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Bioshock Infinite [2013 -- Irrational Games]

Started by Starfox, Feb 19, 2023, 05:53 PM

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Original publication: 07/18/2013

The story of Biochock Infinite begins in a boat heading to a lighthouse, a lighthouse that could very well be the same as the one in Bioshock but is not... in a way. Unfortunately the whole game conveys this weird feeling to be in an airborne version of the first Bioshock, with very similar limitations. For example you'll quickly realize that despite the apparent openness of the world, the sky here is not without limits and that you're confined to follow predefined routes with just about no alternatives. The focus of the gameplay is mainly put on combat with various ways to handle your adversaries once you've acquired Elizabeth, your very unique companion; without her, the combat is just... dull -- a matter of aim and shoot with the only two weapons you're allowed to carry at any time and of course your "vigors" -- the things referred to as "plasmids" in the first Bioshock.

If there's one good thing to say about Bioshock Infinite though, it's about Elizabeth. Never have I seen a companion so lively and agreeable to have around. She doesn't get in your way, she doesn't participate directly in combat (she's kinda repulsed by violence) but nevertheless is incredibly useful in this case her special ability allowing her to "fold" different "realities" and to summon aid at your command under the form of covers, of obstacles for the enemy, of weapons and even of robotic allies. During combat she'll also scrounge and provide ammo for the weapon you're currently using should you run short of that (and you will) as well as medkits and salts (to power your "vigors"). Bonus, she can even resurrect you when you die. Out of combat she'll pick the locks on doors and containers -- only her can do that if you keep her provided with enough lockpicks for the job -- she'll pinpoint the location of interesting resources like lockpicks and special items when you don't find them quick enough, occasionnally she'll even scrounge additional money that she'll give you. She will have her own behavior doing occasionally a bit of exploration of her own and commenting on the world. Unless other companions in other games, you never have the impression to have a silent dummy target following you around. Actually on the occasions when for story purpose you get separated, you kinda miss her (despite the drawing of her features that makes her resemble to a Disney production).

For the rest, the world is a series of more or less complex aerial platforms linked together by what are called "skylines" that you can follow both ways using a special hook to attach to them (this hook also doubles as a melee weapon). Those skylines are also an integral part of the combat gameplay since you can shoot while using one and you can even -- with special gear upgrades -- use a skyline to gain the upper-hand, like dropping from one on top of an enemy in a fiery explosion.

The story itself is OK, and keeps you interested enough to push forward, although the end has a "Bioshock 2" flavor to it (but is not worse than a certain other ending in a certain other game that I won't mention here); can't say much more about the ending without spoilers... Without spoilers, I can say that the story takes place in an alternate version of 1912 -- incidentally you realize that you're definitely not in our timeline when hearing some musics, like a retro-instrumental version of Girls Want To Have Fun -- and involves your character, Booker Dewitt, an ex-military reconverted in the PI business, down on his luck, who really doesn't qualifies as an "angel". The term possibly the best suited to him as Elizabeth puts it is "thug". Anyway, because he owes a big debt, he accepts a job that is given to him by two mysterious characters, twins that he'll keep running into in the weirdest of places and circumstances during the course of the story. Simply put the job is to rescue a young woman, Elizabeth, from a city in the sky. Of course the "simple" job soon proves to be utterly complicated even though it could be his only chance at redemption. As the twins say "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt". What they never told him is... which debt?

One huge difference with the two previous games in the series, the main protagonist Booker, is much more vocal. The others were just mute.

From a pure technical point of view you'll soon discover that you cannot save when you want anymore. That's right, the consolitis disease struck the Bioshock franchise too, the aggravating part being that the save checkpoints are pretty far from each other (most often on area transitions); that is balanced however with the fact that you are resurrected in case of death just before it happened; unfortunately that still means you have to complete a map before being able to jump out of a game session, or you'll have to do the map all over again on the next session. However this is the only "bug" I've noticed. The graphics look good with maybe too much bloom here and there (but the Bioshock series has always been heavy on bloom).

Bioshock Infinite is a good game that is fun to play the time it lasts. Replay value is about nil -- granted BI is even less RPG-ish than its predecessors -- except if you want to do combat trying different tactics, and the total playtime averaging 15 hours  is rather quite short by any kind of current RPG standards (but once again, BI is not really a RPG, more like a fancy FPS). Somewhere it's even a shame that some occasions were completely wasted. For example, at one point, one has to make a choice between two cameos, one with the picture of a bird and one with the picture of a cage so that Elizabeth can wear it until the end of the game. Maybe foolishly (and being used to RPG) I was expecting that decision to matter in some way -- and it could have very well mattered regarding the story -- but nope. Beyond the matter of taste, no consequences; that's how little RPG you'll find in Bioshock Infinite. However, as a fancy shooter, the game gets the job done and thanks to Elizabeth and a story that holds its own the 15 hours of play are not boring hours.

As some sort of a post scriptum, I should also note that Bioshock Infinite attracted on its release quite some ire from some religious gamers with at least one that effectively demanded Steam a refund on the ground that he couldn't play it because of religious conviction. Reason? To even enter the floating city at the beginning of the story, you must accept a (simulated of course... its a GAME) baptism. Apparently some people found that pretty offensive so there, you're warned, if you don't like baptism for whatever reason or if your religious convictions are easily offended, don't buy the game.

DLC reviewed for this game:

Burial At Sea: Episode One
Burial At Sea: Episode Two

Guess what it means!