Bioshock Infinite Review

Bioshock Infinite Review

I just beat Bioshock Infinite a few hours ago! One less distraction from my new Pinball addiction! Seriously, though, that pinball stuff is like crack.

But yeah, Bioshock Infinite, just beat it, etc. Actually, ever since then, I’ve spent several hours trying to decipher the game’s story and ending. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s pretty fascinating stuff. Approaches similarities to Stargate/Trek/Dr.Who levels of metaphysical complexity and nonsense, but still… Fascinating stuff.

Infinite has a lot going for it. The protagonist is instantly more interesting than that of the previous games because he has an actual personality and speaking part. The character glued to his hip for the majority of the game, Elizabeth, is surprisingly bearable. They were smart not to make the game one giant escort mission. Actually, if you look at it, she is the one escorting YOU around the whole game. She is invulnerable, constantly tosses you supplies like health and ammo, can shift useful terrain/items into existence, etc. Wow, I JUST realized the game is one giant escort mission… But the player is the annoying escortee! I’ll continue on once I scrape my mind off the ceiling. Read more after the break!

Floating City
Bioshock Infinite Sky City

The setting of Bioshock Infinite is a floating city. I don’t even want to get into the logistical nightmare and impracticality of that. It does look really cool though. Unlike Rapture, everything is bright, clean, and colorful. Well, until it all goes to hell and all that, but you get the idea. Rather than crazy junkies like in the first game,you are up against crazy sky zealots. Although, to the Splicers credit they didn’t seem to be horrible racists. You also get a smattering of heavy hitters like the Handyman and robot Washingtons/Lincolns, of which I, of course, forgot the name.

Where the first game had plasmids, this one features vigors. Same thing, really. You can do a variety of stuff from throwing firebombs and lightning to bullcharging a dude and absorbing bullets. The hydro one that sends out giant water tentacles to pull in enemies is a particular favorite. With all the different elements at your command you’re basically an honorary Planeteer. Not that I secretly wish I was or anything…

Bioshock Infinite vigors
Shooting mechanics are mediocre but the vigors are cool

You must be thinking this all sounds great and perfect, but I’m not done. Now comes the part where I detail all the stuff I don’t like about the game. I know what you are thinking, “No, Graev! You mustn’t! This game is perfect and pure art! Don’t you dare destroy my dreams!” To which I reply, “Lo, hold fast, my child, and hear my words. I must speaketh mine own truth. I seek not to dissuade you or tarnish the rep of thine game. So kindly crawleth out of mine ass.”

The first thing that really bothered me was the general tone and atmosphere of the game. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with it, but it seemed to be missing that tense and scary tone that existed in System Shock 2 and Bioshock. I guess they didn’t have to go in this direction, but it seems odd to build a brand around an element like this and just abandon it. It’s like if a new Monkey Island game came out and rather than being hilarious it was sad and depressing. I miss the darker tone of past games.

In terms of gameplay I don’t have too many gripes. The gunplay is a little mediocre but mostly the problem lies with the guns. They just seem generic and forgettable, which is real bummer. The other beef I have is with the skyrails. They were in the trailers and seemed highly featured but they feel surprisingly absent for most of the game and when they are there they pretty much just circle an area. If you were hoping for a big city connected by skyrails then you might be disappointed by the game’s linearity.

Bioshock Infinite Washington
Steampunk minigun wielding heavy-hitting propaganda spewing Washington

The design of the heavy hitter enemies is great. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing robot Washington and Lincoln running around shooting miniguns and spouting propaganda? However it seems like most of them were poorly implemented. Robo presidents may seem fun at first, but they get thrown at you until you get sick of them. They handymen fights are decent, but nothing inspired and there are very few. Probably the biggest blunder was with the boys of silence, I think they are called. A genuinely intriguing enemy and really the only one with real creepy appeal but they are criminally underutilized and when you do encounter them they don’t even fight you themselves. There just really aren’t memorable experiences to be had with these guys that can compare with the Big Daddy and the impact he has had.

I did like the game a lot, but to be honest I found myself more often than not comparing it to Bioshock 1, which I feel to be a superior game. Infinite seems more like a mod, which probably sounds harsher than I intend it to. But hey, I’ve played lots of great mods.

  • I agree, Bioshock 1 does seem to be superior. That said, this could be the game of the year. The gameplay is not allways great, but the story is fantastic and the environment is great as well. It just shows that the right story, and the right setting can easily handle lacking gameplay, at least in a singleplayer game. I’m not sure this is true for mmo’s as well (swtor)! The ending was spectacular, and Elizabeth was a joy.

    Allso, no crappy allways online DRM and still the game sells really well. Some (EA) should take note of this.

  • There was a Kotaku article yesterday that articulates at length my major gripe with the game (

    To summarize the gripe: this game should probably not have been a shooter. The story, if it were being told in any other medium, would not have dozens of lengthy shootouts. It would have maybe one or two. The story is fantastic, but it is jarring and unnecessary to punctuate every major story beat with another shooting gallery.

    Now you might ask, isn’t this true of all video games with story? After all, games are inherently different from movies/TV/literature, and some people really like the feel of challenge mixed in with narrative. But to see a video game where the gameplay doesn’t feel tacked on to the story, check portal. In that game, the story is about someone stuck in a testing environment, so it’s not story-breaking to require you to do puzzles every 5 feet! Contrast that with the story of Infinite, which at its heart is not an action story but unfortunately you spend 90% of your time slaughtering goons by the dozen.

  • @Tristan:
    I totally agree. I’m almost near the end and while there have been two or three shooter set pieces I’ve enjoyed, it’s the world and the story that drives this game and makes it memorable.

    Infinite would have been an Amazing Dreamfall game imho…but you could never get the $$$ to create Infinite if it were an adventure game. Great story, great world, mediocre shooter. It’s still the best game I’ve played this year.

  • Tristan: I totally agree with both you and that article. The story was one of the best in any game, ever. But the fact that it was a shooter detracted from the experience for me. In any other game, it wouldn’t have felt so wrong, but because the story was so good, the gameplay just felt tacky.

    But this game would never have been made if it weren’t a shooter. There’s no way in hell they would have been given this kind of budget to make, say, an adventure game. And without this kind of budget, the production values would have suffered immensely. The writing and voice acting would have been less polished. And Elizabeth would have been like any other AI companion that stands around picking their nose, gets in your way at every turn, and bumps into walls.

    It sucks, but that’s just the way it is. We either get a profound story and tacky ultra-violent gameplay, or we get nothing at all.