Published on March 24th, 2013 | by Charlie
BioShock Infinite Review – Before Rapture, There Was Columbia
Summary: A story of a sky city; of religion and redemption. This is one adventure you won't easily forget...
The day Bioshock Infinite was announced was a good day. The announcement came out of nowhere, and the more gamers knew about this game over the coming years, the better it looked. When I had the chance to grab a copy from a shop that was selling them early, I made sure I did. Around 13 hours later (over the weekend, of course), I’m left a little astonished, baffled, disappointed and amazed all at the same time… is that even possible?
Now what needs to be said is that this is not the Bioshock we know. It’s something slightly different, but that doesn’t mean it’s for the better. We begin the story in July 1912; the Titanic sunk 3 months ago, William H. Taft was president and the Empire State Building had yet been built. You play Booker DeWitt, a man who heads for the flying city of Columbia to find a girl whom he needs to bring back to wipe away his gambling debt. After being left on a small remote island, he heads for the lighthouse, which to his amazement has a rocket that will take him to Columbia. It is there he begins his journey to find the girl. At first, all seems nice; parades, carnival games, music; it’s all colourful and dandy. Things go a little weird when he receives a telegram telling him to not do something he may do, he learns about the “False Shepard” and he realises Columbia is just as racist as the rest of the world. It’s not long before he is pursued by the city of Columbia over his presence on the sky city, and all he can do is battle his way through it all to reach his goal. But that goal may not be all that clear, and it won’t be all that clear as the story will start to travel one way, and then the other and it may just be difficult for you to understand right away. Just pray you have a strong mind because it might take quite a bit of thought and concentration to follow the story alone correctly. The game doesn’t exactly have a mind blowing ending; it’s not like the surprise that Bioshock 1 gave us if that’s what you’re hoping for. One thing is for certain though: you’ll pick up questions throughout the game, and a lot of them will be answered… they just won’t be solved with a straight answer.
Booker is quite a likeable character, but I suppose it depends on how you see him. He comes to Columbia to find Elizabeth, who he has been tasked to bring back to New York in order for his debt to be paid. But it’s never that simple, is it? You’ll start off with a few guns to guide you through, but then you’ll begin using “Vigors”, the ‘Plasmids’ of Infinite. It’s never explained as to how these abilities exist in the world, but that’s OK because that’s part of the mystery of it. It’ll be tough to adapt to using them, because like most FPS, the left trigger on the controller is usually used for aiming, but what you need to remember is this isn’t Call of Duty (thank god). Instead, the left trigger controls your Vigor abilities; you’ll pick them up throughout the course of the game; some are story related whilst others you’ll need to find manually. There are only 8 of them however, a smaller number to Bioshock 1 and 2’s 11 Plasmids. For a game like this, you’d expect Irrational to go one or two higher. It’s not a big problem, purely because of what you can do with them. One Vigor will allow you to use electricity, whilst another will summon a flock of crows to peck upon your enemies. What’s better is that because you can equip two at a time, you can combine these abilities in small ways. Not every combination is legitimate, and you probably won’t be using these combinations all that often, but that’s entirely up to how you play though. To use your Vigors, you have to have enough “Salt” in your body. Salts are Infinite’s version of “Eve”, and each ability requires a different amount of Salt. Salt can be replenished by either eating food or finding the right vials (which tend to be glowing blue). These abilities feel great to use and can sometimes blow your mind when using them.
In terms of your health, you’ll need to replenish this as this goes down by eating food or finding health packs. If you lose health, you die (obviously). Death itself is rather interesting, as you don’t go back to the checkpoint, but instead, after a pretty cool death animation, you’ll lose a few pieces of money and then be able to jump right back into the fight you just died in, except all the enemies you were just fighting have healed ever so slightly. It’s tough, but fair.
As you find more money, you’ll be able to upgrade your abilities, weapons and replenish ammo using various vending machines found around Columbia. These upgrades are worth having, as the game tends to get harder as you play, no matter your difficulty.
Looting tends to become a chore a lot of the time. Almost every enemy is lootable after death; most carry ammo, coins and sometimes food. Items around you like crates and barrels are also lootable, but for some strange reason, not all of them. You’ll have barrels and crates that all look the same, unopened, and yet you can only look some rather than others. It makes no sense, but what really makes no sense is when you loot a letterbox and you find coffee in it. I don’t have a problem with that; in fact the more I can replenish my health, the better. It’s just… odd.
Focusing on Elizabeth now, who acts as your “companion” throughout. Whilst she and Booker will have their scuffs, she becomes a rather useful tool in the long run (not like that!). Elizabeth can pick lock some items pretty well, and once you hear her back story, you’ll understand why. She also has another ability; one that is not very well explained as to why she can do it. Elizabeth can open “tears”, which are rips in the world that can allow passage into another world. These come in handy a lot, as you can also use these to your advantage, allowing you to gain access to health packs whilst you fight, or certain weapons, or even a hook for you to jump onto using your SkyHook. It would be wise to take advantage of these tears, because fights become vigorously tough, but ultimately fun and challenging. One feature I’m sure many players have been dying to experience is using Sky-Lines to traverse the area. It’s actually quite exhilarating as you jump from one Sky-Line to another, taking a giant leap that almost seems like you’ll surely fall to your death. Using the Sky-Lines in battle is difficult however, but more of a challenge if anything. With that comes powerful enemies that add to that very challenge, as you’ll encounter those that can transform into birds, fly away and appear right before your eyes; there are those that are fast and throw fire, and they’re not even the toughest kind.
Elizabeth herself is a fantastic character, and one you may come to admire, even during her darkest times. When in battle, whilst she cannot physically fight, she will scavenge for supplies, throwing you items you may desperately need, like a health pack or ammo. One thing that does baffle me slightly is why enemies only attack me, but ignore her. What would have made sense is ‘there I am battling a man and there’s another man taking her away’. Whilst the game isn’t perfect, it’s little things that seemed to catch my eye a lot, like how Elizabeth interacts with the environment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game where an AI will properly, and I mean “properly”, interact with their surroundings. If Elizabeth is by smoke or a fire, she’ll begin to cough vigorously. If there’s a seat nearby and there’s no danger, she may just take a seat to rest. She’ll even go as far as to ‘not’ follow you into the males bathroom. She’ll even mention items you may have missed as you pass them, so all in all, she is a real lifesaver when it comes to it.
Whilst this is one Bioshock that leans away from the previous games, Infinite does see the return of one symbolic item. Audio diaries return in the form of Voxophones, which give you more insight into the characters you interact. Most of the Voxophones are of important characters, but even minor ones have their minute of fame. These also form up one set of collectables; the other being various telescopes and Kinetoscopes that help build up the canon to the story.
There’s no doubt Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful game… but that’s to a certain extent. From a distance, environments tend to look gorgeous, and the lighting effects in some area are mesmerizing. But up close, the graphics are anything but impressive. Smaller items are textured the worst, becoming ever so blurry. At times, I half expected the texture to pop in at a high resolution, only for nothing to happen. The version I played on was the Xbox 360; whether the graphics are just as poor on the PS3 and on the PC’s highest settings is a mystery to me.
Much more can be said about Bioshock Infinite, but saying too much may just ruin the immersion. With future DLC updates coming, it’s a wonder where the story will go. Bioshock Infinite is a game that deserves it’s place in Bioshock. It’s not as good as the first game, but miles ahead of the second game. Whilst the story continues to baffle and the graphics continue to not render the way you hoped, the strong characters and the astonishing gameplay are what holds everything together.
It’s also a real shame they didn’t decide to continue with their multiplayer componant from Bioshock 2, but then again that wasn’t exactly pretty.
This was played on the Xbox 360 and was a paid for copy, not a review copy.
Following a few messages, I have since edited the review ever so slightly, giving people more of an insight to my opinions as well as a few grammatical errors. No doubt the review is still messy, but nobody is perfect.