Bioshock Infinite review

On my review on Bioshock 2, I made a bold statement saying “It was indeed a worthy sequel and after Bioshock 2, who knows what other creative ideas is the series going to offer next.” Now  here’s a the next & daring step for the series. Irrational Games returns to Bioshock but surprisingly enough, Infinite isn’t set in Rapture anymore; instead it’s set in uprising sky floating city of Columbia with an entirely new characters. Most Bioshock fans were skeptical with this game for not being set in Rapture, but everyone else was dying out of curiosity to see what lies inside this up-in-the-sky new setting that has never been seen in a video game. The development for this game sacrificed a lot of delays making the whole video game industry desperate for this game to finally be released. Now since it has been released, here are my impressions on this highly anticipated game.

Premise

Bioshock Infinite is set in a different universe from the past Bioshock games and the story is all based on Booker DeWitt (the character we play as) where he’s a broken man who lost his family, had a huge drinking problem, in debt with many, & was on urge in committing suicide for the fact that he could have made a decision in life to commit to Christianity by doing baptism in and cleansed of his sins after his actions at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Since then, he has been a disgraced former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The game opens up in 1912 where Booker DeWitt is taken by the Lutece twins to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine; the structure houses a rocket silo which transports Booker to Columbia, with the mission from Luteces to “bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”.

Now arriving at the beautiful world of Columbia, Booker witnesses the paradise of this Christian built utopia and he began his search for the girl named Elizabeth to get out  of his debt. Booker’s presence in Columbia goes unnoticed until a citizen identifies the letters “AD” branded on Booker’s hand, a sign of the False Shepherd that Comstock prophesied would corrupt Elizabeth and bring about Columbia’s downfall. Booker since then started a massacre in Columbia and tries desperately to find Elizabeth and get her out of the city.

Gameplay

Just like Bioshock and Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite is a First-Person Shooter. You have weapons such as the Barnstormer RPG, Bird’s Eye Sniper Rifle, Broadsider Pistol, China Broom Shotgun, Huntsman Carbine, Paddywhacker Hand Cannon, Peppermill Crank Gun, Triple R Machine Gun, Pig Volly Gun and more. For the first time in the series, for every weapon there are two different type of  alternate models offering a different set of advantages and disadvantages. The two versions of the same weapon are similar in appearance only, as they have separate upgrades and ammunition; Heater, Burstgun, Repeater and Hail Fire. Each of them can be upgraded in Minuteman’s Armory vending machines.

But one of the most noticeable difference between this game and the other Bioshock games is that Infinite only allows the player to wield two weapons. It’s really unfortunate to see that Bioshock, as awesome of an FPS series that it is, just degraded the gameplay from wielding more than 4 weapons, different ammunition for various situations, and allows the player switch them at any time just took a step back in making the player hold only two weapons and if you really want to use a different weapon you minus well just give up one of the two weapons that you’re holding.  Another noticeable difference is that the player now has a shield seen above your health meter. Basically it protects the player from loosing HP so when your character lost its shield due to taking a lot of damage, the game forces you to duck and cover till the shield regenerated. Did Bioshock Infinite just “Halo-ed” the awesomeness of the Bioshock gameplay?

However the biggest feature Infinite introduced is the Sky-Hook. In Columbia this is used as a tool to travel on the Sky-Lines and it’s really neat to see that the players can travel at a fast rate of speed by traveling on Sky-Lines and decide (depending on what gear and vigor you’re holding) where they can land, turn around into the opposite direction if they want to, leap to hook-to-hook like a platform, and even cause instant whenever they want to land on an opponent. The only way anyone could stop you from traveling through the Sky-Line is if there’s a traveling crates that are on your way/blocking your path or the Handy Man (Big Daddy replacement) is electrocuting the line. Melee attacks aren’t done on guns anymore, instead the play can attack with melee with the Sky-Hook and when you hit an enemy their low health with this thing you can see a them decapitated, spilling out gashes of blood, when you strike them with such a tool. Bioshock Infinite can possibly be the most violent game of the series thanks to the Sky-Hook.

With the feature of the Sky-Hook, gameplay in Bioshock Infinite has been really intensified due to the fact that you’re able to make leaps so high up in the air and fall to the ground, gracefully. It’s such an amazing experience to see a game to travel so far up in the sky that it really feels unbelievable. Enemies as well have Sky-Hooks which makes them able to travel through Sky-Lines so when you’re on a Sky-Line you’re also able to wield out a weapon and shoot at them and travel very fast at the same time. This was all remarkable stuff and the best part is that you don’t have to worry about falling because you can immediately respond to the last step you took on foot if you fall off of Columbia. This was all necessary considering that Columbia is up in the sky and there was no doubt that anyone could just fall off.

However the player can get more abilities with the Sky-Hook by using the gears. There are various different type of gears that will give the player abilities for the hook like for example causing fire/electrocuting enemies when melee them, but there are also Gears for Boots, Hats, Shirts, and all over your body that gives the player a higher advantage with certain situations and different abilities. You get gear upgrades such as double the damage when your health is low, burn nearby enemies, recieve health the more you kill, and SO much more. Despite the fact that you can only carry a little number of gears, this game give the player much advantages than the last Bioshock games. However I can’t say the same for the powers.

Since we’re no longer in Rapture, that means there is no Plasmids, however there are still superhuman powers/abilities in Columbia called Vigor. Since I’ve already explained in long detail on where Superhuman powers from my Bioshock review, you should know how it works. There are only several Vigors that can be obtained such as the Bucking Bronco (which levitates enemies), Charge (cause to ram into the target from a distance), Devil’s Kiss (Throws a flaming projectile), Murder of Crow (summons crows to attack), Possession (Turns the targeted machine into ally and get money from vending machines), Return to Sender (Creates a temporary shield), Shock Jockey (Shocks the target), and Undertow (Throws all targets in front of the user back with a watery tendril). All of them can be  upgraded twice over the course of the game at the Veni! Vidi! Vigor! vending machines scattered throughout Columbia at a very high price.

And yet, I find the Vigor less satisfying and underwhelming in comparison to Bioshock 1 & 2’s plasmids that had the best powers the series has ever had. There wasn’t much variety and helpfulness when using Vigor powers that ended up as gimmicks that didn’t work as well as it might have. Plus there wasn’t any environment that could have put any of these Vigors into it’s full potential like how using the Electro Bolt on a body of water where it causes enemies to instant kill when they step on it. Seeing that wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped, I wished that the Vigors could have been more creative and was executed better.

But without a doubt the best feature in the game is the inclusion of Elizabeth to be on your side. Once you’ll find her, she’ll be at most useful to the player. She’s able to find any money and ammo and is willing to pass it to you when you’re running out of either one of them. Elizabeth is also skillful in using lock-picks to unlock doors and safes, depending on how many picks required to unlock the lock.  She never once was caught in a fight or a damsel in digressed making her a character that we, not once, have to worry about her (except whenever she’s apart from you).  She’s not just a character that just follows you around, she’s able to make objects from another dimension to appear in your world. These gray glowing holograms are known as tears and they are there for the player to look at it and tell Elizabeth to make that object to appear in this world. This is an ingenious idea of a gameplay feature so that players can have more advantages to create cover when there’s a lot of gunfire, create hooks to leap above the air, summon turrets for back-up, and get some ammo when the player is out of ammunition. The tears play a significant part of the plot and they should not be ignored when following this game’s narrative. And I’ll have more to say about my thoughts on Elizabeth.

Over all, I have to say that it’s a mixed bag of a gameplay where there are new features that weren’t in Bioshock but excited me as a player, and some old and familiar Bioshock elements that I felt it was downgraded in comparison to Bioshock 1 & 2’s gameplay.

Level Design

It’s obvious that since we’re in Columbia, we’re being held up in the sky. Again, with the inclusion of the Sky-Hook, Sky-Lines can be found anywhere when you step outdoors and decide when to get on the line to travel fast. The only way anyone could stop you from traveling through the Sky-Line is if there’s a traveling crates that are on your way/blocking your path or the Handy Man is electrocuting the line. Despite the fact that the setting of this game is being thousands of feet up in the air, not once does the player have to worry about falling because you’ll respond to where you last set foot on the ground.

Following the Bioshock formula, whenever you’re not shooting at enemies, the game gives the player the urgency to scavenger for money, food (health), ammo, gears, and more!  You can find them everywhere from corpses, barrels, crates, trashcans, safes, and the rest. New objects to be looking for are lockpicks which are there for Elizabeth to unlock safes and doors. Sometimes, when the player doesn’t haven enough picks to make Elizabeth to unlock the door/safe, it kinda requires backtracking in order to gain access to that secret. They are there to reward the player for scavenging and finding enough locks to unravel the secret that give the player more money, locks, valuable weapons, and Infusions. Infusions are these rare substance that will upgrade either your health, salts (power meter), or shield. Each time you find one Infusion you can only choose one of the three upgrades and they are needed in order to beat the more difficult challenges that lie ahead of the game.

Throughout your journey, you’ll be in such environments like churches, slumps, circuses, sky-deck, bars, graveyard, and other locations in Columbia. This is entirely a different setting from Rapture, but similar to Bioshock there are also plenty of waves of enemies that you’ll encounter in the game. However, due to the fact that there are only guards, beast (RPG foes), Firemen, Crow, Motorized Patriot, and Handyman (very little of them) there’s not much to get excited over with these foes. Most of the time you’ll keep getting so many of the same enemy types in wave, after wave, after wave it feels tedious to fight them off repeatedly. Whenever there’s a new enemy type, it feels like a breath of fresh air… until they keep using them repeatedly after numerous of wave. This is another downgrade from the past two Bioshock games because there’s not much creativity or backstory with each of these enemy types so we feel bored fighting these enemy types after a certain period of the game and it’s even much worse when we see them near the end of the game.

But like the previous Bioshock games, Infinite really wants the player to know so much of the backstory of Columbia. Again, you’ll be finding a lot of audio-logs, now called voxophones, from people who were there giving the player an understanding on what’s going on or what happened. To even give players a better explanation, there are also Kinetoscopes that give a brief video footage of the history of Columbia which is a necessary inclusion to the series considering that they’re using every technology, object, and style from the early 1900’s. The more you look into these Kinetoscopes, the more you’ll learn from the creation with Comstock’s Columbia.

There are segments in the game where you have to lay down your weapon and just explore further to the end of the segment to start combat again. There were a couple of them in the 1st half of the game where it’s part of the narrative of searching for something. A huge focus on the game is that there are moments where the player have to choose one or the other. Like for example when Elizabeth wants you to pick out a necklace for her you have to choose; the bird or the cage. She takes the one that you pick. However there is a moment in the game where if you throw the ball at the hostages in front of a live crowd or throw it at the host, it doesn’t give the player a different outcome because they were a result of the same outcome regardless. We all thought that these decisions are for changing the ending or the path of the game (since there is no Little Sister to decide what ending we get), but instead it just turns out to be a troll move where there is no alternative ending whatsoever. So why include it if there’s no consequences or any alternatives? This is like Mass Effect 3 all over again… -__-

Another big complaint I have is that there are only mini-bosses that aren’t that much harder to take down compared to regular enemies, but they’re there to change your tactics.   The problem however is that the game has so much action and backstory that it was a game that really needs to put us through the challenge by giving us “boss” fights. Sure we have the Heavy Hitters that acts like a boss but they loose that reputation down to being a mini-boss due to the fact that they become that wave of enemies that I find so annoying to face. Unfortunately, Infinite only gives us wave after wave of enemies that doesn’t feel as fun as it should. This really is the game that needed to put the player through boss fights and I’m not the only one who notices the lack of boss fights happening in video games today. Click here to read the article. Boss fights are necessary in every video game period because the whole point of going through level to level is to learn, train, and get better at playing the game and the boss fight puts the player to the test of their abilities and understanding of the game. And for the fact that this generation of video games doesn’t offer a boss fight, and final boss fights at the near end of the game mind you, is something I find lackluster in video games in being released nowadays…

What’s really awesome with the level designs is that the developers though of it through on the concept of tears and dimension warping. Since you’ll discover later in the game about Elizabeth’s ability to make tears, you’ll be seeing holographic gray objects that can be interacted with when you look at it and tell Elizabeth immediately what object you want from one dimension to enter to the dimension that you’re in. This play a significant part of the story, but it’s good for level design and gameplay because of the advantages the player needs in order to over come these enemies and for it being  at the right place at the right time.

Presentation

Second to none, it’s obvious that Bioshock Infinite is absolutely gorgeous to watch. I think it has to not only do with the art design, but how effective that everything the light touches is really reflective at the point that it’s mesmerizing. The first 20 minutes of the game is so great that I can rank it up there as one of the best beginning of a game like Final Fantasy 7. Speaking as a strong Christian man, I really loved the purity of the church’s atmosphere when we hear the “Circle Be Unbroken” song, like this is my paradise come true. Like Rapture to the mid 20th century design, Columbia uses every single detail to look like we’re in the early 20th century; from the American town, to the ghetto, the Church, circus, kinescopes, stores, bars, everything you name it! It’s taken our American historical pieces and turn it to a steampunk video game to show that video games can be taken artistically.

This game just simply offers one of the best atmospheres since the original Bioshock. Just like Rapture, the setting in Columbia is so beautiful that it has personality, in it where it has the wonderful feeling of seeing the bright sky with lovely looking clouds just shining everything in Columbia. There is a clear night-and-day difference between Columbia and Rapture, but towards to the end of the game, it gets that scary feeling. Despite how chaotic and dark Rapture was, I never once was scared playing Bioshock 1 & 2 and I never would thought the series could ever make me scared, until I played Bioshock Infinite and there was that one part of the 3rd act of the game that got me so terrified that it got me good. Personally, I’m a huge tied between liking Rapture or Columbia more because Rapture has a lot of emotion inside this crazy world corrupted by ADAM that has Little Sisters and Big Daddies who are in need and care for each other while Columbia has the purity of the American Dream and more than plenty of Christian references that would make Neon Genesis Evangelion put to shame!

However, I do have some criticisms with the overall design with Bioshock Infinite. It seems that Irrational games still has that issue of making their character to look like dolls like the Little Sisters from the original Bioshock. When you take a look at the character’s faces from Bioshock Infinite, they don’t even look real. In fact, many of them almost look identical from each other. I mean seeing a lot of women in Columbia look so identical that it become distracting. I understand that in video games it’s common to have copy and paste characters but it just ended up loosing the charm of Columbia.

At first, I was skeptical that I won’t care for the game as much because of the fact that the Little Sisters (who I’ve had an emotional attachment to) are not in this game, at least we have the best thing the game has to offer; Elizabeth. She was the main selling point with Bioshock Infinite’s marketing and the developers really wanted us to care for the realism of a female protagonist from her intelligence, voice, movement, and behavior. They, totally succeeded in with Elizabeth because she has so much facial expression that it feels just as refreshing to see like Alyx from Half Life 2. She looks purely like a Disney princess and not once was I irritated with her because she reacts to everything so perfectly towards violence, kindness, and so much more that you would see from a real woman. No doubt, that Elizabeth was the best thing that the game has to offer. I agree with most guys that she has powers so awesome that they want to play as Elizabeth instead of Booker, however if we played as Elizabeth in first-person we can’t see those wonderful expressions of her’s.

As for the experience I was just in love with the whole adventure of understanding the rules of parallel universes and the world of Columbia, yet it’s a harsh reality. Traveling on Sky-lines got me that feeling that I really was in a roller coaster. The feeling of seeing everything below the player, soaring up in the sky, and the accelerating speed of the wind blowing (though I couldn’t feel it) just seeing the whole thing really got me that feeling like I’m really there.

CONCLUSION

And we all just thought that Bioshock was just a game about blowing shit up in a city underwater and Bioshock Infinite was the same game over again, but this time up in the air in Columbia. I am mixed with some of the gameplay that this game offers, however I am completely satisfied with the game’s plot where no one could ever see it coming.  I haven’t been so fascinated with a plot this complex since Watchmen and Metal Gear Solid because it’s something that I have discussed and (probably) argued with fans’ theory of the game’s plot because it left a lot of mysteries and we’re still waiting for a huge DLC to give us a clearer story. I’m also wishing that a DLC could actually add a lot more than just explaining the plot because there are a lot of miss opportunities to make it a brilliant game (gameplay-wise). If only they didn’t downgrade most of the best things from the past two Bioshock games, I could easily say that this is the best Bioshock game of the series, but still the original Bioshock (and System Shock 2) still holds as dominate installment of the Shock series (Both Bioshock and System Shock).

But that doesn’t mean the gameplay is at all bad, it’s just because Bioshock 1 & 2 did is so much better that I wish that it was implemented better. Let’s not forget that Bioshock Infinite has given us the pleasure of railing on rails and have nonstop shooting and the ability to make holographic objects to be physical with Elizabeth’s ability to “tear” them into our dimension. And this is a game that focused heavily on the adventure and the plot that goes along with it, unlike Bioshock 2 that had miss opportunities and focus of a multiplayer which is unnecessary. These are all the things that we’ve never done in video games before and I’m happy that the Bioshock series still does bring brand new things to a genre that I mostly hate for its lack of creativity. In fact, I can go as far as to say that Bioshock is the only series that’s actually giving life to FPS. The series gave us an amazing plot, phenomenal and original gameplay, and a breath taking experience.

Things I loved

  • Elizabeth (one of the best female characters since Jade from Beyond Good & Evil)
  • The Christian references and the beauty of using it as art
  • The Amazing Story & the BEST culmination I’ve ever seen from a video game
  • Traveling and gazing at Columbia was beautiful as Rapture
  • Traveling on Sky-Lines is wild and exciting
  • This is the only Bioshock game that actually scared me

Things I hate

  • Only wielding two weapons
  • Vigor powers are not as satisfying as the Plasmids from the previous games of the series
  • Not a single Boss fight whatsoever
  • Enemies types are a bit underwhelming
  • Making choices in the game doesn’t even matter whatsoever

The Top Lister’s video game score…  1/2 out of 5

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