Review: Bioshock Infinite

Title: Bioshock Infinite
Game’s Appeal: Progress, Immersion, Story
Genre: linear FPS, minor RPG elements such as abilities

Description:
Set in the early 1900s, you are sent to a floating city-state, founded on a cult of twisted Americana, to retrieve a captive girl. Most of the game is played with Elizabeth at your side, an AI companion that drives the story, and helps you with useful resources in combat.

Strengths:

Art Direction
The visuals in this game are absolutely inspiring. Time after time I was struck by the stunning views and design of the world. Don’t be fooled by the original Bioshock or Infinite trailers, there’s also tremendous variety in the locales.

Evocative Setting and Story
Few games dare to tackle truly mature topics, let alone as many, or as intelligently as Bioshock Infinite. I was completely sold by the examinations of morality, innocense, and parallels to the rise of fascism.

Dynamic Feel to Combat
Ducking in and out of cover, or riding the city’s rails through the sky keep you consistently active. It makes them feel more exciting, and kept me interested for most of the game despite mostly simplistic mechanics. The rails – think parkour as a human monorail – and Elizabeth’s ability to magically produce whatever I need seemed gimmicky at first. So I was surprised to find both well implemented and contributing to that constant flurry of action.

Allows Variety of Playstyles, Replayability
There’s a good combination of choices between weapons, clothes (situational buffs,) vigors (powers,) and stat boosts you can really design around your personal playstyle. As an example I relied on a rifle, huge shield, and ability to stun enemies near headshot victims to support my methodical, long range approach.
Weaknesses:

Immersion-Breaking Mechanics
These are minor, strange, numerous, and sadly add up to keep reminding you that you’re playing a game. Examples range from glow in the dark items, the ability to search a box of chocolates and find a hot dog, piles of money in the trash, NPCs not reacting to stealing, and early game where it’s obvious how few different models they have for citizens.

The Ending
It’s not poorly done, but feels completely out of place. The whole game was building up to a point, I reached it, and then it kept on going. On top of that, and worst of all, the entire tone of the game changed in those final moments.

Not Encouraging Variety of Playstyles
By the end of the game I had barely touched my vigors (powers,) and relied almost entirely on 3 guns. The combat gives you plenty of options, but there are few counters or combos to make you try something new. For all the selection of weapons, vigors, and clothing buffs available, there’s little incentive to change your approach on any given play through.

Complex Story that Relies Heavily on Exploration
Some very important plot points are hidden out of the way. The reliance on exploration in a linear game is problematic. Players that are not inclined to exploration or completionism will likely find this tedious, or be confused by the plot.

Summary:
Bioshock Infinite is an impressive accomplishment of a game. If this game set out to do only half of what it did, it would still be notably good. Instead, it builds an engaging story full of thought-provoking ideas, and beautiful setting on top of a memorable shooter.

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