April 1, 2013
The story of BioShock Infinite takes place in 1912, an important time in the evolution of America. However, it’s a very different world than the one we know, as a man named Booker DeWitt must travel to a mysterious floating city called Columbia in order to repay a debt. This debt involves bringing a girl named Elizabeth, who’s being held captive on Columbia, to New York City.
Unlike the original BioShock, in Infinite you play as a character that has some serious personality. He’s not a mindless drone running around following someone else’s orders. No, Booker has a personality that’s key to how the story unfolds. And as things progress in the story, his relationship with Elizabeth helps to drive things forward.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is just a story that focuses primarily on Booker or Elizabeth, given their prominence, but it also oversees the downfall of Columbia. It's here that there's a distinct different between Infinite and what came before. With the original material, you saw the aftermath of a ruined city and its people, but in Infinite, you’re there when this all happens. It allows the entire experience to have a very different sentiment, but it will still affect your emotions.
The story also mixes religious, political, and racial problems in a way that you don’t see with many games or even media in general. And the fact that it is done in a very respectable manner for taking place in 1912, while still pushing a somewhat touchy issue, is commendable to say the least.
There are a lot of similarities between the original story of BioShock and the story of BioShock Infinite. There's a man on a mission, a mysterious city, and a guardian protecting a girl. However, it's the execution of the narrative that comes across as the biggest difference. There are no more radio conversations with people you will never seen until a boss battle. Instead, as Booker and Elizabeth try to escape Columbia, their relationship grows - it's endearing.
Saying any more about the story could be delving into spoiler territory, but this grandiose story is one that you do not want to miss. With all of the supernatural and multiverse elements in the game, you may find yourself getting a little lost, but once everything is said and done, it is hard not to just start playing the game all over again. You'll be surprised at what you missed the first time, at least.
When playing through again, you may also notice some areas for improvement too. After all, nothing is ever perfect. There are times where you have to choose between two events that ultimately don't impact on anything and at times, the story does seem to get a bit too convoluted. However, that's not to take away from anything. The story in Infinite is well crafted in numerous ways.
It's also pleasing to see that along with the story, the gameplay has been improved considerably. Even with all of the story events unfolding in front of you, quite literally,, Infinite is about playing a first person shooter. Controls are fast and responsive, while mixing the basic elements of the original BioShock with all sorts of improvements.
You have you standard types of guns to choose from and upgrade throughout the game. There are pistols, shotguns, RPGs, machine guns, and many more to control. However, these are quickly overstepped by the introduction of Vigors. Vigors act the same as Plasmids from BioShock, but this time you can do more than simply one action with each power. There's a heavy focus on mixing and mashing powers together and it makes experimenting with your eight different Vigors rather fun.
Your standard lighting and fire attacks are still present, but new additions, like a group of murderous crows shooting from your body, keep things from feeling similar.
New to the gameplay this time is the introduction of the skyhook. Not only is this your extremely deadly melee weapon, but it also allows you to ride the skylines. These are used for travelling around Columbia, but when combined with the levels, can mix things up entirely. It makes the scale improve dramatically and despite some initial fears, ends up feeling natural, and more importantly, fun.
Elizabeth is with you for most of your journey. And this is one of the areas where Irrational Games excelled. She never takes away from the experience, only builds upon it. Many other games have AI companions that are just drones, but Elizabeth has personality. She will react to whatever's going on, even if you're just walking around. She might stop to admire some flowers, or try to live a medicine ball. However, if you don't stop, she will just ignore it and carry on. The depth is there if you want it.
In battles, she will also aid you. If you're in need, she will provide health, salts, or ammo and most importantly, can also open tears to turn the tide. This allows you to effectively summon cover, guns, turrets, and much more from other worlds.
It is so refreshing to not always have to be looking after Elizabeth. They could have easily made the game into an escort mission, focusing on protecting, but it wouldn't be nearly as fun. More importantly it helps build your relationship with Elizabeth during all parts of the game.
Replacing tonics in the last game that modified how you played slightly, you can now equip Gear. There are four slots in total, but you can't ever see the clothing on your character. This, and infusions, do give you a nice reason to explore every nook and cranny of Columbia though, as you'll need all the help you can get.
Enemies in Infinite appear in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The introduction of "Heavy Hitters" is nice, as they help to keep you on your toes. And while none of them are anywhere near as memorable as the famous Big Daddy, there's certainly no shame in that. Some of them will use Vigors against you and when combined with the more standard foot soldiers, they can pose significant challenges.
The visuals offer up some fantastic art design. This enables the game to, in parts, have stunning presentation, even on the home consoles where things aren't quite as tip-top. Sound design is perhaps where it excels most though and this is game where playing with some quality headphones can make a huge difference to the experience. Even with it's simplistic style, characters are memorable and act like real humans. The game has many moments where it looks like you are playing one heck of a good looking CG movie.
The original composer of BioShock also returns for Infinite and delivers a score that builds upon the emotional projection of the first. The range of moments from the whimsical to the serious flow naturally rarely repeating itself. Also the few licensed songs from the early 1900's add a nice touch along with a few modern tracks that may surprise you when you hear them. Audio design is the same and stays true for the time period with record scratches in hand for most recorded pieces of audio you hear from the games world.
Playing through the story of BioShock Infinite is quite the lengthy endeavour and depending on the amount of exploration you do, can take about 15 hours or so to complete your first time. Not once does this game feel like it needs any sort of multiplayer and replaying the game again with more challenge will bring the hardcore fans back to revisit Columbia.
The hardcore game mode called "1999 Mode" will be sure to test the dedicated few who take its challenge. You will be going through the same story again, but besides that, everything is different. This ranges from how you will need to go through fights and even managing your health. This is a great way to add extra challenge to a single player only game without ever feeling tacked on.
From the moment you open the doors to Columbia and get a glimpse at the floating city in the sky, you will feel that you're in for a serious ride. That feeling never dwindles and the longer you play the game, the more it grows. After years of hype and questions about the end product, Infinite lives up to being one of the best games of this generation.Editor's Choice
BioShock Infinite was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.