I’ve always believed a video game was the best way to tell a story, and Bioshock Infinite just confirmed it. It’s an action game where you mow down hordes of enemies on your way to an objective. But it’s done in a way that will leave a lasting impression on you, and leave you craving more.
Run, Gun, and You’re Done
Much like its predecessors, Bioshock and Bioshock 2, Infinite takes you through the streets of a dystopian, alternate-history city (here, Columbia) and other locations giving you access to a wide variety of guns, as well as the Skyhook, a unique melee weapon which doubles as a means of transportation on the Skylines.
In addition, you also have what I can only describe as “superpowers” called Vigors. They let you perform actions that either deal a lot of damage to your enemies, turn them in your favor, or give you a general advantage. Vigors can be found all throughout the game and will help you a lot.
Enemies spawn in certain locations, and in waves. Taking down wave after wave makes you feel powerful, and is a genuinely fun experience, compared to other games which just feel like a drag. In between waves, there will be some downtime allowing you to loot the bodies of enemies, netting you ammo, salts (which power your Vigors), and food to replenish your health.
In case you don’t find what you need, you can count on your sidekick, Elizabeth, to scrounge around the battlefield and find resources. Speaking of Elizabeth, she is able to open tears around the map, which are portals to different parts of the world. You can find ammo, skyline hooks, cover, and more. I personally didn’t find much use for them, but then again I was playing on easy mode and my strategy was to go in guns-a-blazing and hope for the best, so that probably had something to do with it.
Raising The Bar of Storytelling
This section of the review will focus on how Bioshock Infinite tells a story, and why it has raised the bar. Unlike its predecessors, Infinite takes place in a variety of memorable locations. The game follows the journey of Booker DeWitt, a private investigator who has been sent to Columbia to wipe away a debt via the totally-reasonable solution of kidnapping.
Illegality aside, Booker uses a lighthouse rocket to reach Columbia, a city founded by the prophetic Comstock. The technology required to keep the city afloat had been developed by the Luteces, who also show up many times throughout the story.
Bioshock Infinite tells quite a story, and tells it well. You get the bulk of the story through the gameplay, and you can live perfectly fine with just the story presented through gameplay. If you’d like to know everything, however, there are over 100 audio recordings called voxophones, and over 40 video recordings called kinetoscopes that provide more background information.
The game has an ending that leaves you thinking, which I believe is the mark of a good story; one that makes you reflect on the whole game, and gives you those “how did I not notice that?” moments. I would love to go in-depth, but its best for you to experience the twists and revelations yourself.
I will admit, I am somewhat biased towards the steampunk aesthetic. In fact, it’s what initially drew me to the game in the first place. Bioshock Infinite pulls off the look really well. Everything from the art design, to the music, to even the way people speak. You truly feel like you are in the 1910s. The atmosphere is also extremely remarkable. The beginning of the game shows Columbia in its prime, during the annual carnival. It starts off cheery, whereas the majority of the game takes place in this dark, foreboding atmosphere, always making you wonder if something is going to lurch out at you.
Nothing is Perfect
Despite how much I’ve raved on about this game, there are some problems with it.
The weapon system from Bioshock has been changed, meaning you can only carry two weapons at a time. This leads to you occasionally not having the right weapon for particular scenarios, and also prevents you from experimenting with new weapons. While a two-weapon limit is more realistic, I can’t help but feel the game would’ve been more fun if you had every weapon.
At the end of the game, a lot of stuff about the story is revealed through massive exposition dumps, which I personally see as weak story writing, but other people might disagree. The concept of “show, not tell” isn’t followed. The Luteces (who I mentioned earlier) and Elizabeth just tell you everything. This takes away the “OOOOOHHH!” moment that would’ve followed if it was revealed through gameplay.
Infinite is also weirdly paced, with sections where the story moves really fast, and sections where very little happens plot-wise. There are multiple points throughout the game where you think you’ve reached the end, only to find out there’s a whole ‘nother section of the game in front of you.
Bioshock Infinite is a phenomenal game. The atmosphere is equal parts scary and adventurous. While it does have its drawbacks in some sections of the game, the rest definitely makes up for it. If you want to travel through an early 1900s steampunk city, all while shooting through hoards of enemies, this is certainly the game for you.
Bioshock Infinite can be found on Steam.