I’ve never finished the two previous BioShock games, however this wasn’t a problem as, much like the Far Cry series, BioShock Infinite has nothing to do with it’s predecessors (BioShock 1 and 2). This made BioShock Infinite, much easier to jump into as I didn’t have to worry about catching up with a story.
BioShock Infinite follows the story of protagonist, Booker DeWitt and his mission to retrieve the “Lamb of Columbia” and future side-kick Elizabeth. Set in the early 1910′s, BioShock Infinite take’s the player (as DeWitt) to the floating sky-city of Columbia. Hired by mysterious figures, DeWitt is ordered to retrieve a young girl that’s been held in a tower high within the cloud-city, to clear him of his debts. As you track down Elizabeth (said young girl), you gradually find out that she’s not just any young girl but an extremely powerful tool, in the centre of a civil war raging across Columbia. To complicate matters further, Elizabeth’s guardian of the past 12-years, The Songbird, a monstrous part-bird part-robot construct is also hunting DeWitt down in an attempt to take Elizabeth back to her prison. This creates a real sense of suspense as what could be more terrifying in a cloud-city than a towering avian cyborg!
Columbia is a truly beautiful setting for BioShock Infinite. The city has just the right amount of steam-punk vistas to not be over whelming. A part of the game that will stick in my mind for years is the first time you see Columbia through a small window in the rocket you arrive in. The game temporarily slows down and for about 5 minutes you just look around. This breath taking city has been pain-staking put together by the team at Irrational Games and 2K Marin to provide one of the industry’s most awe-inspiring settings, much like Rapture in BioShock 1 and 2. Man, I’d live here if I could!
However, in all it’s beauty you shouldn’t take Columbia at face value as it has some very controversial and dark beliefs. Racial segregation, Nazism and xenophobia are all part of day-to-day life on Columbia. The founders and residents all believe their floating city to be a man-made heaven that only the purest of races and religions can inhabit. Throughout the game, we see the very ugly side of politics, religion and racial dominance. Parts of the game really made me feel quite awkward and on-edge. One specific event within the first hour of gameplay really came out of the blue and had me choose between throwing a baseball at a shackled inter-racial couple or a power hungry ring-leader, in front of a cheering crowd. It gave me a few seconds to choose between what the cheering crowd behind me wanted, or what was morally right. This came completely out of the blue and caught me off guard. These quick choice decisions are dotted throughout the game and can affect you further down the line, more so than you initially think. Later on through the game, I bumped into the inter-racial couple (now engaged) again. They thanked me for not throwing the baseball at them and presented me with a present. Looks like I made the right choice!
Gameplay is, as you’d expect from Irrational, awesome! From using the special powers or “vigors” whilst blasting away enemies with your impressive arsenal of weapons, to travelling on the Sky Rail with the Sky Hook (you may have seen it in trailers and screen shots before launch). Whilst general gameplay is awesome, I did feel it was a little stretched out and sometime was unnecessarily ”padded”. In the first few hours while hunting down Elizabeth, I did feel as though it was a little “The Princess is in another castle….” and what could’ve been done in under an hour lasted two or three from unnecessary tail-chasing. Even so, very enjoyable tail-chasing.
One of the noticeable differences in BioShock Infinite to most other FPS titles is the lack of a “GO HERE” sign, or even a compass. No, there are no huge pointers, but one subtle green arrow that is temporarily painted on the ground at the touch of a button. You can use this as much as you want or need to, but it can get fairly frustrating repeadedly pressing UP on the D-Pad so this encourages players to explore that bit more. This temporary hint is much better than a mark on the map as it allows players to check out all the cool areas they may have otherwise over looked. It’s a great little feature that I’d like to see in more games.
The characters through the game are dynamic and very entertaining. All offer a real change of pace and give the game a sizeable feel. Elizabeth has to be one of the most developed characters I’ve ever had the chance to interact with. Through the game she develops from an innocent prisoner, cut off from the world to an adventurous and hardy side-kick to Booker. Her attitude and knowledge changes through the game as she becomes familiar with what she is and what she is capable of. In one part of the game Elizabeth asks Booker “Are you afraid of God?” to which he responds “No, but I’m afraid of you.”
BioShock Infinite is an epic, with masses amount to offer. With one of the most dramatic and gripping story lines to grace the gaming industry, Irrational have made a game that’ll be remembered for years to come. A fantastic addition to the already phenomenal BioShock series. This game will tempt fans of the series and new comers.