When I finished Bioshock Infinite, I want wanted to tell someone how I felt.. but I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the describe the sheer beauty and imagination a medium such as video games can have. It’s a fascinating and gruesomely fun adventure in a genuinely unique in unique setting.
Bioshock Infinite is a hell of a lot of fun play and that’s all most games ever achieve to be. The fact that it holds so, so much more feels like an advancement of video games as an art form. BioShock Infinite is one of the best and most glorious video games ever made and anyone who slightly cares about art in video games should at least experience this adventure once.
Note: Heavy Spoilers ahead
Bioshock Infinite leaves behind Rapture for an all new and complete opposite setting, Columbia, the city in the clouds. The story is the big thing people look for in a BioShock game and Infinite more than delivers.
Infinite starts simple, with a lighthouse just like the original Bioshock. You are Booker DeWitt and you have been tasked with a rather mysterious to bring “the girl” and wipe away the debt. At the top of the lighthouse is a chair in which you are strapped and fired into the atmosphere. When the clouds part, you see the magnificent floating city of Columbia.
Columbia is an amazing place to be, the all-American dream-turned-nightmare crossed with steampunk sensibilities. Nationalist propaganda is mixed with airships and mechanical combatants, and the moving picture machines you occasionally use elaborate on the history of Columbia, which seceded from an America that just wasn’t American enough.
The leader of this city is Father Comstock, a self-proclaimed prophet and frightfully well-meaning man who believes so strongly in his own damaged philosophies that you can only fear him.
You eventually find “the girl”, Elizabeth, locked in a floating tower and protected by a monstrous clockwork creature called Songbird and you two have to find a way to escape the city.
On the surface it may sound like an overly simple story and it is if you want it to be. However, dig a little deeper and you start wandering into the sort of high-minded philosophical territory which covers all the topics from patriotism, racism, inter race marriages, self identity, religion, redemption.
This story is not for everyone, however, it asks patience and time from the players to fully appreciate it. And that’s the beauty of it. If all you care about is surface level details and a few hours of entertainment Infinite has you covered but if you want a more multi-layered narrative then BioShock Infinite can easily fuel a few philosophical dissertations. 2K games really went in the opposite direction of the norm of how first person shooter game told their stories in the early 2010s and told a story which can’t be compared to any other game, and it paid off.
At first glance Infinite plays a lot like BioShock. The plasmids are now called vigours but they are pretty much the same thing. These include Bucking Bronco, which can levitate enemies and grant you a free melee, Devil’s Kiss, which throws a flamey projectile and burn enemies, Murder of Crows, which sic a Murder of Crows (hehe) onto the enemies, and more.
But then you meet Elizabeth. She has superpowers including the ability to open tears or portals in the Gameworld and teleport things in like cover points, automated turrets, weapons and more. This adds a unique layer to combat and encourages variety and experimentation.
Infinite’s other big thing is the skyhook. You can use this zip around the battleground, dodge bullets and bash grounded enemies in the skull, which never gets old.
The great thing is even with all these mechanics, there’s no handholding crap like all the other games without leaving you wandering aimlessly. There are no tagged characters or compasses with giant markers. There is a cleverly disguised tutorial in the beginning of the game in the form of a fair, which teaches you all the basic stuff like shooting and using vigours.
The major problem with the gameplay is how linear the levels are and how weak the weapons are which makes the game almost feel like another run of the mill first person shooter. This is only saved by the addition of skyhooks and the ability to teleport objects into the fight. This is big regression after seeing how effectively Bioshock 2 improved and perfected the gameplay from Bioshock. The gameplay also starts to feel a bit repetitive at the end but that’s easily excusable if you play BioShock mostly for the story and not the gameplay.
While the previous two games had one of the most unique and iconic enemy, the Big Daddy, this time however, they are replaced by Handymen which which are giants with big hands in an exoskeleton. While they are fun to fight the first few times, they quickly become tedious as there weak spot are really difficult to shoot considering they are always moving and jumping around the map.
Graphics and Audio
Like the failed underwater utopia of Rapture in the first Bioshock, Columbia is “forces you to stop and admire its beauty” kind of gorgeous to look at. A bright and vibrant color palette of white and gold practically ignites the screen, detailed with beautiful locations and vistas. Columbia is a nearly flawless setting for a game especially if you are playing on pc. It’s amazing how good the game has aged in terms of its art style alone. The graphics and character models are starting to look a little rough though.
And of course we have to talk about the score. The original soundtracks bounce between three narrative tones: that of wonder, that of action, and that of solemn, mourning. The songs which best express the sheer wonder of Columbia focus primarily on period instruments and sounds. But the songs that most steal the show are the renditions of some of the oldies songs such “After You’ve Gone”, “Fortunate Son”, and the best example of this “Will the Circle be Unbroken”. This song is most notably used in inauguration center as soon as you arrive on Columbia.
This song matches perfectly with brightly colored and warm painted glass and create one of the most glorious achievements a video game can achieve, make you stop and admire and almost make you cry with its sheer beauty. Impressively, on replaying the game you may realize that lyrics of this clearly say out the big plot twist at the end.
Bioshock Infinite was reviewed on PC.