Ninja Reviews: Bioshock Infinite

Originally published on June 11, 2013

I love the Bioshock games. They were fun, imaginative and had an amazing universe built around them. I hear a lot of haters go on about how it’s a shitty clone of System Shock, but I never played those games so haters can suck it. Bioshock is fucking awesome!

Be warned, this review will include SPOILERS so if you’re not far, stop reading.

 

Let’s start with the design. This game, looks sounds and feels amazing! Where Bioshock 1 and 2 decided to go to the bottom of the ocean for there games, Infinte goes in the opposite direction and places the city of Colombia in the sky. Gone are the tight, claustrophobic corridors and dark, run down atmospheres of Rapture in favor of more bright, serene setting, and it really works.

The basic premise of the game is, like the first game, Colombia seceeds from the US; led by a crazy religious prophet, they seek a more heavenly location for their pure civilization. When entering the city, you’re provided with a beautiful church and truely amazing gospil singing. It’s strange, but hauntingly calming. The city itself is almost heavenly. The colour of the clouds and the way they use the lighting of the sun, it’s really some of the most beautiful atmosphere’s I’ve seen in a game.

Then the game takes a really dark turn, putting you in some pretty weird places, like a shrine revering John Wilkes Booth, and painting Lincon to be this devil figure.

Even later in the game when you aid some revolutionists to overthrow the cult, the game gets really dark and almost scary. There’s lots of dark clouds and lighting, gunshots and explosions in the distance and the feeling that the revolution was a lie is strongly present. It’s a game you can just look at all day and think “Hot Damn.”

 

Now lets talk about the gameplay. It’s pretty tight, but it’s definatly got it’s problems. Like the first two games you’re given a combination of guns and “plasmids” or “vigors” as they’re called in this game. These are genetic altering tonics that give you incredible powers, like the ability to throw fireballs or send murders of crows to kill your foes. The vigors are neat, but I can’t help but feel like they’re lacking from the first games. And I still can’t get over ommiting the best power in the game: SWARM OF FUCKING BEES!

The choices of guns are pretty familiar, pistol, rifle, machine gun ect. But what really brings my piss to a boil is pulling that generic, every FPS bullshit of only being able to carry two guns! What the fuck is that shit!? In Bioshock 1 and 2, you have a veritible cornicopia of weapons, each one worth uprgrading and each one usefull in a pinch. I hate having to constantly swap weapons for ones that suit the immidiate situation, it’s stupid! When I’m presented with a sniper rifle, and I’m currently carrying a normal carbine rifle and a shotgun, I shouldn’t have to sit there and debate about which one is more effective to keep and which one is worth dropping, i should just have a whole arsenal.

Now I get some of you less educated types will say “But Ninja-Jordan, that makes the game more realistic! A normal person could only carry two weapons.”

Really? You’re playing a game, where a man goes to a city in the clouds, to rescue a girl who can open rifts between alternate realities, and he can shoot crows from his hands, but the realism line needs to be drawn at two carriable weapons? Shut your stupid mouth! Your face is litterally too stupid to look at.

The other interesting peice of gameplay is the ziplines. Many battlefeilds contain ziplines that you can zip around on in order to take out enemies, get to high ground, or use for evasive maneuvers. It’s actually a lot of fun, and adds to the game setting, playing on the “we have these wide open environments so lets make the game a great big swashbuckling adventure complete with ziplines” idea.

Lastly, I should mention to some degree the “gear.” Keeping with the “shooter with RPG elements” type of gameplay Bioshock always had, Inifinte introduces equipable gear that gives you buffs. It’s a neat little inclusion but I don’t really think it adds much to anything. The game boils down to “shoot the thing until it’s dead” so getting a bit of health from killed enemies when you’re in the red is only slightly helpful.

 

Now we get to the star of our show, the thing that really makes this game different: Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a prime example of how a female character should be done in a game. She’s strong, capable, helpful, she has a great character arc, and she’s fun to have around. I have hear jokes, and I definatly agree that her character is very similar to that of a Disney princess, almost a lot like Belle (a smart, stong, level headed beauty, who’s been trapped her whole life by an ideolistic society) but I won’t lie I definatly liked seeing it. I loved the scene after you break her out of her tower *cough*disney*cough* and you land on this beach and get knocked out, but when you’re looking for her, she’s dancing to some folksy music with some commoners. The only thing that would have made me begrudgingly laugh was if she pulled you in for a Titanic style spin dance. But like I said, she’s not useless in combat (she actually provides you with health and ammo from time to time) and you’re not constantly protecting her, so she’s definatly a delight. And the game and it’s story are very much her’s so it’s interesting to follow her along on it.

 

Lastly, I will say that each Bioshock had a pretty good endings, for both good and bad. Infinite is no exception, with an ending that ditches the moral choice element and stays true to the story, delivering one hell of a mind fuck. I won’t spoil it, because it’s really something you have to see, but I was impressed.

 

Overall, I give the game a solid 8/10. It’s a really great game but it’s got some stupid flaws that keep it from being almost perfect.

 

Now this is going to be my little complaint section. Bioshock: Infinite is great, but there’s a lot of stupid shit in it that I don’t like and it pisses me off. Frankly, I think I can say with confidence that while it is an amazing game, it’s just not as good as 1 or 2. Bold claims? Maybe, but here’s why I’m right and you need to shut up.

 

First thing’s first, the vigors. They have absolutley no purpose in this game. They’re sort of just there and it doesn’t make sense. Not only that, the selection limited to something like eight (where bioshock 1 and 2 boasted 11 and 12 respectively). The thing about the Plasmids and Adam from Bioshock 1 and 2 is that it fit into the whole of the game. Andrew Ryan sought refuge from the parasites of the world and wanted a place where everyone could reach untold heights of human potential. Adam was a gene splicing tool to make people the best they could be, and Rapture’s downfall was a direct result of that since people got a little splice-happy and became mutant freaks. In infinite, the whole meta-narrative is demension hopping which works with the tears Elizabeth can open to provide ammo, weapons and sometimes automotons, but the vigors are sort of just there for no real reason.

And another thing! What the hell happened to the hacking? Bioshock 1’s hacking was a little clumsy, but kind of fun if you liked “Pipe Dream” but Bioshock 2’s hacking was perfect. A short quick-time event, that didn’t break gameplay and was pretty easy to do. And it was useful! Hacking vending machines gave you lower prices, or you could turn machine gun turrets to your side, it was brilliant. In infinte you have your plasmid power that possesses people and automotons, but it only lasts for like a half a second and drains half your magic, it’s pretty useless.

And getting back to that Bioshock 1 vs. Bioshock 2 hacking, I like how Bioshock 2’s hacking didn’t stop gameplay. Splicers kept shooting at you while you were hacking because…well, yeah, no one’s going to give you a time out so you can give yourself the advantage. Infinte does this with the vending machines and it made me laugh a bit. You’re low on health, ammo, magic but all these people who are out to kill you will stop shooting and let you sink a couple quarters into this machine for health and ammo. Fair’s fair, I guess.

The other thing that pissed me right off was that stupid Vox Code bullshit.

Within this game you find cryptic codes from the revolutionsit group the Vox Populi that lead to weapon caches and usually a stat booster or a peice of gear. The first one you find is actually well thought out from a gameplay standard. You’re given a large dock for a shoot out, with a bar on your left and a museum on your right. When you’re done the battle, your natural instinct as a gamer is to explore and scavange for health and ammo. So you find the first code in the bathroom of the bar, it’s written in weird cryptic letters, in blood on the bathroom wall. So it’s slightly out of the way, but easy to find. When you find it, Elizabeth says she needs a codebook to decipher it. So now you’re on the look out, you’re still scavenging so you check the museum and Lo and Behold, there’s a book hanging out of a cannon in the entrance of the museum. Again, not hard to find, but I could have pressed forward and missed it entirely. Now I can go back to that area, still fresh in my mind and claim my reward…

Then you get to the stupid, bullshit Memorial Gardens…

(Warning, this is where things get stupid so Rage will ensue…also SPOILERS)

You go through fight after fight, make it pretty far into the level, exploring all the open rooms you can explore at this juncture but finding nothing. Once you get a solid 3/4 or the way through you’re encountered with, and I shit you not, a ghost that can create zombies. A FUCKING GHOST THAT CAN CREATE FUCKING ZOMBIES!!! Now I know that Bioshock doesn’t exactly deal with the real, but come on, REALLY? Zombies? Are we honestly cashing that check? Like I know they’re big in pop culture, but you already had so much, you didn’t need fucking zombies. And I know people are like “Ith’s not a ghotht, Elizabeth explains that ith’s a combination of alternate realities, mixthed with her feelings for her mother”

But lemme just say this: “If it looks like a ghost, and it flies around and wails like ghost, and it creates zombies like a lich/ghost…ITS A FUCKING GHOST”

I don’t know why this bothers me so much. Maybe it’s just because it’s so tacky and so overdone nowadays that having such a lush atmopshere filled with hints of over zealous false prophets and false revolutionaries that are just as bad as the establishment they’re overthrowing, and then you add in ghosts and zombies for good measure, it just comes off as stupid.

Anyway, after you deal with that shit, you go further and find the code book near the end of the level (by which I mean, as far as you can go, not the place where the level ends, cause that’s kind of in the middle of the level). So you look high and low for this code but finding nothing. It isn’t until you finally break like I did and check the internet to learn that the code is in the bank, a side area for the Memorial Gardens that doesn’t open until you unleash the ghost. Not only that, remember those cryptic letters you found the first time that distinguished itself from anything else. Well those are replaced with, wouldn’t you know it NORMAL FUCKING LETTERS. That’s right, on a random wall in this bank you see the word “Hoarder” written in blood. That is the Vox Code. HOW THE FUCK IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT!!! By this point, the Vox have started overthrowing the city, there’s bloody letters and shit scrawlled all over the walls. At first glance, you wouldn’t think anything of it, it’d just look like random scenery. But to put it in a location that is out of the main area, and at a time when the level is pretty much almost over, it’s just bad game design. And there wasn’t even anything in that damn cache.

My point is, is the first Vox Code gets it right, it introduces a noticable lock, fairly early in the stage and puts the key a bit further in, prompting you to backtrack for a reward. But this one is just a fucking assassin, it’s hidden to well in plain sight, and in a place you’re never expecting to see it. This Vox Code is fucking Altair!!!

I think the last little complaint I have is in the game’s immersion, and this problem stems from our “main character” Booker. Now, I know he’s integral to the plot, and I was blown away by his purpose in the end, but what really pulls me out of the experience is the presentation. This is the thing about First Person games that a lot of people either don’t care about or don’t understand. First Person is the foremost powerful way to immerse a player in a game because it makes it seem as though it’s happening through their eyes.

Sure, you can immerse a player with breathtaking environments or real character connections, but there’s just something about playing a game in First Person that really draws you in. For example, playing Skyrim in First Person, you feel like you’re really involved in the world around you, because you’re seeing it through what feels like your own eyes. Dragons are a lot scarier when they’re right in your face. Play Skyrim in third person, you’re looking at a character rather than being one. You notice wonky character movements or little graphical glitches that pull you out of the world.

Bioshock 1 and 2 both had amazing immersion, most notably in Bioshock 1, and this came from being a voiceless everyhero that the player can project upon balanced with the moral choice system of the Little Sisters and the amazing “would you kindly” twist near the end. For the majority of the game, you feel like you’re in control. You’re making the choices and it has a serious effect on the game world. When it turns out that you’re being subliminally controlled by the phrase “would you kindly,” the player is truely taken aback. To have that power of free will totally stripped from you, and to make it all the accumulation of events from a repeated phrase, well you just feel powerless.

Even in Bioshock 2, you really feel like a Big Daddy, and I have to admit, as a guy who can’t wait to be a dad, it filled my heart with warmth hearing the Little Sister’s exclaim “My daddy is the best daddy ever!” When they were collecting Adam, I honestly didn’t want those fucker splicers to harm them, and in the end I really felt like the sum off all my good deeds really payed off.

Bioshock Infinte just doesn’t have the same effect because you’re cast as a character rather than yourself. I can’t help but feel that the game would have been more immersive had the player been cast as the hero rather than Booker, and that’s only because it’s a FPS.

And this could have made for more interseting character development as you and Elizabeth are both strangers to this world, having that in common and actually growing with Elizabeth could have made for a more deep connection between the player and the character. Perhaps I’m asking for too much, but I think it’s a real problem that keeps me from really falling for this game. In situations where Elizabeth is in trouble I want to act and try to save her, but I’m pulled away from it knowing that I’m mearly seeing events through Booker’s eyes.

 

The last little tiny complaint I have, is really more of a gripe less than a complaint but I really miss the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters. Don’t get me wrong, the SongBird is a menecing as fuck enemy, but so far he’s only really been there to be scary and not really any kind of threat you have control over. And the Handymen are kind of cool, but they don’t really serve a purpose aside from this world’s “look what we can do with science!!!” kind of character. They were nothing like the Bid Daddies when you first saw them stomping through the corridors holding the Little Sister’s hand. Or when you watch that first splicer try to sneak up on a Littler Sister, all alone and then through the wall busts this mongoloid scary ass mother fucker with a drill for a hand who just reams that poor bastard out. You knew these things were stone cold. Badass Mother Fuckers. But they were something more. They were a huge obstacle that guarded a great reward. And call it tacked on, but I liked the moral choice system in the first two Bioshocks because it reflected you as a player. Would you set the Little Sister free from her curse and take the hard, long road with the greater payoff, or would you kill them, harvest a great amount of Adam for immediate satisfaction. Sure, it might have been dumb that as soon as you harvest one Little Sister you get the bad ending, but once you kill a little girl, there’s no going back.

I guess all this stuff really makes me mad because Bioshock 1 and 2 did such a good job to pull me into its universe and Bioshock: Infinite steps away from that for a more samey actiony shooter. It’s almost like its trying to capture what it’s predecessors had but still playing it safe with lots of crazy action. Is it a bad game? No, it’s a great game actually, but where Bioshock 1 and 2 were hearty medium-rare steak sandwiches, Bioshock: Infinte is more like a PBJ with crunchy peanut butter and maybe grape jelly/ Safe, familiar but with a few intersting bits.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. I might argue that the “Murder of Crows” vigor was pretty similar of the swarm of bees one! But I’m all in favour for your idea of the game taking a more actiony approach; it didn’t feel as cinematic and story-telling as the original Bioshock did, but I still loved Infinite’s storyline for being so different. It took me two playthroughs to understand it, but I got there eventually.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s