Post Game Wrap-up: Bioshock Infinite

Posted: November 8, 2013 in Current Gaming, Post Game Wrap-up
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Bioshock Infinite

Recently, I finally got around to playing through Bioshock Infinite, finishing it about a week ago. I thought it might be fun to throw out some of my thoughts on the game regarding how it played and my enjoyment of it. I’ll avoid major story spoilers since this is still a new-ish game and there are some amazing twists to be had in the plot.

The Set-up:
You are Booker Dewitt and have been tasked with traveling to the flying city of Columbia to retrieve a girl named Elizabeth. Presumably, this rescue/retrieval mission will clear you of a debt you owe those that have requested you undergo this mission.

“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.”

The Story:
This was definitely my favorite aspect of the game. Just as in previous Bioshock games, you will witness a living, breathing world full of dynamic situations. Small details about the history of the city are presented through silent movies, posters, overheard conversations, etc… All of this is meant to inform you of what is going on in Columbia, it’s history and current state. Once you rescue Elizabeth though, the true plot and narrative kick in.

The story is a bit complicated to follow and demands that you pay attention to minor details and find as many Voxophones (recordings) as possible. The game designers don’t pander to you in this respect. To understand the plot, you must commit yourself to the game, otherwise you will simply be traveling from one scenario to the next with no insight on why you are doing so. Doing so will also make your connection to Elizabeth that much richer, as her relationship with Booker, told via narrative and cut-scenes, is very deep and intriguing to watch unfold throughout the game. Essentially, to ignore the plot devices of this game is to miss out on the richest portion of the entire experience.

Though this game couldn’t match its namesake, I was impressed that it still managed to surprise me right up through the ending, when a final revelation will twist all you previously knew about the game. It is very admirable that the writers were able to spin a narrative around quantum mechanics and alternate realities without making you feel cheated as the player, or using those as plot devices to more easily resolve story threads.

Believe it or not, but this does eventually make sense.

Believe it or not, this does eventually make sense.

The Gameplay:
As high as I was on the story of Bioshock Infinite, I was less impressed with the actual gameplay. Bioshock and Bioshock 2 felt as if they belonged in the same family as a game series such as Metroid Prime. First Person Adventures, if you will. They bucked the conventions of First Person Shooters to form their own rules with great success. Infinite, on the other hand, seemed to want to belong to both groups. Instead of a weapon wheel, you are limited to the traditional two gun rule of standard FPS games. In my case, this meant that I spent most of the game with the same two guns: a machine gun for a high clip count and crowd control and a shotgun for brute force. Not knowing what lay ahead, I was unwilling to go with a weapon that could potentially handicap me. The limitation on weapon usage resulted in me missing out on what could have been a richer experience.

It also seemed as if the combat was much more of the shooter variety. You have a shield that absorbs a certain amount of damage and will recharge if you find a place to hide, and hiding and cover are necessities. If you go in full steam in a fire fight, you’ll be torn to shreds. I may be remembering incorrectly, but I don’t recall having this mechanic in the previous two games and, again, it struck me as very mundane. In Bioshock, I could tackle enemies in a variety of ways. In Infinite, I felt as if there was a proper way to approach combat and I was penalized if I didn’t engage in that manner. Also, the Handyman. Geez!

I mean, seriously?

I mean, seriously?

All of that said, the world of Infinite really is beautifully designed and, when you aren’t involved in a firefight, is an extreme joy to explore. In this area, I feel it stands right alongside Bioshock. Just walking into a store and looking at the items on the shelves is interesting. Reading the posters and overhearing conversations, even when not plot related, is quite fun. As I said earlier, you really feel that this world is going on when you aren’t there. That is really the greatest compliment I can give the design of of Columbia. I truly found it to be a city that was alive outside of my own involvement.

The inclusion of Elizabeth as a partner is also worthy of much praise. This game could have easily turned into a terrible “take care of your ward” type of game, but avoids that by smartly making Elizabeth invulnerable to attack (outside of story related elements). You may be accompanying her, but she is easily able to take care of herself and often will toss you supplies or point out supplies you can pick up. She also breaks up the shooting element of the game by bringing in helpful elements via her tears in reality. These range from automated gunners and cover to supplies and guns you can pick up to better handle present enemies. Other developers should take note of how the developers handled this aspect because it is the perfect way to include a character that will be tagging along with you, the player.

I really wanted to like Bioshock Infinite more than I ultimately did. I just couldn’t get past thinking that it would have been better with a few of the conventions from the previous games included. That said, it is still a very good game and the story is truly top notch. I would definitely recommend it to anyone that played the first two games, I just don’t feel that it lived up to the bar they set. It was a case for me of fighting through the gameplay to get closure on the story and plot, which truly is the bread and butter of Bioshock Infinite.



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