It would be an insult to say that words couldn’t describe how much I enjoyed the story to BioShock’s newest addition to their titular series. The team over at Irrational put so much care and thought into developing this game that to describe it as just “amazing” or “awesome” would be a disservice to their work.
Before I break down what exactly made this game so spectacular I’d like to quickly run down the things I found irritating.
Ammo in this game goes quickly, and from what I could tell on my play-through there didn’t seem to be enough money lying around to purchase all of the available gun upgrades. This is a bit counter-intuitive, as the short ammo spans and drops would seem to indicate that you’re intended to change weapons constantly and on-the-fly. With the upgrades being so expensive, I would have liked it if it was easier to hold onto guns. This is partially remedied by the presence of Elizabeth, which I will get into shortly.
There were also some barrier issues that I was encountering. I would find myself getting stuck on small objects or on corners, and sometimes bullets seemed to hit me from behind cover. This wasn’t enough to make me put down the controller at any point, but it was enough to take me out of the experience a handful of times.
Now that we have that messy business out of the way, I want to examine three things that this game did exceptionally well.
BioShock took what many have joked about in places like /r/gaming and other mainstream game forums and turned it into one of the most compelling parts of the game. “Escort quests” have been one of the most irritating and annoying design flaws in gaming since, well, ever. Idiotic movement; a seemingly careless value of the escort’s own well being, and getting in your way are just a fart’s worth of the massive pile of manure that comes along with any escort quest in gaming’s history.
|See, the internet said so|
So, to create a game that was one gigantic escort quest was certainly a gamble. Irrational identified these issues and did something that no other game has done previously, and that’s make a character who is designed not to be a pain in the ass. Not only did they do this through the programming (by having her be able to appear with you like a much prettier version of the slenderman) but they did it with the story as well. Without giving away too much in the way of spoilers the people who are trying to kill you are desperately trying to retrieve her. There won’t be a point where you have to worry about her health, and she does a very good job of staying out of the way of gunfire. Because of her “abilities” she is also able to supply you with ammo, money, health, and salts — the “mana” of this world.
I would also like to add that her movement and voice acting were all superbly done.
The graphics in this game are not worth writing about by themselves. However, the design and atmosphere that Irrational created for Columbia is. There will definitely be moments where you just stop to admire your surroundings, whether they are the architecture, a bombed out building, or the clouds as they pass beneath the city. One of the first interiors you see is in a holy site that I probably spent about two or three minutes just inspecting and admiring. This happens often. Seeing deified statues to the founding fathers of America is humorous, but also a bit terrifying in the sense that this has already happened to a degree. I tend to over-philosophize in moments like that, but there are a couple of events in the game that draw some pretty heavy parallels to the real world. Brilliantly, I might add.
Also, the first time you see “Songbird” you’ll marvel at the talents of Irrational’s art department. I wasn’t sure how they could top the iconic duo of Big Daddy and Little Sister from the previous games, but I was pleasantly surprised.
|Imagine Gob’s chicken noise from Arrested Development|
I can’t stress enough how much I’ve missed good storytelling in mainstream video games. I’m talking about stories that have a clear purpose to them, and aren’t just methods of getting the character into the next exploding room or boss fight. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome explosions and boss fights in the game, but the story isn’t dependent on them. I had seen the video review from IGN before completing the game, and was wondering what the jaw dropping moment and “turn” was going to be. The end of the first BioShock had me yelling “Oh my God” as it unfolded, so I was very curious to see what this “jaw-dropping” moment was for Infinite.
Without giving it away, the ending is completely worth it. I tend to pride myself on being able to figure out plot twists and story lines as they develop, and with Infinite I had a bunch of hypotheses floating around as the game progressed. Few, if any aspects I had come up with were finally used to bring this narrative to a close. My mind wandered back to the days of watching Lost, and how the draw of answers and explanations is a powerful motivating tool to keep your mind attached to a fictional world. Unlike Lost, BioShock: Infinite gave a satisfying and compelling end to the story, and didn’t leave it with Booker Dewitt and Elizabeth sitting in a church with Comstock telling them about love or something nebulous like that.
|“Ooooh, that totally explains the smoke-monster…” – No one ever|
I hate you, Lost.
All in all, this game is completely worth the purchase. It isn’t the best FPS I’ve ever played, but it is definitely one of the most masterfully crafted stories I’ve played in video games. The way Irrational used the mechanics of looking through the eyes of a player-controlled character to develop the characters was so well done it is worthy of a post all by itself.
As most people anxiously await the next software update packaged as a brand new game from the Call of Duty franchise or Madden series, there are other games in between that are absolutely worth checking out. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not strapping into the lighthouse and journeying to the city of Columbia to see it through Booker’s own eyes.