Bioshock Infinite takes the series in a different but similar direction. While Bioshock one and two were based underwater Infinite is based high in the sky. Different extremes but essentially the same scenario; a city made for privileged individuals. Unfortunately, the city of Columbia did not elicit the same wonder and awe I felt when I first visited the city of Rapture. When all you have to look at is a bunch of buildings and open air, the background world simply does not awe the player as much as an underwater location filled with a variety of creatures and plant life.
The graphics are well done with character models appearing distinct and attractive. Animation is very well done with enemies and other NPCs moving fluidly and convincingly. The world itself is beautiful for what it is and each local has a distinct look and feel. Item and weapon models are great as well with each looking distinct.
The gameplay of Bioshock Infinite is not what I was expecting. Being used to the systems in place for the first two Bioshock games, Infinite simply ends up feeling just standard. Vigor’s, the replacements for plasmids, mostly functioned similarly to each other. Most vigor’s have a standard thrown attack and a proximity mine attack. Basically you can throw fireball/electricity/crows or you can place them. They also do basically the same things to enemies, causing vulnerability and stunning them. The other vigor’s were ultimately useless and in my play through were not used more than a few times just to try them out. The only really unique vigor allowed the player to violently push or pull an enemy or enemies. The vigor that got the most use in my play through was the Shock Jockey. There was simply no reason to switch to others. There are upgrades to the vigor’s throughout the game that have to be purchased which add functionality to them. Similarly disappointing is the weapons in the game. There are many weapons in the game but unfortunately the player can only carry two at a time. How standard. There are pistols, machine guns, shotguns, rockets and other more unique weapons. Limiting the player to only two weapons at a time severely lowers the options for players. It was often difficult to find the weapon I wanted and eventually I settled on a massively powerful pistol and whatever else was available at the time.
You often got enough ammo that changing weapons was simply unnecessary. The weapons also have upgrades that can be purchased that increase effectiveness but unfortunately the player will be unable to purchase all of them in a single play through it seems. Not that it matters because you can only carry two weapons, so the player will just find a couple that are effective, upgrade them and stick with them. A new and very welcome element to the series is “gear”. The player can equip up to four pieces of gear which have a variety of different effects such as decreasing reload speed or increasing damage for specific attacks among many others. Engagements with enemies are fairly standard and on the normal difficulty level provided almost no challenge. The automatically recharging shield made engagements slow and repetitive with the player often finding a hiding spot to recharge. No personal health restores on hand makes this happen a lot more than they would like. The intense engagements present against Big Daddy’s in the original two games are nowhere to be found in Infinite. Instead the player faces generic enemies and, on occasion, unique enemies that require slight strategy to beat. The Handy Man being the most difficult and similar to a Big Daddy simply does not present a similar challenge. The skylines that the player is able to traverse in specific environments and encounters add little to the options of the player and in my playthrough I rarely used them outside of necessary travel. The only really unique gameplay element is the “tears” that the player’s companion can open to create marginally useful items, cover, skyhook points, and NPCs that fight for the player. Another feature that in my playthrough was used rarely. All of the gameplay features are solid and work well but ultimately many of the gameplay features were simply unnecessary to complete the game unless they were needed to progress.
The fairly standard gameplay is fortunately combined with one of the best stories told in videogames. I would personally even go so far to say that it is ultimately better than the original Bioshock. Coupled with fantastic voice acting and superb set piece moments that excellently convey the story, Bioshock Infinite is a game that should be played not for its gameplay, but rather for its story, its characters and its world. In particular the players companion throughout much of the game, Elizabeth, is one of the most incredible characters I have ever interacted with in a videogame. Her mannerisms, personality, interactions and development over the course of the game are realistic and engaging. When she is happy, sad or angry she shows it convincingly. Her expressions change and so does her body language. I as the player, as Booker DeWitt felt that I had to protect this woman no matter what. Not many games have elicited that kind of feeling from me. On the other hand, the player’s character, Booker, is not very relatable and did not interest me until late in the game. The antagonist, Comstock, is on par with the original Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan. But what made the entire game completely worth playing for me as the player, despite the many issues I had with it, was the ending. The creators of Bioshock Infinite crafted what is in my experience, the best ending to a video game I have seen. Wonder, awe and revelations culminate in an ending that simply must be experienced by anyone with even the slightest interest in the game. Completely worth the ride.