Attempting to express just how much I love Bioshock Infinite and why it’s so perfect, has been a difficult task for me, and I’m afraid I still don’t think this review can do this wonderful game the justice it deserves.
Bioshock Infinite takes place in 1912 in the air-loft city of Columbia, a state now independent from mainland America, wherein you play as ex-Pinkerton agent Booker de Witt in his search for the girl Elizabeth: the key to wiping away his debts. This story truly displays a narrative brilliance so rarely achieved in gaming, mainly due to the complex relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. Their journey through Columbia is also a journey that delves into the mysteries of their own deeply troubled pasts, but although Booker is the protagonist and vital to the plot, Infinite is really Elizabeth’s story. Her A.I is the most advanced I have ever experienced, and once you eventually meet her, the moments without her presence appear devoid of meaning by comparison. Elizabeth is so expressive; the combination of voice, motion capture, and programming work seamlessly together to create a character so alive that you cannot help but invest yourself emotionally in her story. Whenever you turn to her, Elizabeth will glance back with an expression showing her current feeling, whether it be fear, anger, puzzlement or pleasure, and whenever she strays off to explore on her own she’ll always come back to you, avoiding any of the usual pitfalls AI companions usually entail. Safe to say, to those who played the original Bioshock and thought it’s plot twist couldn’t be matched, Infinite caught me so off guard I sat in shock for around ten minutes afterwards. Infinite is a tale of politics, racism, sexism, love and redemption that makes some incredibly brave decisions and is executed with flawless precision.
Bioshock Infinite’s combat takes its initial inspiration from the first Bioshock, with the variety of upgradable weaponry, powers and gear available, but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas Bioshock was a tense, claustrophobic shock-fest, Infinite’s combat is a full-on, fast-paced battle ground, and even on normal difficulty the combat was challenging enough to keep me on my toes. However, the intelligent use of the skylines across Columbia, along with the diverse range of weaponry and vigors (powers), will award players with progression and achievements. Also integral to your survival is Elizabeth’s ability to open up tears into time and space, providing you with essential advantages such as cover and allies, and choosing which tears to open, and when, keeps the combat fresh and exciting. Elizabeth’s other ability to scavenge and supply you with items such as health and ammo, too proves crucial in difficult situations, and I remember a number of incidents wherein her intervention at exactly the right time saved my life. These gameplay mechanics give the impression of Elizabeth as being an equal part of a team, rather than remaining a nuisance to the player.
Akin to Bioshock’s Rapture, the floating city of Columbia is the physical embodiment of one man’s ego and ideology gone wild. Ken Levine’s deeply realised world is an astonishing thing to both observe from outside and within. The pure, undiluted display of extreme American exceptionalism is both beautiful and loathsome in equal measure. While it’s Art Nouveau design, brilliant graphical style and unique cultural image is fascinating, the underlying atmosphere of obsessive religious and moral upstanding, worship of antagonist Zachary Comstock, overt racism and an uncanny sense of the unnatural, make Columbia a city representing two different sides of the same coin. Government Propaganda litters the streets and the extensive, yet addictive task of finding the numerous voxophones scattered across the city will reveal the real story of the Columbian citizens. All in all, the detail lovingly crafted into this world is so immense, it’s impossible not to be impressed by Irrational studios’ creation.
In terms of technical faults, there were none of note that I encountered, I experienced no frame-rate issues, pop-ins, glitches and the graphics were some of the best the Xbox 360 can offer. Artistically it is faultless.
Bioshock Infinite had a lot to live up to after the success of Bioshock, the disappointment of the second and the massive amount of hype surrounding it’s release. Nevertheless, the final product marks a new high in gaming this generation and is without doubt one of the best games I have ever played. The creative world is exquisite, the gameplay both innovate while remaining loyal to its roots and the story will own you from start to finish, leaving you open-mouthed as the credits finally roll. But Elizabeth is what really makes this game so special, she is Infinite’s crowning jewel , the element propelling infinite onto the blissful clouds of gaming heaven, on which I am still standing on.
Bioshock Infinite is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.