“Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt,” That’s something that you’ll hear a lot as you make your way through Columbia, the city in the sky. Opening on a note very similar to the original BioShock, you enter a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean and are thrown into the sky to begin your journey to find Elizabeth to simply pay off your debts. Booker doesn’t necessarily start off as the most likable character, but intrigue will leave you driven and you will hardly be able to put the game down until after you’ve watched the credits roll. From the moment you start BioShock Infinite, you know you’re in for something special.
The first thing that you will notice are the visuals. The floating city of Columbia is a pleasure to look at and the overall look and feel of the environments are designed beautifully, and will evoke feelings of playing the original BioShock and first entering Rapture—though much less confined. Unlike Rapture, you are not coming across a world that has already had its revolution. Columbia’s revolution is still simmering and Booker visits just in time to see things go to hell. The graphics are not the most amazing thing that we’ve seen this generation and there were only minor improvements over the visuals of BioShock 1 and 2 , but Irrational proves that the quality of a game doesn’t have to be locked to its graphics engine and visuals can shine through regardless.
Games with companions are often faulted for their terrible AI and the need to protect your companion. Infinite does away with all of the old companion and escort mission stereotypes. You do not need to protect Elizabeth. More often than not, she is protecting you by tossing you health packs, ammo, salts (for Vigors) and even money from time to time. She is not an annoying “follow” companion and can sometimes be found to be running ahead of your position and interacting with the environment around you, such as leaning on walls and sitting in chairs. There were very rare occasions when I got stuck as she blocked my way out of a narrow passage, but those were few and far between and were resolved quickly, unlike your companions in Skyrim who like to make sure that you never get to leave that corner.
Elizabeth can also open tears in the environment to bring in supplies, mechanized allies to fight for you, or even just a little bit of cover. The entire battle system is very smooth and utilizing Vigors and weapons together lend you a lot of different options with dispatching your opposition. If you enjoyed how combat felt in BioShock, then Infinite will maintain that feeling for the duration of your playthrough, as the Vigors work almost identically to Plasmids with a few tweaks here and there to make the experience feel fresh. The Skylines are a new option within battle but they are not forced upon you and you can use them at your discretion, with the exception of travel to other areas.
The inventory system works almost identically to the original BioShock. I only had a couple of minor issues with trying to pick something up where the game would not allow me to unless I was in the perfect position. For the most part the inventory worked flawlessly. You can only carry two guns at one time, but I never found this to be a detriment as most areas had a variety of guns littered around the area and you could change your weapons out on the fly.
On a very minor downside, the game did give me a couple of graphical glitches such as odd texture glitches or Elizabeth’s dress sticking out at the knee as if she were making the Captain Morgan pose while standing normally. These one-off glitches did absolutely nothing to hamper my experience and went mostly forgotten as I passed them by (except that I made notes about them for the review, but they did not affect my continued playthrough).
Columbia is a living, breathing city and the music and sound of the world really draw you into the experience. I never experienced any moments in which I felt that the music or sound design for the game was out of touch. I found myself embraced by the music and sound effects and these helped to greatly lock in my emotional connection to the characters and the world. If you find a room in which Booker can press square near a guitar, I highly urge you to do so, as this moment off the beaten path and not part of the main game held a high emotional value for me.
BioShock Infinite does not have the eerie vibe that the original BioShock pushed for most of the game, though near the end had a few scenarios that gave me some chills and one particular time that got a jump out of me. The Handymen attempt to take the place of the Big Daddies as the really tough enemies, but as they do not play an important role in the story offering that looming feeling of dread, and don’t show up that often, they fail to make a significant impression other than being a tough enemy to fight. Songbird is also sadly underused through most of the game and what could have been a very iconic part of BioShock Infinite was relegated to a small portion of the game and nearly failed to make an impression on me.
While Bioshock Infinite is riding on the coattails of the wonderful BioShock, it never feels like a rehashed or reskinned version of an old success. Bioshock Infinite can comfortably stand alone on its city in the sky. There are no iconic sub-characters/enemies such as the Big Daddies or Little Sisters, but the game takes a much sharper focus on the main characters’ personalities, development and emotional ties, rather than using a silent character and having the story be in the world and environment. This plays out extremely well and gives us one of the best game finales this generation, if not of all time. People will be talking about this one for a long time to come.
BioShock Infinite is a game that has received a lot of hype. With our review publishing after the majority of other reviews had already given it a perfect score, I went into the game looking for the negatives. I wanted to find something wrong, some annoyance, or anything to not buy into the hype. Truth be told, the negatives are not to be found, or if they are, they are so minor that they do not at all mar the finish of the rest of the game. BioShock Infinite is honestly as near perfect as a game can get and should not be missed.