Well Ladies and Gents, the game of the year came earlier than expected this year in the form of Irrational Games’ Bioshock Infinite. Yes, I know this is quite a bold statement considering some other really great games are due to come out this year and we are likely to see the addition of Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles. I still hold firm in my belief that Bioshock Infinite is a masterpiece in gaming. Now, I will be the first to admit I am not a huge fan of first person shooter games in general. It takes a lot more than just mindlessly killing people in whatever war to earn my money and keep my attention. Infinite is so much more than just a shooter. This game strikes all the right notes at all the right times. From start to finish you will find this game to be truly entertaining in ways that few games ever hope to reach.
Above video is a short gameplay sequence from near the beginning of the game
From start to finish Bioshock Infinite is a breathtakingly beautiful game. The game was expertly crafted using the Unreal Engine and if you take the time (which I highly recommend) you will lose yourself just wandering around and staring at the sights of Columbia. The environments are varied and the details are many and unique. Throughout the game you travel to many different areas of Columbia, some happy and peaceful, others torn or destroyed by conflict. Throughout the game small details are strategically placed that reinforce the themes of Columbia: service to your country, racial purity, religious worship and prophecy. It doesn’t matter where you are in Columbia, from raffle square to the run-downed Shanty town to combat on an airship or grinding from island to island on the skyrails, Bioshock Infinite is pure eye candy.
The action of Infinite is fast-paced and fun. Just like other Bioshock games, it combines the use of many different guns in your right hand with genetically enhanced powers in your left hand. These powers are called Vigors in Bioshock Infinite and do a variety of different things from setting your foes on fire to lifting them up in the air or summoning a flock of murderous crows to peck your enemies to death. Combos can be performed with these powers and there are many different types of guns you can use throughout the game. There is a wide variety of enemies to fight in the game which include some special heavy hitters that you will enjoy facing off against, such as the Motorized Patriot and Handyman. Also add in the aspects of skyline combat and having Elizabeth open up tears in reality really makes the game shine. The gripes that I have about Infinite’s gameplay are very small. I really enjoyed certain aspects of the previous Bioshock games that were not present in Infinite. I loved that in the previous installments you could always have every gun in your inventory. Infinite only allows you to carry two guns at any one time. You can swap out anytime you run across another gun you want, but that means leaving one that you already have behind. Two other aspects I miss from the other Bioshock games are hacking and research. I really enjoyed the minigames and the rewards associated with both. Also, in Infinite they replaced passive tonics with four gear slots. The gear you acquire throughout the game is a poor substitute for some of the awesome tonics you could acquire in Bioshock 1 and 2. I found many pieces of gear and none of them made me really say, “Wow! I need to equip this right now!” These minor complaints aside, Bioshock Infinite is still one of my top games of this generation and would probably earn a spot in my top 10 games of all time list.
Bioshock Infinite takes place in the year 1912. You enter the game as a man named Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton. You are in a rowboat out in the middle of a stormy sea. A mysterious man and woman are taking you to a lighthouse on a small island. Upon reaching the top of the lighthouse, you are launched into the sky in a rocket-chair. After ascending at least 15,000 feet into the air, you arrive at a floating city in the clouds, Columbia. You were sent to Columbia by your employers to retrieve a girl in order to wipe out a debt. If any of this sounds intriguing to you, this is just a very small tip of the iceberg that is Bioshock Infinite. This game has a deep thought-provoking storyline that you will find difficult to stop playing due to an intense desire to find out what happens next. Many mature and somewhat controversial themes are explored in this game such as religious fanaticism and racism. In this alternate version of history, a zealot named Comstock built Columbia to escape the sins of the Earth below. Comstock designed Columbia after a version of what he thought The United States of America should have been. The founding fathers Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are revered and there is a strong push for racial purity and separation. The Whites of Columbia live well-to-do lives of leisure and they have specifically brought in Irish, Blacks, and Chinese to be the labor force. This is what creates one of the major issues occurring in Columbia, as you soon learn a revolution is brewing because of the poor and unequal treatment of these people. Physics also plays a huge role in the story of this game. I won’t go into detail on that aspect because I do not wish to spoil any plot points of this amazing game. Let’s just say that the conclusion of Bioshock Infinite is one of the best game endings I have ever seen and it is quite mind-bending.
N/A – Every game doesn’t need a multiplayer mode
Infinite plays incredibly smooth. Movement is very responsive and quick. Using Vigors and weapons in conjuction is a blast and it is super easy to quickly swap them out for various situations. Whether you are walking, running, crouching, or flying through the air on the skyrails, the game feels fluid and natural. The best part of Bioshock Infinite is its characters and character development. This is the first game I have played that had an A.I. character that was actually helpful and did not elicit the desire for me to shoot them in the face at some point through the game. The main character of the game is the anti-hero Booker DeWitt, who is a gruff and seasoned fighter. Booker has a sordid past that he is trying to escape. Booker doesn’t shy away from violence and will stop at nothing to accomplish his mission of retrieving Elizabeth from Columbia as a means to an end. Booker is a man of action with somewhat limited intelligence, but lots of life experience. He is paired together with the sheltered young lady, Elizabeth, who has very little real-life experience, but is extremely well-versed in book knowledge. Elizabeth is no ordinary girl as she can somehow open up tears in reality to other worlds and bring objects into the current dimension. As Booker, you can see the tears that Elizabeth can open and can instruct her to do so, giving you access to allies, cover, weapons, and supplies. Elizabeth herself stays completely safe and out of the way during combat so you do not have to worry about her or try to protect her. She also provides you with exactly what you need sometimes even before you realize you need it. If you get low on health, she will throw you a medical kit, low on ammo and she will toss you some, even during breaks in the action she will occasionally give you extra money she has found. However, it is the relationship that forms throughout the adventure that is really great. By the end of the game, you will be deeply invested emotionally with her character. The last 30 minutes or so of the game drop several bombshells on you story-wise that will leave you pondering ideas for hours to come.
The soundtrack for Infinite is superb. Not only is the music varied, but it is also unique. I loved the fact that they took songs from other time periods and incorporated them into this amazing adventure and because of the story it completely makes sense. Some of these moments are subtle, but if you are paying attention, you will pick up on them. Several times throughout the game a song from a future time period was taken and adapted to the musical styles of that era. One example is that you will be walking on a beach early on in the game and in the background you will hear an instrumental version of the 80’s song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I encountered everything from religious hymns to Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” This different take on the game’s soundtrack and how it tied in with the story had me listening very closely to each song or to every radio or phonograph I came across in the game.
Above is a sample of some of the unique music found in Bioshock Infinite. Classic songs redone in early 1900’s style.
Bioshock Infinite is a must play game for any true gamer. Despite being delayed multiple times, Irrational Games and 2K really took their time and created an amazing game which lifts this media platform to new heights. The gameplay is fast, fun, and varied enough to keep you entertained throughout. The story is deep and thought-provoking and filled with interesting ideas and characters. The graphics are detailed and beautiful and combined with a unique soundtrack that ties in with the story. This is one of the few games that I encourage you to go out right now and pay full price for because it’s worth every penny and if you are a true fan, you should want to see the hard-working men and women that created this game get their due so we can see more great games from them in the future.