In 2007 BioShock took the first-person shooter genre and injected new life into the stale genre at the beginning of the console generation and BioShock: Infinite did the same at the end. If you read my review you know that I absolutely loved BioShock: Infinite and stated that it was “not only contender for game of the year but best game of this generation”. The stellar story, amazing characters, incredible presentation and satisfying combat mechanics had me playing through the game multiple times even after unlocking all the achievements. While some agreed with my statement others either thought it was too flattering. Recently I was asked by a colleague, Senior Editor Daav, to elaborate on why I think BioShock: Infinite was worthy of the title of Greatest Game of this Generation. Traveling back to Columbia with information that I already know decided if I can still stand by my comment or accept that it was simply because of the heat of the moment, fortunately it wasn’t.
When BioShock: Infinite was first announced in 2010 it was shocking to see the series take on a new setting. The developers teased us by showing the viewers Rapture, complemented with its signature theme, only to have the protagonist ripped from a fish tank and throw from window. This was the first time we were treated to the floating city of Columbia, the ultra-nationalist propaganda and Elizabeth. The next 2 years was filled with snippets of information detailing the development of Columbia that included the Civil War, Zachary Comstock, and The Songbird.
Fast-forward 2 years and now we can now walk through Columbia for the first time and that captivating feeling that I only felt once before when I entered the bathysphere and was transported to Rapture. The neoclassical buildings constructed on balloons filled with atoms that float indefinitely are saturated with secrets that are waiting to be uncovered, but unlike Rapture these secrets weren’t all hidden but spoken throughout the populist. Traveling throughout the landscape and listening to the citizen's talk about the current events, personal issues, religious ideology, and hearing children play in the streets made Columbia stand out. This was a living world with an established culture that didn’t shy away from sensitive issues such as racism, racial supremacy and the massive class separation that was present during the early 1900s. It’s a city where religious and political passion intertwines to create the American dream within a nightmare that Booker must attempt to survive.
As amazing as the city Columbia is the people who inhabit this paradise in the sky are just as extraordinary. These NPC’s aren’t mindless but active characters that each conveyed their own personal ideals, problems and stories. Simply traveling throughout the environment and listening to each person speak offered insight into the cultural background of the period and Columbia. Whether it was the strange dialogue from the major character like the Lutuces or a stage show exhibiting a new product each character brought life to what is suppose to be a digital world.
One of the most popular additions in the BioShock franchise in the inclusion of audio logs left behind by citizens. Like Rapture the people of Columbia use audio diaries called Voxophones to record their own personal stories that breathe more life into this mysterious world. Learning about how certain people, important and minor, live each day added more depth into the already amazing story. Whether standing in front of Booker or listening to them on their Voxophones these virtual characters made an already stunning environment feel alive.
Speaking of the story it begins with a simple objective, you’re Booker DeWitt a former Pinkerton Agent and war veteran charged with bringing a girl named Elizabeth to New York in exchange from wiping away a debt. It isn’t long before you’re confronting with many mysterious of Columbia, but the most threatening being the mark on Booker’s hand. This marks Booker as an enemy of the religious and political leader of Columbia, Zachary Comstock, and is branded an Anti-Christ forcing Booker to run. Things become increasingly more complicated as you learn about Elizabeth’s special abilities to peer into other times and places while attempting to escape the city while a Civil War rages in the streets. The characters you meet and see in Booker’s and Elizabeth’s relationship develop make every portion of this journey delightful.
BioShock: Infinite didn’t have the same advantage that the original BioShock did, instead now you expect a twist is coming. Irrational Games teases enough information to convince the player that they could possibly predict what the big secret is but trust me when I say you won’t see it coming. During the entire time I playing I expected it to come at any moment and thought I had it figured out, but when Columbia’s biggest secrets were unlocked I was stunned. A moment of genuine shock that most games fail to create, the same feeling that will make me remember BioShock: Infinite and compare it to other games for a long time.
But an excellent story is enough to be the Game of this Generation, it have to play well. BioShock: Infinite is largely an escort game but unlike Ico, Resident Evil 4, or any other escort game your partner isn’t an incompetent annoyance. Elizabeth is the the reason for Booker came to Columbia and is the best AI controlled ally you can have. Where Mono and Ashley required constant attention and aid Elizabeth requires none, instead Booker is at a disadvantage when she leaves his side. Elizabeth somehow can avoid bullets and provide Booker for necessary equipment, ammunition, advice and medical aid when needed. Elizabeth’s special powers seep into the gameplay, allowing Booker to access different things from other dimensions such as turrets, barriers and Skyhooks. She isn’t only simply there because her presents are essential to the story but provides essential assistance in combat.
Elizabeth isn’t only a great combat ally on the battlefield; her performance throughout the story is unforgettable. From the moment you rescue Elizabeth from her capacious prison you see her evolve from a naive enthusiast girl, unaware of the world outside from books, into an adult who realizes that the world is full of both beauty and destruction. It was hard to believe, during my second playthrough, that the girl blissfully dancing on the sunny beach was the same girl at the end of Booker’s adventure. However it’s clear from Daav’s review that she didn’t leave the same impression on him as she did for me. While Booker and Elizabeth are constantly in the spotlight the conflict between Columbia’s dominant fractions, the Founders and the Vox Populi, are what propel most of the story. Seeing Columbia ravaged because of their hatred and desire for victory that fuel both sides to create such carnage is jaw-dropping. The clean streets and calm setting from the first portion of the game is slowly replaced with fear and dead bodies. However you realize that this didn’t happen instantly but was building throughout the city till it erupted into mayhem.
This is a video game and if it isn’t fun to play than everything else can fall apart. As Booker DeWitt you're armed with an array of traditional weapons as well as special powers in the form of liquids in bottles called Vigors. However nothing in Booker's arsenal compares to the Skyhook. Remember when this unique piece of technology was first teased? In the BioShock: Infinite trailer in 2010 Booker used a different weapon to knock the loyalist off the Skyline while using the Skyhook for transport. Repurposed as a weapon these mechanical marvels are used to travel on the Skylines at high speed and as brutal weapons capable of shredding an adult person’s belly into pieces. Similar to Jack’s wrench you can upgrade the Booker’s Skyhook with multiple properties such as elemental damage and health draining to conserve ammo. However the best use of this weapon was leaping to unimaginable heights and riding the sky-line at high speeds while shooting your gun like Rambo.
Why is this metal hook one of the reasons I believe that BioShock: Infinite is the best game of this generation, because it’s fun. Using the Skyhook to leap into the air and clamp into a magnetic hook to shoot enemies, to make a quick escape or to leap onto an adversary and send them off the side of Columbia is thrilling. It’s delightful to use the various of weapons and Vigors available to Booker but they never capture the same brutality of snapping someone’s neck with a mechanical hook. BioShock: Infinite is well-known for its story, Elizabeth and Columbia but using the Skyhook is definitely one of the highlights of the entire game.
Like other games BioShock: Infinite has its flaws with padded fights towards the final portion of the game and lack of choices as hard-hitting as the Little Sister dilemma from the previous BioShock games. However I never felt vexed about these issues, as I did during the final half of the first BioShock, and enjoyed traveling throughout Columbia despite having certain moral choices that were shown and discussed during its development stripped. Irrational Games has used humanity’s greatest contradictions and atrocities to synthesize an original title that will make you smile with its soaring accomplishments, and I’ll say it again BioShock: Infinite is the best game of this generation.
Read my review on Bioshock: Infinite here. Score: 95/100