BioShock Infinite review
What is it?
Emerging from the briny deep of Rapture, the latest instalment of the BioShock first-person shooter franchise ascends to the heavens, set on the floating city of Columbia. You become Booker DeWitt, who upon arriving in this cloudy utopia in 1912, quickly realises that it’s not as serene as it seems (be kinda boring if it was).
Although definitely showing its last-gen age, BioShock Infinite has a lovingly realised Columbia; from the airborne city islands to the sky-rails gleaming in the sunshine, this is a world that can take your breath away as easily as Rapture. However, Infinite is a very different beast to its predecessors and, in many ways, developer Irrational Games should be applauded for that.
Combat and action feels much more vertical and open compared to BioShock’s tight confines. You can dole out death with a huge range of guns and vigor special abilities (replacing plasmids). Sick a murder of crows on enemies, blast them off the edge with a jet of water or just make them fight each other; it’s all possible in this aerial world of carnage.
Booker is an OK lead character, but Elizabeth makes the story. She’s no damsel in distress, but in fact can hold her own in battle and even help you by foraging for supplies or opening time-bending ‘tears’ unlocking useful things like remote guns and cover. As you travel through the game, you learn more about the deep dark secret that lies within this troubled woman.
As with previous BioShock games, Infinite expertly threads weighty ideas from philosophy, theology and politics into an all-out first-person shooter. Also like previous iterations, its central theme is of one man’s grand yet unbridled vision for a better tomorrow, and how that inevitably consumes itself and everyone around it.
The original BioShock felt cloyingly tense; each stage like a new ring on your descent into hell. Tougher enemies were always introduced, but expert pacing made it feel like a terrifying yet always joyous dream to play through. Infinite tries to repeat this trick, but something isn’t totally right in the city of Columbia (aside from the fact that it’s floating).
Enemies come thick and fast, so much so that killing them becomes rather mundane. Here’s the pattern – enter an area, trigger a fight, kill all the enemies, move on, repeat. Music strikes up every time you get into combat, but the fighting’s so regular that the rather annoying tune flicks on and off as though a hyperactive idiot has seized control of the pub jukebox.
You frequently have to backtrack over areas you’ve already been through and seemingly fight the same foes. It can be fun, but also rather a slog at times and that reduces the impact. The vigor powers are great, but there are a lot of them and the choice is a bit overwhelming. There are so many guns and plentiful ammunition that it becomes like a shooting gallery.
Possibly the biggest issue is that BioShock’s undersea setting created a sense of persistent claustrophobia that added to the tense horror. By contrast, being up in the clouds just doesn’t feel the same. With Rapture, you were sucked reluctantly into a city of the damned; with Columbia, you dive head first into a bright and breezy amusement park where murder is fair game.
Quit or continue?
It’s a continue as the good stuff is good enough, but if you played the original BioShock prepare to be slightly disappointed. BioShock Infinite lacks the same impact, polish and flair of the 2007 masterpiece. In moving proceedings to the wide blue yonder, some of the magic has been left under the ocean waves below.