BioShock Infinite Review 2016: Is it worth playing?

BioShock Infinite Review
Is it worth Playing

“The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…”

                    Barriers to the Trans-Dimensional Travel,

                        -R. Lutece, 1889

BioShock Infinite Early Game Play Demonstration: Our first glimpse at the Murder of Crows Vigor and the Skyline.

There have been mixed reviews on BioShock Infinite. Some say that it’s just ok and doesn’t feel like BioShock. They believe that it fails in comparison to BioShock 1 and 2. Still others say that it is wonderful and easily one of their favorite games of all time. I fall into the latter category.

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter adventure developed by Irrational games. It was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013. Infinite is the 3rd installment of the BioShock series.

Although it is not part of the immediate storyline of the previous games it has similar gameplay, concepts, and themes. When BioShock first came out in 2007 I was immediately a fan. The games concept and dark ominous atmosphere were right up my alley. After seeing the trailers for BioShock infinite I was a bit skeptical but hopeful. I was not disappointed. I am not afraid to say that, in my opinion, it is the best single player campaign I have ever played. It’s something so familiar yet so different. This game will challenge you, open your mind, and change you. 

Gameplay

You choose the difficulty and pick your settings. There are so many options to make gameplay optimal to your own desires. You may also change your settings during gameplay. You may only carry two weapons and two vigors at any given time (that is if you are playing on a console), but you can switch them when the need arises. There will be more on this later.

Once you leave an area it is generally impossible to go back and claim things you may have missed. So you much be thorough. Also, there is no save element in this game other than the auto save. If you stop playing before the next save point you will restart the chapter from the last moment it was auto saved.

Here is our first glimpse at the beautiful and perfect Columbia, but is it really all it seems to be beneath the surface.

The Story

In BioShock Infinite, you play the role of Booker DeWitt. He is an ex-Pinkerton agent with a dismal outlook on life. You soon learn that Booker has racked up an impressive debt in NYC. Thus, our story begins.

The game is set in 1912. In the opening scene, you (as Booker) are on a boat with a male and female character. They are talking amongst themselves and completely ignoring you, other than handing you a small box which contains what seems to be clues in helping you on your mission. They are rowing in a storm somewhere off the Coast of Maine. You learn that Booker has been hired by an anonymous employer to bring them a girl that is being held captive and they will wipe away his debt. The boat arrives at a dock with a lighthouse and your two companions leave you there with little information on what to do next. 

You eventually figure out how to use the lighthouse to ascend into the sky to the city of Columbia. The force of the ascension causes you to pass out. You first get a sense of the weirdness that is Columbia when you wake up in a church-like area flooded with water. You soon encounter a member of the clergy who insists that you must be baptized to enter the city. You resist at first but soon realize that this is the only way into the city and you eventually concede. The clergyman nearly drowns you and you pass out yet again. When you awake for the second time you are outside in front of three statues of America’s Founding Fathers (the first of many of Infinite’s historical references). You walk through another door and get your first glimpse of Columbia. It is through exploration that you find out more about the city and the girl you were sent there to rescue.

Father Comstock is the ruler of the city. He is known as The Prophet and the city looks up to him as though he is a God. However, not everyone reveres Comstock. He faces opposition by way of the Vox Populi. Their leader is Daisy Fitzroy. Father Comstock accused her of murdering his wife, she fled his home and formed the Vox Populi due to her detest for Father Comstock and his ways.

As you explore the city you will acquire vigors and weapons to arm yourself and then your journey truly begins. You must make your way to Monument Island where you finally become face to face with Elizabeth, the girl you were sent to rescue. She has lived on Monument Island her entire life and is guarded by a gigantic and terrifying mechanical bird called Songbird. He has been Elizabeth’s warden and is programmed to feel betrayal if she ever tries to escape. As they try to escape Songbird refuses to let her go easily. In the escape attempt, the tower is nearly destroyed and you and Elizabeth narrowly escape with your lives by jumping into the water below. They wash up on Battleship Bay and from there they catch a ride on the First Lady’s Aerodrome.  This takes you on a journey to the Hall of Heroes to find a power source and help Elizabeth escape. Your journey is not an easy one. You are faced with many fearsome enemies and game altering secrets.

Songbird is Elizabeth's Warden, but in some ways he has also become her friend.

As with the original BioShock, there are many underlying themes such as:

  • American Exceptionalism
  • Racism
  • manifest Destiny
  • Imprisonment
  • Lustful Violence and Cruelty
  • God and Society
  • Water and Cleansing
  • Multi Dimensions

Imprisonment seems to be one of the main themes in the BioShock universe. The citizens of Rapture were trapped underwater unable to escape the rule of Andrew Ryan. It is the same for the people of Columbia, though the atmosphere is not nearly as oppressive, the city is floating miles in the air and is nearly impossible to leave.

Though we never get to fight Songbird, he is terrifying in action.

Story Review

The best part of infinite is by far the storyline. It builds slowly, but that is part of its beauty. It takes the time to draw you in and before you know it you have lost all track of anything else.  The game honestly plays like a novel. Although the plot can be a bit confusing at times it is worth the extra strain on your thought process. There is so much heart in this story. The characters are well developed and dynamic and there is so much emotion. I have never had the pleasure of playing a game where the characters were so affected by the violence.

Other games I have played seem to rely on either gameplay or storyline. BioShock infinite incorporates both seamlessly for an unforgettable gaming experience. The story is a phenomenal and unreal experience. The story is rich and needs an incredible amount of analysis. There is so much more to this game than what is on the surface. You will have a billion unanswered questions and the ending will blow your mind.

"Lamb of Columbia" trailer. The cinematics of this game make you feel like you are in a movie.

Cinematics

The Cinematics in BioShock infinite are certainly a step above the rest. It feels like you are part of a movie and not merely playing a game. After some of the cut scenes, it took me a moment to refocus on what I was supposed to be doing because I got so sucked into the story. The propaganda is exquisite and holds true to the 1900’s vibe.

Adventure and RPG aspect

The RPG elements have been toned down a bit in this game. Although it is quite entertaining to walk around and listen to the citizens of Columbia talk I found it disappointing that you cannot really interact with them.

The unveiling of the city’s culture is perfectly revealed through propaganda, audio logs, and rather gruesome raffles. Everything you come across helps you understand Columbia more and more. It also helps you find out a few things about yourself.

Combat

Combat, in my opinion, is a bit less tedious. Things seem to die much easier in this new installment as opposed to its processors. It has a faster pace and because of the skyline a much more open feel. There is a very good set of controls in terms of how the gunplay feels, but it takes a bit of getting used to due to the fact that some of the controls have been changed from previous games.

Although you cannot really change how your character looks, you can change your stats. You can upgrade your health, shields, and salts by way of infusion potions that are scattered all around the world. You can also equip your character with gear such as hat, shirt, pants, and boots. You can only wear one piece of gear per section, but each has its own unique ability and can switch them at will. It allows you to really customize your gameplay. Gear is also hidden all around the world and give you many abilities from regenerating health after a devastating attack, or causing your opponents to burst into flames if they are foolish enough to hit you.

Along with your gear, you have tons of weapons and new powers called vigors (which are comparable to plasmids in previous games) Some of the many guns you have to choose from include: crank guns, shotguns, heater, repeater, RPG, hail fire gun, carbine, pistol, machine gun, hand-cannon, sniper rifle and more. You also have a Skyhook to not only navigate the city on the Skyline, but it is also an impressive melee weapon. Your weapons and vigors can be updated but your skyhook cannot. The Skyhook is by far my favorite weapon. Being able to use the zip line and attack enemies from above is beyond thrilling. You can also use your Skyhook to perform what is known as a critical hit. It causes glorious death cinematics for your viewing pleasure.

Riding the Skyline gave such an open and prolific feel.

There are eight vigors available to your character:

  • Shock Jockey- is an electric zap to enemies
  • Murder of Crows- Sends out a Murder of crows to kill your victims
  • Devils Kiss- Basically a large fireball
  • Bucking Bronco- throws your enemy up into the air giving you time to shoot them while the fall
  • Possession- is the ability to possess other characters for a short amount of time.
  • Undertow- you can wash away your enemies, grab and release them.
  • Charge- is a high-impact melee, target enemies at a distance and then charge towards them.
  • Return to Sender- Lets you absorb incoming enemy projectiles and may be upgraded to redirect them towards their origin.

It looks horrific, but don't worry, it hurts them more than it hurts you.

All of these can be used to your advantage and every one of them has a trap version where if you hold down and release it in front of you traps your enemies. You can upgrade your vigors at vending machines. You also have salts which are basically mana. You use the salts to deploy your vigors. It can be depleted and must be replenished. You can find salts on people and randomly throughout the world. In addition to salts you have shields which serve as a buffer to your health. These must also be recharged.

the Fireman has the ability to emit a great fireball that radiates around him and throw fireballs at a distance.

There are many enemies to battle in the city of Columbia. You must face The Founders, the Columbian Police, and soldiers in the Hall of Heroes. You are also up against renegades and rebels from the Vox Populi. There are not just men after you, but you also must face spirits and giant machines such as the Patriots and the Handyman and the Fireman.

The Handyman is the sadness of living encased in a machine.

The combat was epic and the skyline adds verticality with is much needed in a first person shooter. The combat can only be described as intense and ridiculously fun. The best part for me is the fact that Elizabeth isn’t a helpless damsel in distress. You do not have to waste your time protecting her. In fact, she proves herself quite useful during combat. She will often toss you ammo and health packs, as well as opening Tears for cover.

This is no escort quest. Elizabeth is useful in a conflict, but she still feels a tremendous amount of guilt.

My one disappointment in the combat would be the fact that you don’t get to fight many main characters. I would love to have battle the Prophet himself or Slate. I especially would have liked to take on the Songbird. Such an impressive character and so underutilized.

Quests

The quest in this game are really simple. You won’t find any complex puzzle solving like in previous games. It really just a lot of walking and searching.

There are six side quests. Two involve finding chests you have to open with a key, one of them involves, having to find a secret button under a register, and three of them involve finding ciphers that need decoding. Although there are only a handful of side quests in this game, I believe they are worth doing.

Characters

Finally, we get a main character that speaks! Booker is always blunt and honest which tends to get him into a lot of trouble. He is a bit hard to like. He is heartless and nonchalant about nearly everything. He is a character you love to hate and you sympathize with him in the end.

All of the characters are so well developed and never boring. They are so full of life and throughout the game you begin to feel like you know each and every one of them. This game does a wonderful job of making believable characters. Some you love, and some you love to hate.

Graphics, Sounds, and Soundtrack

Even with a wonderful storyline a game is nothing without the scenery and music to back it up. The soundtrack lined up perfectly with the gameplay from the futuristic songs coming from somewhere within the Tears to the mounting tension built during the combat scenes the music and sound effects are spot on. They really add an element of realism to a not so realistic game. The sound design is on another level and the voice actors are spectacular. The soundtrack and sound effects are loud and eerie. They work together to fill the spaces that the graphics depend on. It creates a very cohesive feel.

BioShock Infinite is a gorgeous game. It's graphics and cinematic are comparable to few.

The graphics in this game are phenomenal. You can tell there was great care and imagination put into them and the result is pure beauty. Although not terribly realistic, the game isn’t about realism. It’s about its very own specific style and it does it very well. With detailed color and amazing texture, this game is gorgeous.

Price

Since this game is a few years old now there is no doubt that it is worth the price. It is sold quite cheaply now although it is still worth every penny of its original asking price.

Final Verdict

I give BioShock Infinite a 9.5 simply due to the fact that no game is perfect and there were a few things I felt could be improved on like citizen interaction and saving elements. All in all this game is as close to perfect that I have found.

Even if you don’t think you will like this game, I implore you, give it a try anyway. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. It is designed to suck you in and spit you out, in the end, wondering what the hell happened. This game is as brilliant as it is bizarre. It is truly a generation defining game. It is an amazing experience from beginning to end. 

This image perfectly depicts the underlying feel of the game. Booker is reaching out not only for Elizabeth, but for the good in himself.

“There is always a man, always a lighthouse, always a city.”

                    -Elizabeth

 
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Gamer Since: 2002
Top 3 Favorite Games:Mortal Kombat X, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
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