BioShock Infinite review
Ambitious, excellent aspects but heavily flawed
I'm not going to tell you what Bioshock Infinites setting or story is, go google it if you want to know I'm just going to talk about my thoughts on it. That said, lets go!
I absolutely LOVED the setting of Bioshock Infinite. Stepping out into the temple of Comstock, with the rose petals and water, and that beautiful music was one of the most heartwarming things ever. The temple was so beautifully designed, the music so softly inspiring, I honestly felt warm fuzzy feelings flood my body.
This was nothing compared to the impact upon stepping outside of the temple area into Columbia proper. That moment even beats out the famous scene where you exit the Vault in Fallout 3. The scope of the city and backdrop, the colour palette, the NPC designs and the beautiful sky combines to punch you in the face with a fist of aesthetic beauty and impact, it left me absolutely dumbstruck. Hats off Irrational, that was amazing.
However, there is a huge sting in the tail. Whilst the setting LOOKS amazing, unfortunately the utter lack of meaningful interaction you can have in the world means it totally doesn't live up to its potential as one of the most amazing game worlds ever, and is just reduced to a standard arena with some unusually beautiful cardboard cutout NPCs/scenery. In addition the way the game progresses in its linear fashion really does not do justice to the setting, and I think it would have been much better utilized by featuring more RPG elements, and a more open world feel. It's a shame, I thought I was in for a real treat when I first saw the vista. That disappointment really stung.
I really didn't like the story of this game. I love the idea of multiverses and superposition of realities and such but I thought the story was really poorly handled. It just felt like the whole story was utterly and completely devoted to a few big mind*bleep*s, or a "blow your mind" moment at the great expense of, well, actual story. The whole time I was playing I felt like the game was snickering at me and whispering "harrr harrrr, there's something big we're not telling you!" and it really affected my ability to enjoy what was going on at the time. Parts of major characters motivations and backstory aren't even revealed until the endgame, which is totally stupid since it means you can't enjoy their characters while they're actually on screen (eg Slate, Comstock). I HATE stories that are obviously leading you towards a huge trippy twist. These kinds of twists should come around naturally, so you enjoy the story for what it is and then BAM mind blown on top of the usual enjoyment. When you know there will be a huge twist coming, it's not a twist. Its just an annoying distraction that stops you from being able to fully invest in the situations as they play out since you're mentally bracing yourself for some rug or another to be pulled out from under you. Personally, I think the really clever games are the ones that are thought provoking and make you reflect on your own (like the first Bioshock) rather than the ones that just contrive their way into a huge twist.
The big Comstock/Booker twist itself was so pointless as well. They showed literally no duality in Comstock and DeWitt, for all intents and purposes they were two completely different people except "oh btw they're actually the same LOL". There was no tangible link between Booker and Comstock and that is really childish writing to out of nowhere make them the same person just to shoehorn in their weird quantum handwavey multiverse bullshit.
My last real disappointment with the story of this game was how we are treated to a healthy, happy Columbia, but we get the sense of red hot social tensions lying under the surface. I was really looking forward to seeing how these would be expressed and how they would come to transform the city, and what part we would have to play in events to come. We got NONE of that. Instead, we get a "oh lol Elizabeth magicked us into a place where Columbia has already fallen". Literally, it was THAT shit. Insta-teleport from functional Columbia to ruined Columbia, at which point the setting devolved into standard Gears of War-esque dystopian devastation. What a freaking waste. Everything about that was stupid. It also happened right at a point where we were about to deliver guns to the revolutionaries. I was looking forward to the characters dealing with the moral implications of having instigated a bloody rebellion by arming the rebels...yet this too was taken away by Elizabeth's lolmagicquantum. We didn't actually give them the guns in the end we just magicked into a place where they already had them, thus managing to dodge yet another potentially fascinating plot point/character development. GG guys.
However on the plus side, Elizabeth and Booker were pretty great characters on their own. Also fantastic voice acting, and the characters looks and designs are intricate and soulful. Their relationship progresses and develops in a really natural way, and the interactions are really believable. In addition there were numerous seriously poignant moments, and I give Irrational mad cred for that, its hard to do in a market where games are oversaturated with attempts at poignancy. I'm skimming over the good points in a way, not because they aren't important but just because they're more simple than the problems I saw with the game. Don't get me wrong the good points are pretty damn great and that's why, despite the big problems, I gave this a 7/10.
I'm going to be more brief here, since my main axe to grind was how disappointed I was by the story. What I really liked about the gameplay was the way that the fights were difficult enough (I played on hard mode) that I had to use the environment to my full advantage, and the environment didn't disappoint. I was racing round on skyhooks, finding high ground, sniping and meleeing all over the place. It felt fast paced, frenetic and fun to blast round those super cool skyhooks, shooting all the while. Plus Elizabeth's tears were so much fun to use, and combined with the possession vigor encouraged some really fun and satisfying tactical thinking. Skyhooking up to a high ground, ripping a rocket turret through a dimensional tear to duke it out with the enemies on the ground, followed by possessing an enemy automaton to take out the heavy then the coup de grace of leaping from the skyhook to dismember a mook with your clawhand of doom feels freaking awesome. Had a blast with the environment in this game.
The shooting itself was functional, pretty fun at times, but far from the best FPS gunplay I've seen. The enemies were a bit boring, they were either one hit kill mooks, or really annoying tanks that were pretty dull to fight. There were some awesome enemies (like guys who can transform into a flock of crows and fly off at will, leading to some really sweet cat and mouse fights) but they were few and far between.
With the exception of possession, I thought the vigors were pretty lazy. They were just another way of dealing incremental damage, maybe incapacitate the enemies a bit, but didn't fit in or synergize with the gunplay in any meaningful way. I also thought they were really shoehorned into the narrative. The plasmids made sense in Bioshock, but vigors just felt forced in this story. Why would the religious citizens of Columbia be fine with drinking some liquid and giving them really dangerous, and frankly quite devilish powers? Everything's pretty peachy in their society, this isn't Rapture. Vigors just don't make sense in this world.
Despite its flaws, I think Infinite really was trying to make a more complex and engaging story and world. It made some great strides towards having a great setting, and they introduced us to some great characters. Most of the gameplay was really fun and I had a blast. However there were big aspects of the gameplay I actively had to ignore to have fun (vigors and poor enemies), which takes it down a peg. Furthermore a confusing and unengaging overall storyline which honestly has entirely too many missed opportunities disappointed me, leaving us with a 7/10.
About the author
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