It's been almost six whole years since BioShock (Xbox 360)
blew gamers' minds across the globe and became the highest rated first person shooter of all time. Although we have since had 2K Marin's BioShock 2 (Xbox 360)
, BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360)
sees Irrational Games return as the developers. Do they still have the magic touch when it comes to superhuman, utopian worlds?
There was the one, big factor that stuck in people's minds about the original BioShock
, the city of Rapture. The beautiful utopia lying at the bottom of the sea was one of the most fascinating settings ever seen in gaming. In this installment, instead of dropping into the depths, we fly high into the sky. This time, the setting is Columbia, a city in the clouds, kept afloat by rockets and balloons, and connected by gondolas and sky lines. It's 1912 and protagonist Booker DeWitt has been offered a deal; bring "the girl" back to New York, and his gambling debts will be cleared. This city hasn't crumbled and fallen like Rapture, though. It's brimming with happy, enthusiastic residents and families enjoying the glorious settings around them.
The first half an hour or so of the game is entirely conflict free, as you explore the city at your own pace. Here, you get a feel for the influence that surrounds the city's residents. The city is largely controlled by one of the city's founders, and self-proclaimed Prophet, Zachary Comstock, who has taken charge of keeping the residents safe from "the Sodom below!"
After soaking in some of the sights and sounds of Columbia, you are introduced to the game's equivalent of Plasmids, in the form of Vigors. These body-modifying tonics grant users permanent powers that range from the familiar ability of being able to shoot lightning bolts and fireballs from your fingertips, to blasting bursts of water.
The girl is of course the familiar face of the game, Elizabeth. She has spent her life locked in a tower in Columbia by Comstock. It turns out that she's not just "some girl" that your negotiators are after, but someone who can create "tears", pulling things through future times and spaces to the present.
Once you have made your way to her and broken her out of her tower, Elizabeth becomes your partner for the remainder of the game. She requires no aid or defending, much to many gamers' relief no doubt, and proves to be a useful companion. If you start to run low during fire fights, she'll throw you extra ammo, first aid and salts (the fuel behind Vigors), making her a valuable asset rather than a liability. She also has the ability to decode messages, pick locks, and find money to help you as you battle to get back to New York. Her "tears" can also bring in aid during fights. Battlegrounds will be littered with tear-able sections with which Elizabeth can bring in supplies, gun turrets and cover. Only one of these can be used at a time though, so planning is required to get the most out of her power.
The most impressive thing about Elizabeth however is her general interaction with the world, including you. She behaves differently with you depending on how you act in various situations throughout the game. She interacts with the various areas, investigating searchable items and calling out if she comes across things such as lock picks and padlocks.
The original BioShock
featured Tonics that gave players passive buffs and allowed them customise their character in different ways. BioShock Infinite
retains that idea, but shifts away from Tonics to Gear that Booker can find and equip. Each item of clothing Booker wears (hat, shirt, trousers and shoes making up the four) has a benefit. These can increase melee range, increase clip sizes and steal health from enemies, to name but a few. These enable players to create various builds to suit their own play style. If you like taking your sky hook to enemies' faces, or if you prefer flying by and taking people out from a distance from the many skylines that litter Columbia, this Gear can set you up to be unbelievably powerful at it.
Whilst much of the combat shares Vigor use and shooting, another element of combat can be seen with the use of the skylines. These lines are simple metal tracks that are ridden using a sky hook, which also doubles up as your brutal melee weapon. Enemies can be executed by leaping from a skyline right onto them, or Gear can be used to dramatically improve firefights whilst riding them.
Enemies are mostly comprised of ordinary people such as the city's authorities as they try to stop you getting away with precious Elizabeth. Various turrets and robots in the form of Motorized Patriots
also chip in on the fights. While there are no Big Daddies in Columbia, there are Handymen, men in oversized robotic rigs that can cause some serious damage if you don't stay out of their reach.
There are many different weapons littering the city, but (unlike the original BioShock
) only two can be held at once, taking away the freedom of having a slightly ridiculous arsenal in your pocket. Now players actually have to consider what is best for the situation at hand. Guns can still be upgraded, whether you have them in hand or not, and purchased upgrades will apply any time you pick up one the upgraded guns from the point of purchase on.
The achievements are mostly awarded for general progression through the game, kills with various weapons, and obtaining all 142 collectibles. As we broke down in the game's Achievement Preview Spotlight
, there is a particularly nasty achievement for finishing the game on 1999 Mode without using the "Dollar Bill" vending machines in the game. 1999 Mode is an extra hard more in which enemies deal 200% more damage, and you deal 75% less. If you die, and cannot afford a respawn (which will set you back $100) then you will be returned to the menu. The "Dollar Bill" machines supply the player with health, ammo and salts. If you were feeling crazy, you could earn all achievements in one play through, but this would take an insane amount of patience.
Those familiar with the original BioShock
will feel that Infinite
is the same, yet totally different at the same time. It plays the same, feels the same and is set in an impossible world with people who don't seem entirely with it, but it's so fascinatingly different at the same time. The thriving city in the sky, your own character (who actually has a voice of his own this time around) and the fact that the game is spent with this fantastic partner makes it an entirely different experience. The story has such unbelievable depth, yet it manages to be so subtle at the same time, that it will no doubt be a topic of hot debate and discussion for a long time. BioShock Infinite
is an emotional rollercoaster of a game in a beautifully unique world which when combined, gives us one of the biggest gaming masterpieces that we've ever seen,
The reviewer spent twenty eight hours playing the game on various difficulties and gained 41 out of the 50 achievements. This game was played from a personal copy purchased at retail by the reviewer.