Review: BioShock Infinite welcomes you to the wonderful world of Columbia

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Back in 2007, Irrational Games released what would be one of the highest-rated shooters of all time with BioShock. Five years later, Irrational Games has finally released BioShock’s spiritual sequel with BioShock Infinite. Once the announcement for Infinite was released, fans expectations shot through the roof. Delivering a game that lives up to the expectations is an enormous task, but Ken Levine and Irrational Games never backed down from the challenge. But does Infinite deliver a near-perfect gaming experience and live up to its predecessor or has Infinite succumbed to the dumbed down sequelitis?

Luckily for fans everywhere, Ken Levine has delivered a rich and layered experience that immerses the player into the world of BioShock Infinite. While some aspects of the game aren’t as good as its predecessor, it’s safe to say it’s a better game than BioShock in a majority of ways.

Unlike the nameless, voiceless protagonist from the first game, BioShock Infinite puts the player in the life of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent and soldier who witnessed the massacre of Wounded Knee firsthand. At the start of your mission, your task is to  “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”, a phrase that you will hear many times in the game, That is your mission. As you are dropped off at the pier, you see a familiar lighthouse in front of you, and everything about the beginning of Infinite will seem similar to the intro to the original BioShock. That is until you finally reach the world of Columbia.

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Columbia has been advertised as a utopia in the sky, but with every new experience you go through in Columbia you get a sense that everything isn’t as peaceful as it seems. The citizens of Columbia are loyal to the self-proclaimed prophet Zachary Comstock, a religious zealot who created the Columbia as a haven for extremists and white supremacists.

When it is revealed to the populace that Booker is the infamous ‘False Shepherd’, the citizens and police turn on Booker as he attempts to track down Elizabeth and escape to New York City. Needless to say, Booker’s attempts to free Elizabeth from Columbia are met with resistance from enemies both large and small. Finding her poses several challenges, but once Booker and Elizabeth join forces to escape, the real conflict begins.

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The best decision Irrational Games did was to keep the focus on the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. With a story as complex as BioShock Infinite, the game manages to stay on point. The political battles, race riots, and other conflicts never really deter Booker from his overall goal: get Elizabeth off of Columbia. And even though Booker’s motivations are simple, the complex journey presented is able to find a balance that will keep the players both invested in the story and care about the characters as well.

Speaking of Elizabeth let me talk about how much of a joy it is that your partner is not an annoyance to your gaming experience – such as Rico in Killzone 2. After playing through Infinite, you will never want an in-game escort that is vulnerable, obnoxious, or a hindrance to gameplay ever again. Whether it’s Elizabeth’s ability to scrounge ammunition, health kits, or salts or the incredibly well-directed animation and performance, Elizabeth is sure to be one of the most memorable female video game characters before long. Irrational wanted to achieve something special with Elizabeth, and the result is a booming success.

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From a purely technical standpoint, the choice to not have Elizabeth mindlessly follow the player throughout Columbia, and interact with the environment has helped build an immersive experience. Include her usefulness in combat, and players will actually being to feel that they are playing through the game with her, which in itself is an accomplishment.

In terms of the overall shooter experience itself, the individual encounters haven’t been as memorable as compared to BioShock. There are no “boss” battles or stressful “Big Daddy” moments in the game. The enemy encounter feel more like preset arenas rather than the organic encounters from its predecessor, but Irrational Games haven’t set out to create the most dramatic scripted action sequences, but instead they wanted to provide players with a larger bag of tricks with which to tackle battle arenas.

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It eventually becomes clear that the devs designed the action to offer players a chance of experimenting and combining their weaponry, not test their patience. You won’t die as much as you might expect, since moving players through the story is the top priority. And in the story department, BioShock Infinite is one of the most inspired and well-executed stories of this generation. That is if you get what is going on. The ending has caused many people to ask what they just witnessed, even causing various news outlets to do write-ups explaining the ending. That’s the beauty of the game as the ending will make you think, and as soon as you figure it out you realize just how special the game really is. It will also make you want to replay the game again, just to see all the clues that are scattered throughout the game. It’s very much like your first experience watching The Sixth Sense or Inception. Oh and as for the title itself, BioShock Infinite is a fitting title as opposed to BioShock 3, you’ll see why when you get to the ending.

Ultimately, BioShock: Infinite was created with the story and atmosphere on the forefront, and that alone makes it a must-play experience for any self-respecting shooter fan. Irrational Games has provided us with an adventure that is both memorable as it is inspired, and have cemented themselves as one of the top developers out there today. Not only that but they have done the impossible, they have created a game that not only lives up to the expectations of the original but in some ways have surpassed the original BioShock in terms of its gaming experience.

Grade: A

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1475 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.