Ah, nothing like playing catch up with games that were released, debated, and ultimately put aside until the December of decisions where the various outlets decide upon their favorite game of the past year. But I feel as if I can get a bit of traction while nobody is talking about it, but namely know what the blazes I’m talking about when I’ll say Saints Row IV or Rayman Legends is my GOTY. Even though Bioshock Infinite is still quite good, but it is another Last of Us for me.
Bioshock Infinite Review
Release Date: 20/3/2013
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, Mac
Developers: Irrational Games and 2K Austrailia
Publisher: 2K Games
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit
Bioshock Infinite begins much like it’s 2007 predecessor, with the key differences being that the lighthouse is travelled to by boat, and the main character of Booker DeWitt has both a voice and personality in addition of going up into the sky instead of down into the sea. That, and he has a reason to travel to the aforementioned lighthouse to get a girl named Elizabeth and clear away his gambling debts. A fairly simple premise to a story that is almost bursting at the seams with ideas that were most likely accumulated into a large ball over the very lengthy development period.
Upon entering the overly idealized and downright gorgeous city of Columbia, a city best described as the America that never was, except ten thousand feet in the air. Booker is identified as a False Shepherd, who will destroy the society built over the past several years by Zachary Comstock. A self-declared prophet who made a supposed utopia filled with scientific advancements beyond one’s wildest dreams, but as to be expected, is already tainted long before Booker arrives, and sends the city plummeting into a berserk panic.
At least for the first half, when the combat sections are broken up in between scenes filled with happy-go-lucky citizens enjoying their problem free lives. Beautifully complemented by propaganda featuring loudspeakers spouting about how the Irish and Negroes can’t get eight-hour work days or they will become corrupted to rape the white women. With the more or less princess hidden away in a castle, Elizabeth poking around and enjoying the freedom given by merely living in the world as Booker takes in this innocent little slice of non-heaven.
All of which could make for a game that I would very much love to play by itself. But Bioshock Infinite takes things in a different direction due to how Elizabeth has the ability to alter space and time through something known as Tears. These Tears very quickly become a major part of the plot along with going to Comstock and kicking him in his Santa beard. With the overall issue being how I couldn’t help but feel as if the Tears were an idea introduced after the game had its first public showing, and presumably a lot of work made on the game. As such the narrative, while complete and certainly interesting if a little bit hectic. Though, it could be due to how things work out in the gameplay section.
I said about a week ago in my Ys Chronicles Review how the blend of action heavy gameplay and a heafy narrative did not work in the aforementioned title, and it doesn’t in most cases. Hell, I actually recall saying that I wanted Bioshock Infinite to be a game where you walked and story progressed, if only so that the gameplay would not detract from everything else the game has to offer. And, unfortunately, it did for me. As the game broke the barriers of being a scavenge heavy semi-horror shooter into being the ever more common actiony one, at least for the most part.
With a two gun system, the ability to latch onto rails that send you across the rather large combat areas, and even a shield for good measure as health kids are so 1999, Grandpa. The combat could’ve been all but repurposed into something devoid of the Bioshock name as the departure is so drastic, except for the Plasmids, sorry, I meant Vigors. Whereas the first Bioshock was very much built around Adam, which was the reasoning behind the main character’s ability to shoot bees from his hands, the ones included in Infinite feel far less present from the narrative saide. After seeing them used by one antagonist and in a technology centric fair ground, they are more or less unmentioned by anyone else.
With their overall source of power being even more confusing, as they are powered by Salt. Which is replenished by consuming a blue liquid, tea, soda pop, or smoking a Cigarette. While things like a bag of chips of peanuts are used for health. It feels very tacked on if you know what I’m saying, even though I actually do find the Vigors to be an integral part of the gameplay, which I do very much enjoy by itself
It is a runner and gunner where you are rapidly going across a semi-destroyed to completely screwed section of Columbia, impulsively going through the series of enemies. While occasionally telling Elizabeth to open up a Tear to give you allies, cover, health packs, and weapons. While assisting you further by tossing ammo, Salts, and health when you are doing poorly, or a giant robot-man came into the fray, while you only have a shotgun and machine gun to try and take down his jump happy rump.
With the switching between weapons, quickness of picking up another, and combination with the Vigors adding flavor unique to Bioshock Infinite. Not that I think it is even close to a flawless system, due to two main issues. One being the overall scope of the area, but lack of any hud piece to assist you in locating that one guy behind a bit of scenery, or just being able to figure out where enemies are in general, as you can be in an environment the size of three city blocks. With two being how I never saw much need to make use of half of the Vigors at my disposal. With fireballs, lightning, possession, and crows being my go-tos, as every other one gather dusted after I tested it once.
Some may say that the combos are just a given player’s style, and the set is based on what the individual likes to use. A valid excuse, except for how you pretty much should only stick with a handful of Vigors, as there is no Adam substitute to buy powers with. Removing the feeling of having everything you could possibly need that Bioshock, and to a greater extent its numbered sequel, invoked. Now money controls your powers ups, instead of being that nuisance that always stopped at 500 despite having four digits visible.
In theory, this is a pretty interesting compression of your resources, except for how it makes the act of buying ammo or medical supplies seem like you’re throwing it away, as the game is still a savage ‘em up. Or it would be if not for how the combat more or less removes that mindset. I couldn’t help but feel a trifle bit dumb as I had to end up scanning the very object heavy environments for guns and supplies. All because even when the game does take a routine break from the action, I felt a sense of unwelcomed urgency that I should keep moving and only stop to grab a coin tossed by Elizabeth.
Though, the collectables are something that very much embodied this anxiety, as my inability to collect all 117 of them made me feel like I had somehow failed at something expected of anybody who was playing the game. The collectables, in the form of audio logs and Kinetoscopes detailing Columbia’s past, are not necessarily hard to miss, but as the counter regularly popped up and informed me of how I still had X more to go, I felt as if I should’ve been using a guide to hamper my apparently terrible sense of direction. Which sounds about as petty as one could get, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was the most prominent thing in my mind for half of my sixteen hour run. That, and how much I disliked the checkpoint system and the fact that those stupid Vita chambers were brought back.
Although, one thing that I have nothing but lovely things about is the environment. With Columbia being beautiful regardless of how much devastation it has undergone. With a plethora of well placed history of the downright gorgeous city scattered throughout, along with next to every area feeling distinct in its own way. While the graphical fidelity might not be the highest, it manages to find a nice balance between simulating reality and craft its own colorful, patriotic, and at times racist world. As it is one that while ideal in theory, is ultimately shaky, and detailed to the point that it is upsetting to see it crumble.
Bioshock Infinite is a game that I feel like sleeping on the whole, “I played this Ex Post Facto, so I expected fine Red Velvet cake, not a large and tasty chocolate muffin.” I cannot deny the care in its craftsmanship, and the quality of its assets. But when they all come together I can’t help but feel as if I’m glossing over a handful of details that make the game so great, because I was too busy looking for collectables than finding that secret signing black lady. Or in other words, I still think the game is very much good, great even, but it’s all over again where I feel bad for not being able to like it enough to be a normal human being.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.