The Bioshock franchise has been known for having a mature narrative, interesting action and controversial themes. Instead of remaining underwater the Bioshock series has been taken to new heights, literally. Set in 1912 in the floating city of Columbia a former soldier must fight through an army of cultist and revolutionaries in order to capture a girl and wipe away a debt. Set in a stunning original world, full of gorgeous scenery and brimming with a cast of memorable characters and monsters makes Columbia the new Rapture. With a captivating story, that has a twist a lot of people will not see coming, and a great villain makes Bioshock: Infinite a worthy addition to the franchise.
Like in 2007 it starts with a lighthouse, only without the plane crash, and this time on a small wooden boat with two chatty companions. Set in 1912 A former Pinkerton Agent and war veteran Booker Dewitt has been sent to this mysterious structure for one goal, to retrieve a girl named Elizabeth and bring her to New York to wipe away a debt. But this girl and place remains a mystery, until the former private investigator sits in the chair on top of the lighthouse and is launched into the sky to the floating city of Columbia. This jingoism city invokes old traditional American themes while coating them in Columbian ideals such as the red, white and blue national flag. When I first saw this wonderful city, that same gleeful feeling of wonder that I experienced when I saw Rapture reemerged.
It’s clear that the people at Irrational Games put a lot of effort in ensuring that each environment within Columbia was elaborately detailed. Each new area offered something genuine to the time as well as something original to the game. It’s clear that Bioshock: Infinite is pushing the current generation of consoles to its limitations as certain textures and graphical hiccups do happen occasionally. However when walking through the streets of this wonderfully crafted city it’s easy to overlook any small issues that may plague the terrain, especially when a terrific soundtrack filled with both original and classic songs are being funneled through the cobblestone streets.
Bioshock: Infinite doesn’t attempt to cover anything and remains genuine to the themes present during this time period. During the early sections of the game you’ll encounter strong ideals of racial purity, militarism and enslavement. On a more personal note you also unexpectedly realize the nature of Booker’s brand. In Columbia the mark symbolizes the false shepherd, a version of the Christian Antichrist that identifies Booker as an enemy of Columbia. Things become more complicated as Booker finds out that Elizabeth, the girl he has to find, is seen as the savior of the city and taken her from his beloved people was expected to happen at the hands of the false shepherd.
Columbia is a capacious city filled with nationalist propaganda, airships, mechanical creatures, and history that showcases how Columbia is more American than America. The leader of this city is Father Comstock, a self-proclaimed prophet and religious zealot, wants Booker gone. What Andrew Ryan was to Rapture, Father Comstock is Columbia. Comstock believes that he is a holy man that will vanguard a new life to the corrupted world of man plans to implementhis own damaging ideals to everyone. Those who worship him are just as deadly, willing to follow Comstock without fear or regard to their safety. Bioshock: Infinite combines religious and political similarities that could fill you with uneasiness, but are well integrated into this insane world.
Eventually Booker does find the girl, Elizabeth. This incredibly talented and intelligent woman has been locked into a symbolic tower and protected by a colossal clockwork creature called The Songbird. Similar to the Big Daddy and Little Sister relationship The Songbird protects Elizabeth from all threats but also ensures that she remains locked in her tower thereby acting as her protector, friend and warden. Elizabeth is not without her own talents as you soon find out that she can open dimensional portals called rips and bring things from one reality into another.
As Booker and Elizabeth begin their escape from Columbia new lore begins to become available to the player as they ally themselves with the resistance forced called the Vox Populi and dive deeper into the past of both Booker and Elizabeth. Unlike Rapture, the city of Columbia is more open about the imploding social order and ongoing civil war. However this doesn’t make the city any less tense to explore. The city is teeming with active citizens that can be overheard talking about day to day activities, offering a personal perspective into the city of Columbia.
The people of Columbia, both major and minor, voice their opinions through audio recordings called voxophones. These devices provide inside information on the citizens as well as the main cast of characters. Some information about significant people like Elizabeth, Comstock and Booker can only be obtain by collecting these bulky items, making them less of a chore and more as a reward.
Bioshock: Infinite, at its core, is a first-person shooter. However you’re not just armed with traditional weapons such as machine guns, pistols, shotguns and rocket launchers but gain access to supernatural abilities in the form of vigors. Vigors come in the form of liquid, like the original Bioshock’s plasmids, and provide mystical powers ranging from possession to shooting fire, but unlike plasmids don’t require a needle. Each vigor comes with a trap variation, allowing you to easily combine powers.
The enemies you’ll encounter will be sporting both guns and vigors. Your opponents are intelligent fighters and will use caution when attempting to take Booker’s life. Enemies won’t simply charge you but use cover and each other to gain a steady hold on the battlefield, ensuring that each victory is earned. While fighting human enemies is fun the most notable opponents have thematic ties to the world such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln clockwork warriors. Eventually you’ll find enemies that stray further from scientific advancement and leaning towards monstrous adversaries, these enemies are simply outstanding.
What truly gives each environment a new spark of excitement is the Skyline railway system that is constructed throughout Columbia. By pressing the jump button Booker can latch himself onto one of the two rails or use the magnetic hook as a vicious melee weapon. While on these tracks, Booker can travel throughout Columbia or the battlefield at high speeds, shoot from the railways or launch himself from the track for a powerful aerial attack. It’s a thrilling addition to Bookers arsenal and eliminating enemies with the Skyhook never gets old.
Unlike other games Elizabeth isn’t a vexing and useless AI control ally. Instead she properly stays out of combat and scavenges the field for equipment to aid Booker such as health, salts to replenish vigors and ammo. Since Booker is unable to carry extra first aid kits or salts Elizabeth becomes an extraordinary ally. If things become too overwhelming she can save Booker from dying, albeit at a cost. Outside combat Elizabeth turns that keen eyes towards finding silver eagles for Booker to use on the varies vending machines or unlocking locked doors and safes with her lockpicks you find. It is strange seeing Elizabeth in the middle of a battlefield and somehow being able to avoid damage in direct fire, but it was the first time I felt at a disadvantage when my AI partner was forced to leave my side.
Elizabeth has more skills in her arsenal but the most important one is her ability to access tears in space and time. With this ability she can access hidden objects on the battlefield such as cover, turrets, first aid kits, ammo, weapons and so much more. These tears appear to be covered in static and are easily brought into reality by holding down a button. While this mechanic plays an important role in the story implementing it in the combat allows for new tactics on the battlefield. Booker can access a wall for cover and then ask Elizabeth to open a skyhook for vertical combat and then open another tear that allows a friendly clockwork robot to fight at Booker’s side. Only one tear can be accessed at a time but is a thrilling addition that makes combat dynamic.
The combat mechanics do offer a wonderful sense of growth as you move further in the game. You can access various clothing, some hidden throughout the game, that allows for certain buffs that include quicker reload or incendiary attacks. Collecting silver eagles from corpses can be used for weapon upgrades and virgor enchantments, but the developers made it so you cannot purchase all the upgrades available. These are simple upgrades but offer a choice of what you want to specialize on, especially since the game lacks a lot of story-based choices that rarely manifest in meaningful ways.
Bioshock: Infinite is not without its flaws. It’s clear that the game is running on outdated hardware and situations where Elizabeth’s animation crashes or clipping does happen. The other big issue is the expected twist. Where the first Bioshock benefited from this now I knew it was coming, expecting that the next cut scene would bring something amazing. However despite this foresight I was shocked when faced with the expected twist.
Bioshock: Infinite attempts to capture the early 1900s while distinguishing itself in an original story, and succeeds. Bioshock: Infinite isn’t afraid to tread on dangerous territory such as religious or racial extremism and depict a world plagued with holy order, based on strong ideals, that has become corrupted with power and manipulation. But at the end when I finished the game and reviewed everything I just experience I was left astonished. Bioshock: Infinite is an excellent game that pushed in every way that the original Bioshock did in both storytelling and gameplay. Bioshock: Infinite is not only a contender for game of the year but best game of this generation.