Escape to new worlds with Bioshock: Infinite
Published: Friday, April 5, 2013
Updated: Friday, April 5, 2013 14:04
Columbia is a wondrous city. The sun shines down from behind a magnificent tower in the shape of an archangel, illuminating a beautiful, bright city filled with happy citizens. But all is not well. The year is 1912, and racism and discrimination still have a place in Columbia’s ultra-nationalistic worldview. For now, however, the darkness seems far off, for the sun is shining, and there is not a cloud in the sky — mostly because the clouds are below the city. Yes, Columbia flies.
This is the setting of Bioshock: Infinite, and much like the underwater city of Rapture was for the first two Bioshock games, Columbia is an integral part of the Bioshock experience. It is into this unique, breathtaking city that the player’s character Booker DeWitt, a private investigator haunted by memories of wartime atrocities, is immediately thrust.
As Infinite’s protagonist, DeWitt has been tasked with rescuing a girl named Elizabeth from the floating city in order to “wipe away the debt.” Exactly what debt this is, along with numerous other plot details initially thrown at the player, is a mystery uncovered as the story progresses. The execution and reveal of these mysteries make Infinite’s story one of the most impressive, memorable and incredibly well-thought-out video game stories of the last several years.
Of course, a game cannot survive on a good story alone, and luckily, Infinite boasts game play on par with its high expectations. The gamer plays from the first-person perspective of DeWitt, a point of view that remains the same for the entirety of the game. There are no cutscenes that wrench the player away from DeWitt’s perspective, and there are essentially no points in the game at which the player does not have some sort of control over DeWitt. This was a conscious decision on the part of the developers, and it serves to deepen the connection between the player and DeWitt, since he or she is in DeWitt’s shoes from start to finish.
The two main combat options given to the player are guns and special powers called vigors. The conventional weapons fall into normal categories like rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers. Unfortunately, some of the weapons lack a feeling of power to them, and given that there are others readily available without this issue, players may end up sticking with a small subset of the weapons for the entire game. On the other hand, vigors are magical-spell-like abilities obtained by drinking from exquisite vials that add a whole new layer on top of solid, typical first-person-shooter gunplay. Fighting with a combination of weapons and vigors feels completely natural in the heat of combat, in which the weapon held in Dewitt’s right hand is fireable with one button and the vigor equipped in his left hand, manifested as a grotesque transformation of his entire hand, is usable with another button.
Two less prominent combat features that are both unique to Infinite and a joy to use are Elizabeth herself and the high-speed sky-lines. Elizabeth, who is alongside DeWitt for most of the game, has the unique ability to open up tears in reaity. These tears are not only central to the plot, but also allow her to summon various items, such as friendly weapon turrets or boxes of medkits, from alternate realities. While these tears are definitely helpful, the fact that they are area-dependent and circumstantial causes them to feel a tad gimmicky rather than organic. Secondly, the sky-lines are like railways in the sky that the player is free to hook onto or jump off of, zooming around the battlefield at high speeds while attacking at the same time. They are able to increase the pace of combat without sacrificing quality or control.
Bioshock: Infinite is able to combine a large number of unique and fun gameplay elements with a wonderfully engrossing story in a beautiful world, making it a game that deserves to be experienced by anyone who enjoys video games.