source of disappointment. While they do offer significant upgrades for both vigors and weapons, the upgrades are no longer shown as visible attachments to your weapon. I found myself using the vending machines very rarely in-game, in contrast to my experience playing the original Bioshock. This is partly because I found whatever I needed through looting shelves and corpses, as well as the lackluster challenge that the AI offered me. In combat, Elizabeth provided a unique and useful benefit by using ‘tears’ in the fabric of time and space. There are several tears to choose from and only one can be selected at a time. While the tears are indeed useful and can add intensity to a firefight, you can beat the game with ease without using any of them. A part of me longs that these tears would have been more powerful, hoping they amounted to something more. Elizabeth also assisted in firefights by providing you with medical kits, as well as weapons and ammo. But after getting a medical kit from her right when I was about to die on 5 different occasions it became rather predictable and…well, unrealistic. The same also applies to salts. Overall, gameplay in Bioshock Infinite feels terribly repetitive and oversimplified – a disappointing step backward from its predecessors.
The characters in Infinite are hit-or-miss. DeWitt is remarkable as he is the first character in the Bioshock series to have a personality. As you play Infinite, he will commonly have his own commentary. To some, this may come off as annoying or unnecessary, but I found it refreshing to finally be able to play a first person shooter through a character that answers questions directed at him and that actively engages with his environment, and the situations he is put in. Elizabeth is a great companion character, when taking everything into account. Her dialogue and development are extremely well done throughout the game, albeit with some stutters (Yelling “The building is coming down!” while the building is clearly collapsing is quite…redundant). Her transition from innocent, excitable girl to intelligent, overseeing woman is smooth and quite possibly what Infinite did best in terms of plot and gameplay. You’re more likely, than not to create a bond with Elizabeth as you’re playing, which is much more that you can expect from most companion characters in today’s video games.
ELIZABETH IS A GREAT COMPANION CHARACTER, WHEN TAKING EVERYTHING INTO ACCOUNT
Zachary Hale Comstock, the primary antagonist in Infinite, is always distant from the protagonists. There are only two or three direct encounters with Comstock, and each are quite short. However, references to him and symbols of his cult of personality can be found everywhere in Columbia. Without giving too much of the plot away, Comstock is a fairly clichéd persona, comparable to a corrupt despot in the modern world, such as Kim Jong-il, but he does develop in the plot of Infinite.
The side antagonists are razor thin and utterly forgettable mid-game. Cornelius Slate, Cornelius Slate, Daisy Fitzroy, and Jeremiah Fink, all find quite laughable excuses, which they severely over dramatize, to summon their personal armies to set out and kill you. The feral ghost of Lady Comstock was what I found to be a serious misuse of potential. Instead of bringing back the famed suspense and fear factor from the original Bioshock, or even creating an Alma-like character from the F.E.A.R. series, Irrational creates her into some sort of spiritual boss who loves to raise the dead in inopportune moments to…of course kill you. While the side antagonists in previous installments of the Bioshock series used insanity as the main reason to put up a fight against the protagonist, these villains have no such excuse, nor a substitute for it. By making nearly all the side characters in Infinite one dimensional and out to kill you, it is robbed of potential depth and becomes tedious later in the game.
VISITING COLUMBIA WILL TAKE YOU ON A PRETTY SHALLOW AND SOMETIMES PREDICTABLE JOURNEYThe characters found in the tapes scattered throughout Columbia generally have nothing interesting to say, and like the villains, are thin, predictable, and forgettable. They offer no perspective on their lives, the history of Columbia, and no intelligent thought on the philosophies of racism, capitalism, or the Comstock-worship found in the city. This is a large step back from the original Bioshock game, in which characters gave fresh insights into their lives in Rapture, from which the protagonist could gain a clear understanding of the history of the underwater city, as well as what led to its downfall. Ultimately, the characters found in Bioshock Infinite are neither extraordinary nor downright terrible, but rather a fairly mediocre line in between.
To conclude, there is nothing truly wrong in Bioshock Infinite.
Everything in the game works, and for the most part, works quite well. It mightily delivers in the audio and visual departments. The gameplay, despite its degrade in difficulty as compared to the series predecessors in difficulty and variety, is fun and can get intense at moments. However, it is within the plot and characters, as well as some questionable AI design in which Infinite stumbles. As a Bioshock fan, I did not find it to be as satisfying an experience as the original game and the sequel. For an audio-visual treat and fun experience, Bioshock Infinite is well worth your money. For those seeking a challenge or an intriguing plot, Infinite shouldn’t be a first choice. Visiting Columbia will take you on a pretty shallow and sometimes predictable journey, but a journey nonetheless.
PS: I understand that my review of the game is late, but 80% of it was completed within the same week I completed the game. I seriously procrastinated on editing it and wrapping it up.