Bioshock Infinite (PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, XBox 360)

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The year is 1912, one year after Andrew Ryan was born. You play as Booker DeWitt a particularly hard-boiled former Pinkerton agent and current private investigator with a past that weighs on his conscience and his wallet. He’s got a job that’s taking him all the way to Columbia, a city above the clouds. His task is simple, find a particular girl and bring her unharmed back to New York City, but if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Welcome to Columbia! A city of wonders, industrial and scientific, built on the backs of poor unfortunate souls. Bring them the girl and wipe away the debt.

History

Bioshock Infinite was created by 2K games and directed by Ken Levine.  It runs on a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3 with everything built from scratch, nothing was recycled from previous Bioshock Titles. The player-character, DeWitt, was given a voice and is the only Bioshock protagonist to have one. This was implemented so that DeWitt and Elizabeth — the girl what will wipe away his debt — could have a more emotional bond (Drawing inspiration from the awkwardness in Half Life 2’s player character silence when dealing with his companion characters).

Not all was well in the land of the 2K however. Before release several members of Levine’s studio, Irrational Games,  were relieved and their positions were filled by others. In addition many vigors, enemies, weapons, and other assets had to be cut to meet the deadline. On a brighter note however Infinite did not use DRM systems that interfered with the game experience.

Bioshock Infinite was released on March 26, 2013. It’s competition was Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC), Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS), and Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, XBox 360).

Experiences

Elizabeth is a marvelously well rounded character. She becomes the focal point of the entire game. I persevered and kept going to see what would become of her and what she was thinking, DeWitt only seemed accessory in comparison. The guy who had to tote the gun, because we needed someone’s innocence to be lost and it wasn’t gonna be DeWitt’s. DeWitt’s also not very witty, he constantly needs Elizabeth to pick locks, find supplies, help him out, and explain science to him. Elizabeth is an escort character who pulls her weight and keeps me constantly interested in her plights, emotional situation, and combat aptitude.

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Holy hell! A non-combat AI companion who’s helpful and interesting?! Lightning has struck twice.

Gameplay

Despite being in a different setting the gameplay is shockingly similar to the adventures through Rapture. Bioshock Infinite is a first person shooter where Booker shoots the people and goes to the places where the plot continues. There are some minor differences however. DeWitt has a health, EVE — I mean salts, and a shield meter. When his shield gets broken he’ll begin taking actual health damage but has an incredibly large health pool — those Pinkertons are tough, I suppose… tougher than a Big Daddy even.  Booker also hijacks a Skyhook pretty quickly which allows him to ride Columbia’s rail-car system and traverse great distances very quickly. Things grow more complex when Elizabeth gets introduced into the equation. The mysterious girl has the ability to reveal and open tears into alternate realities. This allows her to provide cover, allies, weapons, money, and all sorts of resources to keep Booker in the fight.

The Gush

Elizabeth has a jailer and a guardian known only as Songbird. The tenacious machine-man hybrid will do whatever it takes to keep Elizabeth safe… mostly from you and mostly by destroying things. But there is a scene where DeWitt gets to fight alongside Songbird and it’s the first time the player ends up in the Little Sister position in the Big Daddy/ Little Sister relationship.

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Just some size comparison there. Songbird is huge, dangerous, frightening, and astonishingly sweet.

I absolutely adore the Lutece twins. These guys bring DeWitt to Columbia and guide him throughout the story, teleporting wherever they’re needed. Their antics always serve as an entertaining and informative experience, one that explains aspects of the game, complex scientific subjects, and the world of the story.

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I’m curious what bet he lost to have to wear that sign.

The Kvetch

Vigors are dumb. They’re in the game simply because plasmids were in the other two. The plasmids were an integral part of Rapture’s setting that represented corruption, greed, and addiction in a sleek gene altering package. They show off how Ryan’s lack of fetters may have doomed the city he built. Vigors do… cool attacks on the bad men. There’s no allusion to Vigor abuse or even an explanation for their invention besides Columbia found a tear to Rapture and took that shit. They serve as a vestigial limb that takes me out of the immersion. Speaking of immersion…

Why is Booker limited to carrying only two weapons and two vigors at once? I understand why he can’t carry the mini-gatling gun all willy-nilly but Jack and Delta were able to carry around a small arsenal. That might not be realistic but when we have shields, alternate realities, the power to endure death, and a flying city I’m willing to suspend some disbelief for DeWitt having a backpack or something. Speaking of that flying city…

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It looks so beautiful… but where’s all the ice, pain, and death?

Rapture was beautiful in large part to its visual design and small part to its plausibility. Someone as rich or crazy as Andrew Ryan or Bruce Wayne would be able to construct it. Columbia on the other hand would be able to fly thanks to the Lutece particle technology but the air would be too thin and cold to support a population. It just doesn’t work. And speaking of that population…

Columbia is a flying city, why does it have a gigantic standing army? Who’s going to invade them, aliens? I know there’s a resistance movement made up of pissed off members of the underprivileged black and irish population –among others– but it never seemed like there was ever open warfare between them. And to bring things full circle where are the Vigor wielding guards? There are the fire guys and the crow guys but the first vigor DeWitt gets mind controls people and then makes them kill themselves. Why isn’t anyone using that on me? This thing was available to the public as a sort of DATE RAPE SUBSTANCE but certainly has no military application, I guess. Certainly not the way that I used it to make soldiers kill their friends and then themselves.

The Verdict

Bioshock Infinite is a marvelous game that occurs before, during, and after every Bioshock game there is, was, or will be. This means you can play it at any point in the series. It goes on Steam with a $30 price tag almost three years after its release with another $20 stacked on top of that if you want to get all the DLC which I have heard good things about but have not played. I would definitely pick it up on sale or at least pick up the main title at full price if this really got your attention although I feel the original Bioshock is the most powerful title in the series.

Next Week: Don’t Starve

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