How do you challenge yourself to create a near perfect game?
In 2007, Ken Levine and Irrational Games were given near perfect praise for their game BioShock. The setting of the underwater city of Rapture and its inhabitants told a perfect tale of a man-made dystopia that showed the evil (virtual) man was capable of given powers that would pollute their mind. Even more, it showed that video games could also be considered on such a level as books and movies in the terms of modern storytelling. So when their latest game, BioShock Infinite, was released expectations were primarily high. Would the developer be able to bring another game as memorable and accepted as their game released years ago?
The answer is a resounding yes.
The story of BioShock Infinite begins with its protagonist Booker DeWitt in a rather interesting predicament. A former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, Mr. DeWitt now owing money, reluctantly takes a job to travel to the floating independent land of Columbia. This floating city has been considered independent from the rest of the world, thanks in part to the city’s leader and self-proclaimed prophet, Zachary Hale Comstock. But this will not be a simple travel request for Mr. DeWitt. For he has been tasked to retrieve a girl named Elizabeth located in the heart of the city. And these individuals have made it clear; “Deliver the girl, and wipe away the debt”. Along the way, he will have to deal with Columbia’s citizens, army, and Songbird; Elizabeth’s only friend who is also bent on searching the city to recapture and return her. Besides all this, Elizabeth will show that she is not all that she seems. All these factors will turn into an adventure that will not only change the floating city of Columbia, but perhaps maybe the entire BioShock universe entirely.
Gameplay here has changed a bit, but much more for the better. Movement is fluid and controls are responsive. The PC version did experience a bit of oversensitivity with the mouse, but luckily a patch is coming at the time of this review. Enemies are responsive and will either attempt to flank and attack you in different ways, or simply attack you head on. And those wondering if the game would eventually become a long dreaded escort mission need not worry. Elizabeth herself becomes a valuable asset from the beginning helping you with various things such as finding ammo, health, money and will even give insight into the back story of the city and people of Columbia. She never feels in the way or a burden on you at any time. In fact she, for the most part, will turn into one of the rare characters which you may seem to be attached too, motivating you to help her in her quest during the game. It truly develops into a real partnership.
Infinite is still a First-Person Shooter game albeit with a few RPG elements as you will gain the ability to upgrade your newly acquired powers. While one of the main attractions for past games at one time were the Plasmids, here you are given new powers in the form of Vigors. To power these abilities you will require a particular substance called “Salt”. These abilities will provide you the ability to suspend enemies’ mid-air, take advantage of machines to turn the tide of battle among others. If a man chooses to face a group of enemies, you can “influence” them to become your temporary ally to help turn the tide of battle. And of course, you can always combine these powers for more added effects. You may also find vending machines to purchase more ammo and upgrades for the weapons you carry. Along the way you may also find “Gears”. These will add extra abilities to yourself to aid you in your quest to survive.
Another interesting part of Infinite is that the survival horror aspect of the previous two games is now almost non-existent. Instead of fighting deformed, half-mutated humans, you battle (for the most part) partly advanced humans. This however does not mean that a level of suspense or horror is not present. The outside environments show slight instances of being so high off the ground it seems that it should almost cause small cases of vertigo. Or the later parts of the game there is a particular section of the game that emphasizes on the suspense and horror. But there is usually a perfect balance between the two throughout the game.
The settings and graphics are top notch and almost on a level that is bar none. The game is vibrant and full of color. While the original BioShock had your character traveling down dark, broken, sometimes cramp hallways and corridors, in Infinite the environments are open, free and grand. Walking into a large hall only to open the door and see the vibrant streets of Columbia with clouds as their background mark a stark contrast in the environment of the underwater city of Rapture. Columbia has been given the openness that one would expect from a city in the clouds. It’s impressive to be in a gun fight and then jump on the city’s skyline train railing and be traveling over the clouds to other floating island nearby. The design for Infinite is impressive also. While an Art Deco look was used in past games, here Columbia also shows an influence of a turn of the century-style shown in its architecture and design.
Also of interest is the way that certain subjects are tackled in Infinite. The game depicts issues of Racism, Segregation, Xenophobia, Poverty, Warped Visions of Patriotism, Rebellion and Religion among other subjects that would almost be considered taboo in most other games. Instead these themes take a central part of the game and show how these ideas and beliefs were at times what founded Columbia, and ultimately lead to its downfall.
The sound and music for Infinite is also something of praise, if not interest. While it is set in an early 1900-era setting, it would seem as if something strange is afoot as certain songs will appear that don’t seem to make sense why they would. Listening to songs such as a barbershop quartet version of God Only Knows (The Beach Boys) sung in a vocal harmony or Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Tears For Fears) was interesting and surprising when I recognized the songs. Why those songs are there, is something for players to find out.
Voice acting in the game is wonderfully done also. Veteran voice-over actor Troy Baker and actress Courtnee Draper play the parts of Booker and Elizabeth fantastic. They really bring the characters to life with the emotions and dialogue heard throughout the game. And if you get the chance, play the guitar.
While there is no online part of the game, I believe this is actually a smart move by the developers. In my opinion, it’s better to focus your team on creating a more unbelievable experience with a narrative, than trying to include an extra mode simply for the sake of including multiplayer in your game.
There is no reason to say, “Would You Kindly play BioShock Infinite.” A person chooses to play a fantastic game, and you should also choose this magnificent game as soon as possible.
Is it too early to start thinking about Games of the Year for 2013?
BioShock Infinite gets a 10/10
(This review is located also at ThreeTallNerds.com)