Date Completed: September 15th, 2013
It’s been a whole month since I finished the game and It’s time for me to get this review done. I knew it would be a difficult review to write because the game is so story driven. There is a lot I could discuss here but I’ll try to keep it to my impressions while I played the game and avoid spoilers
Game play is largely identical to the previous Bioshock games. It’s a First-Person-Shooter game where you run around killing things with guns. Unlike the two previous titles the weapon wheel is gone and you are limited to only two guns at a time. While this is more realistic that carrying an entire bunker’s worth of weapons with you wherever you go it was a great inconvenience as well. I constantly found myself be to completely out of ammo for whatever two guns I happened to be carrying.
Fortunately firearms are supplemented by magical abilities called ‘Vigors’ (basically the same thing as Plasmids in previous titles). There are several different Vigors but my favorites were Devil’s Kiss which causes explosions and sets enemies on fire, Bucking Bronco which launches enemies into the air (where they can be easily picked off with a pistol), and Return to Sender which sends bullets back at your foes. Vigors can also be used to set traps which I found to be particularly useful when I was entering a large area. I’d set several traps before heading in and try and maneuver enemies into them.
Bioshock Infinite takes place in a floating city named Columbia. The various parts of the city are interconnected by a series of sky lines. Early in the game you pick up an item called the ‘Sky hook’ that allows you to travel along the sky lines, or sever the heads off your foes in melee battle (It’s important that tools have multiple uses). Riding on sky lines is a lot like riding on a roller coaster and is a lot of fun but the best part of sky lines were the battles. In battle sky lines can be used to escape enemies, quickly travel across the battle field, or to perform a sky line strike where you jump off a sky line directly onto an enemy (often knocking them off Columbia and into the great beyond). I understand that sky lines battles are the focus of a new ‘Clash in the Clouds’ DLC level pack has been made available and I totally intend to buy it.
To Summarize the game play mechanics:
- Always out of ammo
- Vigors fun
- Sky line fun
OK, now on to the story. What really sets Bioshock apart from normal games isn’t the game play, it’s the story. After having played through the original Bioshock and having lived through the “OMG WHAT JUST HAPPEND” moment I was very careful to avoid any spoilers of Bioshock Infinite. Mind blowing moments are rare in any medium and I was hoping that Bioshock Infinite would be as mind blowing as that original title (Spoiler: It is).
You play the role of Booker Dewitt, a former soldier who has been sent to the city of Columbia with the instruction “Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt”. It isn’t immediately clear what the debt is or who the girl is but you head to Columbia anyway because otherwise it would be a very boring game.
After arriving in Columbia I was immediately struck by how large it was. There are several different districts including parks, fair grounds, factories, and hospitals. The city has even been given a unique culture. Patriotism is evident, although Columbia appears to have severed diplomatic ties with the United States. The city is decorated in Red, White and Blue and statues of the founding fathers are found throughout Columbia. Washington is usually found holding a sword, Jefferson carries a scroll and Franklin has a key. Interestingly you will often find statues of Washington holding a giant Gatling gun. These statues (Known as patriots) have the annoying habit of coming to life and trying to kill you. Any game where George Washington ‘busts out his gat’ and tries to mow you down is OK in my book.
Racism is also evident and and from what I can tell is appropriate for the period that the game is set in. While patriotism and racism are not especially integral to the plot they do help color Columbia with a layer of authenticity. It feels as ‘real’ as any imaginary city floating in the clouds is likely to feel.
The Girl turns out to be a young woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth has imprisoned by a gentleman named Zachary Comstock, who is also known as ‘The Prophet’. Comstock is the the spiritual and political leader of Columbia and for reasons that I choose not to go into doesn’t let Elizabeth out much. After locating and rescuing Elizabeth you’ll discover the she has the somewhat unusual ability to open up doors to other realities called ‘Tears’. When she’s on your team you can see various possible tears and direct Elizabeth to open them up. In a combat situation you might want her to open a tear that brings a wagon of health or weapons to the battlefield or perhaps a different one that brings something to hide behind while snipers are shooting at you. The mechanic works well and adds a whole new dimension (dimension, get it ??) to game play.
I thought it was a nice touch that your ability to manipulate tears was tied to the presence of another person on your team. Periodically Elizabeth might be involved in some other shenanigans and your ability to detect and open tears disappears. In some games (such as any Metroid title) they invent arbitrary reasons to take all your abilities away from you but in Bioshock it’s because it isn’t your ability to begin with.
The character of Zachary Comstock is described through various audio logs, intercom conversations and descriptions from other characters in the game. He is a leader of a Christian based cult, but he’s very obviously involved in some extremely unsavory dealings and some other extracurricular activities that would leave most Christians looking to the sky for stray lightning bolts. I understand that the development team make some adjustments to the story late in the process to make the character more believable. After having played the game I think they did a good job. By the end of the game you have a good picture of who Comstock started as, who he became and some of the transition between those two people.
My wife had been interested in watching me play the game because a blog she reads had been discussing how awesome it is. We tried that once but the game made her motion sick (or maybe it was the way I play the game?) so I ended up playing mostly alone. She did happen to be watching when I beat the game though, and after the ending I turned to her with my mouth open and said…nothing. She looked back at me and said nothing in return. The ending was shocking, surprising and completely not what I was expecting. The ending made me want to play through the game again to see what I missed. Right now, as I write this review, I wish I was playing the game. Sadly I loaned the disk to a friend so that he could experience Bioshock Infinite as well.
I played the game on Hard but I recommend that anyone else starts on Easy or Medium so they can properly enjoy their first time through the game. Unlike many modern games Hard actually means HARD and I died a lot. Every time you die you lose some silver eagles (money) which are required to purchase the upgraded weapons and skills that help prevent you from dying.
Long story short, Bioshock Infinite is a fantastic game and is well worth the price.
- Great story.
- Great design.
- Fun game play mechanics including (but not limited to) Vigors, Sky Lines and Tears.