BioShock Infinite- Review and commentary

I’m back from my little vacation from writing and I have a lot to say about the newest BioShock Infinite (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, OSX).

!!! Disclaimer !!!!

This review will have spoilers.  If you have not beaten the game yet then stop reading this and go beat the game. You have been warned.  Really, the next thing I write is spoilers.

!!! Disclaimer !!!!

This review will have spoilers.  If you have not beaten the game yet then stop reading this and go beat the game. You have been warned.  Really, the next thing I write is spoilers. Really, I would hate to ruin it for you and that is why I am writing this disclaimer.  Look, I know you don’t think I am going to give away the ending right away but I’m really going to give away just about everything in the game.  To be honest, I am only writing this so that in the blog post preview you won’t see the ending by mistake.  I think that should be enough.

This is the last chance to stop reading.

 

He dies at the end, BOOM–and she is his daughter, BOOM– and Comstock is Dewitt, from another reality, BOOM.  There.  All spoiled.  Now that all that is out in the open, let’s really talk about the game.

Visuals/Music:  The first thing I noticed when I started the game was how damn good it looked.  I just wanted to walk around and look at everything.  They really did a great job with the world, from the rich fair grounds at the start of the game to the shanty town later on, and then the war torn streets.  It all looks alive and vibrant.  The visuals are not just beautiful because there are also very disturbing and racist elements (more about the racist aspect later).   Let’s just say that on my second play through, I was still finding things that made me say Holy Shit, that’s fucked up and Holy Shit, that’s awesome.

A few things about the in-game music.  Within a few minutes of starting the game, you hear a barber shop quartet singing the Beach Boys song, “God Only Knows” and it is just one of several badass renditions of modern songs done in a turn of the 20th century style, my favorite being a remake of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” that is sung  in a gospel style when the workers are revolting.  And then there are some other more subtle musical touches, such as the little run in a minor key that follows each execution you perform with the sky hook which makes the killing just that much more grotesque.

Gameplay:  BioShock Infinite is fun to play but the combat does get a bit boring after a while.  If you have ever played a BioShock game, you will be used to the shooting and plasmid combos.  All that is the same, but now plasmids are called vigors, and most of them look really cool but you can get through the whole game using only two of them.  I would bet that most gamers won’t find a reason to use all of them to take out enemies.  Same thing with the guns–you can get through the whole game with a shotgun and a handgun, like I did.  The rails that you can ride in combat are cool but, really, you don’t have to use them because the enemies are really not that bright and they will come to you if you just wait.

The other aspect to the combat is that Elizabeth can open a tear into some alternate reality and can give you a hook or turret or another gun.  These things can come in handy but it’s not like they make a huge difference in any battle.  I only really ended up using them a few times.

Let’s talk about how dumb the enemy AI is, because they kind of just stand there waiting to be killed with the exception of the Handy Man that comes straight at you. He is the only enemy that made me rethink my decision to play on the hardest difficulty setting.  One thing I don’t understand is why more enemies don’t use vigors to attack you.  Vigors are advertised everywhere inside the game, so you could reason that they are used by a lot of people in this world.   And why, in a city that is so tightly controlled as Columbia, would they freely sell vigors that could make a person into an unstoppable force?  It just seems like they had to include these special powers because it is part of the BioShock series, which is fine, but I just want some explanation on why these vigors exist but are not more prevalent in the world.

But Elizabeth’s AI is really impressive, especially when she is just walking around and finding money to throw at you, or health, or ammo, or weird drinks and sandwiches.  But why the shit does she not pick up the lock pick kit when she sees it?  It’s the one fucking thing that she can use and needs to do her job, but all she does is tell you that she sees it and says, “Oh, that can be useful” and walks away.  Kind of annoying.

Lastly, I wish you could talk to the people that inhabit the world, but since there is no way to interact with the world, it gives it a museum-esque vibe.  It just flattens out the world that is otherwise so complex.

Story: So here is the best part, in my opinion.  This is a game that deals with history, including race relations and workers’ rights; also quantum physics, religion, and reality as we perceive it.

The game starts with you in a boat going towards a light house, intent on taking the girl, Elizabeth, from the floating city.

The first thing I noticed was that the floating city seemed populated by people of only one skin color.  Quickly followed by an invitation from a barker at the fair to throw a baseball at a mixed race couple.  Here I thought, wow, what a great moralistic choice.  You can throw it at the couple and stay unnoticed or do the right thing and hit the announcer and start a fight, but it turns out that no matter how you play it, the outcome is the same–you get found out.  Any choice you make doesn’t have any real effect on the game’s story and it feels like a real missed opportunity.

There’s another point at the end of the game when you get baptized that I wish would have included a review of all the bad or good shit you did through the game.  But, look, hey, that’s not going to happen, so what we got is a game that you can play like a saint and not steal or kill unarmed bystanders, or you be a party to all kinds of racist and criminal acts and still get the same ending.  There is just something wrong with that. Unless the whole point of giving us such choices is to show that no matter what you do you’ll just end up drowned by your monster daughter.  If so, that’s fucked up.

Look, I really liked that the big bad guy in the game was just another side of Booker because I dig the whole concept that we are our own worst enemies but I just wish there was a choice for Booker to willingly meet his death so he would not become Comstock.  Maybe if he was more at peace with the outcome it would have meant that he had atoned for his sins, but because Elizabeth drowns him and he dies fighting it, it is clear that the choice was made for him and he did not really come to, what the Buddhists, call true enlightenment.  So, instead, it seems he is going to go through this all over again until he gets it right, but he is never going to get it right because no matter how you play it, you can’t change the outcome.

Another issue I need to address is why did they have to make Elizabeth show half her boobs through more than half of the game?  I know why–because games are still mostly played by guys and guys still mostly like breasts–but it really doesn’t add to the story in any way.  Look, she changes into her boob costume after her clothes get bloody.  Okay, but then why, when she is locked up for months near the end of the game, has she not changed clothes?  Because what they are saying is that for months she doesn’t change clothes once, but after she gets blood on her shirt, she can’t wait to take that off?  Come on.  We know this is just a ploy to sell games to young guys, while at the same time, killing some of the realism you worked so damn hard to create.

The story ending left me with so many questions, like, What happened to the city? and, Who was the dead man you see in the light house? and, Why didn’t Booker put it together that he was most likely dead when his nose started to bleed just like the dead soldiers you see after going through the tears?

All that being said, I love how they worked real history into the game.  I know thousands of gamers googled the Boxer Rebellion because of this game.  I also really liked that a big part of this game seems like it can be traced to the movie Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927):  the settings, as well as some of the same social issues what with the downtrodden working class spending most of their time in a fucked up factory, apathetic rich people, and crazy scientists.  There is also, similarly, a workers’ revolt that changes the face of the city.  If you watch Metropolis you will definitely see some things that will remind you of BioShock Infinite.

Final thoughts: It was a great game for a lot of reasons, including that this big title dealt with social issues and history in such a hard light, but they missed their real chance to not only make a great game but an incredibly great game.

It has been said that any artwork which makes you talk about it after you have experienced it is great art.  That was definitely achieved by BioShock Infinite’s story, but video games are not just about story. They are also about game play.  So, in summary, this was not a perfect game.  For all its flaws it is definitely worth a play through, but you might wait a few months to buy it when it goes on sale.  I am going to give it four beers out of six because it had so much wasted potential.  – Jay (NinjaJay81)

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Writer’s note: go watch Fritz Lang’s Metropolis if you haven’t seen it.  It is one of the best movies ever made, and don’t let the fact that it’s a silent movie deter you from watching it.

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