BioShock was remarkable when it was released on the PC, and my memories of playing the game will remain with me forever. It exhibited such wonderful stylised graphics and charming story line that it was difficult not to fall in love with it. The second game was also entertaining, but sadly it didn’t grab my attention in quite the same way.
BioShock Infinite was released this week and there is no doubt that it has managed to recapture the beauty of the first game. The game is soaked in thick, period atmosphere which is sure to appeal to fans of the original title.
While the sheer, dazzling impact of the first game is impossible to recreate, Infinite is an exceptional title – with many memorable sequences throughout the experience.
The story takes place in 1912. You take control of an investigator with a somewhat dodgy past. You have been tasked with finding a little girl in the floating sky city of Columbia. The girl, Elizabeth has mysterious, supernatural powers and rescuing her from her captors will not be an easy job. The game can actually be very tricky indeed.
The city is beautifully designed and while I wondered if it would end up disjointed and messy due to noted development problems, my fears were unfounded. BioShock Infinite is laced with religious undertones and fundamentalism, both compelling and repulsive. The city is not the most hospitable place to journey through and as the game progresses, it almost transforms into a horror game, with jumps at every corner.
The city of Columbia is laced with well armed police forces and has its fair share of psionic mutants and steampunk mech robots dying to wipe you out. There are differences to previous games as the developers are trying to ensure the experience is not a bland remake of the others. The landscapes are more open and varied with buildings hanging high above your head and perilous drops just around the corner. Primary levels are connected by rollercoaster style skyrails.
Bioshock may look dated today, but at the time the graphics were simply mesmerising. The art deco style was different than anything else released at the time and appealed to many, more experienced gamers who craved for something different. Infinite is thick with atmosphere and moody lighting, supported by an excellent ambient soundscape and time period music.
I had some time to look at the game on the Playstation 3 and it was very impressive, but there is no doubt that the PC version is the one to buy. It is certainly a step down in technical prowess from the likes of Crysis 3 or Far Cry 3, but the texture detail and art design more than compensate. If you have a system capable of running the game at full settings then it will be a truly remarkable adventure.
I played Infinite with a Core i5 3570k and a GTX 660 ti and I was able to dial all the settings up to maximum and still average well over 30 frames per second at all times.
One of the talking points of the title will be the combat system which takes cues from the previous titles, slotting them into this setting. There are now Vigors insteads of Plasmids. These are alcoholic beverages which reveal psychic energy, allowing you to throw fireballs among other things. I don’t want to ruin the game for people who haven’t yet had the chance to play it, but the crows are one of my favourite attacks.
The main combat modes are supported with a secondary attack, which can make the experience of combat more interesting. You can even enable traps to lure enemies into taking themselves out. Items of clothing can be used to enhance your abilities, adding ammo capacity for instance.
The combat system does reward the gamer who is willing to experiment and mix traditional weapons with the Vigor specialities. Sometimes mixing and matching will improve your chances in specific situations. You can use the environment to your advantage as well which feels rewarding when you do it right.
The enemy artificial intelligence isn’t very in-depth, with foes often heading in a straight line towards you, intent on causing damage. This is one of the weaknesses I noticed on a fairly regular basis and I wish they had spent a little more time during the development phase, improving this.
On normal difficulty I found the game quite challenging, not due to a sophisticated blend of enemy artificial intelligence, but more on the devious level design and hordes of enemies you often have to face. Experienced gamers above my level will probably need to move the slider up a little to give themselves a more intense challenge. There is also an unlockable 1999 mode which cranks the difficult to razor sharp reflex status.
Game characters are impressive, and some will be memorable long after the game is over. Sadly I longed for a new ‘Big Daddy’ or ‘Little Sister’, but there are no such iconic designs in Infinite.
The most outstanding character in the game, is Elizabeth, the computer AI who is on your side. For some reason she reminded me of Alex in Half Life 2 Episode One. She can look after herself and adds a ‘human touch’ to the experience. She is a strong woman who doesn’t need constant care and attention and it isn’t long before you feel a genuine connection with her, in game. While Valve have mastered this art, I think Elizabeth is another AI at the highest level. Her voice acting, story, animation and character development is truly first rate.
BioShock Infinite may have some minor weaknesses, but in regards to the story line, it is a rip roaring success. The science fiction, physic horror genre works beautifully. It is complex, unpredictable and will have you wondering just what is going to happen next. Gamers who can often predict the plot will find this game fantastically refreshing. While many titles have you hoping the end isn’t too far away (Crysis 3 in my case), the final hours of BioShock Infinite are heart wrenching, evocative and dramatic. This is just about as good a game story as you are likely to find. Surely a movie is being planned?
BioShock Infinite can surely only be considered a success. I had my doubts before playing, but I enjoyed the title right from the very start, until the dramatic, blockbuster style ending. This game will surely be remembered, much in the way that Far Cry 3 will be. Both franchises started with a bang, with a weaker second title sandwiching a classic third story.
If you value the art of storytelling and love to lose yourself in a game, then you need to get hold of this.