I really shouldn’t be reviewing a first person shooter. I find most of them to be exactly the same from every other one that comes out. However, there are a handful excellent examples of them that break my incredibly jaded exterior and provide a enjoyable experience. The original Bioshock is one of those examples. Bioshock 2 was not and was so poor that I didn’t want to play any more of the series. However, the reviews this game have been so stellar I felt it could not be ignored. So with a bit of hesitation I redbox’d, knuckled down, and played through Bioshock Infinite.
One of my biggest selling points in the original Bioshock was its atmosphere. Scary setting, creepy enemies, excellent use of darkness and pacing. Infinite manages to flub on almost all of these points right out of the gate. Instead of the dark collapsing atmosphere of Rapture, we have the perpetually bright and sunny yet outwardly racist streets of Colombia. Instead of the terrifying creepy Splicers or the monstrous Big Daddies, we have 1920’s well dressed assholes with guns, and giant Mecha-Washington or the Handymen (which are just some asshole in a robot suit with a big glowing weakness on his chest). Sorry, other people with guns are uninteresting and get a big red X from me.
I felt they messed up with the equipment as well. In the original you got 8 or 9 weapons varying from boring old machine gun to fun weapons like the chemical thrower. In addition to having multiple weapon choices, you also had various types of ammo you could use for each weapon which had different effectiveness to different enemies. Bioshock Infinite instead decided it would bet better to fall in line with every other shooter and only allow you to carry two guns at a time with only one ammo type. Some people think its exciting to constantly be interchanging weapons. I do not, I don’t want to be stuck with a sniper rifle when I’m only sparsely in situations where it would even be useful.
Tacking on with disappointment of the guns, the Vigor’s of Infinite weren’t really as up to snuff as the Plasmids of the original. There are a handful of cool ones like sending a murder of crows after someone or the ability to send a ghost after machines and people, but after I maxed out my Shock Jock and Devils Kiss (read Electro Bolt and Incinerate) all of the other vigors I could use were useless or ineffective. It felt like I had less options too since some of the effects of the older plasmids were condensed to a single vigor. Useful maybe but I liked the variety better, these you at least get to switch between all of them whenever you want unlike the weapons.
I will say there were two points in this game that I really did like. First off, Booker (the protagonist) and Elizabeth (the support character) make for an incredibly likable pair. Booker isn’t a silent protagonist like in the previous Bioshock games so it allows him to have some very good character building moments and with a pretty deep backstory allows him to grow as the game progresses. Elizabeth is a great support character because she is competent and confident without being aggressive or arrogant. She also helps while you fight by finding ammo, restoring your health or salts (for vigors), and she even digs up money as you are exploring. She really does get you to fall for her right off, and she seems to have this understanding that something big is going on around her.
Because these characters are so strong, it goes a long way in helping the storytelling. Bioshock Infinite easily has one of the best stories in the series by far. It does have a bit of a slow beginning to it, but without spoiling just after half way the story goes batshit crazy and completely alters the dynamic of the story with a very sci-fi concept. And while the climax was disappointing with a lack of any real boss fight, the storytelling was beyond exceptional with a very incredible ending to the tale that left a lot of people with their jaw on the floor. It may be a little cliche given the introduced concept but it was executed so well I was willing to over look it.
So then, recommendation? How can I put this…. Well, I guess the best way to say is I’m glad I didn’t buy it, but glad I got to play it. From a strictly technical gameplay standpoint, they completely watered down the well established Bioshock gameplay aspects to make it fall in line with the every other 1st person shooter released in the past few years. It was boring to me in that regard. But the game weaves such an exceptional tale that it would be worth your time to at least see the game through to the end, either through purchase or rental. I don’t think it merits the near perfect scores its getting, but its a solid play.