I was meant to review Crysis 3 this week. I wasn’t overly excited to play it, I had heard good things but was sceptical on the whole. The recent direction that the first person genre has gone had instilled a prejudice which left me completely underwhelmed by Crysis 3. I got bored of the game within an hour, started resorting to switching my PS3 off and actually doing Uni work instead. It is therefore a huge surprise to me that I rushed out to buy Bioshock Infinite. The cartoon-like graphics and fantasy setting reminded me of playing the TimeSplitters games back in their heyday, I was genuinely excited to see what the game offered despite it being an FPS. I went into this game not expecting to play a Call of Duty wannabe, but to play a game which didn’t want to be thrown in with war shooters and was instead determined to branch of as an architect of its own genre.
The game starts through the eyes of the hardened protagonist Booker DeWitt, you soon end up in the city in the skies Columbia. Tasked to rescue a girl (Elizabeth) from a tower, an idea that has been working since princess peach got herself kidnapped and works here also. The story telling in this game is second to none, I really don’t want to spoil the game for anyone so I won’t go into huge detail. However, you will be just as eager to find out where the story is going as you will want to blow up some enemies.
Bioshock Infinite may well be one of the most visually stunning games available on this generation of consoles. It is most certainly the game which combines gameplay and looks the best. The city of Columbia is perfectly rendered, no expense has been spared to make this city look like the real deal. The game is set in a fictional 1912 where American exceptionalism is on the rise. The City appears as though it is a theme park with fairground attractions and a constant flurry of balloons and ticker tape. It is at first very appealing until you learn that even the perfect societies have their flaws. In this case a dictator calling himself the prophet and a society built on hatred and a lot of quite uncomfortable racism.
The combat works differently to most FPS’s, especially the modern day war games. You have one gun in your right hand while your left hand is in charge of using “Vigors”. Vigors are basically just magical powers which you collect as you progress. They are an essential part of gameplay, allowing you to launch your enemies into the air, grab them from a distance, or set electrical traps for them to walk onto. The Vigors are powered by an energy bar, this bar can be topped up by drinking salts which are found lying around the map. The shooting is very different to most games. This may put some people off Bioshock Infinite but please don’t let it because you’ll miss out. But, instead of using the top left trigger to aim down the site, you must click the right analogue stick. The left trigger instead uses the Vigors. You will use Vigors when you mean to aim for the first hour of the game; but this isn’t a huge problem and you’ll soon get used to it. You are also given a hook which attaches to DeWitt’s arm. This allows you to perform melee attacks as well as attach yourself to the sky rides which the city. These sky rides consist of two metal bars which circulate as a track. This addition to combat as well as travel is extremely ingenious. They allow you to get away from gun fire, drop down on enemies or reposition yourself to pick up some ammo.
About an hour into the game you finally meet Elizabeth, Elizabeth is a compelling character who completely enriches the story. The way I would describe her is like a Disney Princess that has been thrown into a war zone. She is sweet but when things start to turn bad she has no choice but to adapt. Elizabeth is with you during combat throughout most of the game. Now my first thought when I met her was oh god this is going to be like Ashley Graham from Resident Evil 4 all over again. I’m going to have to wait at the bottom of the stairs to catch her and I’ll lose my save because she got her head Chainsawed off. But no, she isn’t at all. Elizabeth is actually one of the best gaming mechanics in Bioshock: Infinite. She will often shout at you when a certain type of enemy is approaching, allowing you to set up your weapons and Vigors. She will also throw you a health pack, some ammo or salts when you need it, but not so much that it takes away the challenge of the game. Elizabeth will even sometimes comment on your surroundings if you fail to notice something. It didn’t happen very often but at one point she told me that I had overseen a lock pick which was laying on the floor which I found was a very well thought out addition to the game. Not only does she do all of those things, but she also can open portals to give you access to ammo or to a gun turret and more to help you out in a fight which becomes an essential part of the combat.
Bioshock Infinite has tried something slightly different to most modern games. You would expect this game to adhere to an open world format. However it is extremely linear within the frame of the story. Usually this would be a bad thing however with Bioshock Infinite it completely works. The city is big enough that it didn’t need an open world format anyway. You can still find hidden extras in alley ways and shops without the need to fast travel back to them. A feature which a substantial amount of modern games are now implementing.
Overall I have to say this is one of the most refreshing games I have played in a long time. The combat is extremely rewarding, while a vast array of different enemy types and abilities keep it fresh. The story is extremely compelling and you’ll care more about the main characters than you would care to admit. I genuinely can’t think of a criticism of Bioshock Infinite but I guess if I have to, er…. okay there was a loading screen at one point, that played some actually quite entertaining and atmospheric piano music. I realise that my singular criticism has just turned into a minor compliment. If this isn’t already the best game to come out in 2013 then let me know so I can buy that instead.
10/10 (yes really)