“Bioshock Infinite” is finally here, and I couldn't be more excited!
Since E3 2011, “Bioshock Infinite” has been pretty much everyone's most anticipated game. “Bioshock” (released in 2007) has been one of the most critically acclaimed series of this console generation for its incredibly intriguing story, moral choices, and most importantly, its setting.
The first two games where set in an underwater city called Rapture, which was one of the most integral parts of the game because it provided story elements and set the tone for the whole game. It was one of the first games in memory where it felt like the city was a character. The gameplay wasn't anything that special; it was essentially just a first-person shooter, but the immersive story and environment is what made “Bioshock” special. One of the things Irrational Games is good at is making each of their game worlds feel plausible by developing a narrative and setting that really bring everything to life and make each moment unforgettable. They don't rely on huge cutscenes – the whole story is told with audio logs and in-game moments, and it couldn't be better.
In the third installment, we move out of the depths of the ocean and ascend to the sky. “Bioshock Infinite” takes place in the city of Colombia, a majestic city floating in the clouds, no longer under the sea. Players now get to experience a brightly colored open world held in the sky by giant zeppelins. It sounds like it has to be the distant future, but it is supposed to be an alternate version of 1912. Colombia is a marvel of technology; it is meant to be a traveling world's fair, but over the years, the city has disappeared from the world and all of the people onboard have set up their own society, along with their own political views and allegiances. The world is simply breathtaking; the graphics are fantastic and have an original artistic style. The game also contains a great cast of characters that make this game an emotional rollercoaster. Colombia feels like a real city; it's full of townspeople in the streets and it even has political propaganda on its buildings. You can tell Colombia has a real history.
The main protagonist is Booker DeWitt, a former private detective that now has to rescue a young women named Elizabeth who has gone missing somewhere in the clouds. Booker doesn't want to be the hero of the story; he is a bit of a shady man, but he has some debts and they will be wiped clean if he rescues Elizabeth. Although Booker starts out unlikable, throughout the game he has a very interesting tale.
Early on, the game plays almost identically to the previous entries. You have your gun in one hand and your powers in the other, but when introduced to Elizabeth's aid, the game changes pretty substantially. She will aid you in battle a great deal, giving you health, money, and even changing the landscape to aid your progress. Elizabeth isn't just important to the fighting; she is also integral to the story. She elicits every emotion from sympathy to fear and even guilt. She provides most of the motivation and moves the story forward; you just want to protect her like the Big Daddies did with the Little Sisters.
The rest of the cast is amazing as well. The main antagonist is a man named Zachary Hale Comstock, a.k.a. “The Prophet,” a racist man with an agenda, similar to Andrew Ryan from the first game. Aside from this Prophet, Booker must contend with the other creatures that inhabit the world, especially Elizabeth's captor, The Songbird, a gigantic creature that follows you throughout the game. They aren't the only threats; you also have to contend with warring political factions, George Washington robots, and much more.
The battles don't feel as cramped as they did in Rapture; they are more open and allow for greater movement and faster, more hectic fights. The guns are pretty much the same, and the powers are basically just renamed versions from the first game, but most of them have secondary functions that can be upgraded. There aren't many that are useful, but some are pretty cool. The most noticeable new thing is the skyhook; it can be just devastating for melee attacks, but it can be used to ride the skylines. The skylines are metal rails that run throughout the city. Using the skyhook, you can hang from them and ride them around, creating a speedy transportation system. Even though you are flying, it doesn't feel dizzying or disorienting, which is good, and it is actually quite exhilarating.
The graphics are stunning, and the story is just as awe inspiring as the first game and will give you something to talk about for a long while. The story is a great mix of political intrigue, racism, and nationalism. It forces you to think more about these issues, and it makes for one hell of a good time. The world is rich with a ton of things to explore; it will take you 80-plus hours to find everything and see all the multiple endings – it is worth every second you put into it. “Bioshock Infinite” improves upon the series in every way and is a must-play for fans or any other gamer.
-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at rvanderveken @timesleader.com.