People expect so much from Bioshock Infinite, Ken Levine, and Irrational Games. How couldn’t they? It isn’t about a great feeling game. The tightest controls and the most rewarding kills couldn’t satisfy those anticipating Bioshock Infinite’s arrival. It had to be something more. It had to make us think, the way that Atlus’ deceptive words did in 2007’s Bioshock. Thankfully, Bioshock Infinite does just that. Behind the great heights of Columbia, the mysterious story behind Elizabeth, and all the guns and Vigors a fan can ask for, Bioshock Infinite’s legacy will live on much further than its predecessor. Its not the game that makes Bioshock Infinite a success, its everything the game could have been.
Columbia is Rapture. It is the fully realized world that lets our minds do the walking. We imagine what it is beyond the boundaries that we are exposed to. Bioshock Infinite’s first hour is virtual tourism at its best. It is equivalent to visiting the world’s greatest wonders, and highest structures. But this is what the game could have been. Irrational Games could have been happy with creating another one of these worlds. They could have made a simple objective-focused narrative, the way that the less-risky blockbusters do. But they didn’t. Bioshock Infinite is a fully realized world that drops your jaw at every corner, but leaves you with the satisfaction of knowing that the best hasn’t come yet. And I can assure you, it will come
As the game’s plot begins to unfold, Bioshock Infinite makes less and less sense. Those craving for answers may feel tempted to speedrun the second half of the game. However, stop to take in the view. The beauty that is Columbia will fade, and the story will go places that you would never expect. When those answers come, it will be too much for you to handle. This is Bioshock Infinite’s greatest feat. Bioshock’s twist, 5-and-a-half years ago, gave us a new light to view the previous events. Everything suddenly made sense. Bioshock Infinite won’t give you such pleasures. You will work for your answers, but rest assured that they are there.
Let’s not forget that there is a game worth playing, behind the mysteries of the plot.
I’m placing much focus on the narrative because it is such a feat in itself. Aside from that, however, there is still much to talk about. Let’s start from the beginning. You are Booker Dewitt. Unlike in the original Bioshock, Booker is not just a conduit for your experiencing of the world. Booker is a character, with flaws and motivation. He is an ex-Pinkerton agent who is in debt. He is tasked to retrieve a girl, named Elizabeth, and bring her to New York.
She’s never been to New York, she should be thrilled
Enter Columbia, the beautiful city I wrote about above. In Columbia, you collect Vigors the way you did Plasmids. The actual gameplay is somewhat familiar in this sense. While the Vigors eventually take greater forms, and surpass Plasmids in use, the mechanic is essentially the same. The biggest innovation in the gameplay department is the skyline. Early in the game, you pick up a Sky-Hook, and you eventually take to the skies. You control the speed and direction while riding these lines with your hook. It is hard to aim and shoot while riding at high speeds, but the constant access to these lines gives you quite the leverage in battle.
The gameplay is familiar, yet fresh. It builds upon the kingdom that Bioshock created. The other main addition in combat is the use of Elizabeth. She will throw you ammo, salts (used to power your Vigors), and health in the heat of combat. It was a wise move on Irrational’s side to take the focus away from protecting her during gameplay. You never have to worry about her health. Many were worried that the game would be one big escort mission, but Elizabeth becomes a masterly crafted AI companion, rather than a defenceless burden.
Elizabeth is always keeping her eye out for money and the aforementioned goods out of combat. She also picks locks and opens tears. She is useful, clever, excellently voiced, and her presence is always enjoyed. Seeing her interacting with the environments is one of the greatest joys in Bioshock infinite. Songbird is another addition to the Bioshock lore that is worth writing about. He is a giant mechanical bird that is assigned to protect Elizabeth. He is her only friend throughout her entire life, considering she was locked away since her youth. He is a constant threat, and his story has a stunning conclusion.
He is like a girlfriend’s intimidating dad, except he crushes airships with his feet
Bioshock Infinite, as close to perfection as it is, does have a minor, but noticeable, flaw. That flaw is in its pacing. During your first play-through, the middle portion of the game is too confusing to care about the plot, and too objective-less to care about the gameplay. The game drags you through story elements that are simply impossible to understand with what you have been told. By the end of the game, it all wraps up nicely, but you will certainly not be on-board for a few of the middle hours. With that said, this is probably a game you will want to play again and again. After the initial stump, and once you understand the story elements revealed in the last 30 minutes, the game is worthy of a revisit.
Between Robert and Rosalind’s surprisingly relevant interferences and Dimwit & Duke’s child-focused propaganda, Bioshock Infinite also has charm. The game will make you laugh and smile during its duration, and all of it helps create the believability of Columbia. The Lutece Twins were a personal favourite, and digging into their backstory reveals some of the game’s biggest mysteries. They also provide great comic relief in such a heavily-themed game. It is also nice to see the charm integrate with the story to such a degree.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that tangles up your brain. For most, the definitive example would be Inception. Wrapping your head around the layers of dreams, without forgetting about the mechanics in play, was confusing enough. Limbo threw a curve ball, and had us all readjust what we thought we knew about the formula. Inception surely got us all thinking. Many of us were also impressed with the exploration of time-travel in Looper. Along with others, I was quick to join the discussion online. We all wanted to understand these movies. We wanted to get the conclusive answers behind each of the mysteries. With Bioshock Infinite, so much more than great gunplay and interesting characters is offered. It is impressive that story is presented without the sacrifice of gameplay (Walking Dead), and gameplay is presented without the sacrifice of story (Dishonored). It is gaming’s Inception, and for those of you who love to let your mind loose, Bioshock infinite is a playground. Have fun.