Bioshock Infinite - Review

Next to other masterpieces like Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty 4, the original Bioshock has taken its rightful place as one of the prime examples of modern-FPS milestones.
Right up to this day, people still talk about the game's unmatched original influence and style.
Even its solid but extremely forgettable sequel, Bioshock 2, failed to evoke the same kind of emotions in gamers despite being set in the same utopian city, Rapture.
With Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games takes us to yet another utopian place. But this time up in the sky. An all new storyline, terrific new gameplay mechanics and a newly evoked feel of awe and fascination for this new sky city Columbia earned Bioshock Infinite over 80 awards at gaming expos worldwide before even being released.
Now, after several delays, Bioshock Infinite has to prove that it rightfully carries on the name Bioshock and actually earns all those awards.       


The plot:
Bioshock Infinite is set in 1912 and takes place in the airborne city of Columbia, where the player assumes the role of Booker DeWitt, a disgraced Pinkerton agent. Booker has been given the job of finding a woman named Elizabeth in the mysterious sky city Columbia, who has been confined by a hulking beast called the Songbird...

Speaking about Infinite's story without initially giving away too much or even spoiling something is difficult. But don't worry, this is going to be a spoiler free review.

While Infinite starts out almost exactly like the original Bioshock with you on a strange lighthouse that serves as a transportation to the sky city Columbia, that's about all the parallels the game is going to have with it, at least storywise.
The story of Booker and Elizabeth and their trip through Columbia pursues very different themes along the story than Bioshock 1.
Whereas, drug addiction and madness drove Bioshock's horror-style story forward, Infinite's main themes are religion, parallel-universes and social differences between the rich and poor.
These themes are presented to staggering effect through very believable characters and most importantly the excellent immersion the player will feel when entering Columbia.

Entering this new utopian city is quite a different experience than enterin Rapture for the first time.
Whereas Rapture was a dark and horrible place filled with freaks that made you feel like in a nightmare, Columbia will make you feel like Alice in Wonderland.
Columbia is presented as a fully functioning city with civilized citizens following their daily lives. Getting lost in exploring this too-good-to-be-true city is very easy, yet still, the subconscious thought that something is deeply wrong with this city is constantly present, even in bright sections of the game. Achieving such a feel in the player is very hard but executed extremely well in Bioshock Infinite.

Get ready to be amazed.

Clocking in at around 9-11 hours (depending on your amount of time exploring the city and side quests) Bioshock Infinite is quite a long experience for a modern FPS.
Despite the fact that the main story is very well paced and littered with awesome, exhilirating set-piece moments, the story does involve aspects that come over quite a bit too far fetched (even for Bioshock standards).
Neither is it a spoiler nor a surprise that Bioshock Infinite has a big twist at the end. It pretty much became a Bioshock-tradition by now. Infinite's problem lies in the fact that too much focus is put on aspects that buiild up to that final twist.
While in Bioshock 1 the final twist was a very simple idea that blew the minds of all gamers because "it was always right in front of me and i didn't see it", Infinite throws way too many unexplained mysteries at the player, which are all only explained at the end.
This results in several far fetched WTF-moments that more and more tend to confuse the player rather than hype him for the final reveal. And while every player will ultimately follow the story fine, towards the end it lets very less room to breath and slightly tends more to exhaust than entertain.

With that said, another negative regarding the story is the lack of interactivity at certain important points in the game (meaning decision making). More than once you encounter scripted events in which the game makes decisions for you whereas the developers easily could have given you choices to make. At these points the game suddenly feels out of hand and "unwillingly" uncontrollable.

Regarding the final twist, it is a good twist. Nothing more. It is by no means as effective or as good as the memorable one from Bioshock 1 because it is really very far fetched and ultimately results in a "too complex twist" with too many variables too keep in mind. Simplicity was the key of the original Bioshock's twist, and which made it so memorable. 

Did i mention the social differences?

Next to the fantastic art design of the city of Columbia and the general atmosphere, Infinite's new game mechanics were another huge selling point. Riding along rails and killing enemies in constant motion gave an incredible feel of flexibility when shown in demoes during gaming expos. But does it really work as good as promised.......yes it does!!!

The new sky-hook is the biggest innovation in Infinite's gameplay system. Especially during combat this tool becomes absolutely essential. Not using it will make the game unnecesserily hard and simply not fun to play. Fighting while in constant motion feels awesome and the jumping and riding controls are not the least bit clunky (as i previously expected). Without the sky-hook, Infinite would suffer from very monotone main gameplay, but luckily that's not the case.

Who would have known that a character can serve as one of the most useful tools when in combat?
Elizabeth turns out to be not only an extremely fleshed-out emotional character, but also a very helpful friend in firefights. By opening up so-called tears into other dimensions, Elizabeth is able to provide you with additional cover, items, ammo and more on the battlefield.
Throwing to you health packs and ammunition in mid-battle furthermore helps making Elizabeth feel more like a real person rather than an A.I. companion.
Also, firefights become more strategic through this interesting addition, due to the fact that only one tear can be opened/used at a time, making you strategically switch between them. Using tears during combat quickly becomes very intuitive just like the sky-hook and is not overwhelming at all.

Pain in...3...2...1..

Another very welcome addition is the minor but very effective feature of an objective arrow. Just like in the Dead Space franchise, now an arrow can be triggered to show you the right way to your objective and therefore to progress through the game. Especially in game's with a lot of backtracking through large maps, this turns out to be essential to not get frustratingly lost (which was often the case in Bioshock 1). With exploration of the individual areas in mind, Irrational Games made a wise choice including this new feature.

Of course the main gameplay skeleton of Bioshock is also present, just with a new paint job.
Plasmids are now called Vigors and again grant you superpowers like summoning murder crows, throwing fire, etc. Additionally, gear can be found and picked up, which grant you the game's version of perks.
Supply in form of salt (needed for Vigors), health packs, ammunition and upgrades can again be bought at vending machines or be found scattered around the city and dead bodies.
Regenerating health is not directly present in Infinite, although an additional shield bar regenerates automatically in no-time.
Overall, considering the very generously placed items everywhere, several checkpoints and a constantly helping and invincible Elizabeth, Bioshock Infinite is quite an easy game on medium difficulty.

While there's a good amount of enemy types in Infinite, the main attraction of the game, the Songbird, is vastly underused in the final game. Great set pieces aside, i would've very much liked to see more of that "Bioshock Infinite Big Daddy".     

I wanted to see more of THAT!


Bioshock Infinite is one of the big blockbusters that prove that games don't have to be as photo-realistic as possible to be absolutely beautiful.
With gorgeous art design and an excellent execution in the final product, Bioshock Infinite's sky city of Columbia is at least as equally beautiful and fascinating as the original Bioshock's Rapture, despite their tonal differences.
Furthermore, the very comic-esque character designs give Infinite that unique Bioshock-style that many try to immitate up to this day (like Dishonored).
The icing on the cake is the fabulous motion-capture work. Elizabeth is by far not only the most interesting and lovable character of the game but simultaneously the most emotionally expressive video game character in recent memory. This goes hand in hand with the...    


...superb voice acting. There's nothing more to say. The voice acting is just perfect. Every character sounds like he/she should and watching the voice actors give it all in the behind-the-scenes videos only further proves this point.
Great sound design and a very colorful soundtrack with orchestral tracks that always hit the right mood additionally support this fantastic experience. 

The only graphics that suck in this game is the boxart.

The Verdict

Expectations were sky-high for Bioshock Infinite *badum-tss* and who would've guessed, but despite the excrushiatingly annoying delays that we got constantly hit with, Irrational Games didn't disappoint in the end. Exceeding expecations and beating a surprise milestone like the original Bioshock was out of the question right from the start, but luckily Bioshock Infinite doesn't even really try to.
Heading for a very different tonal direction, both storywise and in terms of atmosphere, Infinite has an own identity thanks to its big strength in well written characters, a well told story with interesting themes and unique gameplay mechanics.
Bioshock Infinite is one of those rare games that withstand the hype and deliver the great experience gamers expected and hoped for. And while it doesn't really reinvent the wheel or take the same place as its iconic predecessor, Bioshock Infinite is without any doubt one of the most well designed gaming experiences of this generation that no gamer should miss.

Final Verdict: 9 out of 10

Status: Must-Play!


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