Sometimes we the gamers are subject to over-hyping of supposed triple-A titles that leads to an underwhelming experience in the end. Other times the game in question seems to live up to all the expectations we had gained over the years since it was initially announced. Then there are other moments still when we read countless high-scoring reviews or get told by our friends that they just finished a masterpiece, and when we complete it ourselves we merely THINK the title is the créme de la créme, the top of the charts and holier than the Pope, all because its “glory” has been raining upon us for so many months, weeks and days leading up to the release that we’re drowning in our need to play this magnificent gift.
It’s times like that when one should learn to step away for a few months, go to the Winchester, grab a pint, play a few other games, and wait for it all to blow over. Some time without being over-exposed to the big one might let you form your own opinion better, without having your judgement so clouded by others’ opinions. With “Three months later”, we here at Save/Continue hope to give you a more subjective look at recent hits a little bit after their release, once something bigger and better has taken over the limelight.
As this series is a look back at popular games that have been readily available for a few months, spoilers WILL often be included! You have been warned!
In this particular case, I’ll be taking a look at BioShock Infinite. With the critical success of BioShock, there were incredibly high hopes for BioShock 2, but the unfortunately lackluster sequel left many fans wanting more. BioShock 2 was a good game, to be sure; it just wasn’t the groundbreaking follow-up people wanted. Irrational Games (who developed the original BioShock but had no involvement with BioShock 2) sought out to remedy the bad taste left in our mouths from BS2 with the BioShock Infinite, which looked to be more of a spiritual continuation to the franchise rather than another outright sequel.
BioShock Infinite begins with a Mr. Booker DeWitt being rowed to a lighthouse by a peculiar pair whose faces are hidden behind heavy raincoats. Not five minutes into the game, and there’s already a feeling of mystery and an eerie atmosphere, along with a lighthouse. Beginning the game like this, as I’m sure I can’t be the only one to notice, is fairly reminiscent of the first BioShock, when Jack crash-landed and had to make his way through the debris-riddled water into the safe haven of the lighthouse.
The main difference in Infinite? You don’t get sent downward into Rapture. You are instead shuttled up, up, up, to the fantastical sky-city above known as Columbia. The seceded city-state is maintained by the watchful eyes of its Prophet, Zachary H. Comstock, who serves as the driving opposition for our “hero”, known to the locals as the “false Prophet” thanks to our friend Comstock. This makes Booker an instant target for anyone in Columbia brandishing a weapon.
So if you have played either of the previous titles, the combat should feel very similar. The first-person shoot-and-melee works well, with the melee weapon this time being the incredibly useful Skyhook. The versatility of the Skyhook is great – you can use it for standard melee attacks or jump onto Skylines to explore new areas. While on the Skylines you can fire your guns or, if you are close enough to an enemy, do an awesome Skyline Strike, sending your foe flying away. If they’re not dead from the strike, they will be soon. The Skyhook is also used in partnership with the Vigor (Infinite’s version of Plasmids) Charge, letting you slam into an opponent with great force from a good distance away.
Some Vigors are pretty standard, such as Shock Jockey, Devil’s Kiss and Bucking Bronco (similar to Electro Bolt, Incinerate!, and Cyclone Trap respectively), but they all come with two modes: attack and trap. In previous titles you could lay down a Cyclone Trap they hit it with Electro Bolt to make a shocking surprise for the enemy. This time they take out the middle man, allowing you to make a trap with most any Vigor just by holding the trigger a bit longer before releasing. It’s a small change, but incredibly helpful when you’re in the middle of an intense battle and don’t have the time to switch between two abilities.
My personal favorite Vigor came in the form of Possession. At the start it is pretty costly to use, but once you purchase the upgrade to reduce its salt cost, the technique is invaluable. Possess an enemy – they will attack their allies, and become a wonderful distraction so you can find some cover. Best of all, once ther possession wears off, (if they are still alive) they kill themselves! It’s a bit morbid, but I hope if you are playing BioShock Infinite that you are not faint of heart. Possess a turret – it will fire away at the group of enemies that are likely surrounding it, making your clean-up job MUCH easier. Possess a vending machine – okay, so you don’t get any discounts and you can’t get unlimited health packs. But you do get a random amount of money from every vendor you possess. It truly helps you save up for those costly weapon and Vigor upgrades. I probably made half of my earnings just from vending machines and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth! I have completely left her out so far! So DeWitt has to “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt!” The girl is Elizabeth, and she becomes your companion for the bulk of the game. Unlike other titles where you must escort a damsel throughout the game, Liz can take care of herself. She does not have a health bar, she does not need protecting, and she does not take your crap. She is in fact your greatest asset.
The woman randomly finds money ALL OVER THE PLACE, and just gives it to you. No side-quests in order to get it from her – she’s just all, “Booker, I found this. You want it?” And Booker’s all, “HELL YEAH I WANT IT. GIMME DAT MONEY.” Or maybe that wasn’t Booker. Maybe that was just me. Regardless, she finds money and I gladly accept. Not just that though! If you’re running low on ammo, she will frequently find more to throw your way. The same goes for health and salts. Occasionally I would be a sliver away from death and she’d be on the sidelines throwing me salt after salt, but them’s the brakes. She’s not always going to have everything. But it’s 100% okay, because Elizabeth is incredibly helpful more often than not.
Side note: during battle Elizabeth would always, ALWAYS find a corner and hide there. Not once did she even run in front of my line of sight or attempt to catch my bullets in her face. This alone makes her the best escort ally in any video game, ever.
In terms of story, the premise is simple enough. Booker has a debt to pay. He is to find Elizabeth and take her to New York to get himself out of the red. But when he finds Elizabeth things get complicated. Suddenly there’s this giant bird that doesn’t want her to go, and these strange dimensional tears that she can open, and an odd man and woman that come and go in the blink of an eye leaving nothing but cryptic messages and riddles.
The man and woman are Robert and Rosalind Lutece, twins with expertise in the field of quantum physics. They seem to be following DeWitt’s actions throughout the course of the game, and it comes out that they are the ones who sent him on the fake mission of paying off his debt in the first place. They have created a form of cross-dimensional travel, and send him on a sort of wild goose chase to observe how he and Elizabeth interact in this world that is different from their original.
I’m getting away from myself. This is supposed to focus on the game as a whole and how it plays out, not a summary of the story, so I will just say this: the twists presented in Infinite’s finale are superb and mind-blowing. I can safely say I never saw them coming, but after thinking about it a bit it all makes some sort or twisted sense. Perhaps the best part was when Elizabeth opened the tear to subdue Songbird (which, by the way, I was highly disappointed at not getting an epic end-game battle against. It was fun to direct his attacks, but I was looking forward to Booker’s showdown with Elizabeth’s winged protector!), landing him deep underwater with she and DeWitt watching from inside the pipes and tunnels of Rapture, complete with Plasmid posters and signs of Andrew Ryan’s propaganda. Combined with the note about how “it always begins with a lighthouse” and being able to travel via bathysphere, this was perhaps the most brilliant tie-in I’ve ever seen, leaving my eyes wide and my mouth agape. Absolutely perfect.
So now that I’ve gushed on and on about how wonderful Infinite is, it’s time to point out the flaws.
Choices played an incredibly important role in BioShocks 1 and 2. Do you want to Save or Harvest the Little Sister? Will you kill or spare Sander Cohen? These were vital to how the game progressed. Naturally, when opportunities arose for me to make a hasty decision (i.e. choose which necklace for Elizabeth: the bird or the cage), I assumed the pick I made would impact something later on. Perhaps Slate would join my cause if I spared him. Maybe if I chose to throw the raffle ball at the interracial couple word would spread about my hateful nature and I’d be deemed an enemy of the Vox Populi. SOMETHING. But alas, nothing ever came from these choices – they are superfluous and unnecessary, adding nothing to the experience overall.
While there have been a good deal of complaints regarding combat, I never found it boring. There was always a constant flow of new weapons I hadn’t seen that were fun to try out, and the Vigors were spread throughout the game well enough that I had a quality amount of time with each one. Where my patience grew thin was the mid-story missions. Go find Chen Lin’s weapon shop. Now go find his wife. Okay, go back to Chen Lin in a different dimension. Some instances like this would take over an hour to complete, and would end up as mere subtext in the overall story. Once you finish that arc, you promptly forget about it. Small important tidbits arise from these sections, like the existence of people living in the alternate dimension whom you had just killed moments before, and the mystery as to why that is. Surely though that could have been explained in a more concise, less boring manner.
And that… is pretty much it. With such a low amount of cons against it, I can’t help but side with the majority and claim BioShock Infinite as a modern classic. I see it going down in history next to the greats for its gorgeous visuals, shocking end twists, and the ridiculously likeable character of Elizabeth. It isn’t perfect, but it is certainly the closest I have seen in a long time. This isn’t technically a review, but if I had to put down a number I would give it a solid 9 out of 10. Splendid work, Irrational Games. I eagerly look forward to your next endeavors, as well as the upcoming Infinite DLC.