Review: Bioshock Infinite
A first person shooter developed by Irrational Games and acts as the third game of the Bioshock series. The game is set in the year 1912 and follows the character of Booker DeWitt, a private investigator, who is hired to travel to a floating city above the clouds known as Columbia in search of a young woman, Elizabeth. Upon achieving such an end however, the game slowly descends into chaos, pitting you against a hoard of various enemies, as you strive to unlock the dark secrets of the city and its leader, a religious zealot known as Comstock.
Story/Character Development- 10/10
Absolutely superb. I have not encountered character development to this quality since Half-Life 2. You immediately get a good hint of Booker’s past and what kind of man he is pretty much from the start of the game, with a few murmurs here and there regarding his thoughts on certain developments. As the game progresses, you gain more of a solid background on him and his experiences and it really helps the player become sympathetic to the protagonist. Its also very easy to see the sheer amount of work that went on developing Elizabeth. As she follows you across the course of the game, her character develops into something unique, she’s not your typical NPC, she’s a person with feelings and opinions. She will react to your actions during the game, and to the events that unfold in the storyline. By the latter section of the game, you will care a great deal for this companion of yours and will clearly see that she cares for your character too. Its a beautifully developed relationship. The voice acting across the board is pretty much flawless.
The story itself is fantastic. Its like reading an engrossing book that you just cannot put down, or a great film that pulls you to the edge of you seat as your demand more and more. As you progress through the game you gain more and more insight into the city’s background, the mindset of its inhabitants, the ideology and theology of Comstock and the religion he has placed at the community’s foundation. You will come face to face with the dark side of such ecclesiastical practice, synonymous with the period of history its set in, including alienation of ‘others’ and racial segregation. A dark tale amalgamated with everything from American history to quantum theory.
Atmosphere/Immersion - 9/10
Easily one of the games strongest points. The game pulls you into the story and character from the start, you really get a sense of the sheer scale of Columbia, and how it acts and feels like a living and breathing city, it feels like every individual has a story of there own, and the vox recordings dotted around the city, and the overheard conversions with civilians really add to this immersive quality. What really astonished me about the city was this unnerving feeling that I was being watched at all times, and while the city is presented as being bright and beautiful, there is always this constant ominous presence underlying everything that you can’t quite put your finger on until all hell breaks loose of course.
One aspect I felt affected the immersion however, is that the game used limited character models for the NPC. I understand that the game can only be pushed so far, but I felt there could have been a better balance throughout, especially when you are walking around the city at the start. I was getting tired of seeing more or less, the exact same group of people chatting in every different street.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Being an FPS, the primary aspect of gameplay is the gunfights and on the whole, I found them to be largely enjoyable. There is a great variety of different enemies, from your basic soldiers or police officers, to your more terrifying and stronger foes such as the firemen who, sporting tough armor, run around and throw fire grenades at you, or the motorized patriots which carry a huge gattling cannon around and are particularly tough to bring down! Enemy AI is surprisingly good, enemies will retreat to cover when shot at, and will dance around a lot, making it harder for you to pick them off. There is also a delightful collection of various weaponry to choose from, from your basic sub-machine gun and shotgun, to your Hailfire cannon (basically a rapid fire grenade launcher) and RPG.
The game also employs the use of a unique device called the Sky-Hook which can be used to traverse the large open levels at great speeds by attaching to the large, monorail-like circuits that dot the city which can prove tactically valuable in large firefights. The device also doubles as a melee weapon which sometimes entails these brutal execution-like moves which involves the removal of the enemies’ head or launching them through the air.
The strongest aspect of the gameplay however, is the use of the Vigors, which grant Booker with incredible powers such as the ability to shock various enemies, or to create a shield which absorbs enemy fire which can be thrown back as a powerful energy grenade. Similar to the Plasmids of previous Bioshock games, such powers add a whole new dynamic to the gameplay and the firefights that occur. You can develop Vigor combos such as shock stunning a group of enemies and then lifting and sustaining them in mid-air as you pump them full of rounds. It gives you an edge in combat which you will need in some firefights, and I think it makes the whole FPS experience a lot more enjoyable.
My only gripe is that the gunplay itself, or the general use of the weapons, didn’t feel all that satisfying and if it weren’t for the vigor usage, I felt I would have become bored of the gunfights by the second half of the game. It did feel like that the gunfights were becoming more of a chore as I came to the tail end of the game, and I found myself getting a lot more frustrated with them than actually having fun (though to be fair, I was playing on hard). My main motivation was to find out what happened next in the story! Though I have not played the first two Bioshocks, I have been informed that the gunplay mechanics weren’t all that great on those games either. Something to work on for future games I think Irrational Games!
Graphics – 8.5/10
As I have already hinted at, the floating city looks incredible. I was blown away when I first came to witness it upon Booker’s exciting arrival. I felt like there was a comic’y edge to the visuals which I’m not entirely sure I liked, but every environment was well rendered, even at long distances. And though you will need a strong rig to run the game on its highest graphics settings, I was amazed at how great the game still looked on the lowest settings. I will also say that I felt some of the guns didn’t look too great.
Sound – 9/10
Soundtracks are a big thing for me in games and film and this game delivers. You are gifted with superbly composed orchestration pieces during the action which help drive you forward in heroic style. The music captures the moments in the plots, and there is a beautiful cello composition at the end of the game, keep your ears pealed for that one!
Replay value - 8/10
The awesome storyline may be enough to bring people back to this game multiple times, just look coming back to a good book or film. The vigors and the different combinations help you mix up the combat, and the different difficultly settings, including ‘1999 mode’ (basically insane difficultly mode, though the game was hard enough of hard mode!) also adds to the reply value.
Overall - 9/10
A great experience all around. A superbly written plot, driven by excellent characters across a stunning landscape make this a game not to be forgotten. The ending is nothing short of mindblowing and it immediately made me want more. For me, these are the qualities of a truly great game. The use of vigors offered a completely different style of gameplay to me, and while the fun aspect of the firefights started to wane towards the end, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting at people and robots. I applaud Irrational for this fantastic game!