Title. Bioshock Infinite Developer. Irrational Games Platform(s). 360, PS3, PC UK Release date: Out Now RATED: 18
Bioshock took the gaming world by storm back in 2007, then Bioshock 2 continued to develop the world of Rapture, taking it in a new but familiar direction. Now we return to the iconic lighthouse where it all began; will we go down? Not this time…this time it’s different – this time we’re coming up from the depths of the ocean, to a new world.
In true Bioshock fashion we play a completely new character - Booker Dewitt, of which we know very little - all we know is he is on a boat rowing toward the iconic lighthouse and has been sent to find a girl named Elizabeth, he looks through a box with a picture of her and a weapon. As we approach the lighthouse a note on the door reads; ‘Dewitt – Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE’. Booker is clearly a character with a jaded past and the narrative goes about unlocking and shedding light on what turns out to be a very interesting back-story. Once we reach the lighthouse we follow a series of clues eventually leading us up to the top and to a sort of elevator that takes us up into the clouds, where we emerge at the awe inspiring floating city of Columbia.
Columbia contrary to Rapture - is full of normal people! You overhear day to day conversations, go into bars and see people interacting ‘normally’ quite simply in the early stages of the game you’ll want to explore the city in its immaculate state, because let’s face it – deep down you know it’s not going to stay that way. The city itself feels alive, ever shifting due to its floating nature, awash with striking architecture and incredible attention to detail; fruits on the trees and tiny humming birds weaving through the luscious scenery.
Despite Columbia being built with notions of ‘Exceptionalism’ it is not without its issues, for starters; It’s the 1900s so racism, slavery and oppression toward anyone not white is very apparent. However this is done in such away that it does not feel embellished or treated without due care. It is used effectively to give Columbia a political, ethical and industrial standpoint. Columbia is far from perfect but the surface is immaculate and it feels like what Rapture would be like before it’s fall. It is idealistic and veterans to the Bioshock franchise will note the visual architecture is similar to that of when you see the corridors of Rapture through the eyes of a Little Sister before it’s fall. I would be inclined to mention the link between heaven and hell, rapture being the latter.
Which brings me neatly on to the inhabitants of Columbia. Naturally, no Bioshock game would be complete without a fanatical ‘bad guy’. This role is filled by one Father Comstock, who claims to be able to see the future and proclaims himself the prophet… needless to say he is a bit weird. As it transpires his relationship to Elizabeth is not one that benefits you in the slightest, and thus he will try to stop you.
As the game progresses, you of course find Elizabeth, who as it turns out - has the ability to tear holes between space and time… meaning the game takes a very big change in direction upon meeting her: no spoilers. It is an unrelenting narrative that never stops being exciting, engaging and altogether surprising and I defy anyone to guess its direction. Furthermore I defy anyone to be disappointed. Infinite takes a brave trajectory that is thrilling yet difficult to follow at times, fear not however as the game is wrapped up so well and so unpredictable in it’s content that you will be truly amazed. Bioshock fans will of course expect a twist, but this is a twist that will turn your brain inside out…
The story is without doubt engaging enough to keep you playing, but the creative and highly varied gameplay will ensure you want to explore and relish every moment. Bioshock Infinite is not a cheap thrill, it is a fine wine that needs to be enjoyed unrushed and appreciated.
Let’s start with combat; from the off it is clear that it is different to previous Bioshock games, this may bother some players but as I go through this review you’ll begin to understand change is not always a bad thing.
The franchise always had an RPGish element of levelling yourself up but also brought in many elements of survival horror, conserving ammo, rifling through draws for an extra few bullets. I would have to say that Infinite is more Arcadey in it’s style, it is less about resource management and more about player skill. To start with, Ammo is not an issue and compared to previous Bioshock games, you will feel like a rich person, with money always available, but more on why later.
The primary change is our protagonist - despite being human, Booker feels a lot more powerful than the previous characters, this is largely due to the addition of a rechargeable shield, which makes him very durable due to rate the thing recharges. Clearly for balance issues they have taken away the ability to store med packs, but this does little to stop the Master Chief style shoot, hide behind cover, recharge and never die.
I would like to say this was the only ‘over powered’ feature, but with the addition of the new Gear options, in which Booker can equip up to 4 items in each slot, these are filled with a wide range of gear found throughout Columbia, certain pieces in true RPG fashion turn you into a killing machine. For example the gear combo I used meant I had 50% crit damage + a fully upgraded sniper rifle… meant I could one shot most things. There is also an item that increases your shield recharge rate by 50%... making the game a walk in the park.
So what else does infinite have? Plasmids now known as Vigors are of course a staple part of Bioshock, and along with the familiar lightning, fire and hypnotising abilities, Infinite introduces a few new abilities, namely the Crows that peck people to death and the bucking bronco which sends your foes helpless into the air (see below). Adam and Eve also do not exist, instead we rely on Salt (not that kind of salt) to fuel our new found powers. In addition unlike the reasonably well explained Plasmids and their link to Adam, Vigors lack the backstory and Salt is completely unexplained. This bothered me slightly as they felt a bit like a bolt on.
All of these new features would not have such a big aspect on combat if it weren’t for the ease of unlocking them, for example; gone are the ‘power to the people stations’, both weapon and Vigor upgrades are purchased through vending machines and like I said money is everywhere so I felt I earned very little. However I did search for gear, and rarely turned up to a fight unprepared.
New features don’t stop there; the Sky Hook is the new melee weapon and is used in two great ways. Firstly to glide around the Skylines which are railways of the sky and are how many people get from one place to another and secondly to beat people to death with… if that wasn’t enough you can combine the two, ride a skyline then jump down and beat someone to death…
So with all this ‘Over Powered’ spouting I have done, how does combat work? Well despite my feelings of steamrolling my way through the game, combat was always enjoyable, creative and never felt repetitive. There are plenty of choices of weapons to suit different styles, all feel unique, well animated and have a real weight to them; every shot feels like it’s doing damage and explosions have great impact.
Enemies have health bars like previous Bioshock games, but that’s about where the similarities end. Most of your foes come under the generic enforcer type, shooting wildly and rather predictable in their movements. However dispatching of these foes is great fun and does add to the feeling of being a bad ass. The fun really starts when you begin to encounter the more elite enemies such as the; Handy Man – a man in a mech suit that – you guessed it – has massive hands, deals mass amounts of damage and can only be killed easily by shooting his weak spot. You will also encounter enemies wielding vigors; both the Fire Men and the Crow Men are formidable foes that require quick change in tactics (I’ll let you work it out). Finally, the Centurions, which are big robots that take a beating and, like the Handy Man, they have a weak spot. I would have to say Infinite lacks the variety of enemy seen in previous games, they also lack the complex movements of the Splicers and the terror inducing Big Daddies.
However despite this, combat really is fantastic. I just felt on normal mode it was a bit easy, not un-enjoyable, just easy.
Elizabeth, not only plays a huge role in the story, she is a big part of the overall gameplay, supplying you with ammo, health and unlocking doors (the main way to find gear and upgrades). She is a huge part of what makes the game easier than previous Bioshocks. Not only is she useful, she does it with style! She leans against walls as you explore, and occasionally you will see her hunting for gear. She hides behind walls during combat and for the most part reacts appropriately during combat i.e. not standing in front of enemies.
Presentation is incredible, however you can see the age of the consoles starting to show as textures don’t seem as crisp as they should (this is not an issue on the PC version). Sound is flawless with every draw opening, person screaming, gun firing… perfect and adds to the immersiveness of Columbia. If that wasn’t enough Bioshock Infinite has one of the most well thought out soundtracks, with current tunes played in a 1900’s style! Simply amazing.
So, important to note there is no multiplayer! But with such a substantial single player experience 15+ hours it really does not matter. In fact, I am incredibly happy to see that Irrational Games have not felt pressured to include one. There are a wealth of Collectables to further develop the story and some great achievements unlocked through using different weapons and taking different combat approaches in each play though.
Puritans to the franchise may not be happy with some of the changes, but if you ignore the nostalgic feeling for Rapture you’ll find Columbia to be a place with a lot of character. Feeling overpowered was fixed by playing the unlockable 1999 mode (named because of all the hard games made in that year). In this mode you will have to seek out the best gear because without it you will die – a lot of which brought back that amazing survival element to the game.
Bioshock Infinite is without a doubt a near perfect FPS, with intuitive enjoyable shooting, great set pieces, immaculate presentation (PC) not to mention the glorious back drop of Columbia. If all that wasn’t enough Bioshock Infinite has a narrative that rivals anything Hollywood has to offer with an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor, simply incredible.