Bioshock Infinite Review

After spending two games waterlogged under the sea, the Bioshock franchise soars to new heights in the floating sky-city of Columbia.

Certainly one of the prettiest looking games I've ever played.

Welcome to Columbia!

First off, I want to state that I will be trying to avoid as many spoilers as I can, but this is a review, so a few spoilers are bound to come up.  The story is one that I would never dream of ruining for someone that hasn’t had the chance to play this game yet.  So if you intend to do so, please avoid reading this review and just get to playing already.  With that said, we can get right into it.  I think this game is fantastic.  From the story, to the setting, the characters, the voice acting, the soundtrack, the graphics, and then to the combat, this game is a polished experience from one end to the other.  You don’t find games like this as often anymore, which is a shame, but then maybe when they come along they wouldn’t feel this special.

This must be where they are keeping the girl...

This must be where they are keeping the girl…

You start your journey as Booker DeWitt, tasked with a mission to rescue Elizabeth from Columbia in order to erase your debt, whatever that may be.  In typical Bioshock fashion you don’t just get thrown into combat from the outset, instead spending some time weaponless as you journey to Columbia and then into the city proper.  Even once you get to the city, you are allowed to just walk around, look inside of different shops, listen to conversations happening around you, and really start to get a feel for what the city is like.  You catch on to some information that there is some sort of celebration and raffle taking place, and when you head there to investigate is the point where everything goes off the rails and you are quickly being hunted down by law enforcement.

There's no paper doll here, but you can certainly play dress up.

There’s no paper doll here, but you can certainly play dress up.

Your journey to find Elizabeth won’t be as easy as you had first thought it would be, but at least you have a weapon now, and have picked up a Vigor or two to help eliminate your pursuers.  Vigors are the special powers in this game, similar to Bioshock and Bioshock 2’s Plasmids.  You start out with one that simply allows you to take control of hostile gun turrets, and eventually amass a collection of Vigors over the course of the game.  These run the gamut from an exploding fireball type grenade, to the Murder of Crows, which sends, what else, a murder of crows to attack your enemies.  There are also Vigors to lift your enemies into the air and set them up as easy targets, and one called Shock Jockey that can be used to power generators, or upgraded to chain between targets.  Like in previous Bioshock games it’s the combination of these powers with your firearms that create the trademark flow that the combat in this franchise is known for.  The Vigors make you feel very powerful and give you a lot of options for dispatching your enemies.  There is also another mechanic at work in the game, and that comes in the form of four different types of clothing you can wear.  These can provide different types of bonuses, like giving your melee attacks a chance to ignite your target, or making your harder to detect.  These are hidden all over the place and will also occasionally drop from vanquished enemies.  They add yet another layer of customization to the game and really give a lot of options to change your playstyle.

Elizabeth sticks with you and never gets in the way of the experience.

Elizabeth sticks with you and never gets in the way of the experience.

After you finally rescue Elizabeth from her prison, you might think that the remainder of the game is going to be one long escort mission, and we all know how much everyone would hate that.  Well, Irrational Games knew that too, which is why they made Elizabeth completely self sufficient.  You never will have to worry about her at all, and the game even tells you that up front.  In fact, at times you might even feel like she’s more concerned with taking care of you than you are with her.  In combat, her presence is invaluable, as she will toss you ammo and health that she finds on the battlefield.  Once the fighting has subsided, she will toss you any money that she finds laying around, sometimes in large amounts.  When you’re not fighting, she is roaming around the environment, always keeping up with you, but examining things in the way you would expect someone that has spent her entire life locked up in her tower.  She comments on things in the environment and engages in short conversations with Booker as you search the environment for ammo and hidden items.  Elizabeth also serves another function.  She has the ability to open what she calls “tears”.  In combat, you may see a number of these tears around your environment.  You can, with the press of a button, have Elizabeth pull open that tear to provide you with a special weapon, some health kits, a place to take cover, a turret or automaton, or a hook to help you reach higher ground.  Only one of the tears can be open at a time, so you have to really think about what will benefit you in the given situation.  It’s a fun mechanic, and it really goes a long way to reinforce that Elizabeth can handle herself just fine without you having to babysit her.

You probably want to open that tear for some ground cover.

You probably want to open that tear for some ground cover.

Elizabeth tosses Booker some ammo in the middle of a gunfight.

Elizabeth tosses Booker some ammo in the middle of a gunfight.

The other mechanic in play during combat is the sky-line system.  Using your skyhook, which is the first item you pick up to use as a melee weapon, you can attach yourself to sets of tracks that run through the city.  Once attached to a rail, you zip off along the line and can fire at enemies below, slowing time when you aim down the sights.  You can also target an enemy on the ground and hurl yourself at them for a devastating melee attack.  I wish that the rails had been featured in more of the environments, because the areas that did contain them were the most fun to fight in.  Enemies also had the ability to navigate the rail system, and the large Handymen had the ability to electrify the rails, forcing you onto the ground for a short time.  All of the different mechanics, weapons, and Vigors at your disposal give the combat an “infinite” number of viable strategies.

Dive through the air to land on a sky-line.  Go ahead!  I'm right behind you...

Dive through the air to land on a sky-line. Go ahead! I’m right behind you…

My initial playthrough on normal difficulty lasted around 15 hours, which may be a bit longer than the average player due to my incessant need to look in every nook and cranny for collectibles.  I took every lull in the combat as an opportunity to scavenge for Silver Eagles to spend in the vending machines, which are used to upgrade your Vigors and your weaponry.  Even with that taken into consideration, I feel that it was just as long as it needed to be to tell its story.  Could it have been a little bit longer?  I really wouldn’t have minded hanging around in Columbia a bit longer, sure, but I don’t think adding in more combat segments to draw out the length would have been a good idea either.

The founding fathers are basically gods, as far as Columbia is concerned.

The founding fathers are basically gods, as far as Columbia is concerned.

Bioshock Infinite is a game that you definitely need to play, even if you’ve never been a fan of the franchise before.  There’s plenty here to satisfy newcomers, and even more to satisfy fans of the series. With the imminent DLC on the horizon for this title, you can bet I’m eagerly waiting to see what other scenarios Irrational has in store for us.  The game has a SeasonPass that you can buy to get a discount on that DLC, and you also get a few instant in-game bonuses along with it.  There’s even a super hard difficulty that you unlock upon beating the game.  Called “1999 Mode”, it basically tries to recreate the difficulty of games from the late 90’s.  So, that should provide a nice challenge for players looking to squeeze every bit of content out of this game.

Like I said at the top of the page, Bioshock Infinite is really well put together.  It’s definitely in the running as an early contender for Game of the Year, and I had an absolute blast playing through it.  Hats off to the team at Irrational for bringing this world and its story to life so successfully.


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