BioShock Infinite Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: 2K Games Developer: Irrational Games Genre: FPS Players 1 Age Rating: 18+
Other console/handheld formats: PS3
The underwater city of Rapture most likely put a lot of pressure on Irrational Games when they tasked themselves with coming up with another imaginative world in what many consider to be the first proper sequel to the original BioShock. BioShock Infinite introduces the world to Columbia, a floating city which proves to be very different from the Rapture of the previous two games, but it’s yet another environment in which I wanted to explore every single inch of.
You’d be forgiven if you thought that BioShock Infinite was going to follow the rather dark setting of BioShock and its first sequel. The game begins on a dark rainy night in 1912, as the protagonist Booker DeWitt is seated in a rowing boat on the coast of Maine, before being delivered to dry land. But, no, we’re not in Columbia just yet. Once propelled into the skies by a lift in the inside of a lighthouse, your entrance into Columbia – like Rapture before it – is a really grand one. The open blue skies, fluffy clouds, blinding sunlight, and cobbled and populated streets are a far cry from the oppressive underwater city of Rapture. Entering Columbia for the first time does truly feel like a breath of fresh air; a contrast from all that came before.
In terms of storyline, BioShock Infinite seems simple enough on the surface, although, as expected, there’s more to it than first meets the eye. Ex-Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt is in debt, although he is told that the slate will be wiped clean if he goes to Columbia and brings a specific girl back to New York with him. To call DeWitt the lead character would be a disservice to Elizabeth (a teenage girl who has been trapped in a tower in Columbia for most of her life), as she is one of the major forces that keeps the story moving along, and it’s as much her story as it is DeWitt’s. There are audio logs to be found once again; filling in plenty of the back story, and, with its strong cast of characters, this intriguing and mysterious storyline is certainly one of the strongest reasons to continue playing the game. The shocking ending already has many fervently discussing it, and I’m certainly not surprised one iota by this.
As a game, all that much hasn’t really changed when it comes to the basics. Infinite is still a first person shooter in which you are able to make use of guns as well as various abilities which can be magically fired out of your hand, although the environments are now larger and more open, which makes things feel completely different to the claustrophobic corridors of Rapture. The Plasmids, as they were called in the previous games, have been renamed Vigors, although they pretty much work in the same way, while the Adam that powered the Plasmids has been replaced by salt. One Vigor allows you to possess certain enemies, causing them to switch sides during gunfights, another blows enemies away or pulls them towards you, while another example has you charging towards your foes. As the Plasmids did before, the Vigors do add some seasoning to enemy encounters.
The shooting does the job, although it still doesn’t match up to the best of them, with things remaining a little clunky and unsatisfying, while certain sections exhausted me with the amount of enemies that were sent my way, causing me to want to return to simply exploring Columbia as well as to get deeper into the storyline. Weaponry can be upgraded at vending machines, increasing the damage that guns do when fired, improving the recoil and so on, although it’s still a shame that more attention wasn’t placed on the shooting. At heart BioShock is indeed an FPS, so it remains disappointing that the action couldn’t be as near-perfect as the amazingly detailed world that it takes place in.
One thing that really impressed me is the AI of Elizabeth, who accompanies you throughout much of the game. Irrational Games have made her believable, and seeing her sit down in particular areas, leaning against walls, as well as her ability to spot helpful things in the environments such as lockpicks (she can also open doors with these when you instruct her to), or her tossing money your way makes her company feel worthwhile. While she doesn’t engage with enemies herself, she can seek out ammo, health and salts during combat, which can be gratefully received by holding a button down. She’s a lot more than one of those empty-headed NPC’s that are seen in games all too often, and she rarely gets in the way, with the AI doing a great job of reading where you appear to be headed next.
Another thing that you’ll soon learn about Elizabeth is that she has the ability to make use of tears. These tears give you the option of bringing specific things into being in certain areas of the game by simply looking towards them and holding a button down, such as a wall in which you can take cover behind, allies which will help you out in gunfights, as well as guns and health. The areas in which you are able to use tears has enough options in the way that it ensures that it doesn’t feel as if you are just pressing a button to bring something into the game world that could have been there in the first place, and, like the vigors, they do spice things up a little.
Visually, BioShock Infinite is astounding. Columbia is a place that feels believable, and seeing areas of the city suspended in the sky in the distance does nothing but add to the immersion. The art style is beautiful, and the animations and cartoon/semi realistic style characters add to the charm of the game. The floating city also assures that Infinite has a more varied colour palette than the previous two games, and, when all is said and done, it’s another one of those games that shows that, on the brink of a new generation of consoles, the current generation is still giving birth to some real visual treats.
I said in my review of BioShock 2 that I hoped that the third game in the series would fully live up to the series’ potential, but sadly it’s still not quite there yet, with the game once again offering a wonderful and distinctive world to thoroughly explore, but having action that just doesn’t feel quite up to scratch with the leading FPS mechanics out there. Columbia is an amazing and imaginative place; it’s just a shame that, while being very playable, BioShock Infinite doesn’t quite match-up to its compelling storyline and beautifully realised setting as an actual game.