BioShock Infinite represents an achievement for the medium and no one should miss that.
Although the original BioShock took us underground to explore the failed dystopia known as Rapture, BioShock Infinite does the opposite and encourages us to go to Columbia, a city in the sky. Columbia seems colorful and magical at first, but it has its fair share of problems. The new setting is probably the most noticeable change in Infinite, but regardless of how you feel about this new environment, BioShock Infinite represents a fitting conclusion to one of the best video game trilogies ever made.
Underneath the colorful exterior of this vivid and well-crafted city lies a bleak and dark underbelly. Infinite deals with some risque topics, including religion, racism, men playing god, use of drugs to enhance performance and determinism vs free will, among many others, and the game seldom shies away from the themes it presents. Most events are really impactful and even though there are still carefully presented setpieces (such as the time when you see Columbia for the first time,) I found that the moments that made a profound impact on me were the subtle ones.
I often wonder at which point in life we lose interest in the marvels that surround us. When we’re children, we see everything around us as if it’s a rare phenomenon, no matter how trivial that is. This is certainly the case with Elizabeth, the girl you’re supposed to rescue from Columbia. See, Elizabeth is trapped in what she believes to be her home located on top of a statue, but scientists are experimenting on her and observing everything she does because she has extrasensory perception.
When protagonist Booker Dewitt helps her escape and Elizabeth sees the real world for the first time, she’s filled with a feeling of enchantment and awe. But there are several people trying to get her back and the only way to stop them is by using weapons and Vigors. Luckily, Elizabeth can take care of herself during combat, so you don’t need to worry about her amid chaos. Additionally, she can also collect money, ammunition and pick locks for you.
One of the dark powers that Elizabeth possesses allows her to manipulate the space-time continuum to open Tears on specific parts of the environments. In simple terms, Tears are alternate realities that you can interact with and while most of the times they represent new weapons and technologies you can use, Tears also bring anachronistic elements to 1912 Columbia, and more importantly, they allow you to travel to additional timelines. But despite these new elements, most of the time you spend in Columbia requires you to shoot firearms.
Shooting in BioShock Infinite isn’t special, but merely serviceable. There’s a variety of weapons to choose from, including pistols, hand cannons, RPGs, rifles, carbines and more. For the most part, the part where you play Infinite feels fine, but this isn’t where the game shines. The narrative, on the other hand, will remain in your memory for years to come. Apart from using generic weapons and powerful spells, you find equipment called Gear. Gear grants you access to bonus features that usually come into play during combat, allowing you to set enemies ablaze when you use melee attacks, give you bonus when you shoot them from the skyline and so on.
One of the things that became a big deal about Infinite long before the game was even out was the way in which you were going to traverse through Columbia. Soon after the game starts, you obtain a hook that you can use to hook up to the skyline, a series of rollercoaster-like tracks that connect parts of the city. Although this seemed too ambitious, the developers were able to pull this off. Climbing, traveling from place to place, dropping and attacking enemies seems really difficult when you watch someone else doing it, but performing those actions is just a matter of a few buttons presses.
Anyone who played previous BioShock games definitely remembers Plasmids, the special serums made with processed ADAM that modified the protagonist and allowed him to perform powerful attacks. Those are still here and this time around they are called Vigors, but don’t worry, you can still use them to defeat enemies in effective and creative new ways. Vigors launch enemies far away from you, set them on fire, suspend them in the air and the list goes on and on. Although you can pretty much finish the game without using Vigors, they are really entertaining to use.
The rest of the game’s structure remains pretty much unchanged which means that you’ll collect audio logs that exponentially expand the story, there are some role-playing game elements here and there and the voice acting is outstanding. But to a certain extent, BioShock Infinite plays with your expectations, since this seems like a new BioShock set in a city suspended in the air and a Song Bird (which replace Rapture and Big Daddies respectively,) but the new directions to which this new entry in the series will take you are always surprising.
Like the original BioShock, Infinite is a special title. This is a team’s vision put together consistently using everything that was learned from previous games in the series and the result of such a meticulous concoction is a convoluted piece that will be deconstructed, torn apart and brought up in conversations for decades. BioShock Infinite represents an achievement for the medium and no one should miss that.