Everything wrong with Bioshock: Infinite

Ok, maybe not everything, but a bunch of stuff is weird.

By Daavpuke, Posted 06 May 2013

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails

Whenever an article like this (or any article) appears, people are quicker to just read the title and yell “flame bait” or the sort, so let’s immediately dive into a disclaimer: Bioshock Infinite is a great game. I enjoyed it immensely and gave it a fitting score for a review elsewhere. That said, it is not the “game of the X” that it’s already being bombarded as. Originally, this article was going to be called “Why Adam is full of crap,” as to his claims in our own Bioshock infinite review and his defense plea, but that would perhaps be a bit harsh.

Again, by no means is it an overrated game; it’s just that I agree to the review and other articles, but without the hyperbole. Quite the opposite, when games get flattened by such hype nonsense, there are only rare occasions where they live up to the myth and not the facts. I can only think of a few titles, such as Portal 2 or Guild Wars 2, which stayed true to the praise they were given. I’m not even sure if I can count The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in that line and I ooze with erupting passions for that franchise. Its mere mention sends me on an illustrative ode to the thing. However, it’s undeniable that it has certain quirks, which is an understatement for gross errors in design. It doesn’t make me love the game any less, but they’re definitely omnipresent. It’s in this same compassionate embrace that I welcome Booker DeWitt’s adventure, flaws and all.

This article will assume that if you choose to read this, you have finished this title and there is nothing left to spoil. Welcome to all the things that are annoying or at least flawed in Bioshock Infinite.

 

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
Just shut up and enjoy.

Dead Space

This part would alternatively be called “Self Love,” but was changed due to the bold text creating somewhat of a dubious message. An unrelated game reference will do fine. Still, no one can dismiss that this game loves itself, a lot. It may love itself more than it loves the player, judging by the way they’re handled throughout the entire playthrough. Each transition from one shooting gallery to the next is filled with dead moments, with little to no advancing narrative, only to let the player wonder at the city of Columbia. Now, in the very first instance, this is actually a great way to drown the player in its universe before the initial twist. That part is genius. However, after every other section does this as well, it becomes stale and then it’s just busywork. Walks to take up the atmosphere range from anywhere between 5 minutes to ridiculous 15 minutes spaces with no gameplay, unless eating whole cakes out of trashcans can count as gameplay. It feels more pretentious than anything at some point. It will not improve later on, when the animosity finally picks up, as it switches shorter dead periods with convoluted ideas. There is no fine line.

 

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
No joke here; that moment was stunning and I wish I could exeprience it anew all over.

Futurama Did It

As mentioned above, the narrative and gameplay pick up as the final act approaches. More so; to say that the ending is Bioshock Infinite’s cherry on top is an understatement. That final payoff is something all its players will remember infinitely. Still, it demands suspending disbelief to buy a few grating flaws that befall every story that messes with space and time as much. I’ll admit that its gaps are tighter than shoddier presentations, such as Minor Report, but it does glance over a ton of info in a short period and expects us to swallow it all at face value. To an almost literal sense, we’re pulled by the arm to not stop and think at the ins and outs of the final verdict.

It even sets up remembrance of its lore in an interesting way, enticing players to go back, but it doesn’t stop the fact that its final steps remain rushed to run from discrepancies. After some final playthrough, these scruples will eventually sink in, as players wonder how one is possible, without the other contradicting the prior movement. While many will choose to stay in this suspended state, to stay aloft in Columbia, not everyone will follow this decision.

 

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
No, seriously, we get it. You can stop.

Know Thine Audience

This is a minor flaw, but it follows aforementioned points. Granted, Bioshock Infinite’s theming is pure genius. In fact, it’s without doubt its strongest asset. It perfectly exploits zeitgeist to mold a game that will reap karma like a Dalai Lama struck with vampirism. Any left-wing idea is pure gold and conservatism is bad; it’s just bad. There is nothing wrong with exaggeration, but as the game stretches into the hours, what feels like commentary at first, becomes bashing more and more and that may annoy anyone with even slightly different ideals. Science is being abused and pushed in the corner, while religious zealots go around making constant inhuman decisions.

At some point, this makes the otherwise gloriously twisting narrative less presentable. It invokes what can best be described as a “yeah ok, we get it” effect. Capitalism is crushing children underfoot with no concern for morality? Yeah ok, we get it. Anyone not completely in sync with the white conservative Christian is literally tortured to death? Yeah ok, we get it. Its masturbatory bliss, as long as you’re part of the in-crowd. In-crowds are often overrated, even when you’re part of them.

 

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
"Mature" gaming, my dick. If Call of Duty used gratuitous gore, David Cage would call it a "child's toy."

Cake Is Better When You Have It And Eat It Too (Entirely)

From the fractions of what I picked up about Bioshock Infinite beforehand, it didn’t want to get lobbed in with other shooters. In fact, the box reveal sparked a debate about it being generic, but the game being above that. Still, it employs every gameplay mechanism of generic shooters. Fights are always presented in simple shooting galleries; ultra-violence rules the stage to satiate bloodlust and ammo or health is constantly replenished to ease players on, to irritating degree even.

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
Credit to Deviantart user *Crescent-S for this accurate portrait.

That last one is exacerbated through weapon choices that this title fails to employ correctly. Players get presented with the most potent weapons almost instantly and with constant utilities at Booker’s disposal, there is never any need for tactics. Even special powers are optional because of it, since a rocket or shotgun to the face will work just as well. Fighting this way isn’t bad, though it could’ve been so much more.

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
I'd bang my head on the wall as well, if I were you.

Any illustration will do, but one stays in mind: In a later stage, Booker is separated from his ammo supply, as he creeps through an asylum. This should, in theory, create a tense run, as ammo grows scarce and flocks of mad men rush him. Still, as switching out a rocket launcher was never an option, I simply rounded up these lunatics as mad sheep and destroyed each room with 1 bullet. I needed 1 bullet. This section could’ve been a turning point for its game design, but instead it was a disillusioning reality of its shortcoming.

 

Bioshock: Infinite, Wrong, Glitches, Dead Space, Futurama, Thine Audience, Rails, Fails
This does not work well; enough said.

It’s Not On Rails

Oh, the precious irony of creating a literal on-rails experience for players and having it praised for some reason. As a cosmetic implementation, Columbia’s rail transport is a clever way of transitioning between airborne structures in a quick yet believable way. Once more, the visual aspect of it is spot on. Playing on these rails, however, is much less enjoyable. Shamefully, these bars are one of the only novelties that this shooter includes and it’s also the least pleasurable one. When Booker is under fire, switching to this system in a pinch yanks the player’s perspective away, which is disorienting, if you already manage to pinpoint the correct rail and therefore the right direction. Failing in doing so, while bullets fly around, results in more time being lost feeling helpless.

It’s not so much adding challenge as it is messing with the player. Challenge would’ve been great in this game, but not so much by inducing nausea. In any situation, the rails’ best uses are merely to get to the highest vantage point and remain stationary there. They are not, in themselves, practical. On the other hand, they offer a way to cheaply kill opponents instantly. Moderation is not one of Bioshock Infinite’s strong points. Everything is one extreme or the other. The game had led me to believe that extremism is bad. It is.

 

There are probably a few quirks more, but this is more than enough, lest it sounds like needless bashing. If you have additional skeptic thoughts about Bioshock Infinite, feel free to add them in the comments!

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  • I disagree with a lot of what you're saying in this article. Since you did the very same, I'll use a disclaimer as well: I can clearly see you're intelligent, so I can at least respect your perspective from that angle.
    However, I must again say, most of this article is very biased, and not at all based in facts.

    1) Dead Space - I believe you willingly admit BioShock Infinite's world is spectacular. The story is built upon the atmosphere. In some ways, Columbia IS the story. The problem is, in first person shooters you rarely get to enjoy the atmosphere. Why? Because you're constantly being shot at. Who has time to soak in the world when your life is on the line? When a huge part of your story is your game world, it becomes necessary to give players the opportunity to absorb it. Furthermore, most of the "dead moments" you mention are completely avoidable. You can almost always walk into non-hostile environments with guns blazing. A few examples of this are levels like Finkton Docks, and Shanty Town. In fact, with those two examples it's beneficial to apply the mentality of shoot first, look later. You get gear and infusions for doing so.
    To add even one more final criticism, what's wrong with taking in the sights of a beautifully crafted game world? Who dislikes having to walk through (for maybe ten minutes) a well designed leved, filled with lore and backstory?

    2) Futurama Did It - This is the criticism I least understand. To be honest, I don't really get what your gripe is. I agree, the final third act of the game has a lot of information crammed into it. But most of the information comes from voxophones, and those are saved. You can listen to them at any time. Not to mention, even by only paying moderate attention most people will get the bulk of the story. Perhaps complete understanding is hard to achieve without careful recollection of the game's events, but that's hardly something to criticize. I do agree that space and time are near impossible to involve in a story without any plot holes. But truthfully, and you agree, BioShock Infinite comes close to achieving that. In fact, the plot holes that I've heard are just a matter of opinion. Having played through it twice, and having read many breakdowns of the story, in my opinion, there really aren't any plot holes.

    3) Know Thine Audience - I might have lied, this might be the criticism I least understand. I appreciate you admitting it's a minor flaw, because I couldn't agree more. In fact, I don't think most of your opinions on this particular criticism are valid. This is, again, a heavily atmospheric story-based FPS. Gaming is, first and foremost, a storytelling medium. BioShock Infinite is Ken Levine's creation. There are many games views I don't agree with. Hell, I always wonder why I have to kill anyone that disagrees with my objective in most games. Why can't we talk it out?! But most of the viewpoints in this game are perspectives everyone should have. Some of what you're saying it preaches isn't exactly true. The main undertones of Infinite, in my opinion, are extreme religion and racism. I know a few white conservative Christians who would tell you that their religious view is not being represented in Infinite. To put it in a more real world application, think about suicide bombers. They're extremists of the Islamic religion. Non-extreme practioners of Islam would tell you that's not a part of their religion (suicide bombings). This game takes place in an alternate reality, and to be honest, it's all presented quite believably. I mean, think about it, all religions have dubious, killing backgrounds and histories. You may not agree with it, but again I must state, it's not representative of any religion. There is no "in-crowd."
    And on the racism one? Those who aren't part of the in-crowd (and are fans of slavery) are just moronic, and hate-filled. Ignorance is hardly a fair opinion to give a voice to.
    I do see the undertones of capitalism being bad. I also see the science being abused theme as well. But honestly, think about the real world once more. Isn't the same true, here in reality? Hasn't science been abused in some ways? And capitalism? Nothing needs said on that if you live in America.
    There really isn't an in-crowd on any of these themes, is my point. And if there is, it's so much a part of what should be the majority (barring idiocy and malice) of the populace that it's insulting to give a voice to those that have differing viewpoints.

    4) Cake Is Better When You Have It And Eat It Too (Entirely) - I happen to agree with this criticism the most, which is to say, still barely at all. The combat isn't as bland as most people claim (I think they forget about the tears Elizabeth creates in most huge battles), but the combat difficulty needed tuning. On normal, the game is pretty easy, but I will say, there are other difficulty options. Hell, quite challenging ones at that. And for my personal skill level, most games on the normal difficulty are easy. If a game has variable difficulty settings, it should NEVER be criticized for the challenge it gives a player. If a game is too easy for you, change the difficulty! Play it on 1999 mode if you want to die a lot. And I also disagree with the powerful weapons being given to you early in the game.
    I feel like that's one of the positives of BioShock Infinite, is that you can use any weapon effectively. There are a few that needed a little more damage tweaking, but in my two playthroughs, I used completely different weapons and vigors, and was mostly equally successful. Both of the playthroughs were on the hard difficulty, I must add.
    In some ways, I can see that the combat is slightly bland. It's highly polished, but yes, I definitely think it can be called slightly bland. I look at other FPS games, though, and think, aren't they bland as well? At the end of the day, it's shooting at your enemies head, right? At least they give you vigors as well, you know? And a skyline... which segways into my last point.

    5) It's Not On Rails - At first, travelling around on the rails may be nauseating. But with a little practice, I became quite comfortable manuevering on them. If you've ever played a franchise like Quake, or JKO, or any other twitch shooter, the adjustment is fairly simple. But I will admit, I rarely used them in combat. There is no doubt that the rails were put in as transportation to other floating islands. Their use in combat isn't that helpful, especially on higher difficulties. It's certainly not a cheap way to kill opponents instantly. On harder difficulties, being up on the lines is a quick way to die, as you have no cover. Even splashing down onto an enemy for an insta-kill is usually a terrible idea, because again, there is no cover, and other people continue to shoot at you.

    That's basically all of my criticism!
    Posted May 16, 2013
  • @fade. Thanks for the elaborate comment. I would however say that a "bias" by definition would make me have a predestined state of either liking or disliking Bioshock. As I do like Bioshock, as stated in the first paragraph, criticism of it can hardly be biased. It is however based on facts.

    Also, I'm a Quake dude from formation, so yay!

    Thanks again.
    Posted May 19, 2013

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BioShock: Infinite

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Developer(s): Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Human Head Studios
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Shooter
Release Date: 2013-03-26

95/100