Monday, 15 April 2013

Review: Bioshock Infinite

The latest installment of the shock franchise, Bioshock Infinite, developed by Irrational Games and designed by Ken Levine, was released this March along a wave, or more aptly, gust of hype. Infinite seeks to take the player away from the depths of rapturous seas and instead send them floating amongst the clouds. Featuring a whole new cast and location, Infinite has sought to create a new standard for the FPS/Adventure genre. The question is, did it succeed?

Set at the turn of the 20th century, Infinite begins with the player being introduced as Booker DeWitt, former Pinkerton gunman and Indian Wars veteran, suffering with visions and a hazy compulsion to rescue a captive girl. Who sent him is unknown, how he got there is unknown. It isn't long before Booker is baptised unto the marvelous man-made city in the sky, Columbia, whereupon he meets a girl named Elizabeth.

Infinite's gameplay is very similar to the earlier Bioshock games, the largest differences being skyrails connecting areas, Booker can utilise rails for tactical advantage during battle, and Elizabeth, who journeys with you providing motivation and material support. Otherwise, Infinite has a pretty stock, but uncluttered, FPS interface. Players are restricted to two weapons and assorted magical powers, called Vigors, which are synonymous to Bioshock's Plasmid powers.

The art and world creation of Columbia is truly outstanding; massive statues, floating skyscrapers, zeppelins and much more are masterfully crafted, immersive and genuinely fun to explore. I think, more than anything, discovering a new area with a new vista, is one of Infinite's greatest achievements. I strongly advise players to take non-combat areas as slowly as possible and enjoy the view.

The music in Infinite ranges from gospel to more modern offerings. Pleasantly surprising is the best way to describe Infinite's soundtrack. The sound effects are crisp and the voice acting is solid, but nothing truly amazing.

The largest controversy, discussion and potential legacy concerning Infinite will revolve around its story and themes. Where do I start? Some people will get angry, some will get confused and others wont question it and just accept it. The main protagonist is Elizabeth, and through her we learn about Infinite's antagonists and the mysterious player character, Booker DeWitt. Unfortunately, Infinite's storytelling mechanic is put through the space and time wringer, which often ends with mixed results. Thematically, Infinite ranges from overt (racism, slavery, revolution, religion, politics) to the more covert (meaning of life, trust, freedom, family).

I should mention some bad points that stuck out during my playthrough. The two weapon restriction is probably the most notable let down; so many interesting guns go unused for the better part of the game, I barely used the volley gun for example. The second largest flaw would be Infinite's almost linear pathing, earlier Bioshock sneaking has taken a backseat and you'll find yourself traveling from fight, to set piece, to fight again. Other little niggles include: resurrections costing money and a console checkpoint save system on the PC.

I have to give kudos to Irrational for including 1999 difficulty mode, which I recommend everyone should play on, and for all the nice references to the previous shock videogames.

Bioshock Infinite is available from Irrational's website, Steam and Amazon online store.


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