Is it worth playing? Here is my (spoiler free) review. If you are a gamer, it would be nearly impossible to escape the hype surrounding this game for the past many, many months..actually seems like years since this game was first announced. Ken Levine and the team at Irrational Games created the acclaimed 2007 video game Bioshock and while there was an outsourced Bioshock 2, this is the real sequel the team has been working on.
But of course it’s not a sequel at all, it’s a new story, but it does share a lot of the same methods and styling of the original Bioshock. The biggest change is while Bioshock was underwater, Bioshock Infinite is up in the air, quite literally.
Set in 1912 America, the game’s protagonist, former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, is sent to the floating air city of Columbia to find a young woman, Elizabeth, who has been held captive there for most of her life. Booker rescues Elizabeth, the two are pursued by the city’s warring factions, the plot unfolds, as does Elizabeth’s strange powers and background. In fact Booker himself has a few powers (literally) up his sleeve as well. Anything beyond that would spoil the plot, which really needs to be seen unspooling. The less you know, the better.
I played through many hours using the Xbox 360 version (I’ll update this post if my opinions change the deeper I get) and so far there are several pros and cons concerning the game. First it should be noted that critics are falling over themselves praising the game, so all targets are pointing to this being the game of the year. There is a lot to like about it.
First of all it looks amazing, the floating city of Columbia is beautiful to look at and each chapter in the story keeps you wondering what will happen next. Your goal in the game is to rescue Elizabeth, and she is a great companion to travel with. Since she’s been locked up and held captive (not under duress, just being monitored) for most of her life, her sense of wonder over seeing and exploring a whole new world is much like you own exploring the game. As such, you bond with this feisty Disney-looking women very quickly. In fact she is your best bud during fights as well, where she will help out with items and also throw coins your way to buy supplies. There is much to explore in the game, and having a companion with a range of emotions to explore with makes the journey more fun. Of course she often wanders off and into trouble, and you need to swoop in and rescue, this is a video game after all.
Some of the not so great things about the game is it tries so hard to not be derivative, but at the same time trots out almost every video game cliche in the book. Gameplay has not advanced like the story has. While there is not leveling per say, there are powerful items you can equip, and you go searching for loot constantly, coins, ammo, food and occasional rare items do make exploring fun. But the mechanics are a jarring mix that clashes often with the story.
While the game takes a cold hard look at American racism, political views, and our country’s violent beginnings, the meshing of first person shooter, supernatural themes and digging for loot seem a bit off. For example, Booker has some powers (no spoilers, this is in the first section of the game) that can be used to fend off enemies. With his left hand he can wield these spells like a wizard, but with his right he’s working a stock shotgun. Why would you need a shotgun if you were magical? Or why spin a spell when you can blast a machine gun? The casting seems like it’s more for fans of Bioshock than ingrained into the story.
Also because so much is centered around looting and picking through trash cans and picnic baskets (and corpses) for coins and ammo, during daring set pieces where Elizabeth is swept away by bad guys, you are pausing to roll over a fallen soldier or check just one more trash container for some extra cash. Unlike Uncharted or the new Tomb Raider, where battles and exploration are almost always distinct and different areas, Bioshock Infinite does an uneasy merging of the two. I would have loved to see the game eliminate the FPS element altogether (or at least toned down) since periodic waves of enemies almost seems like it should be in a different game, rather than the beautiful, thoughtful and yes important one you are playing.
One other thing to mention is that there are various difficulty levels, which is great, you can play at your own speed, however there is no game saving, only automated checkpoints. This means you can’t just sit down for 10 minutes and play here and there, you have to work through large chunks of the story at a time to reach the next checkpoint save or you will lose your progress. It does stop you from constant saving and keeps you focused on the game I guess, but it would be nice to see checkpoints not so far apart.
So what do I think about the game? It’s great to look at, it’s a rousing adventure, and it does keep me coming back for more. The worlds and plot are fun and engaging, and it is very easy to get invested in helping Elizabeth get to safety. But once in a while I see the game as an amazingly well crafted skin on a standard RPG and FPS. What works so well and soars so high as far as script, emotion and art design can sometimes get bogged down with clunky aiming, endless loot searching and trying to get to the next level. Half the fun is getting there and indeed, with Bioshock Infinite it is a lot of the fun. I’ll keep playing, and I do recommend the game, they have done a fantastic job of creating an engaging world that makes you lean forward to admire and also lean backward to see the good and bad in our own reality.
If you don’t play games but are still interested in seeing Bioshock Infinite, here is a walk though of the first couple of hours. It is ALL spoilers, but I am linking to it so people can see what the game is about:
Want more? Here are all 15 video chapters from FRANKIEonPC on YouTube