Note: BioShock Infinite was played to completion on “Hard” difficulty. This first playthrough took between 10 and 11 hours to complete, and I did not seek out every collectible (sight seeing or the voxphones) this time through.
When I got my PlayStation 3 in 2009, I got a bunch of games to go with it. One of those was BioShock, and out of the entire stack BioShock was the very first one I played. My first PSN trophy was “Toaster in the Tub,” and it was also the first PS3 game that I beat. The original BioShock was an amazing experience with a beautiful setting that really blowed me away. Out of the 100+ PS3 games I have now, the original BioShock is still one of the best experiences as far as story goes and is one of the most special games to me.
All of that played a big part in hyping me up for BioShock Infinite. It’s the creator and the team behind the original game back at work on the franchise, which was big for me since BioShock 2 was underwhelming (and I didn’t even care to finish that one). If anyone to could make a BioShock game and top the first one, it would be Irrational. After completing the game several days ago, mopping up a few trophies, and beginning my 1999 mode run, I’ve finally had a moment to sit down and digest it all.
On that note, I’m pleased to say that BioShock Infinite totally lived up to all expectations I had for the game and even surpassed them. The adventure in the sky, in the beautiful yet kind of haunting city of Columbia, is a superb one rivaling our first trip through Rapture.
Gameplay wise, BioShock Infinite is a pretty standard fare first-person-shooter; you have access to pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and grenade launchers, and you can melee folks. As you progress, you’ll be able to purchase upgrades for those weapons. And of course it wouldn’t be a BioShock game without the genetic enhancements that give you super-powers. In Columbia, these are called Vigor’s and all in all there’s about nine of them that can be upgraded a few times each.
The shooting works and the Vigor’s feel good. Odds are you’ll find the weapons and powers that work best for you and simply stick with them for as much as possible. For me, this was the machine gun and a shotgun, and the powers of possession and fire grenades (until later in the game).
The boat isn’t rocked in the gameplay. If you’ve played a BioShock before you’ll be right at home, and really any FPS from this generation. Unlike most games, Infinite retains one of the best things from the original (in my opinion) and this is non-regenerating health (although there is a regenerating shield). Yes, there are quite a few games that still require you to find health packs or consume items to regain a little bit of health, but most nowadays just require you to take cover and wait to be automatically healed. Jumping out and shooting like a wildman only to get shot and have to hide while “blood” fades off your screen may seem like fun to a lot folks, but I much prefer a game where there are consequences for playing Rambo. Thankfully, Infinite didn’t go that route.
There is one thing I dislike though, that the previous games in the series had: the ability to carry more than two weapons. I liked being able to pick up every weapon type I saw and being able to hold on to it for use later. No, that may not be realistic, but then this is a game set in 1912 that takes place in a floating city where people can hurl crows out of their hands and eating a hot dog helps heal gunshot wounds.
There were times on hard where big battles would erupt and ammo would be a little scarce; not good when you blindly ventured into the area with weapons that aren’t good for the amount of or type of enemies. Its double worse when you pass a checkpoint (and you don’t know when they’ll trigger) and enter a battle with very little ammo (or no ammo, as was the case with me in the final battle). Being able to swap out that machine gun for a sniper rifle at certain points would have made things a tad easier.
I’m not even going to begin to discuss the story of the game outside of the basics. You play as Booker DeWitt, a guy with a gambling problem that has some debt issues, and you’re told to bring some people the girl (Elizabeth) and wipe away the debt. Elizabeth lives in Columbia, and so off you go to the sky city. There, you’ll find Elizabeth and the story will progress from there.
Speaking of Elizabeth, she really is a great character and one that you’ll come to care about. The world around you may seem horrible, and Booker may not be relateable, but Elizabeth is the one character worth caring about. And for a large portion of the game, she’s right there with you. You do not have to protect her though and make sure she doesn’t take damage; she stays out of the way during fights and actually is a huge help by allowing you to open up tears into other realities to supplies and stuff. Heck, she’ll even throw you money, health, and salts (replenishes vigor power).
I particularly like the way Elizabeth interacts with the world around you while you’re exploring; whether she’s exploring the area too, sitting on a nearby bench waiting for you, or covering her nose when entering a filthy restroom, Elizabeth feels like the most alive character in the world.
The story can be overwhelming, and in fact at times it can appear to be a convoluted mess. If you struggle with multiple universes, alternate realities, and time travel, then this may be one you want to take your time with and really listen and pay attention to everything being said and shown. I will say that the game is an amazing experience from start to finish, and the ending is really satisfying and stunning. Seriously, if you take the time to start the game, then make sure you finish it. The game isn’t overly long; it should take you anywhere from 10 to 12 hours.
Columbia really is a great looking city. I always like a good game filled with color since most shooters are of the brown variety. Infinite does have its share of texture pop-in at times, but thankfully nothing jarring. Once you get to Columbia, odds are you’re going to be really taken aback by the splendid environment which includes humming-birds.
The first little while of your time in the city is peaceful, and because of that I probably spend more time than necessary just slowly walking around marveling at the sights and watching and listening to the citizens of Columbia. There’s quartets singing, entertaining conversations, a carnival with little games you can play… the city feels alive and I felt like a tourist from a little rural farm town gone to see the big city.
Few games have an atmosphere so good that it makes me want to explore; not because I’m looking for collectibles for a trophy or scavenging items and potions, but just because the area is beautiful and you want to see as much of it as possible. Infinite does that with Columbia.
For as good as the sights and sounds of Columbia are though, I do believe my favorite thing about the city is the skyline transportation system. Using your magnetized hook, you’re able to jump to different hooks and even onto sky rails to zoom through areas. Is that enemy standing on the deck of that zeppelin? Yes, and he’s now dead because I aerially assassinated him with the push of a button. Seriously, the sky-rails are just a great innovation, and when combined with a certain type of gear (basically clothing in the game) is essential to surviving in the city on Hard or 1999 mode.
BioShock Infinite did release in the last week of March, but it definitely will not be forgotten when the end of the year rolls around. I’m a gamer whose first PS3 experience was with the original BioShock, but also a gamer who has really grown to dislike first person games since then (I’d say I burned out on them). BioShock Infinite recaptured the magic of the first BioShock, and it was the first FPS game that I’ve been enamored with and just had to complete (in about a day).
It was thrilling from beginning to end, and above all else the game is simply fun to play. Of all the games I’ve played this generation, Infinite isn’t just shaping up to be perhaps the best game of the year, but also one of the best of the entire generation. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of BioShock Infinite.
If you can’t get the PC version, and you have the choice between getting it for PS3 or Xbox 360, get it for PS3 if you haven’t played the original BioShock. All PS3 copies of Infinite include a digital version of the first BioShock; so you’re getting a double dose of awesome.
Bioshock Infinite gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.
* A copy of this game was provided for review.