Bioshock Infinite is a game that many people have been waiting for and after playing the preview for 3 hours, it was a game that just had to be played fully to see if it could live up to its amazing buzz, hype and wonder.
Bioshock is a well known game in the gaming world and the creators, Irrational Games, are also known well for creating gripping and compelling stories that really dive into emotional narrative and gameplay to hit all your feelings. The biggest question for most people out there when Bioshock Infinite and Columbia was revealed was, ‘will it stand up to its predecessor?’ As an avid player of the series, I asked myself the same question, “Will Bioshock Infinite do the Bioshock universe justice or will it tank?”
From the moment you play the game you will get a feel for the previous games, Bioshock 1 & 2. You begin in a familiar situation and the atmosphere is thick with memories of the previous games but with a new element to it. The striking moment in the early section of the game is the first sights of Columbia; the imagery is fantastic, you sit at your computer/tv in awe of what you see and think “WOW” this looks absolutely stunning, that it itches you to want to move and explore the city before you are even able to.
The streets of Columbia are filled with life and buzzing with the sounds of people, you can really feel the world around you as if you are actually in it. The city in the sky has its own history, propaganda, racism, extremists and little critters that roam around, really making it feel believable. You can actually believe the city in the sky exists because everything in the world makes you believe it, but more than anything, the characters in the game believe in it, grounding you to Columbia even more.
Your character Booker Dewitt, has a strange role in the story. You are him and he is you. At first you see him as a reluctant man who is going to a strange city which he has never heard of to rescue a girl call Elizabeth all because of one phrase spoken at the start, “bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”. Some people may like his character at the start of the game and others may not but in the beginning he is very closed off to the world and to the player. However, slowly, his story builds and becomes more fleshed out. This makes him form more of a connection with the player and most of all he is not silent; he interacts with the world and the people around them talking to them in conversation. You are not you in the world of Columbia,you are Booker looking through his eyes, influencing him in the world and it really helps immerse you in the world and connect to him.
The next and probably the most important character in the game is Elizabeth. From the moment you meet her in the game you will not be able to get enough of her, it is the moment you have been waiting for and the moment you will not regret. This is the part which evolves from the original Bioshock into something different, a little familiar but truly spectacular. Once Elizabeth joins you she will rarely leave your side. She will be your companion and unlike AI in most games she is helpful, well designed and not a combat liability. She is so helpful in combat she will actually be the one helping you rather than the other way around. Elizabeth will throw you health and salts in battle when you are running low and in the quiet moments even find some money to help with your adventure. She is even helpful in combat in the way she can open up tears using her dimensional powers; this will give you tactical advantages in battles from floating turrets in the sky, cover, high ground, different types of ammunition and more.
Having these choices greatly changes the gameplay around and allows you to think of new strategies in every fire fight. Using Vigors in the game is very familiar to the previous games Plasmids but these Vigors are much more brutal and not pleasing to the eye adding a sense of raw power to them. Guns in the game are pretty standard for what you would expect from a shooter but you can use them in great combinations between the Vigors and Elizabeth’s power to create devastating combo attacks which really have a depth of feel to them.
Elizabeth herself plays a very integral and central part to the story. She is the glue that holds the game together and is the emotional backbone. Watching her interact with Booker in the game really improved the connection to myself and Booker but even more so, to Elizabeth. I felt that I was conversing with her, interacting with her and she became my companion in the game, not just an AI. This was very noticeable in the moments in the game she is not around. You will truly feel emotionally lost and will strive to get her back at your side again; she is always a positive and never a negative. Her interaction with Booker is always interesting and listening to their conversations is always a treat, be it from important talk, about the flow of the story, to her being wide-eyed and wonderful about the world around her.
The game is not all about Elizabeth and Booker; other characters in the game have a strong presence and are not just additional padding on the story. The big evil boss of the game, Comstock, or ‘The Prophet’ has a very high impact from the beginning. You see his face plastered over Columbia. He is the voice of reason and the voice of Godand pushes Booker even before you meet him pushing him in the world and giving the player something to hate and want to fight naturally because of his views, ideologies and dictatorship. Other strong characters appear later in the game and are always embedded into the story making them feel more alive and more supportive to the narrative.
The most intimidating foe you will encounter, even in the early hours of the game, is the Songbird. This creature/machine is more frightening than Big Daddies and has more power than anything you would have seen before. Designated as Elizabeth’s protector, you will always be worried as to when it will appear and in the moments it does, it will be something you will not soon forget. The Songbird is such a great addition to the game and its story that it is a shame so little is known about it and so little is done with it. So much more could be developed into the story using the Songbird.
Foes that you will face in battle will keep you on your toes even in the early moments of the game, for example, when you are fighting with your bare hands and the Skyhook. You will acquire many guns and your offenses will increase when you get access to Plasmids… I mean Vigors. These will become your arsenal that will combat the different enemies in Columbia. As useful and powerful as they are, you will still have an enjoyable battle against cops, soldiers, flame spitting suits of men and so many more interesting enemies that will require different tactics to beat. However, nothing still beats watching your enemies turn to ashes or shaking like a fish after being electrocuted. All the Tonics are not exactly the same as the previous games with powers of crows and Poseidon but some will remind you of past days in the damp and bleak Rapture.
The guns in the game are the usual combination of pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, but all have a steam punk 1912 feel to them. Guns in one hand and Vigors in another, you feel satisfied with your weapons against the masses. You can even upgrade the weapons and Vigors to get more bang out of them and they become even more useful when you begin to upgrade them, giving them additional powers or effects. It is a good idea to upgrade the ones you use the most as the upgrades are aplenty but they are not cheap. Another addition to your combat arsenal is the use of Gears. These are items of clothing which you can find throughout the game which can add extra buffs to Booker. These Gears remind you of the Tonics but this time you can only equip 4 at any time in the form of a hat, shirt, trousers and shoes. The combination of weapons, vigors and gears are endless, allowing players to change their style as they please. Playing the game, I was unsure if they are placed in the same location throughout Columbia or random on each pick up (This will be updated in my 99 play through).
Mentioned earlier, the Skyhook is your main constant weapon that acts as your melee attack, but more than that, it is a game mechanic which is amazingly fun. Using the Skyhook you can zip down the Skylines in the city to get around but also to attack from the skies, landing on your foes from above and pounding them to the floor. The controls are simple and the idea is easy but the application is flawless, it is one of the greatest moments in Columbia; being able to fly around at great speeds and shooting from above just to jump off at the last minute and come crashing down with a roar. Beware though, it’s not something exclusive to the player as the enemies will you use it too and they use it well.
Bioshock Infinite is a game to drool over; the looks are nice and even on Low PC settings or a console the game still looks vibrant, but to get the entire beauty of the game it has to be played on PC with high graphics and this is something the older consoles cannot do as well. Next-gen would have shown it off greatly but it is not here just yet. You will enjoy the game on any platform but it comes alive on PC with the extra graphical power behind it. It does however have its downsides with low textures in places, static looking NPCs, texture problems and the occasional frame rate stagger. But, as before, mid-range PC graphics do allow for no real problems for graphical exclusions.
The story in Infinite is one of the best stories I have been apart off in a long time. The game just pulls you in from the moment you step foot on Columbia and keeps on going right through to the end. Even in the moments between the big points in the story the game feels like the world has a story just by listening to people in the street, collecting the audio logs, known as Voxophones, and just by being in it and exploring. The combat and story meld together well and have enough time between fights to truly take in the narrative, game play and the world without being overrun with information and annoying enemies ( the king that might make you miss important narrative or story-driven information).
Bioshock Infinite has a great way of mixing the 1912’s with new age music and culture. There are many times you will be exploring Columbia and you will hear music which is completely out of place for the time Columbia is set in, this is a perfect way of using the narrative and world to its advantage and creating some truly weird and wonderful experiences. One of these wonderful moments, close to the start of the game, is a barbershop quartet singing the Beach Boys and there are many more moments to find. Infinite also has points for being able to put in little bits of story throughout you game when you are just wandering around. This story pushes on issues such as racism, nationalism, religion and much more.
If you are wondering how the plot twists and turns then you will not be disappointed. Would you kindly wait till the end to find out how the narrative and story develops Bioshock Infinite does well at making the story flow but the middle can feel a little slow and it can get pretty confusing trying to piece all the bits together. All things aside, sit back play the game and enjoy the narrative journey.
Bioshock Infinitie’s achievements and collectables have gone down the, “you can unlock this achievement after doing something X number of times” route and it tracks your progress after each time you complete that achievement’s “rule”. This is not story breaking or game breaking but it can be annoying for the achievement hunters out there to have to farm for their achievements which make them a little less of an achievement. Collectables in the game are audio logs or Voxophones and Fink machines which give you old school style videos.
My worry when entering the world of Bioshock Infinite was, “will the game live up to the expectations of the previous Bioshock games and the Bioshock Universe?” After playing the game, I can say it meets my personal expectations and the subtle tie-ins into the Bioshock Universe will make you realise that this is a Bioshock game with a different twist and interesting gameplay. The story and narrative really push gaming forward at what it should be aiming for in terms of next-gen gaming, and it is a First Person Shooter that has hit a bar which no other FPS has currently hit. 1999 mode will add more playability to the game while making it seriously harder for the Bioshock veterans and the achievement system will give players more drive to want to collect it all. Yes, Bioshock Infinite has parts which trip up, but these points are more niggles than massive problems that break gameplay.