That being said, I want to point out that nothing, and I mean nothing, that takes place in the 10 minute “game-play footage trailer” released back in 2011 actually happens in the game. The Skyhook/Skyrail system wasn’t nearly as cool or as expansive as it appeared, the enemies weren’t nearly as smart, and Elizabeth (your companion throughout the game, who is still awesome in her own right) wasn’t nearly as independent or useful. Not to mention the fact that the ominous Songbird that features so prominently in every bit of advertising for BS:I isn’t nearly as ominous it seems. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In spite of these shortcomings, Bioshock:Infinite still managed to rock my socks off. It’s very rarely that a game captures my imagination to the point that I can think of little else, but BS:I did so in a spectacular faction. Notice the lack of movement on I, Dark Lord‘s progress bar? Blame Kevin Levine and the other developers over at Irrational Games. From the stunning visuals of a city floating above the clouds, to the fanatical hybrid-religion that combines 1800s Christianity with the worship of our Founding Fathers; I just couldn’t get the story of Booker and Elizabeth out of my head. Who were those cryptic twins that kept appearing at odd moments? How did Elizabeth come by her power? Who was Booker working for exactly, and why did they want the girl?
Before we go any farther, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Elizabeth. She is, after all, the glue that binds the whole thing together. She’s your co-star throughout, and provides a nice emotional counterpoint to the jaded gun-for-hire that is you (Booker DeWitt). Now, speaking from experience, having a companion in a game generally equates to them being boring, dumb, and repetitive. They constantly get in the way, repeat the same inane comments over and over, and often force you to abandon whatever you’re doing so you can make sure they don’t get killed. Annoying, right?
Not so with Elizabeth. Although she falls short of being the strong female companion I hoped she’d be (and was led to believe she’d be, in that deceiving game-play trailer…DEVIL!) in the sense that she is only as useful as you tell her to be, I never felt that she took away from my experience. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I found her expressions and (somewhat naive) reactions to the unfolding story quite endearing, and her penchant for tossing me ammo just as I was starting to run out definitely pulled me out of many a tight spot. Given the game’s limitations, she is quite well-designed, and I daresay the only relationship between video-game characters that even comes close is that of Master Chief and Cortana.
And then there’s this…which is probably one of the most beautifully scripted moments I’ve ever experienced in a video-game:
Combat in BS:I left something to be desired. Although it was fun to experiment with various combinations of the Vigors (akin to Plasmids in the original Bioshock..and magic powers in other games), the weapons were your standard run of the mill – pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rifle, rocket launcher – and you could only carry two at a time. They even added a “quantum” shield that recharged in cover or after the end of the fight. And unlike in the original, when you never actually knew if you killed the last enemy in an area, here it was noted by a nice “chime” and shield recharge. No more anxiety over whether or not another deranged splicer was hiding just around the corner. Mostly because there were no splicers to worry about.
The enemies of Columbia consisted mostly of policemen and rebels, and every now-and-again you’d come up against a special class like a “Fireman” or “Zealot,” who used the “Devil’s Kiss (fireball)” and “Murder of Crows” powers, respectively. Never once did I encounter an enemy who liked to use “Shock Jockey” or “Bucking Bronco” or any of the other powers, which is actually rather strange given the amount of Vigor bottles I found lying around the city. Not a very smart bunch, unfortunately, and I found playing the game on “Normal” mode to be way way way too easy.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW!!!
The last 30 minutes of the game are probably some of the most confusing 30 minutes of my life. Even now, two days later, I’m still not exactly sure what happened. Since I don’t want to give anything anyway, I’ll just say that it involves quantum mechanics and parallel universes and they don’t really drop any of this on you until the end. Throughout the game it’s all about finding Elizabeth and getting out of the city. They drop some hints with her ability to open Tears (in reality) and everything, but it does nothing to prepare you for the mind-grenade that takes place there at the end.
And when it was all said and done and the credits started to roll, I wasn’t sure if I should be happy or sad. Now that I’ve had some time to process it, however, I’m leaning towards both. Stick around after the credits (much like in Marvel’s movies) and you’ll see why. It doesn’t hurt that they show a video of the actor/actress behind Booker and Elizabeth recording the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” while the credits scroll, because who wants to pay attention to that anyway? The game’s soundtrack does deserves a mention. After all, where else are you going to hear a barbershop quartet rendition of “Tainted Love?”
In summary: Buy this game by clicking on the image to the right. Play it. And if you don’t love it, let me know in the comments. Or by email. Or by posting a giant billboard in the city that reads “DAMN YOU LEWIS DIX.” That is all.