The original Bioshock busted onto the scene in 2007 and garnered much praise and acclaim, seemingly out of left field. It was the real first unexpected hit of this console generation, and from then on all stories in games were held to a certain standard. It showed the industry satisfying combat and a great story, with twists and turns that would make M. Night Shyamalan jealous, was attainable and highly desired. Bioshock Infinite has been under the microscope because of this, and has a lot to prove. I’m happy to report that the game not only meets, but exceeds expectations handily. So, would you kindly, read on.
The story of Bioshock Infinite is simply put, Fantastic. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and if I had the time and didn’t need sleep, I could’ve finished it all at once. I’m not saying the game is short, I finished in 14 hours and I was rushing a bit so I could get the review done. The story reminds me of watching a few seasons of a great TV show on Netflix, once I started i didn’t want to put the controller down. The games tells the story of Booker DeWitt, a private Investigator with a score to settle, who is tasked with finding a girl named Elizabeth and delivering her from a city in the sky called Columbia. Booker is a great protagonist, and an interesting mystery in himself. You never really are sure what his angle is until late in the game, and it’s a great new way to handle character development, specifically for the character the player is controlling. The city of Columbia is a character within itself, much like Rapture in the first game, it is a gorgeous city with friendly citizens and beautiful vistas. But all is not what it seems, and much like any great society, there is some dirty dealings going on. There are themes in the game that could offend, but if you keep and open mind and see it through, the payoff is worth it and the themes that are tackled are tied into the story are handled with much grace. Racism is a major theme, as is religion, specifically cults. Be aware you will be witness to some intense imagery, but it is thought provoking and never offensive or cruel. The narrative payoff at the climax is wonderful, if not a bit mind-bending, if you are a fan of Inception or Looper you will love this story. Also, stick around after the credits because there is a nice tease after they are done rolling.
The gameplay is fun, challenging, but never frustrating. Like the original Bioshock, you have powers to use on your foes. These powers include Shock Jockey (which is like the shock in the original), Bucking Bronco (throws enemies in the air and suspends them), Murder of Crows (send a flock of crows to attack), Devil’s Kiss (shoots fireballs), Possession (grants the ability to possess turrets and people), Charge (you can charge your enemies like a bull), Return to Sender (sends rockets back to opponents), and finally Undertow (you shoot waves to knock enemies back). You also have a wide variety of firearms at your disposal. The guns feel and sound powerful, and the sound design for the weapons are some of the best in the business, just behind Battlefield. Both your firearms and powers can be upgraded to greater effect. All of this has been in prior Bioshock games, but there are a couple of huge game changers. First of all you now have a melee attack on the Y button, and you can use it at all times unlike the previous games. Previously you had to switch to a wrench or another melee weapon and then switch back to a gun. All of this has been thankfully alleviated, and the melee is very useful in huge firefights where you can run out of ammo. The skyhook is also a great addition to the combat. It’s a very satisfying thing to hop onto a skyline and drop down to deal a killing blow to an enemy, then engage the rest of the enemies. The first time you ride the skyline in the game is exhilarating, and when you use it in combat it is an immensely satisfying means to dispatch your foes. The combat in this game is honed to perfection and has some of the best first person combat on the market. Irrational has raised the bar, and military shooters are about to feel more generic to you after you play this game.
One of my fears for this game was Elizabeth, games are notorious for having annoying AI followers who bring nothing but frustration to your experience, and you wish you could just leave them behind. I’m going to come out and say it right now, Elizabeth is the best AI partner ever in a game. Her story is intimately connected to yours, and I found myself delighted when she was with me, and conversely concerned when she was gone. Her child-like wonder when she gets her first taste of the outside world of Columbia is charming, and I found it clever because it’s how I felt when I first laid eyes on the city. She makes herself useful in combat as she throws you salts (which is basically your mana), health, and ammo. When you are exploring she will even find money and throw it to you, and point out lock picks (which Elizabeth uses to open doors to secret areas and safes). During combat, she can also open tears into the world that can place items such as turrets, medical supplies, and weapons in the area.
The game is absolutely gorgeous on PC with the settings turned to Ultra. You can see evidence of this in our screenshots and our Let’s Play video. My jaw dropped when I got the first reveal money shot of Columbia. This may be the most beautiful game I have ever seen. The frame rate is nice and smooth, and I experienced no hiccups. The game has a frame lock option so you can lock the game’s frame rate at 60 fps. Aesthetically, it’s like I hopped into a time machine and went back to 1912. The colors are vibrant and the environments are huge and painfully detailed. You will find yourself just stopping to look around to just soak it in, and I love that. You will feel fully immersed in this world, and just like the original Bioshock, that is something very few games can accomplish. I did have some crashing issues, but a 30 second google search helped me fix it, and a patch is coming within the next week or so. The console versions are no slouch either, but if you can play on PC I highly recommend it.
Bioshock Infinite is an absolute must play. Do not hesitate to buy the game, this is the best game of the year so far, and the other games this year have a lot to catch up with. Irrational Games, and Ken Levine specifically, have crafted a masterpiece of a game, and their years of hard work are on display. They have surpassed their previous effort, and I look forward to whatever they have cooked up next. The next 5 years will be worth the wait. This is a game that must not be missed.
And check out our Let’s Play while you are at it!!