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Mini Review: Bioshock Infinite

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OK, this one has been a long time coming. As soon as I received my copy, I went away for a couple of weeks and didn’t get a chance to play it until recently so everyone has probably already finished the game long before me but I would be amiss to not give this great game a post on its own. I should have really done one for Metal Gear Rising too. Those 2 games are easily my fave games of this year and I predict they will still be near the top come the years end!

At the very least, I don’t think I need to do much explaining about this game. Infinite is the next game from the people who brought us the amazing Bioshock back in 2007 and, while another team gave us a direct sequel to bioshock which was set in the same world, infinite is considered by many to be the “true” sequel to the underwater adventure game.

In Bioshock Infinite, you play as Booker DeWitt, a guy with a rather shady past and an even shadier present. Seems he’s gotten himself into some trouble and has been hired by some people to find a girl named Elizabeth and take her to New York. If he does so, his debts will be cleared.  The game starts off very much like Bioshock in that you find yourself at a lighthouse and, once you reach the device inside, you’re transported to another world. But in this case, instead of  going underwater, you’re shot up into the sky and find a city up there called Columbia. Columbia is basically an american history lesson as it’s modelled after the country at the turn of the 20th century. The rich/poor divide is huge, racial segregation is the norm, work laws are practically non-existent… Basically it’s paradise if you’re a rich white man and, well, not if you’re anyone else. It is kinda interesting when you remember that, unlike Rapture, which was more of an experiment and a look into the nature of human beings in general, Columbia is full of things which happened! You can look into your history books and see all of it. And it’s not just stuff like wounded knee or the boxer rebellion (incidentally, at the risk of sounding racist, the Chinese at the turn of the 20th Century were basically screwed over multiple times. Blacks may call back on injustices and whatnot but the chinese had it just as bad, if not worse. They may not have been taken from their homes and used as cheap labour, but their homes were simply taken too and the people were treated as 2nd rate citizens in their own country. Heck, the British made a huge chunk of southern china into drug addicts to get them to work on their opium farms! It’s no wonder that the current China is so cold and near hostile to pretty much every other country out there!) but the whole culture of Columbia.

Anyway, the game has you running around, finding Elizabeth while avoiding the police as you’ve been outed as an outsider and dangerous element and once you find Elizabeth, you gotta find a way out of columbia! While trying to avoid spoilers, that’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. You get the regular assortment of weapons and also “vigors” which work in the same manner as plasmids from Bioshock. One new addition is the skyhook, a special device which allows you to perform incredibly violent and graphic executions on enemies as well as ride Tram lines around Columbia to reach higher areas. One other change is the addition of Elizabeth. Once you find her, she becomes a persistant character who helps you out in situations and never gets in your way. She’s also central to the plot in more ways than you first think!

So, how was the game?

LOVED

  • Elizabeth – Like it or not, she is the single largest “make-or-break” element of the game. How you view her as a part of the game will have a huge sway on whether or not you enjoy it! Luckily for me, I found her to be brilliantly done. A persistent NPC who feels almost alive and never gets in your way. We’ve come a long way since Goldeneye on the N64 and Nataliya… She also saved my ass more than a few times with a conveniently timed health item. Eurogamer tried to convince us that Eleanor from Bioshock 2 was actually a better character than Elizabeth but there’s a major caveat: Eleanor only appeared near the end of the game while Elizabeth was your constant companion. It’s easy to appear more interesting when you’re not around for us to see what you can do!
  • SkyHook – It’s way too much fun flying around on the beams spraying death to the enemy units below.
  • The plot – Overall, most of the plot was very cleverly written and the game did a good job showing the dark nature of human beings, particularly with Fitzroy who, at the start, when she and her allies were being oppressed and fighting a losing battle, seemed just and in the right actually turns out to be no better than the people she was fighting against once she gained the means to fight back. In fact, she may have been worse. Having said that…

HATED

  • The Plot – Ultimately, when you have a plot which runs on the idea of multiple dimensions, time travel and whatnot, the level of paradoxes can become unbearable. By the end of the game, my head hurt more than when I watched the movie “Looper” and trust me, my head hurt plenty when trying to make sense of the time travel in that film!
  • Vigors – Unlike in Bioshock, the vigors in infinite are effectively weapons unto themselves. There are far fewer opportunities to use them with the environment to increase their effectiveness, though they can be combined together to do so. But I miss the fun times you could electrocute many enemies by luring them into a puddle and then firing lightning at the water! There are puddles in Infinite, but the tactic is much less effective this time around.
  • Songbird – Songbird was hailed as the “big bad” you need to watch out for in the game, a boogie man similar to the big sister in Bioshock 2 but it hardly had an appearance in the game at all! And when it does appear, it’s impact was just to push the plot forward, though you are able to control it to a degree in the later stages of the game. But, aside from one recording which hinted that he may be based off the big daddy in Bioshock, there’s little to no info about it or how it was created or how it functions! It’s just there!

Ultimately though, I really enjoyed Bioshock Infinite. But overall, it doesn’t hold up to the original. While Bioshock was the story of Rapture and how it was built, maintained and then ruined by peoples ambitions and greed was a really interesting story for me and Infinite doesn’t match it. Afterall, it’s not so much a story of Columbia but one of Elizabeth, and it doesn’t kick in until around halfway! The first main antagonist, Comstock, also comes off more as a raving religious fanatic, closer to Sofia Lamb than Andrew Ryan and far less memorable had it not been for the obligatory twist in the plot. But this was also something weaker in Infinite. Afterall, I saw this one coming! “Would you kindly” still sticks in my mind as one of the few times in my memory where I was truly sucker punched by a twist I never saw coming. I knew things weren’t right, I knew that certain characters were not to be trusted but I never saw that!!

As a standalone game, Infinite is great but it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor. Still, I’d take it over Bioshock 2 any day!