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Bioshock Infinite | Available Now
PC, Xbox 360, PS3 | Publisher: 2K Games | Developer: Irrational Games
It goes without saying that when you have a game with at least three years of development-slash-hype time that is part of such a potent series as Bioshock, the odds are already stacked against you. Many people hope your game lives up to the very hype that they created, and after a mixed reception to Bioshock 2, the game’s fans were hoping for a return to form with the original game. It would be fortunate that the original Bioshock‘s developers, Irrational Games, would be at the helm for this project as well. But another gamble would see the series finally leave the underwater city of Rapture and take to the skies of Columbia.
To sum up my thoughts on Bioshock Infinite nicely: this is a must play, fantastic game that was well worth the wait and well worth your purchase. But, it isn’t all floating cities and magic elixirs, oh no. There are a few clouds to the silver lining, but I’ll get to those shortly. In the grand scheme of things, the game is amazing and like a chocolate cake, it is many-layered, very rich and good to the last “bite”. But enough with my bad analogies, let’s talk Bioshock.
Infinite places you in the role of Booker DeWitt, a fully-voiced and fully-visualized character who has been sent to this magically floating city of Columbia to retrieve a girl named Elizabeth in order to settle a debt he has. However, a game that seems so simply wrapped up as a fetch quest turns into a creature of a story with tendrils that change the dynamic of your story at multiple times and nearly at every turn. The story is so worth exploring on your own that I will avoid spoiling it here, or even semi-spoiling it with things like “and look out for this big moment!”. Basically, the story is very deep, even if it can be a little bit cliched. But, in the scheme of things, it insists on your time, so if you take the time to start it up, be sure you have the time to finish it.
As for the game itself, it follows typical Bioshock tradition: you carry with you multiple firearms, a powerful melee weapon, and an assortment of magical abilities. This time around, instead of plasmids, you weild the power of Vigors, a selection of tonics which give you very similar magical powers that are useful throughout your journey in Columbia. Fortunately, the game definitely feels like Bioshock, even if you aren’t dealing with Big Daddies, Little Sisters, Big Sisters, or the omnipresent voice of Andrew Ryan. No, in this case, you get the omnipresent voice of Zachary Comstock, the Prophet of Columbia and savoir to the masses. Oh, and instead of Big Daddies, you deal with one big guy – Songbird, a massive mechanical bird-like being who protects Elizabeth and will stop at nothing to keep her in her prison.
The funny thing is, in Bioshock Infinite, only a small part of the game is finding and saving Elizabeth. The rest of the game involves getting out of Columbia and unraveling the story that is drawn out before you. And in that, let me clarify something: this is NOT a run-and-gun game. You will do yourself a disservice if you approach this game guns-a-blazin’ and try to rip your way through the story. This is the kind of game and the kind of world that is meant to be savored. Take your time, explore the corners and crevices of Columbia and see just how much care and detail was given to this title. Use your weapons carefully, use your Vigors wisely, and the best part: don’t worry about Elizabeth. Bioshock Infinite is far, FAR from an escort quest. You barely even have to acknowledge she’s there unless she’s passing you money, salts, health, or ammo. But despite all that, you still may find yourself growing attached to this fictional character as you both fight your way through Columbia’s baddest.
Beyond all of this, the story also takes place in this fictional 1912, and despite the apparent peace and prosperity of Columbia, the ever-present racism and social turmoil that happens on the streets of the city begins to creep up, and mentions of an unseen rebellion called the Vox Populi (or “Voice of the People”) begins to emerge. The Populi are led by a woman named Daisy Fitzroy, who is public enemy #1 after being accused of killing the Prophet’s wife, Lady Comstock. Well, maybe public enemy #2, considering the *real* threat seems to be the “False Shepherd”, he who will lead Elizabeth away and see to Columbia’s downfall, known only by the “AD” branded on the back of his hand.
I don’t want to go much further in what I reveal in this review, other than this framework will be twisted and bent in many ways as you play through the game, but the narrative does a fantastic job of keeping you up to speed. Following the plot of the story as it unravels before you isn’t as hard as it may seem, thankfully, because there are a lot of threads here.