Review by Brendan Luck
It’s been six years. Six years since Irrational Games first released their critically-acclaimed game, Bioshock.
Bioshock was a fantastic game due to its immersive environment, with the city of Rapture being the most original environment concept I have ever seen in a video game, as well as its slick first person-shooter gameplay, and plot.
Bioshock for me personally is the most original game to come out in recent memory. The plot took you into this expansive world, immersed you with its colourful cast of characters, from the blank slate of Jack to the enigmatic but diabolical Andrew Ryan, and gave you a twist that engaged me, as a gamer like no other.
How would Irrational ever deliver a game of Bioshock’s caliber? 2K Marin released Bioshock 2, and although it was a fantastic game, it didn’t personally excite me like Bioshock did. Marin polished up some gameplay aspects, let you play as a Big Daddy, and gave you a plot that was fine, but not as good as the original Bioshock.
Then Bioshock Infinite was announced.
Initially, it felt kind of odd. A Bioshock game without Rapture? How will this work? To me, it was as if they tried to make a Jurassic Park movie without dinosaurs. The whole appeal of Bioshock was the city of Rapture. Rapture was the glue that kept the characters and the plot together. Without it, is the game even Bioshock?
After seeing more reveals and gameplay footages, I warmed up to the idea of the new city; Columbia. Bioshock Infinte was looking up to be a pretty solid game.
Bioshock Infinite puts you in the shoes of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton Agent given the task by unknown forces to bring back a young woman named Elizabeth locked in a tower in the city of Columbia.
And this is where we get in to the new setting, the replacement for Rapture; Columbia. Columbia is a city in the sky, created on values of American exceptionalism, jingoism, and extreme xenophobia, and filled with citizens that invoke those beliefs. The city is a perfect setting for this game; it’s full of life, colour, and unique design.
The leader of Columbia is a man named Zachary Comstock, a religious fanatic and self-proclaimed prophet. Comstock has the mysterious ability to predict future events, and has flocks of devoted followers worshipping him as a deity.
Early in the game, you discover that Elizabeth has the ability to open “tears” or rifts to different realities. Elizabeth can use these powers to aid you in combat, bringing in different objects from other realities.
The gameplay of Bioshock Infinite is really refined, and is a huge improvement on the original Bioshock. The new plasmids, called “vigors”, are very accessible and easy to use. The large variety of vigors, 8 in total, ensure that you’ll always be toying around with different abilities to see what you like or not. The weapons in the game also provide a lot of variety, including your base weapons (the pistol, the shotgun, the machine gun, etc.) but also including some interesting weapons like the Vox Heater, a blunderbuss and the Crankgun, a gatling gun. Couple this with the fact that you can quickly alternate between two guns and two vigors, and you’ve got a smooth combat system that works well.
Another welcome addition to the gameplay is the use of the Sky-Hook and Skylines. During combat, Booker can use his Sky-Hook to cling on to Skylines, moving around the area of combat quickly. I found this addition extremely useful, using to avoid death more times than I can count.
As far as the enemies go, while there isn’t an enemy quite as iconic as the Big Daddy, Infinite offers a colourful selection of adversaries to fight, from the gigantic and lumbering Handyman to the teleporting Zealots of the Lady.
As far as the setting goes, Columbia is a welcome addition to the Bioshock series. Heavily contrasting the dark colour palette of Rapture used in the first two games, Columbia is bright, vivid and colourful. Because the city is also based off of the American exceptionalism time period, it opened the door for the developers to explore a whole different art direction, allowing them to step away from the Art Deco style that Rapture evoked. While Columbia is very different, it works. The setting is absolutely breathtaking at times, with the art style Irrational went with really shining in this game.
The plot in my opinion is the best aspect of this game. Going with the theme of previous Bioshock games, Bioshock Infinite is definitely a plot-driven game. The characters are likeable and feel natural. Even Elizabeth, the main female protagonist wasn’t the least bit annoying or overbearing. Comstock, the antagonist, is also an extremely interesting character, portraying the dark side of religious extremism and jingoistic values. The plot remains intricate and exciting throughout the game, only managing to lag a bit in the middle. The game is a wild ride most of the way through, leaving off with a thrilling and shocking ending that will leave gamers talking for years to come. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a twist that I would never have guessed.
Overall, Bioshock Infinite is perhaps the lead contender for Game of the Year of 2013. Its gameplay is smooth, slick, and most importantly, fun. Its setting is rich and artistic, showing of the capabilities of the current gen consoles. The plot is one of the best I have ever experienced in a video game. The characters are all full of life, all interesting. Bioshock Infinite is an instant classic.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10