cover_close-upDESIGN03.jpg(Note: This review is from BioShock: The Collection)

Back when BioShock Infinite got released, I never played it, because I never finished BioShock 2, and that’s just the way I am with games. With BioShock: The Collection, however, I played though the first two games and eventually made my way to BioShock Infinite. BioShock and BioShock 2 are both on the List of Best games ever. How does BioShock Infinite compare? Let’s find out.

In BioShock Infinite, the year is 1912, and you play as Booker DeWitt, a New York private investigator with one goal repeated to him: “Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.” So Booker begins on an expedition to a lighthouse which eventually leads him to a personal airship of sorts, sending him into the sky to the floating city of Colombia. That first moment of flying over the city is breathtaking, and not unlike seeing Rapture for the first time. When you finally land, you’re not met with a disturbing and run down city this time, but instead a perfectly functioning one, based upon early American ideals and a sort of spin off of Christianity, involving the American founding fathers and the one who runs this city, known as the prophet, Zachery Comstock. Booker sets out to find this girl, kept under careful lock and key, but not before being recognized as the “False Shepard”, a man who must be killed on sight, according to local authorities. Booker must then fight his way to the tower where this girl is held and break her out to deliver her to New York. This girl is Elizabeth, and to be honest, I was not a fan of her to begin with, as she seemed like the tropey Disney princess, but as the story went on, I grew to love her character, as she also developed. The story, I feel, is not as strong as the first BioShock, but just barely better than BioShock 2. The few main characters are really well written, but the antagonists left something to be desired. There’s no one quite like Andrew Ryan. The story gets kind of wonky near the end, especially with all the spacetime shuffling that gets done.

2013-03-26_00168.jpgThe real thing that sets Infinite apart though is the setting. For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel as drawn to Columbia as I was to Rapture. Maybe it’s because there are many times where you walk through Columbia with people just going about their business. Maybe it’s because there is no real reason for Columbia to be in the sky with the exception of “hey, that’s a neat idea, let’s go with that”. Maybe it’s because a lot of the details about the city are never really explained, unlike in Rapture. In Rapture, there’s a real reason why Rapture is at the bottom of the sea. The claustrophobic and close spaces in Rapture illicit unease while still making sense. In Columbia, areas are far more open, especially in fights, and as a result, areas, especially outdoor areas, just aren’t as exciting or memorable as Rapture. Another huge thing that makes Rapture better is the Plasmid. In Rapture, Plasmids and Adam are HUGELY interwoven into the story and the city, all coming together coherently. In BioShock Infinite, Plasmids are now called Vigors, and seem to be there just because that’s BioShock’s shtick. They’re just there to be there.

Another thing, for better or for worse, is the gameplay has been altered pretty heavily. Instead of keeping your weapons, upgrading them, and using a weapon wheel to pick the right weapon for the job, you only get to carry two weapons on you at a time, swappable whenever you find another, either from a downed enemy, or just laying around. On one hand, it’s neat because as a result, there are a LOT more weapons than in BioShock and BioShock 2, and even if some are mostly the same, they have slight differences. The problem with this, in my opinion, is that I no longer had any attachment to my weapons. In BioShock and BioShock 2, picking upgrades was a careful decision based on which weapons I used or liked the most. In Infinite, upgrades have been changed from finding the hidden machines to upgrade to being available at vending machines. There are so many upgrades that it’s impossible to upgrade everything, and the upgrades honestly don’t seem to make that much of a difference. I had no attachment to my weaponry in Infinite, and that’s a huge drawback for me. Also for better or for worse, gone is the ability to keep health kits and patriotfight_ONLINE.jpgEve hypos (now called Salts) on your character at any point in time. Instead, you can only heal these things when you find them, making some fights even more tense. However, BioShock Infinite steps up the shooter part of its game by making it more like modern shooters. You now have a shield that regenerates when you stop taking damage for a while, and the addition of sprint and smoothness of weaponry makes BioShock Infinite the smoothest shooter of the bunch. In addition, the Vigors feel much more powerful than Plasmids, and I found myself using my Vigors much more often than I used my Plasmids in BioShock. Vigors are also upgraded via vending machines, much in the same way as weapons are. Alas, there are far fewer Vigors than there were Plasmids. There is also gear you can find and equip, one piece at a time, hat, shirt, pants, and shoes, giving you smaller perks, not unlike tonics in BioShock and BioShock 2. However, there are only 4 slots for those upgrades, while tonics were far more numerous and you could have far more active at one time in either of the other two games, another mechanical step back, unfortunately. Ultimately, the gunplay itself is better, but the dumbing down of the weapon and tonic system are huge negatives for me.

Another new gameplay mechanic is the air hook, a quick melee weapon that also enables you to grab on to freight hooks for a possible height advantage and various sky lines, zipping around like a swashbuckling air pirate. I love this mechanic, but I think there could have been more parts with some combat on the sky lines. They seemed more tacked on than anything at times. Jumping from a sky line or freight hook to land a devastating blow to enemy is always fun though.

skylinemelee_ONLINE(2).jpgFinally, Elizabeth accompanies you for most of your adventure, tossing you ammo, health, money and salts when in need, making for a fun back and forth between the two characters. Elizabeth also has the ability to open tears, space time portals, enabling her to summon up some extra help during combat. It’s a neat feature, for sure, and really helps in many fights, but has a tendency to make combat simple. Elizabeth can also open rooms with her lockpick, a mechanic that ensures all enemies are cleared before you can progress, and also, if you find enough lockpicks, she can open doors leading to health, shield, or Vigor upgrades or the occasional gear.

BioShock Infinite is not a bad game by any means. In fact, it was really fun, I just wasn’t drawn to it the way previous installments drew me in. Also, the DLC content, Burial at Sea is fantastic (especially part 2, but play through part 1 first) and should not be missed by any BioShock fan, as it ties the three games together really well.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • The best gunplay of the series.
  • An interesting story.
  • Great characters and interactions, especially the dialogue between the two main characters.
  • New, interesting mechanics.
  • Fantastic DLC.

Cons

  • A number of steps back from the “BioShock formula” of gameplay and mechanics.
  • A less interesting city than Rapture with no real reason to be in the sky.

Final Score: 8/10

Again, BioShock Infinite is by no means a bad game, it just doesn’t quite live up to the BioShock name the way previous installments did, in my opinion. Infinite is still a great game with and engaging story and characters, and ultimately, deserves a play.