From the moment you enter into BioShock Infinite’s alternate world of 1912 you’re set on an uneasy path of redemption over your shrouded past. Enter the city of Columbia and you’re greeted with good intentions and soothing music. It just goes to show that we’re all just playing into the hands of Irrational Games. But with the change of setting, does BioShock still feel like a world that you want to get lost in? Is Infinite really a continuation of the series, or is Bioshock best kept underwater?
From the very start Columbia’s atmosphere envelopes you, dragging you headfirst into the world around you. Somehow – I’m not sure if it’s the music or the environment itself – somewhere in the first fifteen minutes you become Booker. After that, nothing else matters. You’ll become so involved that you just won’t want to let go, wishing you could revisit Columbia again and again for a new hit of sky-high fun – even if Booker’s aims are somewhat selfish by nature.
Having set out to the rumored floating city on the back of picking up a bounty to clear his debt, Booker soon becomes enthralled with Elizabeth – just like you will. The twists and turns that befall Booker also make for many edge-of-your-seat moments, more-so than in BioShock or its sequel. Columbia’s lighter tone, due to being bathed in light and fresh air, is a wonderful change from the dreary and dated underwater dystopia of Rapture. However, beneath this turn-of-the-century outer shell lies a chewy nougat of deceit, paranoia and false prophets.
While previous BioShock knowledge isn’t necessary, series familiars will feel largely at home when picking up a pad – despite some tweaks, additions and minor name changes. For one, there’s a fair few more guns to get to grips with this time around, as each type of gun comes in different flavours. Plasmids are technically no more, instead eight Vigors – with a name that is no doubt a reference to the new setting – are available to embue you with powers. Even their abilities have been culled back from the vast range previously available. You’ve still got your Fireball and Electricity augments, but they come alongside new abilities that let you levitate enemies and summon a swarm of crows, to give but a few examples. EVE has also disappeared, being replaced by Salts, but money is really what’s important in Infinite as weapons and Vigor upgrade stations are far more plentiful than ever before – each one requiring cash to make a purchase.
You grab the famed Skyhook early on and plays a larger part than just letting you navigate between the floating platforms of Columbia. It’s also a powerful melee weapon with a brutal finishing move. Thanks to the Skyhook’s abilities, you can take advantage of your environment to make tactical decisions to get the drop on enemies or deal more damage with some Skyhook fulled momentum. You’ve also got Gears to collect, which are scattered around the city and require you to do a little bit of exploring to find them. Attaching them to your head, torso, arms or legs gives you various bonuses that can really help you out by offering up faster reloads and stat resistances among others.
As expected, things are rather spiffing in the visuals department, with only a few hitches coming to console versions – which are supposedly not present on a mid to high-end PC. But graphics are only one layer of the majesty that Irrational have thrown at the page of BioShock Infinite. Combined with the immersive music and the deep world – rich in ambient NPC activity and a world that genuinely seems bustling instead of abandoned, Columbia is just a world waiting to be explored, and you’ll be more than happy to take it up on that offer.
Taking in the much harder, and much touted, “1999” mode into account – which harks back to System Shock 2‘s style of difficulty where your decisions have a huge impact on gameplay – alongside various collectables and a rather substantial campaign length, BioShock Infinite offers up quite the experience. It may have its divisive issues, ones that we are firmly on-side for, but it’s hard to truly explain just how wonderful Columbia is. It’s hard to explain how charming and engaging Elizabeth is to play alongside, and it’s hard to convey just how much better this is over previous BioShock titles. Maybe in time this will become a firmly rose-tinted experience, but for now everyone owes it to themselves to experience the world of Columbia.
Visual/Audio – 5/5: The sights and sounds of Columbia are superb and immensely immersive.
Gameplay – 5/5: True to BioShock form and offers many playstyle options.
Innovation – 5/5: Unique story ideas but the overall experience remains untouched, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Value – 4/5: Story is an experience itself and begs to be played but ‘1999’ is only there for the sadistic.
Final Score: 4.5/5
- Anthony reviewed Bioshock: Infinite on PlayStation 3 -