2013-03-26_00040

Like many people, I’ve been playing Bioshock Infinite since its release, my thoughts on the game below.

I managed to avoid most of the spoilers about this game, I watched just enough to see it was going to be good, then I pre-ordered it and went on an information black out ever since. Having been a big fan of the original Bioshock, although skipping Bioshock 2 completely ( I felt the story was concluded without a sequel), I was definitely ready for some more from Ken Levine and his team at Irrational.

Bioshock Infinite looks beautiful, from the moment you start playing the game it oozes the kind of quality that pulls you into the world and makes you want to explore. The opening sequence and tutorial sections alone are brilliantly created, narrating to you and teaching you gameplay mechanics in an entertaining way, without ever feeling forced. As with its predessesor Bioshock, the choice of music and sound effects are excellent and seem perfectly for the setting.

For much of the game you are joined by Elizabeth, who is as vital to your gameplay as she is to the storyline. Irrational have done a fantastic job with this character, she could have easily been a crutch to the gameplay or an annoyance you have to protect during combat but thankfully, Elizabeth has been given as much thoughtful attention to her function and personality as her narrative and visual appeal. There is a small issue with Elizabeth’s pre-recorded lock picking commands, which occasionally jar with some heavy story bomb moments. Times when Elizabeth should be solemn or angry are broken by boastful or happy lock pick feedback responses which are obviously recorded in isolation from the story line.

The gameplay is both familiar and unique in it’s designs, at first you learn the basics of movement, shooting and melee. Gradually as you work your way further into the game you discover ways to fight and traverse the areas using “skyways”, the cities elevated rails or “skyhooks”, conveniently placed points for you to grapple onto and elevate yourself for platforming. Later the options during combat get even deeper as you discover ways to involve cover or allied machines, out of sync with the world in which you are a part of. With Elizabeth’s help you can bring one of these objects into existence at a time, which yet layers another fantastic strategy level to the combat.

Beyond the environments you have a set of weapons you can upgrade multiple times, as well as Infinites own version of the Plasmid powers from Bioshock known as Vigors, also with their own upgrades. I have to say while these do work sufficiently alongside the clothing collectibles, they don’t quite feel as good as those of Bioshock. The gun upgrades didn’t appear to actually modify the weapon models and so felt slightly unsatisfying, much of the clothing seems focused on using skylines too.  Although I collected many of the clothing options throughout the game, I found the original 3-4 items I equipped to be most suitable for the majority of the gameplay because of such a heavy almost forced focus upon skyline dependent clothing abilities.

It irked me I couldn’t carry more than two guns, I realize this probably tied into Elizabeth having more of a role, passing you ammo for the guns you carried, but I did feel it was unnecessary and went against the games experimental combat options. The selection of Vigors are interesting, ranging from turning enemies into allies, summoning a flock of crows to attack your enemies, electrocuting them or simply throwing them into the air. I only upgraded three of these so there were easily enough alternatives to have a completely new experience of weapons and powers on a second play through.

I played the game on normal difficulty and felt that was quite a comfortable experience. There are plenty of ways to heal up, including an armored shield that can absorb some damage, Elizabeth occasionally throwing you additional money, ammo or health, and the forgiving respawn rather than reload mechanic, the game never felt difficult. Admittedly sometimes it made no sense that Elizabeth saves you after you die, especially if you happen to fall off one of the cities floating districts, but it’s a small “game” feature, which simply replaces the need to reload and try again so is appreciated nonetheless.

The real crux of the game is its story line  from the moment you begin playing the game draws you into a strange world, full of questions and more questions. As your progress through it the story is carefully crafted to enhance the players expeirence, gently drawing them further into the mind of the main protagonist and his trusty sidekick Elizabeth. If I could criticize the story on anything, and I would be very harsh to do so, I’d say the ending goes on a little too long and still manages to leave a true conclusion open to interpretation.

Bioshock Infinite is a game all gamers should play, while it isn’t without some minor gameplay niggles, it is a masterclass in how to make a first person, single player game.

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