With the summer drought still trundling on, and The Last of Us: Part 2 still being argued about on Twitter, and through regular checks outside my window – yeah, the world is still fucked over. It made sense that I would turn back the clock back to 2013. And look back on the last game in the Bioshock series (for the time being if the rumors are true): Bioshock Infinite.
Bioshock takes us back to 1912 when the world was kinda rosy, and we play as Booker DeWitt, Ex Pinkerton agent. Who supposedly has fallen in with the wrong crowd and accumulated debt. So to clear the debt, he has to travel to Columbia, a former US State which has a unique party trick. To find a girl called Elizabeth and bring her back to New York
After how all Bioshock games start (the good ones – Go away, Bioshock 2). Lighthouse in the middle of the sea, and through neat subverting expectations. Columbia is a city in the sky and probably one of the best intros to a game, much like the first one, and nice to see a “Utopian” city that hasn’t been fucked over before we arrive. Much like Rapture, it’s got a darker history. As Rapture was built to get away from government control and morals to flourish scientifically, that went downhill. Colombia was part of the union and was built for the World’s Fair in 1893. Which after going against the government 11 years prior, and seceding from the US in response.
Which in that time Colombia became an ultra-religious militant police state dystopia. And up to its eyeballs with White Supremacy, institutional racism, elitism, oh and cheap veering on slave labor for ethnic people in particular, and racial segregation. All led by a self-proclaimed “prophet” Zachary Comstock. After a brief walking simulator walking through Columbia, it turns out Comstock knew that DeWitt was coming and spurred up the city proclaiming he’s the false shepherd that came to lead the Lamb of the City astray – that’s Elizabeth by the way, and bring the downfall of the city. And after being found out at a local raffle by the local constabulary and now on the run from the law.
Once Booker fights his way through and finds Elizabeth. Who isn’t a normal girl by any stretch, as she can open tears between worlds, and has a warden of sorts in the form of a giant mechanical bird – called “Songbird”. Who doesn’t take it kindly to Booker, and on top of that navigate the city in the middle of an attempted uprising by the Vox Populi. Led by Daisy Fitzroy, who’s a wanted woman, because she supposedly killed Comstock’s wife, so get out of the city while fighting on 3 fronts effectively. Sounds fun.
Without trying to go into spoiler town here (even though, I already have-ish) but there are some nice twists and turns. From who “really” killed Comstock’s wife, why Elizabeth was in Columbia at the start and why she can open up Tears into new dimensions. And why the Lutece twins keep popping all over the city, and why Booker has fairly regular nose bleeds, Comstock’s origins, which are all neatly tied up towards the end. There are some debatable plot points here, but given the fact according to Ken Levine himself, it is very open to interpretation.
But the one thing I do find rather perplexing. Once the gunfire starts, the city is completely deserted. Just people who want you dead and predetermined moments. Rapture got away with this because it was fucked before we arrived. Columbia, on the other hand, was on its peak before its downfall as you go through the game. It’s jarring. Would have been better if there was a bit more life other than revolutionaries and the feds, and monstrosities. Speaking of the monstrosities, it is tame on that front. Sure, not everyone is off their nut, like to the levels of Sander Cohen or Dr. Stienman from the first game, and towards the end at the asylum where the boy of silence appears. Which, for the record look fucking creepy as hell, but originally in development, they would be a more prominent role in the game. Which is a shame because that section is arguably the weakest point of the game. A stealth section where you don’t fail. instead just has to deal with a mob that takes more bullets than Sonny Corleone did in The Godfather.
Overall, I loved the story, aside from the pitfalls is a rollercoaster of a ride with very good twists and turns. Very likable characters and easily hateable villains. Even if some of it’s aged badly with the times, politically. Still a hell of a story mind.
Now we come to the gameplay, it’s a pure FPS shooter, but with hints of RPG-ness in there. And the guns, for the most part, are all that you would expect. Pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launchers and so on – like I’m listing the back catalog of a gun store. But unlike its predecessors where you can carry as many guns as possible. Like the times back then, you’re limited to two, but fortunately the plasm…sorry Vigours, you can be armed to the teeth on that front. Chucking ravens at folks, fireballs, processing bad guys to fight for your cause for a brief period. Or hurl them into the sky and a few others.
So far, so BioShock, but there is a hint of RPG-ness. Firstly you can collect gear as you progress which gives you perks. And the guns and vigours can be upgraded, and while the game is fairly linear. There is a few side stuff you can do in some areas of the game which require some backtracking and a fine-tooth comb approach to looting. And you can upgrade your health, salts, and your armor/shield. Or the number of Voxaphones to collect.
And in some areas, you will have access to the sky-lines which help in getting out of a fight in a pinch for a breather or to wage war from the high ground and twat folks. Though be warned when a Handyman is in play he can electrocute the lines which hurt.
But fortunately, you do have a very helpful companion in the shape of Elizabeth. She can pick locks, decipher codes, and suggest ideas like looking at a nearby bookshop before progressing on. And in the heat of the battle will chuck ammo, health, salts, or cash to you in the nick of time. Given she can open tears, she can bring in ammo and health pickups, weapons, friendly allies, and cover. Best of all she isn’t kidnapped all the fucking time (looking at you Ashley from Resi 4). And she’s a smart person, by staying out of the way as we deal with the grown-up stuff, and is extremely helpful.
But again there are some weak moments. Specifically, that bloody asylum section which was a forced stealth section. I would have forgone social distancing and slap the shit out of Ken Levine with a twig. Shouting “you, bastard” repeatedly.
Aside from preventing Fawlty Tower antics. The gameplay is really good. Guns feel good, and with the pace of the combat has that swashbuckling feel that 90% FPS. Which most shooters out there don’t achieve. The game is as long as it needs to be and doesn’t waffle a lot, and there is encouragement for exploration. Making it less of a shooting gallery with superpowers.
Given the fact, it’s part of the Bioshock collection which has been out for a while on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. And recently given all 3 of the games particularly on PS4 Pro and Xbone X. Enhancements at 4k and given the fact it was originally out just before the current-gen roamed into view. There are some subtle improvements graphically but given it still looks as good as before and running silky smooth – it’s an improvement. As for a sweetener to the deal, all the original DLC is thrown in. Including the Burial at Sea episodes, which links infinite to the events of Bioshock and Rapture before it was fucked, and the Clash in the Clouds DLC which is challenge maps – surviving waves of dudes. So it’s a nice addition at no extra cost.
After 7 years, 2 presidencies, and one global pandemic later. It's been a joy to return to Columbia once more with Bioshock Infinite. A great story, that covers a smorgasbord of themes, very likeable characters, and gameplay which is still incredible. The kind of swashbuckling action that I love.
- Great story
- Great gameplay
- DLC threw in for free with The Complete Edition
- Not the “world beater” of a remaster
- Elements of the story and world could be utilized better
- Could be more creeper more atmospheric
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0