There's been a lot of buzz since this games release last month, from the stellar game play to the keep-you-up-at-night theory producing ending. It has been topping the score charts of notable gaming sites all over the internet with scores of 9 out of 10 and even a perfect 10 of 10. However, is Bioshock Infinite the sizzling amazing experience that everyone claims it to be?
It is a good game, to be sure. You adopt the guise of war veteran turned private investigator Booker DeWitt as he must travel to the city of Columbia to retrieve a girl to pay off his debts. However, in this alternate reality of 1912, Columbia is a city that floats high above the clouds. This is a stark contrast to the city of Rapture that was deep below the ocean in the first two Bioshocks.
Once you reach the city you are thrust into shootouts with a variety of guns, everything from pistols to RPGs, and gain unique powers known as Vigors. These vigors are something Bioshock fans will remember from the first two games. However, in Infinite the vigors seem to have lost some of their vigor. They are nothing more than fun stuns and disables, where once upgraded you really only need one or two, depending on your play style, to just destroy everything.
Fans of the first two Bioshocks will remember when vigors (though I think they were called plasmids back then) were useful for more than just fighting, you NEEDED them to interact with the environments. Now, there is hardly any environmental interaction aside from zapping a few doors or possessing a machine.
Speaking of environments, the city of Columbia, while so painfully beautiful is also so painfully linear. In Rapture you could open doors by using your vigors and go exploring all over Rapture. In Columbia, exploration has all but been cut out. Sure, you can collect a certain number of lock picks to open side areas to explore, but usually it is one or two rooms with guys to kill and a health/shield/mana upgrade. The locked side areas in Bioshock Infinite are hardly what I would call an adventure.
Because of the linear nature of the environment, Bioshock Infinite is little more than a hallway shooter that dangles a piece of tantalizing story at the end of a rope in front of you. That is how they get you. The story is intriguing enough to keep you fighting essentially the same cannon fodder with very little variation.
There were some elements of the gameplay I did like, though for all the wrong reasons. I absolutely loved the skyhooks, not because they were oh-so-useful but because it was just plain fun. Zipping around in the air and flipping around to other rails was so visually pleasing to me I spent a little more time than I should have doing it. However the novelty wore off after awhile. Sure it was fun jumping down and kicking some guy in the face, but the skylines were linear just like the game play and when presented with more than one line, it was easy to get turned around. It was also upsetting that your enemies proved they would also use skylines to get around, but never chased you. In fact, when you were being shot while zipping around on a skyline, it was more effective to just zip past the enemies instead of killing them.
The last innovation of in Bioshock Infinite's game play evokes mixed feelings from me -- Elizabeth. While she is integral to the story and makes the multiverse of Bioshock come to life, during gameplay she is a major pain. Elizabeth is essentially what happens when game designers decide to make the female supporting character not useless. However, not useless is just a step away from annoying. Elizabeth will run around and toss you health when you are wounded, salts when you need them, ammo when you are low, and money. She also literally "tosses" them. Meaning if you are in the middle of a gun fight or boss battle and things are pretty epically intense, she will interrupt you and toss you things you dearly need but also pausing the epic battle for a bit.
Elizabeth is helpful and annoying all at the same time. Between her giving you everything you need and the little arrow that can tell you where you need to go, it simplifies the game so that anyone can get into it. This is forgivable as the game has harder modes, including the 1999 mode which is just ridiculous.
While the game play lacks in places, the story makes up for it. As Bioshock often does, the story deals heavily in the multiverse theory, which is fun to think about but also opens up a ton of plot holes. However, as any multiverse author will tell you, you have to be a beast to NOT have plot holes. The story is amazing though and the ending is something fans have still be talking about a month after its release. You know you made a good story when that happens.
However, people are using the story and the stellar ending to glorify this game. Does the amazing story forgive everything else wrong with this game? For many people, yes. For me, no. Bioshock Infinite is almost the perfect game. I dislike how modern gaming has gone for sheer amazing graphics over interesting games, it makes them linear and dull. Bioshock IS linear, but it is not dull. It is beautiful, but it also comes with a complex story.
While most people forgive the simplicity of the game play for the story, I can almost and sometimes do forgive it because of all the work I know went into the Bioshock Infinite world. The city of Columbia feels very alive, there are side characters everywhere and they are all doing things other than standing there. Every characters has something to say that you can overhear. When I see that, I see a team of programmers and writers who had to painstakingly make all those people and I am just in awe. For that alone, I would give their hard work a 10 of 10.
However, the reason I believe people took to Bioshock Infinite so well is that the gaming community has really just been starved for a good story. As a gamer, I have been bored for almost a year now of the recent games. Usually they were terrible, there was no new Mass Effects, no new Final Fantasies, no new Elder Scrolls. However, a new Bioshock thrust into the middle of a "good" game dry spell? yeah, I can see why people ate it up.