“What is this game? Perfection, friend. Or at least as close as we’ll get til judgment day.”
I usually distance myself from other reviews so I can go in unbiased. Sure I was hyped but I was ready to keep it in check. I then realized that it was impossible to visit any gaming site without seeing “10/10 AMAZING. 9/10 UNFORGETTABLE. 5/5 ASTONISHING!” Well, after playing through it, I can safely report that all of this praise is true.
If you look at it from the cover, Bioshock Infinite doesn’t seem to have an in-depth story. You play as Booker Dewitt, a man is deep in debt with all the wrong people. Your mission is to rescue Elizabth from the flying city of Columbia. In return, you will be granted a clean slate and be wiped of your debts. Your path is barred by the familiar tropes of religious zealouts, slavers disguised as flourishing entrepreneurs, and veteran soldiers who can’t get past what they did in war. Pretty standard fare, right? What makes these characters and story stand apart is how you learn about them. Exploring the various environments will reveal backstory via radios, loud speakers and audio logs. What appear to be charactertures quickly resonate with you as you begin to truly understand what is motivating and fueling these characters to be so eccentric.
I’ve played through the game twice already, once on medium and once on 1999 mode and I’m still digesting the inner complexities of the story. That’s the sign of a great game as it doesn’t hold your hand or give you a concrete explanation for every event. It requires you to do something that few other games can attest to; think.
There’s no other way to say it than this game is absolutely gorgeous. There are a few bad textures here and there but Columbia is a fully realized paradise. Rather than have you explore a city that has been destroyed and is already in ruins, you’re exploring a city at the peak of its time. Throughout the game, you will explore different sections of the city which more resemble its underwater counterpart. This lets you really immerse yourself in a world that you see slowly descending into madness.
I don’t how they do it, but the guys at Irrational know how take make any song fit into their games. From odd choices like “Fortunate Son,” a street quartet rendition of “God Only Knows” and even “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to haunting choral versions of “Will the Circle be Unbroken” every piece of music just fits. Sure, you can nitpick about having music from the late 1900s in a game that takes place in 1912, but they’re all redone to sound authentic.
The gameplay retains many of the core concepts from Bioshock 1/2 with a few tweaks. Vigors replace plasmids but they serve the same purpose and you use salts rather than atom to power them. Unlike in Bioshock, you have the ability to change your vigors on the fly which makes you think on your toes about the current situation. Fire may have worked wonders at the start of combat but you’ll have to rethink that strategy if an enemy immune to it enters the fray. A major change is that you no longer find health and salt packs. Instead, you find health packs, salt bottles, and food to restore your health and salts. Weapon loadouts have also changed in that you can only equip two guns at once. It takes some getting used to but you’ll quickly find a favorite combination and won’t notice.
In terms of difficulty, it’s well balanced. On all difficulties, there were never any unfair challenge spikes. Once you complete the game on any difficulty, you unlock 1999 mode. This mode is not for the faint of heart and offers an incredibly challenging, but rewarding, experience. Not only are enemies and encounters much more challenging but you find less supplies overall and you are required to pay money if you die. If you don’t have enough to revive, that’s it. What this equates to is a mode that keeps you on your feet. The mode forces you to be strategic about everything from ammo to vigor and weapon upgrades. You’ll quickly find a favorite combo and stick with it. If you’re a masochist, you can unlock 1999 mode right off the bat with the Konami code.
Rather than serve as an annoying escort mission, I’m looking at you RE4, Elizabeth serves a purpose in the gameplay. During combat and general exploration, she will scavenge for supplies like money, health and ammo. Later in the game she also gains the ability to pull in a variety of things from a tear. You can only have one tear active at a time but they give you a wide array of support like health packs, friendly turrets and cover. This adds a surprising amount of depth to the combat. Are you willing to blow your cover and dash over to that shiny RPG? Is it really worth the risk of dying and losing money? Or maybe you’re low on health and you have no choice? This all adds to the strategic and rewarding combat.
The biggest disappointment with Elizabeth is that her interactions with the environment never live up to what was promised. Many of the E3 demos showcased her walking up to displays in the world and picking things up, trying on masks, etc. In the game, this only happens once or twice. Most of her interactions involve letting you know that she has ground supplies or telling you that a lockpick is on the ground.
If there are any complaints, it’s that the game has a few visual glitches. There tends to be a lot of texture pop ins, and you’ll occasionally see objects clipping through each other. On the audio end, it’s easy to miss some of the Vox logs because story dialogue overlaps it. However, you can go back and listen to them from the main menu so this isn’t a huge issue.
A game like Bioshock Infinite is a rare experience. Not since the original Bioshock and, before that, Half Life 2 has a game offered such a full experience. This is a game that everyone owes themselves to experience. No game is absolutely perfect but Bioshock Infinite is the closest we’re going to get for awhile. The flaws that the game does have aren’t detrimental to the overall experience.
Bioshock Infinite was released on March 26 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This review is based off the PC version.