Since its reveal over two and a half years ago, Bioshock Infinite has garnered a lot of attention for its ambitious setting and gameplay opportunities. Offering a mixture of immersive first-person action (alongside a unique storyline) it’s also the first in the series to stray away from the deep, dark depths of the ocean and move itself somewhere entirely new. So the anticipation for this title has obviously been sky high.
It’s the year 1912 and you play as Booker DeWitt, a man who simply wants to wipe away his debt. All he needs to do is head towards a city known as Columbia and acquire a girl named Elizabeth. Though a simple task, nothing could prepare you for the journey that lies ahead. In comparison to the first game Infinite carries a familiar tone, with an opening scene that places you at the front door of a lighthouse. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you might be embarking on yet another adventure down towards Rapture, but rest assured that what happens next is anything but. It’s not long however until you’re sky rocketed (quite literally) through the clouds and into a brand new utopia. Filled with a multiplex of buildings with their own inhabitants and eco system, it’s the city in the sky and now your new playground. Welcome to Columbia.
In terms of pacing it’s a slow burn to start, but it’s entirely your choice as to how fast you progress through the opening acts. In the first hour alone you’ll be greeted with many things to explore and interact with; whether that be the local fair, offering optional mini games in typical tradition, or sticking around the barber quartet to listen to their comforting melodies. Just like previous entries in the series, this game offers a rich and vibrant atmosphere. There’s always something fresh to discover or a conversation to listen in to; there’s never a dull moment.
Keeping the magic
Anyone familiar with the plasmids that gave you supernatural abilities in Bioshock one & two, a similar potion is present that gives you mystical powers to overcome any firefight. The name is ‘Vigor’ and they’re available in many flavours, each of which has the ability to control large crowds of enemies at the flick of your wrist; whether that’s through the use of electricity, fire, water or telekinesis. In order to power those delightful powers, though, you’ll need to keep a constant stock of salt, found around the environment in blue bottles or through the use of vending machines. You also have the ability to upgrade your powers, stamina and guns through these machines, though you can only carry two weapons at a time. This means that you will have to stay on your toes during hectic combat situations, as sniper rifles, rocket launchers, pistols and machine guns line your path and will each offer their own advantages against certain enemy types.
Let’s move onto your soon-to-be sidekick, shall we? When you find Elizabeth she is imprisoned within a large angel-like figure and it’s not long until you help break her out. For most of the game she serves as a helping hand and can provide you with much needed ammo or salts, should your powers or weapons run low. Also, if you’re running low on health she may sometimes offer to throw a health pack your way. Though you’re the one who rescued her, Elizabeth sure isn’t the type of girl to need a hand in a gunfight. I’m not sure whether it was due to the hectic nature of the brawls in the game, or another reason all together, but Elizabeth never needs saving in these situations.
Never once did I have to protect her from being shot, or dying in the middle of a fight. She would just stick by my side, minding her own business, whilst everyone around her tries to kill me. Now of course I’m not complaining about not having to look after her 24/7, but for a girl that I need to help escape, she doesn’t seem vulnerable enough to care about. Which made me feel a little disconnected at times. She can look after herself, why should I stick with her at all? This is where the intelligence of her character (technically speaking) shone, showcasing her ability to navigate surroundings quickly and effectively. Compared to your average A.I. I was very impressed with what the team have accomplished here.
Trans – Dimensional
Now before I go on a rant about my companion not being vulnerable enough, I would like to point out one thing, and that’s Elizabeth’s power to change her surroundings and environment. As the story progresses Elizabeth shows her ability to open up alternate dimensions known as tears. Once opened, Elizabeth effectively opens up another reality, sometimes bouncing to another time period all together. Though these feature prominently throughout the storyline, they also have their own use within combat. Across each area you’ll find grey patches of equipment, which will signify a tear. It might be a box of health packs, some cover or an automated machine gun, but once opened, they’ll become available for use in combat. The use of all of this in the environment gives each battle with foes a unique tactical edge and makes you think how best to use what’s at your disposal. Be careful, mind, as only one tear can be opened up at a time, so be wary of your surroundings and what you need most.
Once you get into the combat, I guess you could say that there’s really only one goal once the bullets start flying, and that’s to continue your frantic shootout until the last man stands. It’s here where Infinite tends lose a little of its finesse, forcing you to run around like a headless chicken whilst using a mixture of Vigors, guns and tactical combat via Elizabeth’s powers. Though where other games would edge towards a mindless shooter, this game does at least provide you with many options once in combat. If, however, you find all the shooting a bit too much, then why not explore your surroundings and delve into the history by picking up one of the many Voxophones that lay around in each level. These act exactly the same as the audio diaries found in the first game, helping you get a batter sense of your surroundings and providing more backstory to characters.
If you’ve caught any of the trailers for the game you’ll no doubt have noticed transportation via rail lines known as Skylines. Used through a small rotating connector acquired near the start of the game, these lines offer quick transportation around a sprawling area. In the same fashion as roller coaster tracks, these lines give you the ability to not only zip from area to area, but also provide nippy tactical transport in the middle of a fight. As is with most games now, this title does include support of the Playstation Move controller, and it ain’t all that bad. There’s nothing too special with the extra control option, but overall it works well and provides an accurate, fast and fun alternative to normal analogue controls.
An average playthrough will last between 10-12 hours, but that is ultimately dependent on how you choose to play. If you’re the type of player to explore every hidden corner, then expect a far longer playtime. In addition to your easy, normal and hard modes there’s also a new mode called 1999 mode. As the name suggests, this mode harkens back to the good old days of when playing a game was a chore. Everything is harder. Enemies gain more power, death becomes common place and the choices you make become permanent (which weapons you choose to upgrade/ stick to, for instance). There is a large over-arching storyline, but I won’t spoil anything here. All I will say though is that it’s a grand and fulfilling approach to the series, sewn together with a detailed plot line. Just pay attention at the end, ok?
- + Columbia’s beautiful, with a rich history included
- + Ambitious, compelling storyline
- + Beefy, immersive single player campaign
- - Combat can become messy