Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW - Bioshock Infinite (PS3/360)

Poor 2K Marin. It was a rather herculean task following 2007's Bioshock, this generation's first bona fide masterpiece, with a sequel. And while Bioshock 2 was a fine game, it never felt like the follow up Bioshock deserved. Now, over 5 years later, Ken Levine's Irrational Games has unleashed unto the world the real Bioshock 2.

With hype so high it's in the clouds, can Infinite possibly make as much of an impact as its much beloved predecessor?

Short answer, mostly yes.
Long answer....

Bioshock Infinite begins largely the same way Bioshock did. You approach en empty lighthouse, enter a mysterious pod, and marvel at the sight of a city that could never exist. Just as you might think this game is simply going to retread moments from that earlier game, Infinite establishes that Columbia is a very different place than Rapture. First off, and very importantly, while Bioshock released you into a dying and decrepit ghost town, Columbia is very much alive and well (or is it). This changes the atmosphere tremendously. You don't feel as isolated and detached as you did wandering the lonely hallways of a place long since abandoned. At times, people wander the streets, laughing and chatting about whatever balloon-city people will (racist things, mostly). And while Bioshock had you piecing together the past as you went along, Columbia's struggles are happening in the now.  I won't spoil any of the story, but Bioshock Infinite hits a lot closer to home with the themes and issues it tackles.

For example, such relatable issues as "Who the hell thought setting robot-armored men loose in the city was a good idea".

Adding to the feeling that you're not alone is the fact that a lot of the time you truly aren't. As former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt your prime motivation in Bioshock Infinite is to rescue a young woman named Princess Peach Elizabeth from captivity and bring her back down to New York for reasons. It is hard not to fall in love with her. While simply not absorbing bullets like Sonny Corleone would place any friendly NPC in the Hall of Greats, Elizabeth makes what is largely an escort mission absolutely painless. In addition to being the first videogame character to simply run away from gunfire, she will pick locks for you, spot enemies, point out items in the environment, give you money, weapons and all other kinds of awesome shit.

Sometimes she beats you with hardcover books though. It's a complicated relationship.

There's a lot of great characterization going on in Bioshock, and it helps considerably that you aren't playing as a mute pair of hands. Booker talks, a lot. He is an actual character with thoughts and feelings rather than a cipher for other characters to yell exposition at. The dialog between Booker and Elizabeth is well written and entertaining, not to mention very well acted by Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper , and you'll want to walk around just to hear them remark on things.

When you're not searching through every barrel and dresser for bags of chips and cotton candy, you'll be killing dudes. Like previous Bioshock games, combat is a mixture of ol' fashion lead to the face, and crazy ass magic spells. What has changed is the fact that now, instead of the Swiss army arsenal you pulled out of your ass before, you're limited to two weapons like every other shooter. In theory, this encourages more tactical thinking. In practice, it lead me to be less experimental, and I generally stuck to the one-two punch of machine-gun and shotgun.

Largely because they were the first two weapons I found. Other than the pistol. But seriously, fuck pistols.

Additionally, Bioshock has caved to the staple of modern shooters, regenerating shields. This promotes a more "stay behind cover peek-and-shoot" gameplay style. Damage to your health bar stays until you find the aforementioned cotton candy etc.

All in all, the shooting is much more refined than it was in Bioshock. But it still never quite feels as smooth as a "pure" shooter. But because Bioshock Infinite is not a pure shooter, it has plenty of conceits associated with role playing games to lend it more depth. Scattered among the world you will find bottles of Infusion that grant you an upgrade to your choice of Health, Shields, and Salt (mana), you can upgrade your weapons for cash at various vending machines, and you will come upon gear to equip that will give you stat boosts or new abilities.

You can't see it, but he's also wearing a thong that gives him +1 to confused sexual identity.

As beautiful as Rapture was, in its own dilapidated way, Columbia is even more so. Dark, gloomy shitholes are replaced by bright, sunny shitholes. The art design in this game is simply outstanding. It's not often I admire the architecture in games (in fact, I could probably narrow down such occurrences to just one other game) but I was constantly wowed by just the city itself, and being a city in the sky it affords a plethora of amazing views.

When it comes down to the actual, technical graphics things get a little less amazing. Textures and models (at least on the consoles, I'm sure PC players will be boasting their 5000p graphics) are often very simple, sometimes laughably so. Every once in a while you'll encounter a piece of the environment straight out of a PS1 game. It doesn't harm the experience greatly, but it's certainly out of place in a game that's otherwise a beauty to behold. The lighting helps a lot, with plenty of effects (read: bloom like a motherfucker) that make the environments come alive.

I mean, goddamn.

You probably didn't need to read any of this. Since it was first revealed, Bioshock Infinite was as close to a sure thing as you can get in gaming. Ken Levine and company have created another work of art, and as we say goodbye to this generation of consoles, Bioshock Infinite will serve as a beautiful swan song.

Extra Points:

  • You have a vertical sync option (on by default) that lowers the framerate. Turn that shit off. A little torn frame never hurt nobody.
  • Skylines are kickass.
  • Audio logs make a return, and now there are kinetoscopes, offering vignettes that give further insight into the city. They are also boring as hell.
  • Unless I'm an idiot (quite possible), turning on subtitles doesn't enable them during audio logs, which is retarded as you need them the most when you're listening to the gargling hissing static disguised as speech.
  • There's a "1999 Mode" unlocked after you beat the game, a reference to a time when games sort of assumed you didn't need a bib when playing them. Hint to unlock it early: Konami Code


  1. Gorilla With Kerosene And Sack Filled With ViagraMarch 26, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Bring back silent protagonists

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Joseph D. PoopypantsMarch 28, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Another awesome and insightful review from the chalm-ster! Keep 'em coming!