Bioshock Infinite: Review and Thoughts
Bioshock Infinite: Review and Thoughts
By: LB Chambers
As a big fan of Irrational Games’ Bioshock trilogy (that’s right- I even enjoyed the shamefully reviewed Bioshock 2) I’m sure you can imagine the sort of excitable frenzy Bioshock Infinite’s seemingly endless advertisements, countdowns and trailers were whipping me into over the last couple of years.
The artwork was unique and yet familiar (being reminiscent of Bioshock’s other games with a dash more steampunk); the gameplay looked even more thrilling than the previous installments (you flew around somehow?) and the premise (floating dystopian hard-core conservative land in the sky?) had the entire gaming internet salivating.
There was only one disappointing factor.
When basics of the storyline began to be surface, it was revealed that the story was going to be a search and rescue mission for a young girl (woman actually, she is nineteen-twenty but we’ll get to that later) trapped in a floating tower. Basically it sounded like Rapunzel, or possible anything Super Mario (or any older video game, save your girlfriend and save the world right?)
And as I am a big believer in that a superior game should have an equally superior story, I felt my hesitance towards Bioshock Infinite grow a little with every new reveal. And the day when Bioshock Infinite finally arrived at my doorstep I felt a little dark cloud hover over my Xbox; sure this could be a good game, but what if the story was as unremarkable and predictable as it seemed?
So even though I’d been looking forward to this game for over a year I did the same thing I do with every game I play (especially those that seem not at all promising and possibly sexist), I just let myself get absorbed in the game, played it all the way through, and then let the opinions form.
So is it predictable? Is it basically a save-the-girl game? It is any good? (And let me be clear this article will have no spoilers whatsoever about the story, but there will be a few about the gameplay.) Yes and no.
Before opening the case I predicted the first big reveal, but throughout the game was hinted and nudged toward the second and third in a very fun, and curious way. While Bioshock explored capitalism, crime, and the dystopian possibilities of basically any Ayn Rand book you’ve ever read, Bioshock Infinite has bigger fish to fry; we’re talking government, religion, and the cosmos itself.
Yet the premise is simple; you are Booker Dewitt, you must bring back the girl from the floating city known as Columbia and your debt will be wiped away.
To start, the girl you are rescuing, named Elizabeth, is not only the best AI I have ever encountered (she will find you health, vigors (potions), money, and even reload your gun for you in combat and throw it back) she is also a very complex character. She is intelligent, capable, strong, and at times childish- but she feels real. The interactions between the character you play (Booker Dewitt) and Elizabeth are natural, occasionally awkward and hostile in all their realistic glory.
Other characters throughout the game vary between charming (a pair of twins who are worth playing the game for) and terrifying; the antagonists exhibit the same sort of biased and ignorant determination (perpetuated by their horrifying views on humanity and the afterlife) that we sometimes see today throughout the world (perhaps this perspective more so in the U.S.) More than a few players will, at times, feel moments where Bioshock Infinite hits close to home when making their conservative, dystopian paradise. And it only makes our world, and Bioshock Infinite’s seem all the more frightening.
Mine was simply overhearing a man and woman discussing the Vox Populi (a group of poor, unrepresented people living in the floating city of Columbia who are abused by the upper classes); the woman asked, “What does Vox Populi even mean?” And the man responds, “Well, it’s Latin…” and she scoffs. How many times have I heard ideas dismissed because of their foreignness? Too many to count.
There are also elements of the surreal and magical within the story; Elizabeth has a unique and powerful gift, there are interwoven storylines and magical powers that cast birds/flight/flame etc. that border magical realism as well as dystopian fiction and allow for a very fulfilling mystery any person couldn’t help but want to solve.
The gameplay is exciting, but has its issues. While in Bioshock it made sense to have Adam (potions that give you special abilities and the mana to refuel) lying around for the protagonist to use however he saw fit (the people in Bioshock’s setting, Rapture, went mad/died overdosing and abusing the amazing effects of Adam)- in Bioshock Infinite’s city of Columbia it just doesn’t make any sense. The population seems, aside from some weirdly hard-core conservative beliefs, fairly normal and none of them use Vigors (Columbia’s version of Adam) themselves.
Aside from a handful of bosses who use one especially, no one seems to know the Vigors exist and yet somehow they are everywhere! There is never any explanation for why the Vigors exist or why no one else is using them. This is a huge flaw in the logic of Bioshock Infinite, and I am surprised no one thought to come up with a more creative answer as to why magical powers would be existing and freely available in a city where they apparently have no use.
There is also the issue of over stimulation during actual combat. For some reason it has become more and more popular to just throw as many enemies as possible at a player when they are stuck in first person perspective and therefore have no way to strategize. Every time I died it wasn’t due to a boss, or even a throng of George Washington faced children, it was because I was being shot at by ten-twelve people (so just bullets, bullets and shaking camera everywhere!) and missed the one guy standing two feet to my left, shooting right at my head.
While the makers of Bioshock Infinite certainly didn’t create this gameplay style, it really isn’t one that a lot of gamers like and should probably not be perpetuated.
The environment is at time gorgeous, tragic, and terrifying, but it is always magnificent. Bioshock Infinite goes above and beyond with their dedication to game immersion, from the scenery to the music to the shops little ditty’s (“I appreciate a lady, who appreciates….value!) if the story and combat don’t pull you in, the game itself surely will.
As for the story? Let’s just say that while I did predict a few things, it in no way made the game any less enjoyable or worth my time. Playing Bioshock Infinite is a visual and mental treat; sure there is a very, very complicated storyline that takes a little effort on the gamers part but stick with it and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. The ending is almost poetic, and manages to both answer your questions and leave you with so many more you can’t wait to start again from the beginning- sifting through all the moments you thought irrelevant but now realize were all a part of the plan from the beginning.
On an entirely other level, Bioshock Infinite accomplished what Bioshock 2 could not, it faces real life questions and gives answers formed by the dystopian stories they exist within and without. It is refreshing to leave a game with your mind slightly irked, a new question you’d never considered on the outskirts of day-to-day life. It confronts the ideals of some, the perfections some of us strive for, holds up the mirror and ask, “ Is this really what you think? What you want?” It’s a game that proves gaming is a worthwhile venture for storytellers, and vice versa.
(And as for Elizabeth, a nineteen-twenty year old woman being frequently referred to as a “girl,” *spoiler* it all makes sense in the end. You’ll see.)LindsayBelle@haveyounerd.com