BioShock: Infinite Review – An Emotionally Engaging Story

Looking upon the pinnacle of mankind’s ingenuity is beautiful. Burning it to the ground is exhilarating. Such is the dichotomy of mankind, such is the enjoyment of BioShock: Infinite.

There’s nothing quite like the first time you see the city in the sky. A utopia, some might call it. Others might venture to say that its a Garden of Eve.

I believe it to be best described as “Heaven.” One thing is for sure, it is a beautiful sight – a sight that I found myself pausing at many a moment in the game, to simply observe – to soak in. This vision of  majestic wonder would only serve as a stark contrast to later events that would unfold, resulting in a truly magnificent work of art  – art that you would be a part of.

I think that’s the true notion of this game. It is a new form of art, where the audience, the viewer, takes part in the process. Unlike movies, paintings, books and music, we’re no longer simply observing art, we’re interacting with it. Even though video games are in their infancy, as an art, I feel like games like this, are taking major leaps and serve as mere glimpses into the future of this wonderful art form.

Elizabeth in general brings a whole ‘nother level of realism to video game AI. After playing this game, it’s going to be very hard to go back to other games that feature prominent AI companions, that don’t share the same level of sophistication as Elizabeth.

I believe that, in the future, perhaps even in this upcoming generation, that AI like that will be much more abundant, once technology gets to a point where it can handle such performance heavy features en mass.

I also loved the movie-esque partnership that she had with the main character, Booker. By the concept itself, having here run around the battlefield scrounging around for ammo and salt sounds relatively mediocre. However, once you experience what it’s like to be in a fierce firefight, where you’re about to die, and you hear Elizabeth shout at you, while the camera pans around to find her throwing a vase of health at you, which immediately gets you back in the fight, as you pop the lid and chug the red, delicious health restoring liquid.

Speaking of action sequences, BioShock: Infinite is one of the few games, where I actively anticipate fighting the stronger and more unique enemy types. My favorite moment in that game, was the first time I fought a Firemen, who looks strangely similar to a Space Marine from Warhammer 40k. Well, a Steampunk Space Marine, anyways.

In his zealotry, he shouted and screamed “BATHE IN FLAME!” at me, while throwing firey, molten grenades in my general direction. After I dispatched him, after a long and arduous battle (which involved me running around like a chicken with its head cut off) he let loose one last fervorous howl, “THE FIRE CLEANSES!” and ran straight for me, while he exploded in a shower of fire and metal.

Bad ass.

Of course, for the rest of the game, I longed to engage in more fights such as that. Unfortunately, they were few and far between. Perhaps this was done intentionally, to increase the anticipation and decrease the over saturation of exposure to such fun fights.

Luckily, though, they did seem to alternate between all the “heavy hitters,” whom were all equally fun to fight. While I might have longed to hear “BURN IN THE NAME OF OUR PROPHET!” I was never disappointed to hear Steve Blum’s Iron Patriot announce, in a mechanical voice, “God judges, I act.”

While enjoyable enemy types are a large part of what makes the gameplay so much fun, the solid shooting mechanics are equally responsible. The combination of skyhook, fun weapons, and Vigors, makes for a combat experience unlike any other. Being able to hop on and off of the sky railing system at any time, while traveling at obscene speeds during intense firefights where you’re throwing “magic” and spraying bullets (or explosives) left and right, is so intense.

Because of the RPG elements in the game, it’s impossible to have everything, and play with every upgrade in one playthrough. As a result, you can drastically alter the way you play the game, every time you start a new game. This encourages multiple playthroughs, which is something you’re going to want to do, anyways, as the story is substantially more rewarding upon each and every completion.

While the story is my favorite aspect of BioShock: Infinite, it is also the only place of contention for the game. The voice acting, writing and dialogue are all penned to perfection. You’re going to love it no matter what. However, at its core, BioShock: Infinite is a game about quantum mechanics and parallel universes. If that’s a story element you simply can’t enjoy, no matter how well done, then you’re not going to enjoy the game, as it is heavily story driven.

To the games’ credit, though, the material is presented in a relatively easy to understand manner, and you don’t need a healthy understanding of quantum mechanics, in order to enjoy the story.

There is also a large element of racial, religious and capitalism commentary going on throughout the story. Now, as far as I can tell, they’re not there for the sake of pushing an agenda or portraying anything a good, or bad light. Rather, these elements are here because of the characters that reside in the setting. They needed these extreme elements, to push them to do great and terrible things.

Having said that, if you’re easily offended, or can’t handle having your beliefs shown in any negative light, then you might want to skip this game. Though, if that is the case, then you might want to think long and hard as to why that is.

Sticking true to concept of being such an artistic game, BioShock: Infinite has an immaculate art design. At every stage of the game, the setting is absolutely vibrant and wonderful to look at. Even the characters pop and stand out, yet remain completely consistent and believable in the environment in which they reside.

The art design also allows the game to look incredibly gorgeous, without being super taxing, allowing the game to stick with a crisp, clean frames per second that doesn’t ever buckle, even in the face of the roller coaster ride that is the combat.

BioShock: Infinite is a vision of what the future holds for this art form. It’s a legendary game that can’t truly be properly reviewed at this time. At its core, BioShock: Infinite is a game designed to make you think and ask questions. Indeed, it’s a social game, that has no multiplayer.

Instead, you’ll spend hours discussing the storyline with friends, which will inevitably lead you asking a myriad of sociological, cultural, theological and philosophical questions. Which is exactly what a good piece of art should do.

Gameplay: 9.5
While the actual combat and game mechanics were solid, I felt as if ‘Hard’ mode didn’t really increase the difficulty, it just slowed the pace of the game down to an irritating level.

Graphics: 10
A stunning work of art that shows you don’t need cinematic cut scenes to look beautiful and show emotional detail.

Sound: 9
Between the incredibly talented and powerful voice acting, the grinding of gears from Steampunk rocket launchers, and the historically accurate music, BioShock: Infinite sounds great. The only problem is, I’m not really a fan of the music of that era.

Presentation: 10
Ken Levine has hinted that he has spent 5 years working on this game and every second shows. Elizabeth’s AI is the very model of painstakingly polished to perfection, while the story is an emotional powerhouse that shows the merits of obsessively rewriting a script until its spotless.

Value: 8.5
The game is incredible, while boasting the capabilities and the motivation, for multiple playthroughs. Unfortunately, there is only so many times you can play a 10 hour story driven game. Though, if you count the sheer amount of time you’ll spend thinking about plot and discussing it with friends, it should provide a substantial amount of entertainment. It’s just, that’s a lot of “ifs”.

Verdict: 9
BioShock: Infinite is a priceless experience that offers a rare glimpse into the future, showcasing what this art form has the capacity for.