BioShock Infinite (Multi-Platform) Review
Posted by Stephen Randle on 03.30.2013
The long-awaited third installment of the BioShock franchise has arrived! But does it live up to the hype? 411's Stephen Randle checks in with his full review!
Title: BioShock Infinite
Publisher: 2K Games/Take-Two Interactive
Developer: Irrational Games/2K Australia
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Available for PC, Mac, PS3, and XBox 360 (PC Version used for review)
In the interest of full disclosure, this review was delayed because I felt that I could not, in good conscience, write one until I had completed the game. I actually attempted to begin writing when I was mere hours into the game and felt I had a good grasp on the basics of what was necessary to review it. However, instead I put it aside and resumed playing, because BioShock Infinite is not a game that you can go in only a little way, then pull back out and resume your ordinary life. This game demands your attention, and only upon completing it and experiencing BioShock Infinite to the fullest, can you even attempt to tell other people about what you have seen, to try and understand the journey that you have just undergone.
Also, it has a barbershop quartet that sings Beach Boys. When you figure it out, you’ll start to get what I’m talking about.
The story is thus: the year is 1912, and you are Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent and survivor of the infamous Battle of Wounded Knee (ask your history teacher if you must). You have been hired to travel to the flying city of Columbia and retrieve a girl named Elizabeth in order to free yourself from a debt. And that’s all I can tell you without giving anything away. Much like the Matrix, you cannot simply be told what BioShock Infinite’s story is, you truly have to experience it for yourself if you want to understand. I will say that it is an incredibly written tale, filled with themes that make you ponder your very existence, while simultaneously turning everything you think you know on its head at a moment’s notice. If it sounds confusing, it can be, but everything will be explained, in its own way, by the end of the game.
If I’ve sufficiently captured your attention, we can discuss the technical aspects. Graphically, BioShock Infinite pushes the limits. The sprawling city of Columbia is a testament to the fact that gaming’s graphical capabilities are constrained only by the imagination of their creators, and it seems like nothing is beyond their reach. Every setting you travel through will invoke fierce emotions, from childlike wonder to absolute, gnawing terror. To say that such a clearly fantastical world can be more realistic than reality would seem impossible, but Columbia simply feels so alive that you could believe that it actually exists, has existed, will exist one day.
This is your first sight after you arrive. It gets better.
Then there is Elizabeth, the girl you’ve come all this way to find. A good portion of the game will occur with her by your side, and you will be glad for every moment she is there. The designers clearly went all-out with this character, her style, her personality; it all shines out throughout the game. Elizabeth is not merely a plot device, she is a fully fleshed-out person with all the nuances that go with that statement. In game terms, while she is clearly no fighter, neither is she the dreaded “escort quest”. While she will accompany you into combat, she isn’t targeted by enemies (for reasons that actually make sense when you think about it), but will occasionally aid you by “scavenging” items like ammo during combat, which she can deliver to you with a button prompt. She also has another unique talent that you’ll discover as the game progresses, but that veers towards spoiler territory, so we will leave it at that.
I will tell you that you’ll find out what I’m talking about shortly after you see this
Speaking of combat, your character has the ability to equip two guns (choosing from a variety of over a dozen available), which on the surface seems needlessly frugal, but during battle you’ll find that it’s easy to replace your gun with a different one at any time, and ammo is not hard to come by for any weapon. It also forces you to make decisions that will affect your play; do you use a slot on big, slow, destructive weapons like RPGs or grenade launchers, or rely instead on the long-distance accuracy and speed found in carbines, rifles, and pistols?
In addition, there is the Vigors system. Vigors are, essentially, powerful abilities that you can find during your journey and act very similar to a magic system. With Vigors, you can hurl fire, shield yourself from bullets, or summon murderous crows to attack your enemies. While not entirely necessary for success in battle, they definitely will tip the scales against some of Columbia’s heavier hitters.
And we can’t forget the skyhook, which was a featured piece of technology in early promotional materials. The skyhook is a multi-function tool, it allows you to access “skyrails”, allowing you to transport yourself around the world (or at least sections of it) by hanging from them and accelerating along the tracks. It also acts as your melee weapon, and quite a deadly one in its own right, which is important, because many enemies are fond of getting right in your face.
Perhaps learning from what was seen as a shortcoming in BioShock 2, the developers have chosen not to implement any sort of multiplayer component for Infinite, which might disappoint fans of that aspect of gaming (although if adding multiplayer had removed any of the single player components as a result, the game would have been much poorer for the exchange). However, there is a Season Pass available for the game, which promises three upcoming DLC packs that will contain all-new single player content, that will be sure to keep you coming back after completing the initial story. And for fans of added difficulty, after completing the game once (or, if you’re impatient, you might try a very familiar code at the game’s opening screen) will unlock 1999 Mode, a tribute to BioShock’s spiritual ancestor, the System Shock series, famed for its brain-melting difficulty.
Somehow, Elizabeth managed to blink while I was taking a screenshot
- The graphics and sound are spectacular
- The combat system is so simple to pick up that some people recommend that experienced gamers start on Hard difficulty
- The story is…beyond my capabilities to define, but sets a standard that few will ever match
- Elizabeth is the most complete, interesting, and incredible character I’ve ever seen in a video game.
- Only two guns at a time can seem needlessly restrictive
- It got delayed, so we didn’t have it until now
- I suppose some people might complain that there’s no multiplayer
This is the game against which all other 2013 Game of the Year candidates will be judged, and it will take something incredibly special to knock BioShock Infinite off its throne. Everything about BioShock, from the incredible world of Columbia to the engrossing story to the memorable characters to the polished combat system is superb. It will draw you in, mess with your perceptions, and leave you feeling like you’ve just experienced something very, very important. When I offered to write this review, I asked if it could be just four words long. The editors said “no”, but I will still include them here, because my entire point can be boiled down to this simple sentence:
Buy this game now.
One look at the majestic city of Columbia will take your breath away, and then there’s the stunningly detailed presence of Elizabeth.
he Vigors system combined with plenty of varied firearms and the skyhook leads to all sorts of interesting ways to fight off your enemies.
The strangely familiar music will haunt your memories, and the voice acting is incredible. Wait until you hear Booker and Elizabeth sing!
Getting all the voxphones and kinectoscopes (story collectibles) will probably take you a second play-through. 1999 Mode and Season Pass DLC will keep you around as well.
There aren’t enough superlatives in the world. You need to buy this game and experience it. Be warned: it may change you.