3.31.2013

BIOSHOCK INFINITE (PS3) Review


I DON'T THINK WE'RE IN RAPTURE ANYMORE...

When the original BIOSHOCK was released way back in 2007 it was a critical and commercial success, winning a slew of awards and with good reason. It was a truly atmospheric and immersive FPS which incorporated influences from authors such as Ayn Rand and George Orwell. It also had a unique setting in the underwater metropolis Rapture. The sequel offered more of the same and while it was still a good game it  wasn't anywhere near as impressive as its predecessor. Enter BIOSHOCK INFINITE which while still retaining a whole host of similarities to the previous games, takes the franchise in a completely new direction.
Rapture was a dying city buried deep beneath the waves and overrun by plasmid junkies and fearsome Big Daddies. It was dark, dank and claustrophobic in the best possible way. INFINITE'S Columbia is about as far from Rapture as you could get.

Floating high above the clouds Columbus is a bustling city filled with people working, playing, shopping, picnicking and generally just going about their daily lives. But even though at first the city may seem like a nice place it soon becomes apparent that it is just as much of a dystopia as Rapture, with strong themes like racism and religious fanaticism.
As Booker DeWitt you've been sent to this city to find and retrieve a woman named Elizabeth in order to wipe a personal debt. That's about as much information as you're given to start with. As for who has sent you or what the debt is, well everything is revealed eventually. Elizabeth is locked away in a tower and after rescuing her you find yourself pursued by religious 'prophet' Father Comstock and one of the games two factions, the Founders. There's so much more to talk about as far as plot goes but this is a game that I wouldn't want to spoil for anyone so I'll just leave it at that for now.


TOOLS OF THE TRADE

BIOSHOCK INFINITE is a First Person Shooter like it's predecessors and the combat system is much the same as well. A combination of firearms and Vigors (The INFINITE version of Plasmids) is essential for fighting off hostiles and traversing the sprawling city of Columbia. The guns are modelled on conventional weapons and range from pistols to machine-guns and RPGs, all of which can be upgraded to increase attributes such as damage and ammunition capacity. The Vigors are quite an eclectic mix compared to the previous games and range from the Devil's Kiss (a simple fire based attack) to the Murder of Crows (which sends a swarm of crows to tear up the flesh of your enemies. Even better is the fact that these Vigors can be combines. For example if you follow Murder of Crows with a quick blast of Devil's Kiss you get a flock of flaming crows which cause extra damage. I'll let you find out about the rest of the Vigors on your own but I will add that there are select few that I used a lot and a few which seemed a bit novel and didn't get much use after a while.
A brand new addition to the franchise is the Skyhook which is part weapon, part tool, all awesome. It's the first weapon you receive after arriving in Columbia and it becomes a valuable and essential item for the rest of the game. Apart from being quite a brutal melee weapon it is also a unique mode of transport.


ROADS? WHERE WE'RE GOING WE DON'T NEED ROADS

All across Columbus you will notice rails twisting and turning through the sky, connecting sections of the city together. Normally these Skylines are used for cargo transport and personal transport via carriages and gondolas. But with the help of his trusty Skyhook, Booker can use these rails to get where he needs to go quickly and easily. But what starts of as a convenience eventually becomes an essential part of the gameplay and combat. The controls are surprisingly intuitive and soon you'll find yourself in action-packed, fast-paced combat scenarios as you fly along the Skylines, firing at enemies before leaping down to perform a devastating Skyline strike. It is mountains of fun and nowhere near as gimmicky as I imagined it might be.
Oh and did I mention that your enemies can also ride these rails? It definitely makes for some exciting and interesting combat.


OFF THE BEATEN PATH

INFINITE follows a linear path but most areas are quite sizeable and there is a lot of exploring to do. While you're collecting Silver Eagles (the in-game currency) and salt (which powers your Vigors) from trash-cans, desks, wallets, cabinets and just about every other nook and cranny you could possibly imagine, you also need to keep an eye out for other special items. Lockpicks are important tools which Elizabeth can use to access secret areas which usually house Infusions (which allow you to upgrade your health, shield and salt capacity) or Gear. Gear is a nice addition to the game and affords you special perks depending on which items you are using. You can have a total of four pieces of Gear (hat, shirt, pants & boots) at any one time and they will give you temporary invulnerability, extra melee damage and a whole other host of abilities. There is a lot of Gear to find and you will probably find it worthwhile to take the extra time for a thorough search.


NO HOLDING HANDS

Elizabeth is your companion for almost the entire game. Your AI companion. I know that term might not excite a lot of gamers and for good reason, but rest assured that you'll have no problems here. Rather than this game being one long escort mission Elizabeth is perfectly capable of fending for herself. You do not need to help her out at all. You can breathe a sigh of relief now.
In fact it gets even better because Elizabeth actually helps you out. She'll pick locks to access secret areas, she'll point out special objects such as lockpicks you may have missed in a particular room and she'll even provide you with salt, health and ammo during combat. And then there's her extra special ability.
Elizabeth can open up 'tears' which are holes in time and space which lead to other worlds or realities. Through these tears she can pull items from those worlds to help you out. During combat these tears can provide you with turrets, allies, cover, weapons and healing supplies and they are a very valuable thing to utilize when you find yourself heavily outnumbered. I never thought I'd say this but I loved having an AI companion in this game.


THE VERDICT

I could go on about this game for hours but I think it's about time to sum up. Everything I've heard from people who have played INFINITE has been positive and I don't want to seem like I'm just jumping on the bandwagon but I honestly enjoyed this game. A lot. It actually has a deep story and strong characterization and even touches on the subject of morality and consequences. Between the Skyline combat, the eclectic range of Vigors, the amazing visuals and the evil Gatling-gun-toting George Washington robots I could not find a single thing that was lacking. The game is only around 15 hours or so but what an excellent 15 hours it is. This game frustrated the hell out of me but only because I wanted to keep playing while simultaneously not wanting the game to actually end. And when the game finally does end it might just blow your tiny little mind. I know we're only a quarter of the way through 2013 but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that BIOSHOCK INFINITE is my game of the year.




2 comments:

  1. What I enjoyed most about this game was attaching an emotional story that people can connect with, beyond the interactive gameplay. That twist at the end leaves a memorable impression because of the story it describes. Without this story I wonder how memorable this game would be.

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