BioShock Infinite review
A million shades of grey
(Note: the following contain mild spoilers from the game. I will surmise at the top of spoiler-laden paragraphs spoiler-free... uh, summaries.)
that wasn't awkward at all
That's all I was thinking after completing Irrational's latest masterpiece, BioShock Infinite. My mind was officially blown. Not because of the immense atmosphere, juxtaposed by the highs of the soaring, majestic skyscapes of the floating, seemingly perfect city of Colombia, and the lows of its gritty underbelly, rife with racism, sexism, corruption by its cult-like leader who sends waves of his city's forces against anyone who stands in the ways of his ambitious goals. Nor the near-perfect shooting, with Irrational learning from their mistakes their first two takes on the series. It was the single most poignant, thought-provoking, complex, spine-chilling narrative that will make you want to cry, shout, cheer and yell out in anger at your television once that final piano key strikes. Perhaps I'll be embarrassed when I look back on this years down the road (hell, maybe next week), but moments after completing this incredible experience I can only feel that BioShock Infinite is the best videogame ever created.
Mother*bleep*er. I can't believe it myself. A first person shooter game from this generation of overall meh is, in my opinion, the best thing ever made in this industry. Not that I'm saying the fps genre is bad, not at all. The fps is probably my favorite genre, which is why this gen has been so painful for me and others alike to endure. Almost every single fps released is trying to be Call of Duty. Which sucks. That series is the embodiment of everything that's wrong with the industry. Sure, Call of Duty 4 was a breath of fresh air after years of Nazi shooting, but when the series does nothing else to improve and just becomes a yearly rehash of the same shit, with fifty other developers trying to copy it so it can leech some sales from the juggernaut, the smoke's in the air. But Irrational tried. At least, two out of three this gen . I try to forget BioShock 2 exists (okay apparently this wasn't made by the same studio . I am ashamed)because it just seemed like a pathetic money-grab (which in hindsight is alright if it helped bolster the resources for this baby Jesus of a game). But BioShock (the original, that is) now seems like a breath of fresh air. How naive we all were back in 2007. We were waiting on baited breath for Valve's highly anticipated Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (HA), and didn't even know the next six-plus years would force us to endure the onslaught of grey/brown regen shit that was thrown at us year after mind-gratingly frustrating year. But BioShock is like a dream now. A hybrid fps/rpg with an incredibly well-written story and dense atmosphere that is considered by some to be the GOAT (it isn't). It wasn't the best shooter, it wasn't the best rpg, and it wasn't the best stealth game, but it featured a great, engaging story, now iconic boss figure, and "revolutionary" morality system (which it wasn't, it was honestly very mediocre). It was a great game that was nothing more than an aberration of what was yet to come, with Modern Warfare revolutionizing the industry a mere month and a half later. It's all okay now, fellow gamers, Infinite has arrived. We are saved by its divinity.
But of course, no game is perfect, even one as magical as Infinite. So just so I can focus on all the good later on, I'll expose the bad stuff. The save system is awful. Which is amazing considering it was really good in the past few games. You can no longer save yourself. The game is built on a series of autosaves that can only be accessed at the beginning of chapters or continue directly from your previous one. It sucks, and I have no clue why it's so, but whatevs. As a result, you can only have one file. Shit like this pisses me off to no end. This isn't 1996. It's mind boggling who thought this was a good idea, but there it is. Again, whatevs. The controls for the consoles is also wonky. To sprint you have to hold down the left stick and crouching is handled by pressing B. Which makes no sense as it could have been switched around. There's also other control complaints like iron sights could've been something else, but that's it. You can't change them on the consoles which is bull, but it's not that bad. There are also very few boss battles, and most of what people would call "boss battles" amounted to nothing but a huge force thrown at you with a bunch of heavy hitters intermittently thrown in. The battles themselves are fun, however, and more intense than what most boss battles can manage in other games. However, the biggest injustice in this game, is one I never would have thought would grace a Shock:
WHY?! WHY DOES SUCH A GREAT GAME HAVE TO CONFORM TO THE NORM OF THE GENRE??? IT CLEARLY ISN'T AFRAID TO BREAK EVERY OTHER CONVENTION, BUT IT MAKES YOU CARRY A TWO WEAPONS AND NO MORE THAN TWO WEAPONS AT A TIME. NOO. I DON'T LIKE THIS CHANGE AT ALLL.
Okay, it's out of me now. But yeah, *bleep* that.
And that's about all that's wrong with the game. Literally. Irrational made many, many changes to their formula, that may be perceived as poor by lovers of the series, but to me, they work perfectly with what they tried to do with the game, the series, and the genre as a whole.I'm going to talk about how much I love the story later, so I'll start with the easiest reviewable aspect: presentation. Unless you aren't by a computer, go check out some videos of the game. I'll wait until you wake up from the faint that awesomeness you just witnessed...
(very very very minor spoilers, so I won't write anything here... other than this of course)
But yeah, Infinite is probably the best looking game ever. I normally don't care very much about graphics, but I needed to pause a minute to take it all in once I ascended to the Heavens in my first minutes into the game. Your first taste of Colombia is in a hallowing church, with angelic music lightly careening from who knows where, and you come out in a serene, almost literal Eden of a garden, with the mother*bleep*ing Founding Fathers posed as huge statues dressed like mother*bleep*ing angels. It's both kickass and ethereal. If that doesn't make you want to buy this game, *bleep* you. Grow some nuts. But keep on, appreciated reader.
If you haven't played a BioShock game, just know that the games' graphics are ageless. Irrational strives for a semi-realistic but also cartoonish style for these games, which along with money to invest in their graphs, allows the games to stay fresh forever. Which is impressive because few games that depict real-ish models can achieve it. Most of the "ageless" games I think of are first-part Nintendo games from the GameCube and games like Half-Life 2 (which still looks awesome now). But BioShock, especially Infinite will always look good. As previously stated, the city itself is gorgeous, with many, many moving parts gently gliding about and high quantities of Sun drench every scene beautifully. Even on consoles the game is amazing looking, and I was in awe every step I took in Colombia.
Another improvement, however minor, is the interface received a face lift. Instead of the bulbous, vial-like health and plasmid bars stacked on each other, the health is moved to the top of the screen along with the shield bar (yeah, there's a regen shield if I forgot to mention it), and is slimmer and visually pleasing. The vigor bar is at the bottom, also slimmer, but this time is broken up in places to show how many uses of each power you have left. It's a really nice improvement that allows for quicker recognition of how the battle's going and, in turn, allows you to plan more easily on the fly. That's enough about that, how about the gameplay? (yeah, I'm shit at transitions. You're not an English teacher)
Gameplay is heavily improved to allow the series to become more of a shooter and less of a hybrid. The iron sights are perfect now, which was a small complaint from 2, but it's a nice addition to the already solid shooting of the series and allows it to be regarded as among the best of its peers. Plasmids are now Vigors, which are hybrids which dual serve as traps and attacks depending on how long you charge it, and only come in eight flavors now. It may sound restricting, but there's enough variety to satiate most players, as these vigors are only a compliment to the shooting. Stealth is non-existent. There are no longer wide-ish open areas to set traps for ignorant enemies. The game is a shooter more than anything, and the game is in the Half-Life mold of linear paths with branching sides that allow for some exploration. Which is the perfect FPS setup. But that also eliminates the stealth that was a lot of what made the first game so much fun. Fret not, though, because the battles this time around are huge. With the increased emphasis on shooting, you're given at least ten enemies per fight, with upwards of approximately 25 that come in waves and attack in groups with surrounding and smart team tactics. If you get yourself in the middle of a room, you'll quickly get surrounded and engulfed. If you hide in a small nook and set traps, the enemy won't come near you and take pot shots at you when you come out from cover. Smart AI is always nice to have in a game and helps improve immersion. When it's helping you in the form of the greatest escort/NPC/sidekick/damsel in distress in history, it's all for the best.
(note: minor spoilers from the game's story will be discussed in the following paragraph. Summary: ELIZABETH IS AMAZING)
I'm trying to keep the story and gameplay aspect away from each other in this review, but it's impossible because a core piece of your gameplay experience is in the form of Elizabeth: the reason you're on your journey and the biggest reason you'll want to continue playing. In order to pay your ambiguous debt, you're forced to take a girl from her home and take her to a mystery man only met in surreal dream-states. The girl however, is incredible. Her "home" is in a huge statue that is the main attraction of the city, and she has been trapped there her entire life. Early in the game, you meet her and she joins you as you attempt to return her to your metaphoric wolves. She also proves to be a key to your survival in combat (and during the narrative) as she provides you with health when you're dying, salts (refills for your vigor power) when you're low, ammo when you're about to resort to melee, and many different environmental allies that she supplies through time and space itself. Outside of combat she can pick locks which can find you money, gear that you deck yourself out with to improve your combative prowess (tonics from the last games), and vials that improve your your health, vigor and shield. She's also an amazing character, but I'll hit that later ()
While the two-weapon limit (and from here on out, will be referred to as "that-which-will-not-be-named", or "tofu") is atrocious, it does allow for experimentation for pairs of the game's numerous weapons. Offhand, there are probably around twenty different guns you can use during the game, and finding the two you like in combination gives the game a nice personal touch. You no longer need to find a once-used machine to upgrade them either. Certain vending machines allow you to pay and upgrade your weapons with four possible upgrades for each. And yes, vending machines make a return. They aren't easily distinguishable from each other unlike previously, however, they're normally bunched together so it doesn't matter. The two other machines are used to either upgrade your vigors or buy health, salts, ammo etc. That's not all you spend your money on, though. One of the worst parts of the Shock series is difficulty in conjunction with zero penalty for death. On the hardest difficult the games are abominable, but it takes the sting off entirely when you can just chip away at whatever killing you's health until they die. It's an difficult war of attrition with you having unlimited forces. Infinite remedies that, for the most part. When you die in a "normal" game, you lose $40 in Silver Eagles (the currency) and are either revived by Elizabeth or come out of your dreamy surreal office back into the game. It doesn't really take away the attrition part, but you literally pay for dying, so it's an improvement. However, there's a 1999 mode that you can either unlock on the main menu with a code, or unlock it after completing the game that only allows you to continue reviving if you have money, with an increase of $60 for a grand total of 100 per death, and when you die, you die for good. Also it's a lot harder than Hard mode (which is in turn much easier than previous games, but still challenging enough to make me turn it down during a very frustrating boss fight during the latter stages of the game), so there's that for the depraved masochists out there. Thankfully there's no forced multiplayer, so Irrational could focus their energy and money on crafting the perfect single player experience.
One of the heavily hyped parts of the gameplay is the addition of the skylines, magnetic tracks which allow fast travel through the city via small, hand-held devices that double as torture tools. They're not a big focus of the game, to be honest, but that's not a bad thing. It's true, they are fun as all hell to ride on and either snipe from your ever-moving position or go all ninja dudes firing at you and attack them from the skyline with your skyhook, which can delightfully decapitate anyone with enough force behind it. They're fun to use, but only meant to enhance certain battles rather than have the entire game built around them like a gimmick.
If there's one thing disappointing about the gameplay, it's the lack of variety in the enemies. There are regular mooks which carry different weapons, and a few mini-bosses that sometimes inflate their numbers. There's a cannon-wielding tank-like dude. A Fury ripoff in a diving suit that spits fire at you. A dude who shrouds himself with crows, carries a sword and shield, and can dissipate into the crows and travel quickly without taking damage (I know, *bleep*ing sweet), and motorized Presidential statues called "Patriots" that move quickly, shout patriotic phrases and shoot machine guns at you (cooler than almost anything). The most awesome part of these bosses are the "Founders" (read: a racist group that focus on the ideals of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin) use mostly those three versions, while the opposing group, the Voxes (mostly black and Irish people) use Lincoln. And when they fight each other I cum a little. It makes up for the lack of enemy variety by being so damn cool. But yeah, there's also turrets and other bosses to help matters, but it's a small crowd here. Not bad when they throw a bunch at you though.
If that doesn't get you pumped, consider suicide. Kidding! (not really) But if the gameplay doesn't sound appealing to you, pick this game up for its narrative. Because I have never played anything so engaging. So well-crafted. So expertly written and enthralling, than BioShock Infinite
(I will be spoiling a bit of the story here. Nothing major, I'll leave the important stuff out, but just a disclaimer. Read above: it's incredible)
Years ago, I played a dandy little game called Silent Hill 2, and it changed the way I thought a videogame could engage a player emotionally. All it took was a stroll through a game, a connection with the protagonist and his cause, and a bunch of symbolism and ambiguous sequences and dialogue that led to a heartbreaking finale to cement it as my favorite videogame narrative ever. Bastion tried valiantly to usurp it, but ultimately came up slightly short (which is nothing to be ashamed about). It took years, but I can finally carve another name above my mantle of favorite stories ever told. BioShock Infinite's story is that good. The premise is simple, and seemingly the opposite of what Irrational threw at us with the original BioShock: a power hungry man commissioned a city in the clouds and created a cult of personality around him and his religion and claimed to be a prophet. The exact opposite of Andrew Ryan's Rapture. You are a disgraced agent and former hero of the Battle of Wounded Knee who has fallen into a heavy debt after your wife and daughter died, and are presented a job to get a girl from the city of Colombia and take her to New York to pay your debt. It's an ambiguous beginning highlighted by a strange couple who row you to the entrance of the lighthouse that shoots you into the clouds (hmm), and a grisly torture scene warning you not to fail. It's hard to understand, but you're mesmerized by what you're seeing so it's all cool. And then it happens. You solve a quick puzzle and are transported on a chair into the *bleep*ing clouds.
Emerging in a church yada yada, and are eventually baptized by a priest and left to your own devices when you awaken. For over an hour, I wandered around the city, listening to every single conversation the citizens have, watching every single scene unfold, including a barber shop quartet singing on a flying barge, kids playing in a fire hydrant's water, and a freaking parade floating through the airy streets of Colombia. There are even cute little sight seeing things like telescopes that allow you to further gaze at the gorgeous scenes, and these adorable early twentieth century black and white grainy films that outline the background of the city in a heavily biased manner. Then, just when I thought I was getting to some combat, THERE'S A FAIR. So I spent another twenty minutes there playing all the games, practicing at the shooting ranges, watching the shows, and earning prizes until I got to A *bleep*ING RAFFLE. I picked up one of the number baseballs, was the last person there, AND ACTUALLY WON. And then it takes a major turn. What I won was the first throw of the baseball at an Irish/black couple on display. And when I was about to nail the *bleep* who ran the entire thing in the head, got found out as some kind of "false prophet" and was about to get "decapitated" by this "skyhook". "Pffft, yeah. *bleep* you, I'm a monster" I said to myself as I proceeded to take the dude's hook and beat his head off with it..
And that's how the game starts. I've never played a game so committed to its exposition. I'm sure if you speed through it you can complete it rather quickly, but just to have the option of strolling through at your own pace, taking in every single sight, every detail, is amazing. Irrational seriously committed to this project from the start, and it shows. They want you to become engaged to the character. They want you to enjoy the city before it all turns on you. Because that's what good storytellers do. But Irrational (let's be honest, it's mostly the immaculate Ken Levine) are GREAT storytellers. They prove it at every single turn in Infinite, and by the end, when that final piano key strikes, you will be left almost out of your mind with emotion, sitting there until you remember you're real. I don't want to spoil anything else here, but there are many twists in the story that will leave you yearning for more and questioning every thing you've learned about history, science fiction, and larger, hippy ideas like our place in the universe.. and stuff. If you aren't in total awe of what you've witnessed after the credits roll, check your pulse and count your brain cells. Oh and there's this
For some non-spoiler-y things, how about those annoying recordings and transcripts from the original game? Really long and boring, right? Well, I agree, me. In their place are these portable record players called voxophones that record notes and plot details in a concise manner. They're really appreciated after having to drudge through soo much dialogue and monologues and silly diaries from previous games, and really speeds up the game as a whole. A slight complaint about the storytelling itself is, in true Levine-y form, much of the finer details aren't stated explicitly in the main plot development parts, and much more is explained during exploration, through the voxophones, short films, or overheard conversations. If you explore like you should and pay attention, you'll be fine though. There's also Elizabeth. Did I mention she's awesome?
To sum it all up. please buy this game. Please buy it new. I had no clue I would be getting it. But on the day it was released, saw a commercial on television, had an extra $60 laying around and bought it on a whim. And for the past several days have been getting actively frustrated when I was forced to put it down and do something else. I've never fallen in love with a game like this, and you should give yourself a chance to as well. Please buy it, support Irrational. Support a change for the better. For the betterment of the genre, and industry as a whole.
Was this review helpful to you?
In order to comment on this user review you must login
About the author
Based on 3 reviewsWrite a review
- Is this game worth it? 4
- Things that bug me (spoilers) 1
- BioShock Collection leaked for PS4 and Xbox One by South African retailer 5
- Gear list 0
- best weapon combinations 18
- Bioshock Infinite youtube series 1
- A book Bioshock lovers are sure to enjoy 0
- BioShock Infinite's 'Burial at Sea - Episode 2' behind the scenes video sweetly spoils 0
- BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode Two coming March 25, here's Elizabeth with a crossbow 6
- Elizabeth and Booker return in BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 2 preview 2
- Burial at Sea - Episode Two [2 Minute Preview] 0
- Some Bioshock Questions ( please answer ) 0