Arguably 2013's most anticipated game is finally upon us, that game being Bioshock Infinite. The original Bioshock revolutionized gaming with it's unique atomospheric based story-telling; along with having a mind-blowing plot-twist towards its finale. While Bioshock got a sequel a few years back, that was adequate. Infinite is the game that got fan's wishful. Wishful that Infinite could live up to the ridiculously high standards set by the first Bioshock, along with being able to recreate the magic gamers experienced during their first playthrough into the dark twisted depths of the underwater city of Rapture. Irrational games in this new game set their sights to new heights, quite literally seeing as this time around players explore a new city placed in the sky known as Columbia. I myself was skeptical on whether or not a change in scenery would be enough to top it's predecessor. Now having completed the game I find my skepticism surrounding this game to have been wrongly placed, because not only did they manage to recapture the magic; somehow they managed to completely blow the original Bioshock off its pedestal. This is managed through some of the best storytelling I've ever seen done in a video game accompanied with a more refined yet similar combat system.Story
Story, undeniably is Infinite's strongest quality. I really want to delve into all the things that make the plot so intriguing, but that would involve spoilers. So, instead I will simply give a summary of the basic plot. You play as Booker Dewitt, a roguish man with a mysterious past. All the player really knows from the get go is that Dewitt gambled his way into a very generous debt. One that is promised to be payed should he travel to Columbia, retrieve the girl (Elizabeth) and bring her to the man who hired him.
It becomes obvious early on that Booker is a hardened man, one who has seen and done more than any man should in any lifetime. Basically he's got a lot of baggage, but more or less he has come to terms with the man he is. His mind is hard-wired to completing his mission, and showing no remorse. Or at least that was his plan prior to meeting Elizabeth, who he fairly quickly develops a soft-spot for.
Elizabeth the girl Booker is hired to retrieve has spent her entire life locked away in a tower by her father Comstock (we'll get to him later). Her only company being the Songbird (basically a very large robotic-like bird) who acts as her friend as well as her warden. Naturally Elizabeth feels very cooped up and aspires of being free and traveling to Paris of all places. Obviously being trapped in a tower day in and day out Elizabeth has a lot of free time. Which she claims is the reason for her being able to create tears in the universe. A tear essentially is matter in a specific area being ripped apart revealing a gateway into another world, one that is both similar yet different to the one they're currently in.
The dynamic between Elizabeth and Booker is an interesting one. On one hand you've got Booker, a tortured man who understands the necessity of killing under given circumstances than on the other you've got Elizabeth who has been shielded from the darkness in the world and still clings to hope. As the game progresses you see the two of them beginning to learn from each other, grow, and begin to become loyal to one another. Elizabeth gives Booker something to care for again and she realizes the world isn't as it seems in hundreds of books she read.
Comstock is the main antagonist in this game he is the Prophet, the founder of Columbia. To the people he is their savior, their leader, and they would follow him to the end of the world. He picked up the name Prophet, because he is credited with being able to see the future. He foretold the coming of a False Prophet (identifiable by the marking of the letters AD on his hand), a man who would lead the lamb astray from her destiny of taking Comstocks place as leader after his demise. If you hadn't pieced this together yet Booker is the False Prophet which is why everyone and their brother is trying to kill him, and Elizabeth is the Lamb.
The story is told primarily through simply playing the game and seeing everything for yourself, but there is the occasional cut-scene. Cut-scenes in this game are all in-game and have the same quality of graphics as the game play itself. The cut-scenes are scripted, but generally the player still has control of looking around and occasionally further interaction is necessary.
Voice acting in this game is top-notch, to be honest it doesn't get much better than this. Particularly Courtney Draper who voices Elizabeth. She really brings Elizabeth to life delivering loads of emotion, and her performance never falters. Elizabeth is further brought to life through some very realistic looking facial animations.
Just like the original Bioshock this game has one of those "Wow" moments woven into the games plot where everything comes together. When I was getting close to the end I wondered how they could possibly tie everything together in a satisfactory way. I knew something had to happen yet I was still surprised when it did. Talk about some awesome plot twists, the games finale was well above my expectations, it's one of those ending that leaves you thinking and will remain memorable for years to come. Take note that there is a little extra scene at the end of the credits so be sure and stick around for that.Presentation/Design
Infinite is absolutely gorgeous to behold, it remains true to the artstyle of previous Bioshock games, but due to the new setting the color palette has changed drastically. Columbia offers just as much atmosphere as Rapture did if not more. In the beginning before being exposed as the false prophet the streets of Columbia were bustling with people to watch and eavesdrop on all there amusing conversations. Even after being known as the false prophet there are still areas where the player can see NPC's going about their daily routines and such. Instead of waiting for trains like we do in our world in Columbia the citizens have to wait for different segments of the city to "connect" and allow for people to cross, seeing as the city is suspended in individual bits. The return of Audio Diaries, along with other forms of media further assist in bring the world of Columbia to life. Audio Diaries allow the player some extra information, most of the time relating to the main plot, but also offer a personal perspective into different characters opinions and motives. The Audio Diaries are collectibles that are actually worth picking just for the extra back story they offer. Listening to them is convenient now seeing as with a simple tap of the D-Pad it will automatically begin playing your last Audio Diary picked up.
The game is set-up very similarly to past entries. Technically the game is linear, but the levels are expansive along with all being apart of the one city. Due to these expansive areas there is plenty of exploration offered for the player. Which teases the player into feeling like the game is open-world even though it's not actually a truly open-world game. There are different districts in the city, and typically when travelling between these districts the landscape changes quite a bit. These different districts could be seen as level changes. For anyone confused as where to go players can activate a way-point that points them in the direction of their current objective. This is a handy little addition although it's not nearly as perfectly implemented, such as the one in the Dead Space series. At times the way-point acts a little glitchy along with only appearing for a few brief seconds, and offering only a vague direction opposed to an exact one. This is a minor complaint, because it does it's job well enough.Gameplay
The core Infinite game play is almost identical to that of the previous Bioshock games, instead of changing what worked well they decided to just add on to the existing structure. This time around instead of using Plasmids the player is granted with Vigors. Vigors function the same as Plasmids did. There are 8 Vigors given to the player slowly throughout the course of the game. Each Vigor is completely original, even if some have similarities to past Plasmids. My personal favorite Vigor is called "Return to Sender" it acts as both a defensive and offensive move. It allows the player to absorb bullets shot at him with the palm of his hand, and then shoot the bullets back towards his enemies. The player can swap between a max of 2 equipped Vigors with a tap of a Left Bumper. I thought it was kind of weird to only allow 2 Vigors to be equipped at a time. I would've thought 4 or so would've been ideal. Not that it's a huge deal because swapping Vigors in and out of the slots is pretty quick and simple. All one has to do is hold the LB and use the Right Stick to put a new vigor into the selected slot. But, I still found my constant need/want to swap Vigors kind of a nuisance because each time I did it took me out of the natural flow of combat.
I experienced a similar complaint when it came to weapons. Just like Vigors only 2 weapons can be equipped at a time. There is a large variety of different weapons in this game. I was actually rather impressed with how many the developers decided to incorporate. You've got multiple machine guns, shot guns, carbines, a chain gun, rocket launcher, type of grenade launcher, sniper rifle etc. Unlike Vigors though you are unable to carry every type of weapon with you and just manually swap between them. Instead it functions like your typical FPS you must swap weapons out as you find them on the map. I think it would've been ideal if I could have at least carried 3 weapons with me at a time. But, since First-Person-Shooters rarely allow more than two weapons to be equipped at a time I can't really complain. I just feel that if I could have had more weapons at my disposal at all times I would've been able to feel better equipped and allow me to chain weapon kills together. There were ton's of areas in this game where I would initiate a battle and realize that I really wish I wouldn't of traded out my sniper or man I could really use a carbine right about now. I feel that if the developers would have allowed a weapon wheel accessible at anytime for weapons you've picked up, one that functions how the Vigor wheel does, than the combat would have benefited from it. Along with preventing some annoying deaths where I couldn't find a new weapon and had low ammo on all my currently equipped weapons. For the most part though weapons are found plentiful around the battle grounds, and some of the time the developers tried to place weapons that the player might find advantageous against the upcoming battle.
There are some very smart additions added into the game play that truly help in making the combat more intense, and fun. The best of these additions is how Elizabeth is handled during the game play. Elizabeth despite being gorgeous knows how to take care of herself. She will accompany you, through the games entirety, minus the times where the two of you become separated. Elizabeth sets a new standard for companion AI. Most companion AI's hinder the player more than aide, and typically will get in the way. Elizabeth on the other hand is the complete opposite, she truly fulfills every promise one hears when developers talk about how awesome their companion AI are. She will throw you ammo, health, money, and salts (salts are used up when performing Vigors think of them as your Mana). She also picked up the art of lock picking from her years of solitude in the tower. Along with all that she will point out things for you collectibles, and such that you may have otherwise missed. As I mentioned she is not helpless, you don't have to protect her, and you don't have to help her across areas. She will follow you wherever you go. Generally when it comes to female companions they need a lot of help crossing gaps and what-not, with Elizabeth this is not the case at all. The best part of Elizabeth is somehow despite always being by your side, never manages to get in your way. Plus since she is your trusty companion there is plenty of emotional chatter, and bantering between her and Booker.
Possibly most unique thing regarding Elizabeth is her ability to open tears up for you during combat. These tears range from giving you cover, to granting you friendly turrets. This extra little add-on is yet another thing that makes the combat so engaging. The only thing that some people may find annoying is Elizabeth seems to be able to only have one tear open at a time. But, I suppose it would be unfair for the enemies if she could open all the tears at once.
Another clever addition was that of Sky-Rails. Sky-rails are used as a form of transportation across all of Columbia. Early on Booker is given a device that attaches to his hand, which allows him to hook onto these sky-rails. While hooked on the player can dictate how fast or slow Booker grinds along. While this feature functions as a means of transport it also can be utilized during combat. The player can shoot from these rails and also perform an attack where when aimed at an enemy whilst within range can jump off and perform an execution on said enemy, that sends them soaring. Booker's nifty little gadget also acts as your melee attack, and can be activated with the Y button. When enemies are low on health the player can hold this button to activate one of many gruesome executions on them.
Perhaps the past Bioshocks most unique quality was the brilliance behind the big-daddy and little-sister dynamic. Personally I adored the relationship between the two. Slightly underwhelming is the replacement of the Big-Daddy in this game. In this game the Handyman acts as the substitution. While the Handyman lacks the intrigue and emotional impact created by Big-Daddys and Little Sisters, he makes up for it in combat. Fighting him is both intense and challenging, the AI behind him anticipates and reacts to your movements and attacks very well. It doesn't help that he has the ability to wipe out your health rather quickly. Sadly my first encounter with him was not near as epic as the first time I fought a Big-Daddy. Strangely there isn't much reward for killing a Handyman either. Every time I killed one the only thing I looted from him was health, salts, and cash. I think it would've been nice if they at least would've given me some better equipment. Luckily there are plenty of other unique enemies in the game that help balance out the Handyman's shortcomings.Longevity/Upgrading
The game is a decent length taking between 7 and 12 hours to complete depending on how much exploring the player partakes in. Honestly I believe that the length is just about perfect. I feel that if it would've been extended any it might have began to feel dragged out. Luckily though that didn't happen. This is the first game in a long time where I couldn't put it down. I never once felt bored during my time with it, and as soon as completing it all I wanted to do was start it back up and immerse myself back into the world of Columbia and experience everything I missed out on during my first playthrough.
Vending machines make a return in this new entry. Vending machines allow for ammo, health, and salts to be purchased, but also allow weapons and Vigors to be upgraded. Audio Diaries are not the only thing that player can find strewn throughout the game, but also infusions which can be used to permanently increase health, shield, and salts. On top of that the player can also find gear that can be equipped to Booker. Each piece of Gear adds a unique ability to Booker. For instance one piece of gear makes it so that after your shield is depleted the player will automatically move quicker which helps when needing to make a quick getaway.Conclusion
Bioshock Infinite is above and beyond any expectation I had going in. In my opinion it is an all around better game than the first Bioshock. This new entry tells one of the best stories ever told in a Video Game, and it does it in an interesting way that allows for the player to never feel taken out of the game. Infinite has some brilliant plot twists, and perhaps one of the most epic endings of all time. Somehow the game manages to tie everything together in a more than satisfactory manner. I completed the game two days ago, yet I still find myself mulling over its conclusion and I believe this story will stick with me for years to come. The game has raised the bar in Video Game storytelling. Elizabeth is an absolutely brilliant character that is brought to life both in voice and in animation. She is the best companion AI I've ever seen in a game. Combat is fluid, fun, intense, and engaging. Vigors, Skyrails, new enemies, and weapon types are all great additions. The game is gorgeous, and the world of Columbia bathes in atmosphere. I have no real complaints with this game at all, and any small issue I mentioned in this review was more me just nitpicking at perfection. To be honest, no game will ever be truly perfect there will always be a small flaw, texture pop-in, glitch, or graphical hiccup in every game. Bioshock Infinite though is about as close to perfection as games get. A gem as fine as this game only comes along maybe a few times every console generation. With that in mind, all that's really left to say is "Would You Kindly Buy this Game".Pro's
+ Awesome Conclusion, an ending that doesn't disappoint
+ Plot twists
+ Elizabeth is brought to life and is an emotional master-piece
+ Elizabeth Redefines Companion AI
+ Combat is fast, fluid, and epic
+ The City of Columbia arguably tops that of Rapture
+ Might just be the best game I've played this entire console generation
+ An Instant Classic!Con's
- Handyman could have been more intriguing
- Being able to equip more Vigors at a time would have been nice
- I wish they would've implemented a weapon wheel similar to the Vigors wheel
- Way-point system could use some fine tuningRating
10 / 10