I’m just going to get this out of the way right now: the TL; DR version of this article is “stop reading and go play this game”. I’m not saying this because I plan on spoiling anything or because I think my writing isn’t worth reading, I’m saying this because BioShock Infinite is the best game I have played in years. Likely since 2007, which is when The original BioShock came out.
So that’s my recommendation: go buy it, play it, and enjoy it.
And now for my review.
BioShock Infinite starts out much the same way as BioShock did. You’re on the water, heading for a lighthouse, and in that lighthouse if a gateway to a strange city. In BioShock it was Rapture, the city under the sea and in Infinite it’s Columbia, a city floating on the clouds.
There are a great deal of similarities between the games but Infinite isn’t a sequel or a prequel, rather its a spiritual successor. Is takes most (but not all) of the best parts of the original and updates them. You are dropped into a formerly glorious utopia which is now become a dystopia and fight against the forces of a megalomaniacal founder of the city. There are a variety of bad buys to fight including larger, “heavy hitters” akin to the big daddies of the original, and there are “vigors” you acquire which like the plasmids of BioShock give you strange and wonderful powers to use against them.
Gameplay is much the same, run, shoot, hide, shoot, but with several updates. First, there are several types of heavy hitters this time around, some are far more common than others, but it’s still adds some great variety to the fights as different strategies have to be used against each type.
The biggest change is that the game has two protagonists. You play as Booker DeWitt, disgraced Pinkerton with a shady past and you are accompanied through most of the game by Elizabeth, a woman who had been held captive in the city. You might argue that she is a supporting character but she is very much a main character here. In fact I would argue that she’s actually the primary character and you’re supporting her story. The truth is somewhere in between though, as the two stories are very intertwined.
Elizabeth adds some great aspects to the gameplay as well. She has the ability to open “tears” to other realities and occasionally pull things through, meaning she can materialize things like allies or cover for you in the middle of a battle. It’s might seem like a bit of a cheat, but since she can only bring through one thing at a time it ends up just being a cool asset to have and choosing between offensive and defensive things for her to add to the battlefield can often be a tough choice.
Also new are the “skylines”, a system of fast travel around certain parts of the game. They’re excellent for getting to high ground, or low ground, or just getting in position to flank enemies, you get a hook for grabbing onto them very early in the game, and it’s just plain fun to use them at every opportunity, Be aware though that your enemies can use them too which also makes for some pretty interesting fights.
Which brings up another point: the AI is fantastic. Fights are truly difficult when your enemy knows how to fight back, and more importantly how to use the terrain just as well as you do.
The “hacking” in original BioShock is entirely gone which is also a nice change as it did have a tendency to become repetitive, and now using Elizabeth to help you with things like picking locks and finding loot to pick up adds to the connection you end up feeling to her. I have a feeling when I start my second play through the section before you meet her is going to feel very lonely.
You may have noticed that I skipped right past talking about the story and that’s purposeful. Reason being is that the story is freaking fantastic and I don’t want to spoil it for you. I am going to talk about a few story mechanics though so if you want to go in entirely blind skip this paragraph. Next paragraph.
What I will say about the story is that it lacks a moral aspect, something that the original made famous (and popular for a number of years) and that I think that’s a good thing. It works in BioShock, but Infinitesimal story is much tighter and forcing that aspect onto it would have forced changes that I’m glad they didn’t have to make, the story has enough twists and turns that filtering them through a moral choice system would have diminished it.
If there’s one thing I miss from the original BioShock it would have to be the mood. BioShock was fucking scary. The tone of the game is dark and paranoid and the game has a few moments that I can honestly say are my favorite scary, creepy and macabre moments in any game I’ve ever played. It worked because Rapture was at the bottom of the ocean; it was dark and dank. Since Columbia is in the clouds everything is bright and well lit and doesn’t lend itself to that particular elemens. It is, however, a minor quibble, as the game more than makes up for it with story, and the tone and pacing match the new setting pretty much perfectly.
Oh, and have I mentioned that the game is gorgeous? The level of detail and the thought and energy clearly put into creating the world are amazing. These are the graphics that Sony and Microsoft would have you believe are what we should expect from the next generation, but they’ve managed to pull this off on my Xbox 360. It’s incredible.
So that’s it. BioShock infinite isn’t just a good game it’s belongs on your must play list. It’s easily one of the best games of this generation and its beyond me why you’re still reading this and not playing the game right now.