When Bioshock came out in 2007 I remember starting it, but not finishing it. Before Bioshock 2 came out in 2010 I went back and took the time to not only restart, but to beat Bioshock. Something on that second play clicked much better for me, and I found myself looking at the beauty of the fallen city of Rapture and enjoying the firefights on it’s broken streets. When I reached the parts in the story that came to a twist of what I thought I knew, I was in love with the title. Bioshock 2 was also enjoyable, as the story it told had strong feelings of protection and love that helped it be different from Bioshock.
But now it’s 2013, and Bioshock Infinite has been released after years in development. Developed by Irrational Games, who made the first Bioshock (but not Bioshock 2), we leave the city of Rapture behind for something more, “airy”. The city of Columbia, high above the clouds of 1912 America, is calling.
Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. With these words, Booker Dewitt, ex-soldier/ex-pinkerton, is sent on a mission to find a girl in the city of Columbia and deliver her to unknown forces to rid himself of a great debt. But who is the girl? And is Booker up to the task?
Bioshock Infinite follows in the footsteps of Bioshock, a FPS that mixes gunplay with special powers as you explore a city beyond normal expectations. The gunplay side of Bioshock Infinite is good, but I don’t feel that it’s anything special. It feels tight, and there’s a good amount of weapons you can swap between during the game, even if you can only hold two weapons at a time. From the pistol, to a sniper rifle, to a volley gun and more, you’ll have plenty to arm yourself and develop a have a favorite weapon. Then it’s a matter of keeping enough ammo on hand for that weapon. But unlike Bioshock 1 and 2 there aren’t any variations to ammunition. No armor piercing rounds or the like, just standard ammo across the board. It removes some of the strategy of “What ammo do I need for this next encounter?” but makes it easier to just move forward and just worry about “Do I have enough ammo for this gun?”.
You do get to upgrade the weapons, and this is done via vending machines instead of one time use upgrade stations like in previous games. It’s then a choice of: do I spend money upgrading a weapon, or upgrading a vigor?
The vigors of Bioshock Infinite are like the plasmids of Bioshock, a special liquid that gives you powers beyond that of any normal man. Electrcity, Fire, and other abilities that can be fired from your fingertips can really alter the outcome of a fight. These vigors can be upgraded to be more powerful like in previous games, but what makes them different is that they now have two functions. The first action is a quick action, shoot a bolt of lightning or quick charge forward. The secondary action usually sets a trap for enemies or something not as directly offensive. I really liked using vigors in a fight, as they gave the game a fresh feeling compared to a normal FPS. How many other games lets you throw a murder of crows at somebody?
To me though the gameplay I really love in the Bioshock series, and which is one of my favorite parts of Bioshock Infinite, is exploring the environment to find interesting parts of the world. From finding a secret room, unlocking a locked door, solving a cipher, or just picking up random Voxophones, I love every minute of it. Part of me always thought Bioshock would have made a thrilling setting for a point and click adventure game because the world was so interesting, and I sometimes thought the world gets a little obscured behind all the firefights.
Bioshock really had a great style to it, and that follows true to Bioshock Infinite. The design of the buildings and streets, the far off skyline in the clouds, or the posters on the streets all look fantastic. It makes for a world you want to get lost in and explore everything.
The enemies of Bioshock Infinite might feel a little less exotic compared to Bioshock. You have some grandiose characters like the Handyman and the Boys of Silence, but for the most part you seem to fight normal people. Compared to the plasmid affected splicers and variety of Big Daddies in Bioshock, normal people don’t seem so impressive design wise, even if a lot of thought went clearly went into the design of their various uniforms. However when you stop and look at all the enemy types, I think Bioshock Infinite has more diversity than Bioshock 1.
I played Bioshock Infinite on the Xbox 360, and I thought it looked phenomenal. I didn’t notice any screen tearing or slowdown, the only thing I noticed was that some of the textures could have been a little bit higher resolution. But that’s a system limitation more than anything. I’m sure the PC version looks even better but I didn’t feel I missed out much by playing on the Xbox 360.
The voice acting in Bioshock Infinite is some of the best voice acting in any game I’ve played. I enjoyed listening to every Voxophone I could find, I loved listening to the banter between Elizabeth and Booker, and I would stop to overhear conversations between random NPCs I’d pass by. Somebody might argue that maybe it’s harder to feel like you’re Booker because there’s a voice compared to Bioshock’s Jack never speaking. But I never felt taken out of the experience because of the voice acting. Instead I felt the voice acting added a huge amount of emotion to the character, and to myself. I felt more invested into it because I was feeling what Booker felt.
The score is amazing as the tunes are both haunting and beautiful. The tracks of songs with lyrics fit the time period (or do they?) and sound fantastic. This is a game where I want to own the soundtrack because I enjoyed it so much.
Whether it is a bullet shot, a crackling fire, or zipping across a skyline, the sound effects are immersive and well designed. You feel like you’re a part of this world your exploring, and that’s always a good thing.
This is a game to play with good headphones or a good surround sound setup.
Story (spoiler free)
I don’t want to spoil any of the storyline of this game because I found so much enjoyment in the experience of it. My wife wouldn’t let me play unless she could watch because she was enthralled with watching it unfold as I played. I think that says a lot about the quality of the story, without having to say a lot about what happens.
I will mention that I like the city of Columbia more than the city of Rapture. When you arrive in Rapture in Bioshock, it’s already fallen to ruin. It makes for an interesting place to explore but I missed seeing people that weren’t crazy and trying to kill me. I loved that Columbia has people milling about, and that not all of them would try and murder me on sight. It also made the city feel more alive, and myself more aware that I was kind of responsible for what the city was now going through. As the story draws on and the clouds begin to change from white to grey, there’s a path behind Booker where I know normal peoples lives have been upset. Where as in Rapture, I didn’t feel as much for the insane splicers who were scavenging off corpses.
The story of Booker Dewitt, Elizabeth, Comstock, Fink, the Vox, and the entire city of Columbia is well told and sticks with you. I’m still thinking about it, and part of me wants to jump right back into a new game to see it unfold again. It’s a wonderfully told story that has to be experienced first hand.
I don’t know how long I played, and I don’t care. I spent full price, and I felt I got my money worth of enjoyment out of the game.
It probably is a bit on the shorter side, if I had to estimate I’d wager I spent a good 10-14 hours in my playtime where I explored as much as possible. And unlike Bioshock 2 it lacks any kind of multiplayer mode. So if you’re worried about a good dollar to hour ratio, then you might want to wait for a sale or price drop. But if you’re just buying into an experience? Then I feel it’s worth the full price of entry.
The gunplay isn’t amazing, but it works well enough. The vigors are interesting and make the firefights more fun, even if the enemies don’t seem like they have the diversity of the original Bioshock (because really they do). The world is well designed, and feels natural even though it’s a supernatural city. The characters you meet are wonderfully interesting, and incredibly well voice acted. The story is something that I’m going to reflect on for days and want to experience again in the future. I don’t even need the future DLC, but I’m curious as to what other stories will be told in this universe so I already bought a season pass.
Frankly, I loved this game. Everything about it works beautifully together to tell a story I found captivating. I want to play it again, even though I know whats coming. Bioshock Infinite is more than a game, its an experience and I don’t think it should be missed.
Bioshock Infinite is developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 via retail and PSN, PC via retail and Steam, and at some point there will be a Mac port as well. It retails for $59.99 for the standard edition, $79.99 for the premium edition, and $149.99 for the Songbird Edition.
I played the story to completion on Normal on the Xbox 360, and bought the season pass for the future DLC content. I still think both Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite would make for really awesome point and click adventure games, but I also love them just how they are.