I tried posting this as a review instead of a blog but there's a glitch or something.. keeps asking me to select a wiki object, already did....
Review Score // ★★★★★
By // Olivia
System // 2013 PC/Steam (also available on: Mac, Xbox 360, PS3)
A Game By // Irrational Games
Although Bioshock Infinite's launch night ended plausibly for me with Steam's servers being unable to handle the weight of what is colloquially referred to as 'a shit-load' of rabid pc-believers hoping to play as well, I only wanted to see it more. I had Infinite in media black-out, I knew I was going to play it, so I had only consumed little bits & pieces of released information during its marketing process, usually by accident. I'd been present for both of the previous Bioshock games in the series (BS2 not completed), so I had high hopes for Irrational's next foray into the crazy reality inside Ken Levine's head. Mr. Levine is the creative director & co-founder of Irrational Games, & one of my major inspirations as a writer. He has been called "Storyteller of the Decade" which I'm not sure I agree with since I haven't thought about it for like a week yet, but he's definitely a contender. (Game Informer Staff, "Best Storytellers of the Decade." Game Informer, #212, December 2010)I told myself I'd try not comparing Infinite to the first Bioshock; this turned out to be impossible, as BSi is clearly from the same creator's brain. After the initial shock wore off from the game's incredible, unique beauty & disorienting landscape, I fell into an inevitable downward spiral of piecing the story together too early, while mashing the predication with my own hopes for what I was to see; this is an obsessive-compulsive habit of mine, I assume due to personally being a writer, especially of the fantastical-sci-fi persuasion. Often, this ends poorly for me when games fail to live up to my grand expectations for them. I'm more than pleased to say that not only did Infinite impress me throughout, but it unabashedly dragged me down the rabbit hole I so desperately wished it would. Deepest thanks, Mr. Levine.
Pro-tip// Turn your color up to 11.
Don't worry, eventually you'll get used to everything floating. I have a deep appreciation for blown-out bloom emitting off every single light & all things shiny; Infinite goes there, but after a while, the dazzling brightness of daylight made me pine for the unnerving, subaquatic darkness of Bioshock's original city, Rapture. The environments are built to resemble an alternate-reality Civil War-time America integrated with technology. Bioshock's signature "technology too soon" theme bathes the design of every ship, hallway, weapon, font, right down to the most ridiculously ornate elevator call button I've ever seen, resulting in fully-immersive cohesion. The Irrational artists took every little detail into account, & they will send you into a staring-frenzy as you slowly creep your way into the virginal experience with the flying city of Columbia.
As you stumble through candlelit, shin-high water onto sun-swathed streets ringed in clouds, bumping into robot-horse-drawn carriages & NPCs with rather strange parlance, you'll know that you've been in a place like this before - & yet it has all the signature trappings of a Bioshock game. Columbia is hailed as, & fits the part, a sky-born utopia. So lovely at first, but slowly & surely, the anxious sense of things being not quite right sinks in... As a purveyor of dramatic propaganda, I was happy to see one of Bioshock's major themes returning (brainwashing); it was present on giant posters & banners displayed throughout the levels.
"NEEDS MORE DISTURBED LITTLE GIRLS & ENEMIES WITH CRAZY MASKS."
Somehow in the end, after light became dark, I felt like there was something left to be desired of Infinite's low creepiness-factor, mainly in comparison to its progenitor. That may be my only real peeve with this game. Needs more disturbed little girls & enemies with crazy masks. Lack of rampant creepiness aside, Irrational nailed it with the mood & atmosphere in every different environment.Not enough could be said about the sky. Infinite might have the most amazing sky ever, maybe even better than Crysis 3. As the events in the game come to a head, the weather system reacts appropriately, eventually changing the entire landscape before your eyes. The heralded mechanic of riding sky-lines between islands with Infinite's signature melee weapon, the Sky-hook, did every environment a favor by showing them off dynamically, but I was left feeling like they do little more than aesthetically transition you between areas most of the time. At least it's not FMV!
It's hard to comment on Infinite's story without fear of spoiling it, but even the obvious stuff is great. Drawing inspiration heavily from the Civil War-era, touchy themes such as racial superiority & racial subjugation are front-&-center throughout the game. These are some of my favorite overtones in games, & where many would fear to tread, Irrational goes full-bore. At one exact point in the first level, the city's facade of paradise is turned on its nose to reveal the ugly truth writhing beneath the mask - in Columbia, racism is a way of life. Racism is, in fact, how everything functions here, as humans with skin color & non-American whites are thrown into slavery, forced to live separately in the slums: Fink's industrial district.My favorite part is the satire on Christianity. The Founding Fathers become elevated to God-status, while a certain other figure is portrayed as Satan. The fanaticism of Columbia's privileged citizens for Father Comstock's prophecy comboed to the white-supremacy theme paints an interesting picture of an alternate reality of what America might have been like if the South had actually seceded. The references & insinuation of the link between white American Christians & racism is not at all subtle, but it is done with taste. Really, you would have to actually be a racist to be offended by this game. I did find myself wishing that there were more crazy zealots in creepy masks shouting at you like a heretic.The third major theme of Infinite is best left mostly unaddressed, but if you are familiar with quantum mechanics, expect to smile. If not, expect to be mind-blown. Yes. Infinite's intimate relationship between its world & the psuedoscience that governs it all is very interesting territory to cross into with a game, & ends up making bold statements about the nature of reality. It's totally my style of social commentary.
Booker// Infinite's protagonist, who is mostly a voice. Booker's past & present are largely unknown to the player, pieced together slowly over time through self-reflection & flashbacks. His nonchalant commentary was a little snarky at times, but I think he could have interacted more with the npcs. As non-player-characters are approached, Booker will eavesdrop on their conversations, & the people often won't react at all to his presence or discomforting invasion of their personal space. Not every game is an rpg, but I wish that there had been some more dialog options available to explore with characters other than the protagonists - even simple reactions from Booker or the npcs.In the beginning he is a little dry & emotionless, but once he becomes emotionally vested in the mystery behind Columbia, a passionate, dedicated soldier is revealed. Kidnapper turns liberator as Booker finds himself caring deeply for the safety of his charge, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth// A mysterious woman who has been imprisoned by her father since infancy. Her giant, robotic avian guardian, Songbird, is her only friend but also her captor; she has mixed feelings about him. She is both a scientific experiment & heralded as daughter of The Prophet, future sovereign of Columbia, known to believers as "The Lamb." She has spent her entire life learning through reading books, & peaking into other dimensions with her special ability. Her destiny is prophesied to culminate when she leads Columbia back to the Earth below, reining flames upon all who oppose the city.
I really liked the addition of this character to the gameplay. Elizabeth is a support AI, but her abilities are severely & unfavorably limited. She can heal you, provide Vigor & ammu replenishment, or open a tear in reality to bring forth something from another dimension into the current reality's state. Yeah, I said that. It's useful, but somehow not as cool as it could be. I'm disappointed in Elizabeth's combat behavior, which is usually to run & hide; granted I like that you don't have to protect her physically, I really think she could have done a little more on the offense during a fight. I don't think she should grab a sword or do kung fu or anything like that, but how about some range-casting? Or like, stun some guys for me by opening tears on them?? SOMETHING.
My favorite thing about Elizabeth is her personality, & her sometimes inappropriate facial expressions. Due to her life in isolation, she sees freshness in things most consider to be mundane, finding beauty where others see normalcy. Subsequently, she has no experience with human social interaction & does little to hide her feelings, always acting upon her own intuition. Elizabeth is portrayed as incredibly intelligent, able to understand codes & other numeric information quickly, & is very observant - she'll help you to find items (though you'll probably find them before she does), especially keys, which you can command her to use on locked doors & chests.I get the distinct flavor of 'Civilian Belle' from Beauty & the Beast with her appearance early on in the game. As the story's action progresses, Elizabeth becomes gradually more disheveled, losing bits of her clothing as she accumulates dust. Later, there is a significant costume-change, & I won't lie... I was glad when she finally started showing a little more cleavage. Her second outfit is seriously cute & I've considered her as future cosplay material.Comstock// Infinite's replacement for Andrew Ryan. Comstock is a perfect religious megalomaniac, who has used his self-proclaimed title as "Prophet" to indoctrinate most of the city's inhabitants. I really enjoyed his propaganda & creepy voice being projected out into Columbia's streets.
Fink// To compliment Comstock's theological megalomania, Fink is the industrial egotist. He grips the city through their dependence on his slave-driven work-force & its production of the provisions that upper-society consider to be staples of life. He is fully aware of what he is doing, even taking cruel pleasure in his success at breaking those he comes to enslave. To bend the mind of unfortunates, Fink uses autosuggestion - a form of hypnosis through constant repetition of stimuli. His victims believe that they are living full, privileged lives & are complacent to do as they are told.
Daisy// Columbia's revolution leader, calling all its under-privileged races to arms against the "pure race" of white slavers. Not everyone has fallen for Fink's lies, & the once-slave rallies kindred spirits to fight for their freedom under a blood-red banner. Her character could have been expanded upon a lot & I was disappointed that she stayed in such a secondary position.Lutece// My favorite character, a scientist & theoretical physicist; her research is integral to the story throughout the game, which screams of Bioshock (Sofia Lamb). To say more about her would be criminal.
More proof that Infinite is indeed a Bioshock game are the use of Vigors - the new iteration of the original special abilities granted by Plasmids. Each Vigor allows control over some elements (even machines & people), & are treated as commonplace by Columbia's inhabitants. Apparently, everyone runs around using the stuff. In Bioshock, Plasmids were initially accessed through injections, while in Infinite they are acquired through imbibing different mass-produced tonics - this seems more appropriate to Columbia, making a reference not just to drugs but alcohol as well. There was little to suggest that there were any unpleasant side-effects from the consistent use of Vigors, like addiction or change of personality, etc, & I wish that had been addressed - instead, Vigors make you super & there's nothing negative about them.There are a wide variety of Vigors available that can be upgraded, & each Vigor has a secondary fire mode which often lays "traps" for your enemies to blindly stumble into. To each his own, but I think the most useful Vigors are maxed Possession & Devil's Kiss. Possession causes vending machines to spew random amounts of coins, but more importantly, it turns your enemies into your allies. Possessed humans & machines fight for you, & when they outlive their usefulness, the humans blow their own heads off. Cruising around blowing Possession in groups of enemies may be one of the most effective ways to take out unfriendly humans. Devil's Kiss can be both a grenade & a mine, exploding & catching enemies on fire - upgrading it can increase its area-of-effect. Shock Jocky traps are also great for their ability to stun nearby enemies. Two vigors can be equipped at once & easily switched between - the rest pause the action & bring up a radial option menu.There are guns. You upgrade them, & shoot stuff. What you'll find here is pretty typical of fps; the system is elegant, but I get the feeling that the word "accessible" was key in its development.
"WHO WANTS TO FIGHT ON RAILS WHEN YOU CAN'T USE VIGORS?"
Gear can be worn three pieces at a time, with one slot available for each Gear type. These items generally upgrade your abilities & can be changed out easily by accessing the Gear screen in the pause menu. It seems strange that so much of the equipment you acquire during your journey are support items for sky-hook combat, yet the mechanic felt so peripheral to the standard gunplay. Major problem: can't use Vigors while on sky-lines. I get it but what the hell guys? Who wants to fight on rails when you can't use Vigors? The result: the sky-hook is underused, although there are some brutal executions with it.Sadly, Infinite majorly lacked in puzzles. Of any kind.
"BUY THIS: YOUR FRIENDS WILL THINK YOU'RE COOL, & PEOPLE WILL LIKE YOU."
HUD// Pleasant & sparse, especially on higher-resolutions. For non-pc users, the HUD looks like it would be a little large. I really like non-persistant HUD & wish that it would have gone away outside of combat more often than just during cut-scenes. I also would have liked seeing Booker's left hand more; the animations indicating the active Vigor are pretty neat.
Infoscreens// The graphics are cohesive & quirky, however, there is a major draw-back to playing at higher-resolutions - just as the HUD is scaled down, so are the infoscreens, which often left me squinting to read descriptions. On a 65 inch tv. That shouldn't happen. I would have appreciated a little consideration here for pc-gamers.
I really liked the advertisements for the Vigors, which were portrayed as short films meant to serve as tutorials for each ability. They were quirky & fit perfectly into the game's established atmosphere, while effectively glorifying the suggestion to act as a mindless consumer. Buy this: your friends will think you're cool, & people will like you.
Play this shit, would you kindly? But play Bioshock first. There's no continuity, I just liked it better, even though there are a lot of things Infinite does that the first never dared. Bioshock is cooler looking & more fun... there I said it. Infinite offers a very deep story that resonates with its audience in a lot of ways, even going so far as to make you question your own reality, & it is an experience that should not be missed. The towering, floating buildings & cloud-filled panoramas are unlike anything yet seen in a game. It is sure to leave a unique impression upon anyone who plays it, & will undoubtedly inspire wonderment over the causality of events & final message of the game long after its conclusion.
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