Parent Talk: The ESRB rates BioShock Infinite M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, language, mild sexual themes, and the use of alcohol and tobacco. Have you played the original BioShock? If so, you know pretty much what to expect here in terms of the mature setting, storyline, and audio visual presentation. You know you’re going to get up close and burn someone’s face off, you know there will be some swearing, but above all else, you know that your children shouldn’t be playing this game.
Plays Like: Plays almost exactly like the original BioShock, right down to the powers you acquire through Plasmids, err…I mean Vigors. There’s a very good reason why, but you’ll have to experience the game for yourself to come to understand all of the similarities and differences between the two. Needless to say if you’ve already experienced the incredible underwater world of Rapture, you’ve got a great starting point for what’s to come in Columbia.
Review Basis: I played through the PC version on max settings. The game took me about nine hours to get through, although I did take my time to enjoy as much of the game as possible. That said I didn’t go after all the secrets, I simply played to push the incredibly immersive story forward.
When BioShock Infinite was originally announced I wasn’t as immediately gob-smacked as I was when I first heard of BioShock. Columbia didn’t interest me quite as much as Rapture did, but having completed the game, I can say my doubts were ill-conceived. Columbia grows on you, and the internal struggle by protagonist Booker DeWitt remains fascinating throughout the adventure. Once Elizabeth is introduced not only do we see Booker’s stance on life slowly start to change, but the game becomes so much more than you believe it is at first.
I adored the BioShock gameplay, I loved Columbia and how rich and diverse it is, but I’ve got to say that it’s the narrative that stands out over everything else in my mind. Booker DeWitt, a private investigator, has been hired to find “the girl” by an unknown client, as a means to wipe away a past debt. What this debt is, and who the girl is remain a mystery. One I won’t dare spoil for you. Stepping off a boat , Booker makes his way to the top of a lighthouse, which itself is more than it appears. In the very top room of the lighthouse is a chair, after sitting in it Booker is blasted into the stratosphere and slowly descends to the floating city of Columbia. It’s a breathtaking entrance reminiscent of the original BioShock, but it’s what happens next that sets the stage for one of the best storylines of this console generation.
Columbia was based on architecture of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and screams old America. It’s stunning to behold, but The White City, as it was called in the expo, holds true here for a completely different reason, racial discrimination. Columbia is a land of the pure, or so that’s what the game says. Anyone who isn’t of white-decent is an outcast at best, a slave at worse. Faith, religion, race, and other “leave alone” topics make up the foundation on which the narrative is build upon, and it’s because of this that the game is so groundbreaking. It takes chances that almost no other game studio would dare touch upon. A false profit runs among the populace, an uprising is stirring, and a lone private eye needs to find a girl before all hell breaks loose. Prepare for a journey unlike any other you’ve experienced. This is BioShock Infinite.
+ Exploration is encouraged and rewarded. Columbia is a breathtaking place to visit, and at first it’s populated with all sorts of people. You’ll want to get up close and talk with everyone, to explore each and every ally, and eventually seek cover and locate ammo. Whatever situation arises, exploration is integral for survival, and above all else, intensely fun.
+ Much like the original BioShock, exploration further enhances the lore of Columbia through the use of Voxophones, which are special audio recordings lying around everywhere. They flesh out the story of who Elizabeth is, what’s going on in Columbia, and who the prophet Comstock is. They’re surprisingly deep, humorous, and insightful.
+ Graphically BioShock Infinite is one of the most visually stunning games of the generation. The world of Columbia is littered with people, each doing something unique. Some are dancing in the streets, others are praying, while others still are just sitting back and having a picnic. The city itself is always moving, and there’s always something new to see and do. Visual effects such as volumetric fog, and environmental anomalies look great. When the world is set ablaze, your jaw will drop because of just how spectacular everything looks.
+ Audio is another area that really shines. Not only are all the voice actors and actresses perfect, but the music is spectacular. Much like BioShock there’s a certain charm and feel to the songs selected to represent Columbia. Sound effects are exactly what you’d expect from a AAA game like this. Overall if you’re an audiophile you’ll find much to love about BioShock Infinite.
+ At its core BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter. Not only do you have a nice assortment of weapons at your disposal, but you also have access to powerful magical abilities called Vigors. These range from being able to summon a a flock of crows towards an unsuspecting enemy, to the more traditional lightning and fire-based attacks. It’s also possible to remotely take over various mechanical turrets and reprogram them to fight for you.
+ Open battlefields. Unlike Rapture, Columbia is a giant open area where battles allow for freedom of movement. This allows for strategic environmental thinking, something that wasn’t possible before. The Skyline also adds an entirely new dimension to both the combat and exploration. The Skyline allows you to use sky rails in order to traverse from one floating section of the city to the next. While in combat enemies can use the Skyline in order to try and flank you, or get into a better position. The same can be said for you as well though, and that opens up tons of possibilities.
+ Superb A.I. One of my biggest worries was with Elizabeth being controlled by the AI instead of another player. My worries were put to rest moments after she joined my party. She constantly moves out of the way, heads to the right location, and is always willing to lend a hand wherever possible. Her partnership with Booker is one of the game’s biggest highlights.
+ Weapons are upgraded through the use of money, the more money you find, the stronger your arsenal will become. There’s a heavy sense of strategy here as money is extremely limited so you have to pick and choose which weapons to upgrade. Upgraded weapons feel significantly stronger and more useful against all manner of foe than the standard ones.
+ Elizabeth can use tears, which allows her to open portals and drag objects from other areas to your aid. It’s a very interesting gameplay mechanic that if used properly, can greatly benefit players while in combat.
+ If you get stuck you can press a single button in order to bring up an arrow overlay which shows you the general area where you should be heading. It might appear like hand-holding, but given the massive size of Columbia, it’s actually extremely useful during the later portions of the game.
+/- The final combat sequence is a little long-toothed for its own good. While it might have sounded ambitious on paper it comes away feeling far less epic than it should.
BioShock Infinite is an outstanding game, and while it didn’t affect me as profoundly as the original BioShock, it’s not to be missed. In fact it is certainly a contender for the coveted Game of the Year award. You know you’ve got a good game on your hands when you have nothing negative to say whatsoever. If you enjoy games that challenge the status quo, love powerful stories and aren’t afraid to question what it means to follow a religion, than this is the game for you. It’s incredible, nuff said.
Final Score: 9.4/10