BioShock Infinite is a game that many people have been anxiously waiting for ever since it was first announced in 2010. Hype for the game only grew when Irrational Games showed off a rather impressive demo of the game at E3 2011. Now, after a few delays, the much anticipated game has finally hit the shelves, but does it live up to the hype?
The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. Not only does it live up to the hype, but it actually surpasses it. What makes BioShock Infinite an exceptional game is its story and its ability to handle different topics and issues in a way that has never been done before in games. It touches on a variety of topics like nationalism, politics, and ideology, but the way it presents difficult issues like racism, religion, sexism, xenophobia, and poverty is what makes this game captivating.
Welcome to Columbia, the city in the clouds. Columbia is a city comprised of a cluster of floating islands governed by a man named Zachary Hale Comstock. The city is a technological marvel that is modeled after a vision of America that never existed. Comstock’s ideals and morals shape Columbia to its very core and as such, most citizens of Columbia idolize Comstock to near godly levels. Columbia is no simple rehashing of the underwater city of Rapture; it is something completely different that has a life of its own. At first glance, the city gives the appearance of an actualized utopia, but beneath it’s gorgeous exterior lies a city marred by publicly demanded racial purity, political dismay, and revolution.
In Bioshock Infinite, you assume the role of Booker DeWitt, a private investigator and veteran of the U.S. Calvary. Booker is indebted to the wrong people and has been given one last chance to clear his debt. For the debt to be forgiven, Booker must travel to the floating city of Columbia, retrieve a girl named Elizabeth, and deliver her to an unspecified group in New York. The job almost sounds too easy given the gravity of Booker’s situation, but once you step foot on Columbia, you’ll see that this mission is more than Booker bargained for.
The plot is strong and beautifully executed. Columbia has a society that wants to keep its racial purity, but at the same time, it’s in desperate need of immigrant labor to maintain its way of life. The immigrant laborers of Columbia, and anybody who sympathizes with them, are seen as trash by Columbia’s society, and this oppression creates strong resentment toward the original inhabitants of the city. The desire for change guides these oppressed individuals to form a group called the Vox, and their resentment fuels an inevitable, violent revolution. By the time Booker arrives in the city, Columbia is already at the tipping point. Booker and Elizabeth prove to be the catalyst that will change Columbia forever. As Booker and Elizabeth make their way through the city, you will see the very untethering of Columbia’s foundations.
Everything looks great in this game: the graphics are sharp, the scenery is breathtaking, and the environments are vibrant and brimming with color. BioShock Infinite has an almost Disney-like aesthetic to it; everything during the happier moments seems beautiful and whimsical. A perfect example of this is when you are on the beach and Elizabeth is dancing to music. It almost seems like it was taken out of a Disney movie.
The voice acting is superb, and each character puts real feeling into each spoken word. This greatly helps the player to become fully immersed into the game. Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth, gives an astounding and memorable performance that draws you in to every moment. Every emotion Elizabeth emotes is believable, and it’s this believability that makes it much easier to form a bond with the character.
The gameplay is very fluid, combat is great, and the tear system, combined with the skyline, creates fun and dynamic fights. Most of the battle areas give the player the freedom to choose how they want to take down enemies, whether that be up close, mid-range, or long-range. The addition of special enemies, like the handyman, the crow, and the motorized patriot, forces you to change the way you normally attempt to dispatch enemies. The game forces you to change your combat strategy which keeps fights from feeling stagnant and repetitive. In Bioshock Infinite, you are given powers called vigors. Vigors send you on scary, drug-like hallucinations when first taken, but in return, you are given vigorous powers (pun intended) that you can use to dismantle your enemies. Vigors, when used in combination with the variety of weapons available, the surrounding skylines, and extra-dimensional tears, allows you to creatively tip fights in your favor.
BioShock Infinite is a great game that does many things right, but unfortunately, it also does a few things wrong. For instance, you may occasionally find that you are unable to pick up certain items like lock picks or food. There are also noticeable flaws in the game that could’ve been easily fixed. Each gun should have their own distinct feel in order to give the player a reason to want to use that weapon. The Vox repeater and machine gun fail to do this, as the two guns feel so similar that it’s hard to tell one from the other. Another flaw is that the all the guns (except for the sniper rifle) feel weak; they just don’t seem like they do as much damage as they should. Finally, there is a minor flaw with the AI who are supposedly non-immediate threats. These particular AI were too quick to draw their guns. There were times when one would approach an area where non-immediate threats would say something like, “I’ll give you to the count of three,” but end up shooting at you anyway.
Overall, BioShock Infinite is one of those great, rare games that is unlike anything before it. It has an incredible story that begs to be told and the gameplay to accompany it. You would be doing yourself a disservice to pass up the opportunity to play this groundbreaking game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock Infinite developed by Irrational Games and distributed by 2K Games.