It feels like years have passed since Irrational Games announced that they would be following up their monumental hit video game BioShock with a new title. In fact it was two years back at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) 2011 when the teaser trailer for BioShock Infinite rocked the gaming world. Internet conversation around the game questioned if they were going to be able to match the emotion and adrenaline rush of the original. People wanted to know if the game mechanics would remain the same and what about the new city in the sky would change. Slowly, details were revealed through new trailers and interviews here and there and the anticipation for BioShock Infinite grew to epic levels.
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Release date: March 26
Today, BioShock Infinite is in stores and has not only reset the bar for the first person shooter genre, but has redefined the concept of how NPCs (non-playable characters) work in the gameplay and storytelling of video games. To play BioShock Infinite is what every game aims to be. An experience. Not only does this game nail it in the engagement department, it cleverly mixes in hot-button issues such as race, religion and philosophy in a way that neither comes off preachy nor trivial.
Anyone new to the BioShock universe, shouldn't worry about not having played the previous titles as there is no connection at all. BioShock and BioShock 2 are set in the underwater city of Rapture during the 1940s. BioShock Infinite tells a completely different story that takes place in 1912 in Columbia, a city in the sky. You play as the main character, Booker Dewitt who comes in contact with a mysterious woman named Elizabeth who has been locked in a tower all of her life. For whatever reason, someone wants her badly and is willing to wipe out a huge debt for the deliverance of her. As Booker, you have no idea of what's going on, who everyone is and why you're in the position you're in. One thing is for sure, there is something big about to happen and you're in the middle of it.
Throughout the game, you face an assortment of enemies from cultists of the revered Columbia founder Comstock to robots that look like George Washington with guns that will shred you into taco meat. The constant threat of danger is everywhere and it's that high level of paranoia that will keep you playing for hours.
If you're at all familiar with the way anime tells stories, you'll notice the similarities. Character development is a slow but steady build and the story is often punctuated with a load of oh-s*** moments. Many of these moments take jabs at old world Americana like a sideshow that you attend which turns out to be the humiliation of an interracial couple or Booker being baptized by religious extremists to get what he needs. BioShock Infinite doesn't pull any punches with sensitive topics but presents them with thoughtful maturity and historical context. Some of the characters are grossly racist, sexist and every other kind of bad thing that ends with an 'ist, but it's not done for shock. It creatively paints the complexities of the society you're in and as you play through the game and realize the history of Columbia, it all makes sense.
The greatest thing BioShock Infinite has to offer is it's amazing combat system. The basic FPS mechanics of the old BioShock games are still there but the addition of Elizabeth's battle assistance is mind-blowing in a few ways.
Usually, in a fire-fight you'd have to run around to find ammo, health and other things to keep you going. Elizabeth takes care of all that by throwing you what you need. Keep in mind that Liz can run out of supplies but as you take down enemies, she will continue to hunt for stuff while you fight. One of Elizabeth's other bonuses is that she can tear holes into the dimension and access additional weapons and supplies. This mind you is a part of the metaphysical philosophy that's attached to the overall story.
Fans of the franchise will notice immediately that the old plasmids that gave you special powers in the first two BioShock games have been replaced by Vigors. These offer the same type of spell abilities as before but with a couple of changes. You can now combine effects to cause more damage. The best example of this is with the "Murder of Crows" and "Devil's Kiss" vigors. What you'd do is cast "Murder of Crows" and send a flock of killer crows at your enemy, then cast "Devil's Kiss" to set them aflame. Watching your foes scream as flaming birds pick at their flesh is so satisfying that you'd probably feel a bit of guilt afterwards for having so much fun.
There aren't a great deal of weapons in the game but the ones you do have aren't just for show. You can equip pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers and pick up mini-guns from the George Washington robots (Heavy Hitters). Each weapon in BioShock Infinite serves a purpose as some will be ineffective against certain enemies and highly effective against others. It may sound like pain as you read this but trust, once you start switching up guns and vigors, you'll be amazed at how much chaos can come out of one person.
Another new feature of BioShock Infinite is the skyline system that you'll be using to get around to certain areas. It looks intimidating at first but it's quite easy to use. There's no need to fear falling off or missing a skyline rail as the process is automatic. However, there is a bit of timing needed to jump off at the right places. Again, you won't fall off into the great abyss but skyline travel is so fast that you could miss your stop if you're not paying attention.
For the $60 price tag, BioShock Infinite is well worth the money. It's as close to perfect as any video game can get and there's enough gameplay to last for a long time (depending on your life schedule). If you're looking for a game that's challenging, fun to play and thought provoking at the same time, this is it. The long awaited sequel to BioShock's universe is truly a skyline ride that you will hope never ends.