Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bioshock Infinite review

To fully understand and appreciate Irrational Games' Bioshock Infinite it helps to have a basic understanding of alternate realities. The theory that at any point in time there are an infinite amount of parallel realities that can seem exactly the same or completely different. In one world you could be the opposite sex, you might never have been born, you might have children or have none. There are even possibilities that the dinosaurs never died out and human beings never existed. Even a choice as simple as what you had for breakfast 10 years ago could alter a path that leads to a world war. Okay, maybe not that drastic, but it is still a possibility. Bioshock Infinite takes that theory and turns it into a living world.

The story begins with the protagonist, Booker Dewitt, being taken to a lone lighthouse somewhere off the coast of Maine. He is tasked with finding a girl and bringing her to the people who hired him in order to wipe away a significant gambling debt he has accumulated. After climbing to the top of the lighthouse, Booker sits down in a comfy looking chair. Locking his arms in place, the chair is surrounded by a metallic wall, and Booker is propelled 30,000 feet up into the air. Soaring through the clouds and understandably freaking out, Booker begins to glimpse parts of a city. A city in the clouds. Columbia.

City of Columbia
Columbia is far removed from the previous city of Rapture. There are no flooded areas of corpses, no disfigured maniacs, no flickering lights or moving statues. At least not at first. Columbia is a flying paradise. Children laugh as they run through the streets. Well dressed ladies and gentlemen discuss the various daily gossip while they sip tea at the cafe. Walking down the street feels like you are in the early 1900's era. The clothing, music, and buildings are historically accurate for that time period which really helps to set the mood. Children gawk at the technological marvels at the fair, people are amazed by futuristic looking gadgets, and everyone seems to be enjoying the carnival games. Life seems perfect in this city in the sky.

A group of onlookers at the fair
A little further on however, you begin to get glimpses of slightly skewed ideologies. The religious undertones seem strange. People pray to statues of historical founding fathers such as George Washington. A lot of the focus seems to be on a man called "The Prophet." As you go further into the city, you begin to understand that things are definitely not what they seem to be. Propaganda posters litter the walls and audio logs seem to describe an almost detached sense of community towards others,  Reaching the main event at the fair, the "raffle", you can see people getting very excited for something. You are offered a ticket (a number scrawled on a baseball) and lo and behold your number gets picked. A curtain goes up and you realize that the prize you just won is the first toss at an interracial couple who are to be "stoned" to death. Racism plays a large role in this story, which unfortunately fits the time period.

Booker inevitably ends up having to fight his way through the city to find the young woman he was tasked with taking to New York. Wandering the streets he encounters the local law enforcement, guards armed with batons and pistols. These are easily dispatched, but other enemies arrive on the scene. Enemies that wield the new version of the original Bioshock's tonics called "vigors". Combating bad guys who can fling great balls of fire makes the challenge a little more difficult, but easily remedied once you have your own abilities to send back at them.

You and Elizabeth don't start out on the best of terms
Wandering the streets alone is alright, but the story really begins to pick up after Booker finds Elizabeth and takes her from the tower that is her prison. Elizabeth becomes your companion for most the game after that. Where most games require you to protect your compatriot, Elizabeth is more of a badass by herself. She doesn't get directly involved in the combat, but she will provide you with ammo, health packs, and salt (the Infinite's version of Eve hypos). Elizabeth also has a unique ability that plays a lot into the story and also the combat. Finding "tears" throughout the city, she can open these tears into alternate realities providing weapon caches like RPG's or a crate full of med packs, even building additions that hadn't been built in their world that can provide cover. Only one tear can be opened at a time, so you will need to plan your battles around whether or not you need the automated rocket turret or the sky hook that will launch you to the next floor of a building quickly.

Tear from one reality to another
Where Elizabeth is the best AI partner we could ever dream of, Booker relies on the old standard of bullets, strikes, and vigors. Chaining lightning across a large group of enemies can help keep them steady while you riddle them with lead, or sending a flock of crows to gouge out their eyes while you set traps helps to even the odds. Flying from sky hook to sky hook allows you to navigate the area quickly but nothing feels quite like flying along the skylines. Skyline rails act as a kind of roller coaster, zipping you around the area. Laying down a barrage of bullets as you fly on by is satisfying, but nothing beats propelling yourself off the lines into an enemy knocking them into a 30,000 foot free fall. Combat is an immense amount of fun and you will continuously look for skylines to jump onto.

The combat is fluid and a very strong part of the game, but where it really shines is the story. Revisiting Booker's past and learning about his past exploits as a soldier makes you desire to learn more, but the true focus point is on Elizabeth. Her past is a mystery and her future is even more clouded. You go through the game in a blend of the past, present and future. Keeping track can be quite an undertaking but extremely rewarding. Each question that gets answered opens up a dozen more conundrums and the desire to know everything will have you scouring every nook and cranny for recordings that will reveal the truth. As the story progresses, the twists and turns get even more convoluted, but Irrational ties up all of the loose ends into a very satisfying and spectacular ending.

With a fantastic story, extremely smooth gameplay, a riveting setting, and a superb combat system, Bioshock Infinite will leave you breathless when the curtains finally close.

Final Verdict: 10/10

1 comment:

  1. To busy playing Gears Judgement to be bothered with BioShock. It will still be a great game on Black Friday when I pick it up for 25 bucks.