There was much gushing praise written before, and on the day of, the Bioshock Infinite release. The praise went as far as to call it an instant classic and one of the best games ever.
I beg to differ.
While the game is good, it is certainly not as groundbreaking as it could have been. The gameplay is really nothing special, more of a tweak of Bioshock II’s and possibly even a tweak or two too far.
First I shall cover the technical then touch on the story. This is very much a review in two halves.
The game looks amazing, once you shut off Vsync which seems to cause lots of problems for many. I suffered none of the stuttering report by people even on the highest of machines. What was annoying was the game updating which eliminated my saves, forcing me to restart at the beginning of the chapter. This leads me to one of my biggest gripes about the game. What the hell is a modern PC game doing with no quick save option? Do the developers not think that users ever have to go to the bog, get a drink, or maybe go to bed? No user based saving mechanism smacks of lame console port and is ludicrous.
Then again that is not the only console-like idiocy. Why can you carry only two weapons? It is annoying and makes the game a pain in various places. Granted, only a few of the myriad of weapons are actually worth a damn, but that is another story. Vigor is another problem, most of them are bloody useless and a waste of time. Combat is fairly dull and the weapon variety is pretty lame. Why bother offering ones that are unusual and evocative of the steampunk flying city vibe? I used two, maybe three weapons the whole game after trying them all. Towards the end of the game there is a level where you need to “paint” targets for someone else to attack, why is the button the same button as “use”? That is clunky and annoying when it need not be.
Vigor is nowhere near as fun as the plasmids offered in Bioshock. There is not enough salt around and they are not as satisfying in combat. The tears are useful, but are sort of a gimmick that doesn’t always help that much. To me there are times when it is all a bit more about the aesthetics and story over the gameplay. After all there is one boss who is recycled three times and does nothing different each time.
The music assets are vast, quite spectacular and desperately clever. There is mixture of early 20th century music, hymns, and modern songs sung in an early 20th century style. I would recommend that anyone who finishes the game watches the credits at the end as there is a wonderful treat in store.
Overall, there is lots to see and do in this game. It pays to looks around even though it is not open world. I confess to, via the skyline, trying to jump on all sorts of places to see if I could stand and to look at the world.
Now on to the story of this game which deals with the city of Columbia and the racist fascist Prophet Comstock. There is quite a lot to it, so much so that I have written another entire piece on its possible effects.
The storyline hints at influences from Alice in Wonderland to the most obvious Wizard of Oz bits and pieces. There is a polemical element that takes on the extreme reaction of some in the South to the outcome of the American Civil War and even a commentary (via a character/faction) on the outcome of absolute anarchy. The main bad-guy is an amalgamation of Jim Jones, David Koresh, and David Duke. While the minor-baddie has hints of every leader of a rebellion that has ever gone mad from power Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, or Ceaucescu.
There is also an NPC companion in the game and Elizabeth one I can remember having to play with. She is both charming, helpful, and never gets in the way during combat. The programming for her is quite impressive indeed. I actually found myself missing her company in the parts of the game where she is not around. She is a genuinely likable character who really helps bring the game to life. I also rather like the British brother and sister who show up to mock, patronize, and aid you from time to time.
And all of this takes place in a city “lost” in the sky over the US. As someone who lives on the coast of Maine, I was particularly amused that you get to the city from a lighthouse on the coast of Maine in a rain storm. One such gale was occurring as I started the game.
There is an element dealing with the examination of predeterminism vs. choice as well. The game also tosses in the concept of the multiple-realities.
People will be unravelling the onion that is the story of this game for years to come as they did with Bioshock. You will find yourself thinking about this game well after you finish it, that is how deep it gets if you are willing to look.
That said, I am more likely to find myself returning to Rapture in Bioschock than floating city of Columbia.
Bioshock Infinite is a damn good game but it is not, sadly, a great one. It is neither groundbreaking nor is the gameplay as good as it could have been. Still, that said, I recommend anyone that has a machine to run it buy it sometime or other, because it is a treat not to be missed. The story here gets a five while the actual game gets a four, sadly BC does not allow half-stars in overall scores.
Bioshock Infinite is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco. This game can also be found on: PS3, Xbox 360