BioShock Infinite Xbox 360 Review
BioShock: Infinite was a labor of love for Irrational Games and Ken Levine. Nearly 5 years of development time went into the twice delayed project. Publisher Take Two Interactive stayed the course, and continued to support Irrational throughout the arduous development cycle. A brief teaser trailer of BioShock: Infinite was first shown at E3 2010, and didn’t release until just eleven days ago. Irrational and 2K Games did a fantastic job of keeping their fans in the loop with multiple trailers and development updates. The importance of keeping your product fresh in the minds of consumers has never been more important, and Irrational bombarded us with tours of Columbia, legends, lambs, and false shepherds.
BioShock: Infinite starts off on a markedly deliberate pace introducing us to the games protagonist, Booker DeWitt. DeWitt embarks on a journey to rescue a young girl from bondage, and deliver her to an unknown source. All we do know is that Booker has a debt to pay, and this rescue mission will serve as payment. Another reason for the slow pacing early on is to fully immerse you in the floating city of Columbia, and it’s fanatical residents. Silent films, Voxophones, and eavesdropping paint a contrasting picture to the utopia you see before you. In the early going I was more than content to take my time exploring every nook and cranny of Columbia. I also found myself eating up every single piece of information I could find to better understand my surroundings. The city of Columbia boasts some of the best aesthetics I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s easily one of my favorite cities in video games.
The intricate plot also unravels at a moderate pace, but it’s never slow by any means. Deliberate pacing keeps the information flow from becoming overwhelming, and it also fills the 15-20 hours you spend in Columbia with interesting dialogue, set pieces, plot twists, and intense battles. Irrational and Ken Levine crafted an emotional, frantic, and justifiably sinister tale of redemption that keeps you engaged for nearly every moment that you spend playing. Elizabeth serves as the “damsel in distress” Booker is tasked with rescuing. However, you’ll find out relatively quickly she’s not to be underestimated. Elizabeth harnesses the power to create “tears” in space and time. This serves to aid Booker during combat and several times throughout the narrative. Elizabeth has spent her entire life in solitude, locked away in a tower meant to control her amazing powers. Father Comstock is Colombia’s founder and prophet, he’s also responsible for Elizabeth’s perpetual imprisonment. Comstock employs the mysterious Songbird as Elizabeth’s ward, and protector. Columbia is a city controlled by fear, as is the case in most instances of religious cults. The Songbird is just one of the tools used to incite fear in Columbia’s population. Comstock’s “prophecies” have foretold the coming of the “false shepherd”, and that sin is levied directly against DeWitt when he arrives in the floating city. Comstock has turned Columbia’s population into a cult of racist, religious fanatics that identify DeWitt almost immediately. The only ongoing resistance to this way of life is the Vox Populi lead by Daisy Fitzroy. Fitzroy was framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and took to leading the Vox in a bloody campaign against Comstock. This dynamic serves to overshadow the underlying plot elements that gradually take shape, and provide the more emotional moments of BioShock: Infinite.
The intense combat of Infinite is driven by a large variety of enemies, gorgeous set pieces, and unique ways of traversing the environment to deal with foes. One example of unique traversal are the skylines that intertwine Columbia. The skylines allow travel from one floating platform to another, and are sometimes even used as a means of flanking enemies. I enjoyed almost every aspect of Infinite’s visceral combat. The arsenal at hand was standard fare for the most part. You’ll see pistols, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, rpg’s, and grenade launchers. The addition of Vigor’s (Infinite’s Plasmids) help to create a fantastic sandbox in which to deal death. I found combining Vigor’s in unique ways was my favorite method of of mayhem. Knocking enemies into mid air, and finishing them with a lake of fire was deviously fun. Elizabeth plays her part opening tears to Booker’s advantage, resupplying salts (the resource used to employ Vigor’s), ammunition, and lock picking. As aforementioned the variety of enemies on display also helped keep combat refreshing. There’s your standard fare soldiers and a long list of “heavy hitters” including the Fireman, Handyman, Motorized Patriot, as well as others. You’ll continuously be battling through more challenging situations, and the final battle sequence is as intense an experience as I’ve had in a video game.
Throughout my time with Infinite there were only two aspects that broke my almost fully immersed experience. I couldn’t help but shake the NPC’s ghastly Mona Lisa type stares that followed me while traveling the streets of Columbia. Also, much of the interaction you’ll have with NPC’s will feel stoic and awkward. The only other jarring realization was the lack of work put into the vegetation of Colombia. I know it’s taxing on a development team to flesh out every aspect of the environment, but after playing Crysis 3 I know that a field of tall grass can look utterly amazing. That was the only missed opportunity in the area of aesthetics. I feel like I’m needing to nitpick to find these rare missteps, but they were the most glaring inconsistencies in BioShock: Infinite. The default control scheme was the only other aspect I didn’t care for, but that was fixed in a brief visit to the options menu.
Irrational and Ken Levine combined inspired combat with amazingly penned narrative to create BioShock: Infinite. It’s one of the more defining experiences I’ve had in video games. I found that my time in Colombia was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a very long time, and that means Infinite was more than worth the wait.
+ Intensely frantic and fluid combat
+ An amazing narrative, and deep characters
+ Fantasticly realized themes, tone, and environments
+ Unforgettable ending
– Dead eyed and stoic NPC’s
– Graphically corners cut in the vegetation of Columbia
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