Years went by and I still had never bothered to play Bioshock, stuck in a cycle of beating new game after new game. Then Bioshock Infinite was unraveled in front of our eyes with that new trailer, and that was the moment I realized I was late to the party. I still had time to catch up, as Infinite wasn’t to arrive until over a year after the initial reveal. I scouted Steam, and pounced on the perfect opportunity to pick up the first two games as part of a deal. It happened, and I finally played the first game.
I didn’t get to finish it however, I was robbed again of my pleasurable Bioshock experience thanks to the swamp of games waiting for me on my desk. Time raced by like Usain Bolt on steroids and before I knew it Bioshock Infinite was on my computer. I said ‘what the hell’ and booted it up, and from that moment onwards I was lost. My true identity no longer mattered, I was now Booker Dewitt. I had no idea what I was doing or what my purpose was, all I know was that I had materialized into this beautiful floating city of Columbia and I was about to witness the most touching story unravel in front of my eyes.
Bioshock Infinite tells its story so well that it has now changed my perspective of how I view storytelling in games. I can’t remember the last time I was this captivated by a game, and I struggle to believe the feeling will be matched by any game this year. The best thing about it is how Irrational Games chooses to put their storytelling together. They don’t just rely on inserting cut-scene triggers in between various sections of gameplay. Instead they let the world and its characters project the storyline as you play. I knew nothing about this game when I began playing. All I knew was that I was in love with the way the environment looked, and that I would keep moving forward to see what else I can discover. After finishing the game 13 hours later, I feel like I know all there is to know about Bioshock Infinite without even beating the first two games.
An essential part of Bioshock Infinite’s engaging plot is its central characters. You play as Booker Dewitt, a man payed to carry out the task of rescuing a young lady. Booker certainly has a shady past and you can tell just by the way he thinks as you begin taking your beginner steps through this new world. Fast forward to about an hour into the game when you finally rescue the girl, and you are now graced with the heart and soul of Bioshock Infinite. Elizabeth is hands down the best NPC (Non-playable character) companion I’ve witnessed in a game. Not only is her character design and writing well done, but the way she interacts with you and the world was well thought out by Irrational Games. Not once does she get in your way. During combat you don’t need to worry about protecting her; on the contrary she often protects you, throwing you vital items that can save your life. Elizabeth becomes such a key part of the game that when she’s near you her presence is felt, and when shes not by your side her absence burns you deeply.
A great story always needs a great antagonist, and in Bioshock Infinite you are opposing Zachary Comstock, also known as The Prophet. He’s an easy person to hate thanks to his religious brainwashing, and his racist views towards blacks. As you play through the game you’ll hear him spew his venom to Booker over loud speakers, and send his minions to make your life a living hell.
As you fight your mental war with The Prophet, Bookers most physical threat comes in the form of a mechanical songbird which is sworn to protect Elizabeth and ensure she is holed up in her statue. While the songbird is clearly a very overpowering entity, it’s very unfortunate that you don’t actually get to have a full on showdown with the beast. I feel like Irrational could have found someway to play on the songbirds clearly terrifying advantages over little old Booker Dewitt.
Even the range of enemies you’ll be shooting at are well designed and suited to the patriotic theme of Bioshock Infinite. You’ll be shooting regular soldiers, George Washington styled robots and gigantic 10-foot tall cyborgs called Handymen. Airships will swoop down on you allowing enemies to flank and foes will swing down on you from air rails, ensuring that you’ll never feel too comfortable during combat.
Booker has the ability to earn Vigors, also known as plasmids. These Vigors open up new possibilities for Booker in combat; giving him abilities like throwing fire bombs, floating enemies in the air, grabbing enemies from afar and bringing them right in front of you or possessing enemies to fight for you. One thing I loved Irrational Games for was the fact they made it so you have both your weapon and vigor equipped at the same time. Both means of attack were available to me with only the right and left mouse button separating them. This felt more fun than only being able to equip one at a time like in the first game.
With your vigors and the range of generic weapons, along with Elizabeth’s ability to open up portals that reveal useful items such as turrets, ammo, health and cover; a lot of choice is given to the player when it comes to approaching combat. When I died in Bioshock Infinite it wasn’t so much because the game was difficult, it was more because I didn’t utilize the environment like I should have. This is an element I love about the game because it encourages you to be a more active gamer instead of just standing there trying to pump bullets into everything.
After my first four hours of Bioshock Infinite there was something missing which was easily noticeable. Very early into the first Bioshock game I was introduced to mini-puzzles such as the hacking mini-game. These types of puzzles are completely missing from Infinite, with the only comparable element being the cipher hunts. Every now and then you’ll come across a cryptic message splattered across a wall, to decipher it you must find a hidden book which Elizabeth will use to unveil the clue. Upon doing so you are rewarded with items which mostly include a bottle of fluid to increase either your health, shield or salt meters. It’s not brain busting, but It’s something.
In many games I’ve played over the past few years, I yawned at the thought of actually retrieving collectables. Sure if they were right there unmistakably flashing in my face I would pick them up, but I would never actively seek them. Bioshock Infinite however made me actually want to examine every inch of the environment to see what I would discover. From Voxophones, to Kinescopes there’s a lot to find in the world; and unless you’re using a guide I’m sure you won’t make a clean sweep on the first playthrough. Traveling back and forth through Columbia can be pretty fun thanks to the air rail system which allows Booker to swing through different platforms with his arm attachment. This makes collecting even easier, as you can go back to a previous platform after unlocking new abilities to see what you may have missed.
Irrational Games clearly know how to build a world for us to fall in love with, and they did it yet again with Bioshock Infinite. With a plot that will have you emotionally invested in its characters, a world that is memorizing to look at and the best ending to a game I’ve seen in years. Bioshock Infinite is not a game to be missed by anybody who calls themselves a gamer. It doesn’t matter what genre you enjoy the most, because Bioshock Infinite is not a game to be defined by its genre. It’s a true work of art, and a staple of how Video Games should be considered as legitimate works of art. Buy this game and don’t hesitate to play it.
This review is based on a retail version of Bioshock Infinite for the PC.