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BioShock Infinite (PlayStation 3) artwork

BioShock Infinite (PlayStation 3) review


"...it's a quite significantly stripped down version of Bioshock in every way. Everything about the gameplay and the story is very much less interesting, engaging, and fun than previous entries in the series."


I've been looking forward to playing Bioshock Infinite for years now. This year I got it in my head that I would finally play the DLC available for Bioshock 1 & 2 and then get around to playing Infinite. I love the firstBioshock's DLC, Challenge Rooms, and I really disliked Bioshock 2's Protector Trials. And Minerva's Den I of course loved, but I had already played that a few years ago. The plan was for Bioshock Infinite to be one of the very rare games that I give a perfect score to, like Closure and Risk of Rain. Let's see how that went...

I am a huge Bioshock fan. I wasn't writing reviews back when I played the first 2 games, but if I was, the first game would get a perfect score and the second game would have a very high solid score as well. I had heard so many great things about Bioshock Infinite, I was really expecting it to be a masterpiece. Let's talk about the story, and then the gameplay.

So you play as this guy named Booker Dewitt. He apparently is desperately trying to cover a debt he owes to shady people. He's been given an opportunity to wipe his slate clean if he takes on a dangerous mission; travel to the flying city of Columbia, find a young woman named Elizabeth Comstock, and deliver her unharmed to New York City. If he does this, he will be debt free, and since he's a generally really tough guy due to the military, union busting, and private detective work he's done in the past, he accepts. But Columbia is a strange place. Besides the amazing spectacle of whole city blocks floating on giant engines and moving around and docking with each other, the city is home to religious fanatics who are firm believers in racism, xenophobia, and a cult of personality focused on the city's leader and Elizabeth's father Zachary Comstock. Booker quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the fanatics, who are more than willing to kill him for their leader.

It's not a spoiler to say that you will be running around Columbia with Elizabeth for most of the game, and that their relationship is key to the story. They are both really well voice acted, with just enough old-timey words and mannerisms thrown in to remind you that the story takes place in 1912. To say any more about the story would be a mistake as it takes many twists and turns, and the less you know, the better. Unfortunately, the story did not live up to my expectations. A lot of the concepts and ideas are things you will have seen done before. And unfortunately, you've probably seen them done better too. The original Bioshock took some familiar concepts, like Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophies, and pluggged them into a completely alien world. The underwater city of Rapture functioned on rules and concepts that were totally foreign to players. Learning how that world worked made the game engrossing and fascinating. And then the events of the game in that world were a mind-blowing experience that rivals and surpasses even the most sneaky, surprise-twist movies and books out there. Infinite skimps on the world building with much of the things going on in Columbia remaining unexplained. That's not the end of the world as Infinite has quite a different focus than other Bioshock games. Unfortunately even that focus (which I'm keeping secret for spoilers' sake) is not fully realized.

To be sure, the game's story is interesting and even has a few really fascinating and enjoyable concepts at work. It just doesn't pull everything together the way it needed to. It's missing quite a few elements and lacking in originality in some important respects. Don't get me wrong, it's enjoyable, but also quite disappointing.

Now onto the gameplay, which is, I'm afraid, much the same story. You're looking at standard first person controls for the most part, with some twists on the basic Bioshock tropes of all the previous games. First, you have a Master Chief style rechargeable shield that refills after you stop getting hit. You also have a health bar that you can recharge by eating food and picking up health packs from the environment, but you don't carry the health packs with you, you just use them instantly when you pick them up. This is a major change, and not for the good as it makes the game feel like all other games with re-charging shields or health. Previous Bioshock games had a unique feel since you had to manually heal yourself with health packs in the midst of fights, which was great just because it wasn't a recharging health system.

Taking another page out of Halo's playbook, you can now only carry 2 weapons at a time. In other Bioshocks you can carry.... all the weapons, which is horrifically unrealistic. But carrying all the guns is a lot more interesting as it often forced you to use whatever guns you happen to have ammo for, thus making you learn how to use every gun effectively. In Infinite, you are totally forced to use whatever gun you find, meaning less fun learning different guns, less using guns you like, and a general disinterest in the guns which in other Bioshock games you would become intimately familiar with. Also the guns don't have alternate ammo, a staple of past games, and the available upgrades for the guns that you can buy at vending machines are vastly, vastly less interesting than the useful, fun, exotic upgrades of the previous games. In past Bioshock games your upgrades would do things like put giant revolver barrels on you double barrel shotgun so that you can fire it multiple times. In Infinite, you can get damage bonuses. Yay. The guns are really disappointing and between the lack of special ammo and upgrades there are several orders of magnitude less options for you tinker with and enjoy.

Columbia features Vigors instead of plasmids. These are abilities you can find that let you do spell-like effects by spending salts, which act as MP. With the right vigors, you can do things like throw fireballs, shield yourself from bullets, and send birds out to attack people. Most vigors can also be set as traps for people to walk into. The most useful by far in my opinion are the Possession Vigor that hypnotizes people into fighting for you, and the Undertow Vigor that lets you latch onto far away foes with a long tentacle made of water and then pull them right next to you. It's great for pulling snipers into Vigor traps you have already set. The weird thing is, I couldn't find much use for the other Vigors in the game, and mainly stuck to my favorites. I always had my favorites in other Bioshock games, but I was always able to make some use of even the ones I didn't like.

I also don't like how Bioshock Infinite's battles are a lot more straightforward than previous games. People just attack you, and you fight them. In other Bioshock games, enemies are out there living there lives whether you are there or not. You stumble upon them just as often as they stumble upon you. Fights can be totally avoided or approached from many different angles if you follow an enemy around before they spot you. In Bioshock Infinite, enemies just attack you in waves just like all other video games. And the bosses are the same. They attack you just like anyone else. There are a few interesting boss types that are fun to fight, but they aren't nearly as cool as the Big Daddy fights in the other games, which are always fights started by you on your terms and with the boss being an independent agent who might just start fighting other enemies during all the chaos. Starting a Big Daddy fight is always an adrenaline rush that follows a planning stage based on the terrain around you and your current resources. Here, the equivalent to those fights are a boss jumping out and attacking you like in any game. You just walk from point A to point B getting attacked as you go instead of exploring fully realized spaces and encountering enemies as they do the same.

The sense of character progression is also missing. In other Bioshock games, you had to constantly make decision about which upgrades to make to your body. Here, you simply get Vigors basically as carefully laid out powerups. In other Bioshock's you can upgrade yourself with like dozens of tonics that do unique things. In Infinite, you can find items to upgrade your health, shield, and salts, and find a handful of equipment with unique effects. That's it. It goes from huge, huge amounts of customization and options in older games to a few basic trappings in Infinite.

There are a couple of really great additions to the gameplay. In fact, if these features were added to an already full Bioshock experience, we'd be looking at something pretty cool. First up, there are tears. Elizabeth is able to open gateways to other dimensions called tears and bring things through for you to use. This can be anything from a wall that you can take cover behind to specific weapons to boxes of health packs and even automated turrets and more. You can open one tear at a time. They are visible to you as black and white distortions. Holding square while looking at one makes Elizabeth open it. Commanding these tears to manipulate battles to your advantage is really great. You can summon a wall to hide behind as you move up, then summon a flying drone to distract the enemies as you take a few critical shots at them. Or you can know that you always have access to a certain weapon that Elizabeth can pull through, picking it up just as you need it. Tears are a unique and interesting and fully formed part of the game that really add to the Bioshock stable of tricks.

The other element is your skyhook. This is a device that lets you take huge flying leaps to attach yourself to skylines, which are like mid-air rollercoaster tracks that connect different areas. You can use these to quickly get around during fights. You can jump off buildings, grab a skyline, zoom around, then take a flying leap off into cover or land right on an enemy. This is pretty fun, but can be a little spotty and isn't as fully realized as it could have been. Sometimes the prompt that lets you attach to the line won't come up when it really seems like it should.

It almost sounds like I must hate this game. But I really don't. It was fun, and its story was interesting. It's just that it's a quite significantly stripped down version of Bioshock in every way. Everything about the gameplay and the story is very much less interesting, engaging, and fun than previous entries in the series. It almost feels like a game by another developer that is heavily inspired by Bioshock and does a decent job of looking a lot like it but without capturing the magic in the math of the hundreds of options you are usually presented with or the truly shocking interactive story-telling that meshes perfectly with themes and setting and gameplay. Bioshock Infinite is a big disappointment for me. It's a 3 out of 5.

3/5

Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (July 25, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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