Bioshock Infinite is the prequel to Bioshock and is centered around the floating city of Columbia. It is a first person shooter that allows the player to use both guns and what the game calls Vigors. You can only carry two guns at a time which include weapons like pistol, shotgun, machine gun, RPG launcher, minigun and many more. But where Bioshock has always shined is in the characters alternate abilities and in Bioshock Infinite these are the Vigors. These magic like powers allow the player to fire different types of abilities at the enemies, including Vigors such as Devil’s Kiss (A fireball throwing ability), Possession (allows the player to take control of a machine or human enemy for a brief period), Murder of Crows (the player can throw crows at enemies, stunning them) and several others.
Vigors in combat can mix things up allows it to never be the same. But where this game really shines is in the skyhook and Elizabeth’s tear ability. There is a rail system all around Columbia which if the player chooses can use it to ride around during combat and normal travel. At the same time you can launch yourself at enemies or shoot them from the skyrail itself. It makes combat fast paced and adds a much different element that most other shooters.
On top of that, there is Elizabeth’s tear ability. In Columbia there are tears in the space time that Elizabeth can open along your way which can help you in combat. She can pull different items into the current world you are in that include walls for cover, med kits, weapons, skyhooks that can help you get to higher locations and even other combat machines. You would think that you could abuse this during combat however, she can only open one tear at a time and the AI enemies can eliminate those advantages you get with the tears. Elizabeth will also walk around and find various items that can help you and throw them at you whenever you need them; Items including ammo if you are low, med kit or salts (that recharge your Vigor ‘mana’) and even money.
However, what makes this game beyond excellent and turns it into one of the most enjoyable games in recent history is the story and characters, I will try to spoil as little as I can. You are Booker Dewitt, a depressed combat vet of Wounded Knee who because of debt has to go to Columbia in the year 1912 to get back the girl, Elizabeth. During the trip, Dewitt discovers that he is what they call the false shepherd and is attacked almost immediately. He eventually finds his way to Elizabeth and
Elizabeth is one of the best written companions since Alyx Vance in Half-Life 2. Her [Elizabeth’s] personality is naïve however she knows the people of Columbia have been brainwashed and doesn’t understand why ‘The Prophet’ had her locked up all this time. Even with her naïve personality she is always trying to do what is right and is fearful of what she may have done while opening tears. Elizabeth really compliments Dewitt’s personality by being so different. Dewitt sees himself as not worth living on this world and doesn’t want Elizabeth to find out about his terrible past.
Columbia, the city itself, has a personality or culture that is better written than most other games’ characters. With the time of the Bioshock Infinite being 1912, Columbia reflects that of American history really well as it has all the social racism and segregation that went with the time period. Anyone that is not white isn’t worthy of being what they call the pure race. In fact, Irrational Studios even developed separated bathrooms and living areas. It is amazing how much detail they went into the city’s design. At the very beginning you are walking through a carnival, celebrating what I can only assume is July 4th since Dewitt says later in the game that it is July, and you come across what they call the raffle. You grab a baseball out of a basket with a number, when the announcer calls the number you are to throw the ball at a white and black couple or you can throw it at the announcer; this is actually where they discover who you are and neither would get hit by the ball.
Columbia also reminds me of a brainwashed state like that of North Korea. They see their leader as being a prophet that will bring them to heaven. Even after the first people Dewitt kills, on the radio you can hear them talk about “the dearly departed” in very positive light and that “God’s children” were unfortunately sent to heaven early. They have a somewhat religious fervor in regards to the founding fathers of America and see them as the greatest men that had ever lived. Christianity is huge in Columbia and they see Franklin, Jefferson and Washington as equals to Jesus.
Now, the controls for this game (PC controls) are like a basic shooter which includes using the mouse to look around and ‘wasd’ to move around. The uniqueness of this game is where the Vigors lie. To use a Vigor’s first basic attack you right click, to use the secondary attack the player would need to hold down the right mouse button. Instead of using the number keys to change weapons (you use ‘E’ for that), the number keys control your Vigors. This is where the PC really takes off from consoles in the controls scheme. You can quick change with the numbers where as on the console version you have to use the wheel selection to select a Vigor, slowing down combat a lot.
This game is absolutely beautiful, both artwork and graphic wise. This game took 5 years to make so I would expect a lot of art assets being developed for it, however the shear amount of detail that goes into this game is outstanding; the different areas that the player travels in, the different character designs, the propaganda posters and many other assets. Irrational did such an outstanding job making sure they put the most they could in this game and it definitely shows. There were even times where I forgot I was on a floating city and thought I was just walking around in a setting somewhere on earth but then I see the connections between different floating platforms, I realized again where I was.
The sound in this game is very well done. The voice acting, music and even the background effects sound amazing on even just a pair of basic speakers and even better on a headset with 5.1 or higher. I wanted to save two scenes of this game for the audio segment instead of putting it during the story segment because they wowed me in how well they changed the feeling of the game. The first is when Booker and Elizabeth are walking down into a basement of a building and a small child succumbed with fear runs under the staircase. Dewitt sees a guitar sitting on a chair and the player can choose to play it, what follows is an amazing change of pace to a very intense story. Dewitt starts playing and Elizabeth starts singing in order to ease the child. I know it is a small item in the game but it is the little things that make this game as great as it is.
The second scene is during a large fight in which you are walking through the rundown part of Columbia where the menial labor workers live and throughout all this fighting you come to this lady that is sitting there and just singing some gospel. It really eases the soul during an intense fight and Dewitt and Elizabeth are trying to figure out what is going on.
Overall Bioshock Infinite is one of the best games I’ve played in recent years and is up there with my all time favorites which includes Mass Effect 2, Half-Life 2 and Bioshock. Is it better than the original? It is damn close and if it isn’t there is no reason why anyone would think this game isn’t sky high in how good it is.