Review: Bioshock Inifinite “a masterpiece”

Filed under Game Reviews, Reviews

A new BioShock title is something that makes gamers stop and think back to the first game in the series in 2007. The game added a thread of magic to the first-person shooter genre that had not been there before. It’s with fondness and a little shiver down the spine that we remember being in Jack’s shoes exploring Rapture, Andrew Ryan’s dystopian underwater city. Rapture was the sort of place gamer had never visited before because the technology didn’t allow it up to that point in time. Rapture was gorgeous in its ugliness. Rapture was a utopian dream turned into a nightmare. BioShock was great to look at and fun to play but it also made gamers think about human progress, hubris, elitism and morality. BioShock is the Atlas Shrugged and 1984 of gaming. Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games are back with a third instalment in the series and this time we’re taken to Columbia, a city in the sky. BioShock Infinite is here and it writes one of the great chapters in gaming.

Gone is the claustrophobic underwater dystopia that was Rapture. No more are the crazy Splicers that were out to kill you. Forget all about plasmids, ADAM, EVE, Big Daddies and Little Sisters. BioShock Infinite places gamers in the shoes of Booker DeWitt, a former private investigator who’s been hired to rescue a girl. Everything concerning the girl and why she needs to be rescued is very hush-hush. Her name is Elizabeth and she is trapped in a tower in Columbia, where she is protected or held captive (one can’t be too sure) by a giant mechanical bird referred to as Songbird. Elizabeth and Songbird’s relationship is reminiscent of that of the Little Sisters with the Big Daddies in BioShock – it’s complicated. Unlike Rapture Booker finds Columbia at its peak and only beginning to crumble. It’s a dream city starting to turn into a nightmare. Columbia is a super American 1912 city with fanatic ideals in the form of white supremacy and religious extremism. Columbia is old America and such a dream cannot endure. Booker arrives at the city at a time of change and, of course, plays a part in those events. The resistance faction, the Vox Populi is active in fighting for liberation and equality. The storyline is very mysterious and the player cannot take anything at face value. What is the brand on Booker’s hand that sets him apart as an antichrist figure? These are the sort of questions that make up BioShock Infinite’s story. Most things aren’t as they seem. Much like Andrew Ryan’s dream of a city populated by only the world’s most gifted individuals Columbia is Father Comstock’s dream of a ‘pure’ America with ‘pure’ American ideals. Father Comstock is Columbia’s over-zealous leader and his misguided ideals are what bring the city to its soaring heights and what causes its fall from grace, as it were. BioShock Infinite’s plot deals with the uncomfortable themes of racism, ideals of supremacy and religious extremism. Irrational Games handles these themes deftly and in many instances you find yourself outraged at how cruel human beings are and at other instances you are saddened. BioShock tells a story that matters to players and lingers in your mind. This game proves that video games can be a platform to tell great stories.

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Powered by a modified Unreal Engine 3, the game’s visuals are beautiful and leave gamers in awe. Columbia’s old America aesthetic is infused with steampunk elements and that blend works well. Being a city in the sky and an open playing space your surroundings make you feel like you’re really flying but also add an element of fear, like you might fall at any moment. The game’s graphics look their best on a powerful PC but the Xbox 360’s no slouch and you can see the painstaking attention to detail that went into crafting BioShock Infinite. The game is a visual feast. I’m not one to pay any special attention to a game’s soundtrack but BioShock Infinite’s score accompanies and complements its light and dark moments perfectly. The last time a score made me feel this way in a game was in the Halo series. All these elements come together and create an atmosphere you won’t forget any time soon.

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As lofty as BioShock Infinite’s ideals are playing the game is outright fun. It’s a first-person shooter and as such it’s all about guns and it has these in abundance: pistols, shotguns, machine guns and the rest of the usual artillery. What really makes combat fun though is the usage of vigors, which are very much like BioShock’s plasmids. Vigors allow you to throw bolts of electricity at enemies, use fire to set them alight, attack them with super speed, unleash crows upon them or turn enemies against each other. Coupled with your guns and a melee weapon you pick up early on in the game vigors make for fun and creative combat situations. You can loot enemy corpses for money to purchase upgrades for your weapons and salts (which power vigors). These upgrades make your life easier against enemies like the mechanical George Washingtons – who, much like BioShock’s Big Daddies, are the heavies in the game. Armed with chainguns these foes aren’t to be sneered at and I must say that the George Washington motif is unnerving. Once you free Elizabeth she accompanies you as a friendly A.I. She has the ability to create tears in space-time, which allows her to materialise weapons such as turrets in a fight or health kits and salts to help you stay alive. Elizabeth is a wonderful companion and you can’t help but like her. Then there’s the Skyline railway system that connects all of Columbia, which you can latch onto using your melee weapon as a hook. This allows you to travel around the city easily but also makes combat interesting. You can rain death upon enemies from the Skyline and jump in and out of fights.

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BioShock Infinite is a great game all-round and it’s well worth your time. There’s no multiplayer campaign but the astounding ending will have you playing this game again. This is a AAA title and you can get your grubby paws on it for roughly R600.00. If you have more money jingling in your pockets and you don’t know what to do with it get hold of the Songbird Collector’s Edition for around R1600.00 (check availability), which comes with awesome goodies to warm your gaming heart.

If you enjoyed the first BioShock title this game is for you and if you’re human this game is for you. The only faults I can find with it are some bugs that tarnish the gameplay slightly but other than that BioShock Infinite is a masterpiece.

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BioShock Infinite is pie in the gaming sky and it tastes really good. Grab a slice.

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