BioShock Infinite. Infinitely thought-provoking, infinitely beautiful and infinitely brilliant.
Game journalists are universally acclaiming BioShock Infinite to be the game that defines this generation, an experience which is perfect and an outstanding achievement. For the most part I have to agree.
Ken Levine and his team at Irrational games had a huge task at creating something that could equal the original BioShock and in many aspects they achieve this.
It is a well know fact that the previous iterations of BioShock have firmly focused on a gripping narrative and to my joy the narrative of BioShock Infinite is crafted masterfully and is among the best of emerging and thought-provoking narratives in any form of media. The guess-work and assumptions you’ll make all add up to a climatic ending which provides this epic journey with a simply mind-blowing conclusion that will have you talking and thinking about for months and probably years to come. It is also very impressive that BioShock Infinite includes elements of taboo subjects, such as racism, which in the eyes of some are controversial to include in a video game; for example one review I have read stated BioShock Infinite was “Marxist indoctrination.” However in truth this latest instalment of BioShock doesn’t include these elements to tackle or showcase them but instead to explore the issues presented in ways mainstream modern media rarely attempts; this is extremely refreshing and a glorious achievement for Ken Levine and his fellow writers.
The development of characters is also fantastic and along with the included audio log system, any player can indulge him/herself within the vivid lore of Columbia and the BioShock universe if they deem fit. Furthermore Irrational Games have created both a voiced protagonist and AI partner that are utterly incredible. Booker is a fascinating lead character that never reveals too much or acts as a barrier for emersion and Elizabeth is firmly within the top ranking companions of video game history. Why you may ask? Because at no point does she become a chore, instead an intriguing character that I couldn’t wait to see react to every new situation.
The presentation of Bioshock Infinite is perhaps one of my favourites in video game history as the art style and graphic style are simply mesmerising along with a fantastic soundtrack. The introduction to Columbia, for example, is one of the most glorious openings to date. Oh and I’ll mention the a cappella Beach Boys, yes you heard me correctly.
Gameplay, which concentrates around shooting many enemies, is extremely enjoyable. Although several original mechanics such as ‘hacking’ have been removed, the new ‘Skyline’ system is a fantastic addition although not overly emphasised. Plus the inventive and satisfying variation of guns somewhat makes up for the two gun carry limit and the limited amount of ‘Vigors’. However it must be noted though that the throughout the game you’ll probably pick your two favourite weapons and just effectively and efficiently dispatch all foes without any issues or the need to swap guns. This somewhat dulls down the shooting mechanic and thus gameplay can seem a little too generic at times; my advice would be to experiment… Trust me you’ll enjoy some of the sadistic combos! Furthermore BioShock Infinite contains too many ‘arena’ style scenarios of just kill 20 enemies before moving on; this gets repetitive fast and in my opinion somewhat ruins the atmosphere of certain areas.
Unfortunately BioShock Infinite is not perfect and as you complete the game several of the weaknesses and poorer elements become clear. For example, without doubt, the pacing of the game as a whole is the game’s biggest weakness. For just over 10 hours of gameplay Creative Director Ken Levine attempts to convey a vast amount of different ideas, plot elements and intriguing twists. Unfortunately the length and pacing of the game rushes these fantastic narrative ideas and thus many players may not fully appreciate or understand several concepts of the game’s plot, including the precious ending. I feel that if the game was expanded to about 20 hours in length, by slowing down portions of the game, it would allow narrative concepts to be conveyed more thoroughly whilst emphasising some of the games finest areas that are rushed through too quickly during the plot; for example ‘The Asylum’.
Regardless of several negatives, BioShock Infinite is still without doubt a game which will and rightly should be among the defining experiences of this generation of video games. Irrational Games have created a plot that must truly be experienced by all. A developer has finally ignored the need for tacked on multiplayer elements and instead focused on creating a narrative which is breathtaking, literally. Come the end of this year, BioShock Infinite will certainly be sweeping the gaming awards and topping nearly all top games of the year lists; including mine. Every gamer must own this game. Well done Ken Levine, well done Irrational Games, well done BioShock Infinite.