Bioshock Infinite Review
It’s been about three months (at the time of this writing) since the game had been released. Bioshock Infinite was released on March 26th 2013. On March 27th, 2013, the seed of obsession began to germinate.
I had been seeing the commercials on TV and hearing from twitter how amazing Bioshock Infinite is. My initial thought was “yeah, that looks like a neat game but… I don’t know…”. My hesitation was based purely on the cost of the game, as well as my perception that the game was only available on consoles. I currently own 2 consoles, a Wii (for Netflix), and a NES/SNES clone. This should give you a good idea of my “gamer” street cred. I am a gamer, there’s no doubt about that; but I carefully choose the games I’d like to play, because they are wallet draining. Fine, I’m cheap! There I said it, now I don’t have to pay a therapist. Score!
Note: from here on out, I’m going to refer to Bioshock Infinite as “Bioshock”. I understand the first game was called Bioshock, but I’m lazy cannot spell Infinite, which is apparent by all the squiggly red lines on the draft copy of this review.
What was I saying? Oh yea, I thought Bioshock was only for Xbox. I’m not sure if it was a failure in advertising or if I just assume everything is on Xbox these days. As it turned out, Bioshock was available for PC, on Steam, which makes sense since the same code that can run on the Xbox is the same code that can run on Windows. I was still unsure if I should buy it. The thought grew and grew. I’m not sure what kind of magical spell that was put upon me that night, but the thought turned into a mini obsession. I finally broke down and bought it on April 11th. Downloaded overnight, came home the next day, grabbed my controller and…
Here, We Go….
Before you continue, you should know this article does contain spoilers. If you’re OK with that then proceed. Otherwise, please bookmark this page so that when you have completed the game, you can read this and nod knowingly, having just finished the game seconds before reading this. Let’s continue on, shall we?
I’m going to break this review into 3 parts. First will be the story, followed by the game mechanics and finally, my overall impressions / gripes / wishes etc. The goal of this review is not to change your mind or lessen your game play experience. I just wanted to talk about the game, with my opinions, in a safe Internet environment, that is subject to disagreements that might begin in heated exchanges, ending with the phrase, “Your Mom!”. This should be more entertaining then the Smurfs review I wrote. You can find that review… never mind with that. It’s probably deleted by now… hopefully.
The Story goes a little something, like this. There is a man named Booker DeWitt, who is in a rowboat heading to a lighthouse. He’s made a deal with a mystery man to “bring back the girl and wipe away the debt”. Booker heads to the top of the lighthouse, which happens to be the gateway to a city in the clouds called, Columbia. At the top of the lighthouse he finds a chair, and he sits down. He is then strapped down, sounds of rocket engines roar and Booker is now a monkey in a rocket heading to his death. Booker doesn’t die, but ascends through the clouds and emerges in a beautiful “heavenly” city. The city is full of sunshine, zeppelins and buildings.
The “rocket pod” docks. While Booker is still strapped in the chair, he’s taken down into a church like building. Here’s where we learn about Zachary Comstock, the prophet and creator of Columbia. The pod opens and there’s a water leak in the building. I’m sure the plumber is on it. Booker finds himself in a baptism hall, and is told that the only way to enter the city is to be baptized. So Booker does this and nearly drowns. Booker is fine, eats an apple and he enters the streets of the city.
There’s a celebration going on! What a party.
Wait, why am I retelling the story? That’s what the game is for! If you want to read the entire story, and have the entire game spoiled for you in 10 minutes, the Bioshock Wiki has a great write-up http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/BioShock_Infinite#Plot.
Alright, I will give you my opinion of the story. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know what I’ll be talking about. If you haven’t played the game, I’d stop reading unless you want spoilers and you want my opinion to influence your game play, which is probably a really bad idea, because I don’t know what I’m talking about most of the time.
I enjoyed the story for the most part. During the first phase of the game, my head was reeling with thoughts of “What is this? How do they know I’m the False Shepherd? Whoa, time travel maybe?”. That held my attention for a while. When I learned about Elizabeth and her ability to open “tears”, I was pretty content. The story turned south for me when we (Booker and Elizabeth) found Elizabeth’s mother and she turned into a ghost. Which leads me to my favorite quote of the entire game, “Elizabeth, why is your mother a ghost?”. That was very humorous to me, but confusing. So, you’re in this place where technology is king and physics are being manipulated and then there’s a ghost. They explain the ghost as being trapped between dimensions. OK, Now you lost me. Now I must get to the end of the game so it can explain what all this means. I made my way to the end and it turns out, all the things about Racism, and the Vox, really means nothing. Elizabeth explains that there are “infinite” universes which she can open. She uses lighthouses for this metaphor. She then explains that Comstock is Booker but in a different universe, and that Elizabeth is Booker’s daughter (formerly called Anna), and Comstock bought Anna from Booker’s universe to wipe away Booker’s gambling debt. I’m sure I’m missing some details, but that’s my take of the end.
I largely felt let down. It feels like this really big build with the twins, the “debt” that has to be paid’, tears between universes, Elizabeth, Comstock, etc. But then the story is quickly spat out, as if the developers thought “We have only this much time left, lets cram the rest of the story into the game”. It was a fun game, but It’s not fun for the story alone. It’s not a terrible story, I just think it failed in some of it’s execution, and was a bit preachy at times.
The game play mechanics were fun. As I mentioned before, I played this game on a PC but I played it with my xbox 360 controller. I don’t have an xbox but I do have a controller. That was a fun experience for me.
The game felt pretty natural most of the time. Jumping on the rails, changing direction, going faster or slower all felt cool, unless you didn’t press the button at the right time. There are times where you look up at the rail to jump on it, and the option to jump on the rail wasn’t available. I think this was a intermittent bug that was annoying. The worst part was, when you were on a rail, and the Handyman decides to electrify it (which means, you get electrocuted), if the button to “dismount” didn’t pop up at the right time, you were screwed. I reloaded the checkpoint several times because I couldn’t exit the rail during one of the battles. That was super frustrating.
Weapon acquiring and reloading was fine. I loved the fact that Elizabeth would throw you money, ammo, or salts (for vigors). It was like a nice support element in the game. Elizabeth could also be used to open tears which had things like Med packs or automated machine guns to help you out in the battle. I found that that was fun and pleasing to use. I like when Booker would say “Elizabeth, over there!” and a tear would open. It’s like we were a team, and that’s a cool feeling for a single player game.
The Vigors were fun to use, although I did usually stick to just a few. There wasn’t a moment where you HAD to use one vigor or the other to defeat someone, although certain vigors work better on enemies than others. For the most part, I just used Bucking Bronco or the Electrify vigor. Picking up items, or searching through drawers was OK. Although it was odd to find whole “Pineapples” in trashes. It doesn’t really fit within the game, and besides why are people throwing away whole pineapples?
I played the game on Hard, which isn’t that bad, except for the ghost encounters for me, and a few other skirmishes where I had to respawn a lot. The tactic that I found to be most effective for the ghost was to find the health and salt vending machine and just camp there and use the vigors to destroy the ghost’s minions, and keep hitting the ghost, while running over to the vending machine to fill up on health and salts. In that sense, I think the game didn’t do a good job of forcing me out, and force me to find another solution to the problem at hand. That’s probably OK, because those were frustrating times.
What this all means
So my verdict? I liked it. It’s not the life changing game in which everything you know is turned upside down, but I did have a positive experience. I wish the story would have paced itself a bit more or provided a better use of the multi-verse stuff. I know I’m probably nit-picking, but it seemed to have a bunch of potential, and in the end it didn’t Wow me. The mechanics were pretty solid most of the time, but when it didn’t work, it was annoying and frustrating. I did have a sense that I wanted to be in the world right along with the “civilians” for a bit longer. I like the idea of being among those who might turn on you and call the police at any moment. That’s a tension that I wish they would have used more. Most of the game is played in empty streets with “soldiers”. However, this game is massive. I understand how much money and how much talent it takes to make a game of this size so these issues, become really small when you think about it on that scale. It’s still a good game, but if you haven’t purchased it yet, its probably a good idea to wait for a Steam sale.
About the Author:
Darrel is a contributor for The Obscure Gentlemen, and is also the creator of That Comic Thing, a weekly web comic about crazy ideas. You can find out more about him and his misadventures at http://www.raydredstudios.com. Or follow him on twitter, @raydred. He’s really cool and don’t let anyone else tell you he’s not.