BioShock has been slathered in praise, from being “Game of the Year” in 2007 to Time magazine naming it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time. It was featured in the Smithsonian Institution “The Art of Video Games” as Xbox 360’s winning game of the Action Genre, and is touted as “one of the rare, mature video game that succeeds in making you think while you play”.
So the big question on everyone’s mind: how does the series’ threequel stand up in comparison? Well, reviewers, critics, and just about everyone has been going on and on about the story and how it “sets a new standard for video-game storytelling, delivering a complex tale in often surprising ways”. Aaand, this is largely true. The story is one that deserves praise, as it does a very good job of keeping the big twists from you until they are revealed, and the ending is a satisfying tale of a man seeking redemption for what he has done (or would do). But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything that bothered me.
Booker DeWitt is a Private Investigator hired by an mysterious employer to travel to the floating city of Columbia and bring a girl named Elizabeth back to them in New York. However, soon enough Booker is branded as a “False Sheppard” by the city’s future-telling ruler, the “Prophet” Zachary Comstock due to a series of initials carved into his right hand. Now on the run from the police in a city that reveals itself to be less of a perfect paradise and more of a corrupt cesspool of racism and oppression, he pairs up with Elizabeth- revealed to be a sort of angelic figure as seen by the public, but is actually a prisoner of Comstock who has the ability to open “tears” in the fabric of space and time- to find a way off of Columbia. Simultaneously, they try to avoid the cops, help create an uprising with the demonized Vox Populi, and escape the grasp of Elizabeth’s giant, mechanical prison guard, the Songbird.
1- Combat- The biggest complaint I have about this game is that the combat is not very exciting. I don’t mean that it’s boring by any means, but it does tend to get repetitive for a number of reasons. One of the great things about the original Bioshock was that- if you really wanted to- you could largely go through the game without personally killing a single thing. You could pit enemies against each other, sick the security on them, get a Big Daddy Bouncer or Rosie to act as your protector, or create any number of indirect ways to get rid of your foes. Yet, in Infinite, every single Vigor- other than the Possession- is oriented to be used in direct combat, and while they work well, it is disappointing to not have as much variety to how you play the game. Again, in the original, you could generally sneak on by from mission to mission, but in Infinite, the arenas (as they are; no longer are they just areas that you fight in, but they take on a closed off gladiator-type feel to them) have been locked down, and you cannot get out of those places until you have killed every single enemy that has come your way. It feels really forced, really annoying, and just does more to take away the expansive feel of the original in order to tell a linear story.
Not that there’s anything wrong with linear storytelling, but it does feel odd to have gone from the large, Metroidvania-style world of the first to then go to a straightforward adventure where your choices (and there are only about four in the entire game) don’t really make a lick of difference.
One thing that was really went on about during the initial stages of Infinite’s production was how much of a big help Elizabeth’s ability to open “tears” was going to be, who could bring anything from a door- in order to bypass groups of enemies- to a cloud- which could be hit with a Shock Jockey vigor in order to call down a lightning storm. Now, I understand that things have to be cut for time or budget reasons, or simply because they didn’t work out, but there is little to no variety in what can be brought in. Throughout the entire game, there are only ever 6 options: cover, turrets, medical supplies and salts, weapons, and- so rarely that I think I only saw the option once- oil spills and puddles of water.
Meanwhile, not only has the game scaled back from its predecessor by only allowing the usage of two guns at a time, but also by making it so that (as opposed to the three categories and eighteen different slots for perks) there are now only four slots available that are separated as items of clothing (hat, shirt, pants, and shoes) to be worn, there are no longer multiple types of ammunition, and you can no longer stack health packs and salts, forcing you to rely on the help of NPC Elizabeth to find things for you around the battlefield. It works, but when she isn’t around be prepared to die. A lot.
(The following is just a small thing, but it was a letdown nonetheless) There are gun upgrades available, but they don’t change the aesthetics of the guns in the game. I can understand why it doesn’t- what with you swapping out guns constantly- but it was a great addition to Bioshock that I was really hoping would make an appearance.
2- Characters- Now, I’m not going to rag on about Elizabeth or Booker, because I do believe that they were done incredibly well. Same with the Lutece’s, who are not only incredibly confusing when they decide to pop into the world in order to give you cryptic clues, but are delightfully fun in how they look at the world and constantly annoy Booker DeWitt. Jeremiah Fink and Zachary Comstock, in comparison, have little presence or character, and while you are supposed to hate them for whatever reason (Fink’s racism and exploitation of the underclass and Comstock’s actions against Elizabeth), without any face time with the two we never get to make any emotional connection with them, good or otherwise, so it never really means anything when they meet their separate fates.
The last person, one Daisy Fitzroy, I am on the fence about, due to how she is handled both in the first and second halves of the game. She is initially portrayed as an anarchistic rebel that seeks to drive the city of Columbia into the ground with little care to its inhabitants- along with her army known as the Vox Populi- and is widely known for being the monster that killed the wife of the city’s leader, Lady Comstock. However, through collectable audio diaries and listening closely to story related dialogue, it comes to light that not only is she innocent of the crime, but is seeking to throw off the tyrannical rule of “The Prophet” Zachary Comstock in order to allow the poor and underprivileged of the city to flourish. Later, when you have stepped into an alternate dimension through a “tear” in the universe, she has turned into a the bloodthirsty anarchist she was accused of being who doesn’t hesitate to kill children with little to no explanation.
3- Vigors- One of the great things about the Plasmids in the first game was how intimately they were tied into the narrative of the game. They were revealed to be a product of experimentation in a society where the scientists had no rules to hold them back and were free to do anything they wanted. But in Infinite, they are just… there. There is no explanation to them being in the city, why they are common enough to be able to give free handouts at fairs, and why there aren’t more people using them. There doesn’t seem to be any negative effects to befall the users like there were for overindulging in them in Rapture (which produced the Splicers), but we never see anyone beyond the Firemen (who use Devil’s Kiss, which allows you to throw flaming grenades) and the Zealots (who use Murder of Crows, which sends out a wave of crows to cause minor damage to a group of enemies). I can see why they don’t have bad guys wielding Possession against you, but it would have been nice to see a few cops or Vox members using Undertow (a blast of water that knocks people back), Bucking Bronco (throws people up in the air and holds them there for a few seconds), or Charge (fast moving melee attack).
4- Story- Unlike the last third of the original game, after which you kill Andrew Ryan, that the game loses its steam, it is during the middle of the game, during which you search for a weapons maker for Daisy Fitzroy (which doesn’t go anywhere due to the fact that she doesn’t uphold her end of the deal- to give you back a ship you had stolen in order to get out of Columbia- anyway), and also fight a ghost. For some reason. It’s never really explained why the corpse of Lady Comstock suddenly becomes a specter-like being that brings dead corpses back to life to fight alongside her. I’ve heard it said that she’s a being from a different dimension that came here via a “tear”, but I consider that a lazy hand wave at best, which is the same I’ve heard to justify the existence of the vigors.
Lastly, while the story is good, there were times during the twenty minute cutscene/ending/exposition dump thing that I could see the plot points coming. I’m not going to say I had the whole of everything figured out halfway through the game (because that would be a load of crap), but the moment we got to the scene in the alley where we see the fate of the mysterious “Anna” that Booker had been going on about throughout the game, I basically nodded my head and said, “Ooookay, I see where this is going. So and so is revealed to be so and so.” Same with when we got to the final scene at the lake. There weren’t any specific things that pointed me towards those reveals, though, so if you’re asking for bullet points on why it was spoiled, I can’t really give you any. And while they are great plot points, it did take a lot of surprise out of it and left me kind of just going “well, that was nice”, and nothing else.
While I’m not going to go on about the greatness of the characters and story- enough people have been banging on about those as it is- due to the fact that besides the ones already addressed, I don’t really have any problems with them, I would like to take the time to talk about Sky Lines. They are perhaps the single greatest addition in this game, and I always found myself giddy for a fight when these metal rails made an appearance. They elevated the combat from the relatively okay status it was into a fast paced, adrenaline pumping rollercoaster ride that I quite quickly highlighted as my favorite part of Infinite. They are just… fun.
Infinite is a good game, it is worth your money, and it is something I think you should experience. However, I am very picky as to what (books, movies, and- more to the point- games) I actually keep, and it isn’t something I can see myself playing again and again, so I don’t plan on holding on to it. Despite how great the story is, I just plain had more fun playing Bioshock.