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.
Just shut up and enjoy.
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.
No joke here; that moment was stunning and I wish I could exeprience it anew all over.
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.
No, seriously, we get it. You can stop.
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.
"Mature" gaming, my dick. If Call of Duty used gratuitous gore, David Cage would call it a "child's toy."
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.
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.
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.
This does not work well; enough said.
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!