A few Mii-times ago, I spoke about the games I was looking forward to during the Spring Season of gaming. However, that said, it all turned to lament as the game were either delayed (GTA V), poor (Aliens: Colonial Marines) or just downright unplayable (Sim City). As far as hit-rates go, 3 out of 4 is a bad rate. Even games which could have taken their places were decent to good, with nothing really being great.
Then came the 4th in the list. The saviour. Bioshock Infinite.
Let me just hit you with a disclaimer that this is not a full review, more a First Impression if you will. I’ve barely dipped my toe in the wind-swept cities of Columbia, so am aware there is still more delights to come. However, what has come so far has impressed me so much that Bioshock Infinite is not only an early contender for Game of the Year, but could be the best of the franchise.
First, start at the beginning. Bioshock Infinite has been sold as being universally connected to the original Bioshock games, but not a Rapture adventure. Instead of going under the sea and facing Big Daddies, you play as Booker DeWitt, an ex-soldier tasked with bringing a girl back down to the ground below to “pay a debt”. So far, so mysterious. And indeed this is the first time the general Bioshock feel kicks in, with DeWitt escorted to a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean to start his journey…
… wait. That is VERY much like Bioshock. Never mind, carry on.
Once skyrocketed into Columbia, you wander through the decadent city, taking in the majestical sights and steampunk-esque technology that will dominate the game. However before long, you’re on the run and the adventure begins. There’s a girl to save, a pious enemy to conquer and lots of ways to tackle the various enemies you find.
The story, which I won’t spoil, is thus far a roller-coaster of mystery and excitement that is reminiscent of previous Bioshock games. The world you are introduced to is ruled by an extreme doctrine which has turned it into a dystopia. If you’re not White, posh or vaguely religious, then you’re in for trouble. Rule is absolute, and naturally there is a rebellion to be a part of. But it all boils down to the girl, Elizabeth, who has an intriguing talent to utilize.
And I don’t mean flicking you random coins.
Gameplay is First Person Shooter 101. You acquire guns (although annoyingly only 2 at a time) and also Vigors, the Bioshock Infinite version of Plasmids. These magic little tonics will help you possess, burn and summon killer crows to tackle your enemies, but the usual array of pistols, RPGs and shotguns are also available. There’s a lot of fun to be had with combining weapon and Vigor types to see the carnage unfold.
Believe me, there is carnage. As well as the various battles you will take part in, some of those will be through the skies of Columbia. The city in the sky has a transport system called Sky-Lines which will soon be second nature, as you connect to them with your Sky-Hook and whizz around, sniping enemies as your pass and adding to a general feeling of acrophobia. Sometimes, the speed in which you travel around on the Sky-Lines is so blistering you may forget which way you’re looking, but at no moment is it not thrilling.
I can’t mention Columbia without talking about how great Bioshock Infinite, and the city it takes place in, looks. With a celebration of early 1900s kitche and of the founding fathers of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin, the Americana on display is gorgeously put together. Even when the dark heart reveals itself (a monument to John Wilkes Booth?), the whole thing looks breath-taking in it’s details. These translate to the character models as well, which keep the right side of the Uncanny Valley to not jar any immersion you may have. Finally, the whole sky city idea is so well-realized you forget about how the original Bioshock set the fantastical idea of a city under the sea. Watching buildings float, city sections connect and airships fly around is something else, and may distract you from the action you’re taking part in.
The atmosphere is compounded as well by a soundtrack that is equally haunting and beautifully. Every note reminds you of the era you are in, with big band and barbershop tinkling the audio ivories as you traverse the city. However keep those ears peeled, as some tracks may be weirdly familiar, in spite of a game set in 1912… Music aside, the individual conversations and Voxophones (Infinite’s version of Audio Logs) give life to Columbia. These aren’t random NPCs sitting around, these are denizens of a high-culture society. The Voxophones add not only to the story, but to the people who are living it. Oh, and when you hear the roar of Songbird, you may crap your pantaloons.
A sign of a good game is how much you want to play it, and this First Impression is being written with the “reward” in mind to dive right back in. With a bar that was set quite high with Bioshock and it’s equally as good sequel, Infinite is very similar to Bioshock in a lot of ways. Some could argue that it is just the first game with a new lick of paint. The same characters with different names. With how Irrational Games like to tinker with our expectations, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve just inadvertently spoilt the game for you and myself with that thought. Either way, being derivative of Bioshock is not a Bad Thing, purely for how good that game was. And with the few new toys and delights on show, even a small improvement on a classic is enough to make a game beyond great.
If Bioshock Infinite isn’t on your To Buy list, then you need a new list. The more I think about this game, the more I am away from the zealot world of Columbia, the more I want to play it until my thumbs bleed. Is Bioshock Infinite a perfect game?
I’ll leave you to decide when you buy it. Which you definitely should.