Developer: Irrational Games
Released on Mar 25, 2013
Bioshock Infinite is a game featuring a custom combat system, and a plot told from the POV of disgraced anti-hero, Booker DeWitt, a man who has resigned to put the past behind him after rejecting a baptism for his war crimes. He is instructed by the Luteces to go rescue Elizabeth, a strange girl trapped inside a flying city, in exchange for wiping away his mounting debts.
Genre: Action/First-Person Shooter
My Initial Impression of Bioshock Infinite
To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about the Bioshock series besides seeing a few playthroughs and Top-10 video discussions about the games. So please take what I say in this review with a grain of salt.
The game takes place in the floating city of Columbia, set in a steampunk version of America from the early 1900s. The overarching narrative relies on a combination of themes including American patriotism, nationalism, and religious extremism.
Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.–Robert Lutece
Instead of traversing through the underwater city of Rapture, Booker is dropped off at a lighthouse in Maine and asked to fulfill one last request: To bring Elizabeth back to New York unharmed. Climbing up the stairs, he finds a presumably tortured dead man and a door at the top to unlock by ringing the bells.
Booker then enters a Rocket Silo at the top of the lighthouse. He sits down on a strap-in chair and is launched far above the clouds, straight into the city of Columbia. After being baptized by a priest, the player can now look around the city, pick up some loose change, or eat food left on the benches.
Besides getting some weird looks from the civilians, so far everything seems normal: The player is able to snoop around the shops, watch a parade go by, and even play a bunch of carnival games to pass the time. Since it’s easy to get lost in Columbia, the arrow will guide players in the right direction by pointing towards their next objective.
All is well until Booker wins a raffle drawing: The host invites him on-stage to pelt a tied-up couple with a baseball. He recognizes Booker’s tattoo and calls him the “false shepherd”, ordering the police to execute him. They quickly restrain Booker, but he manages to escape by killing an officer with the Sky Hook, making him a wanted man.
It is revealed that the leader of Columbia, Zachary Hale Comstock, has declared Booker to be the “False Shepherd”, and treats him as a threat to his theocratic government, predicting that he will “leading our lamb astray”. This is shown through all the propaganda plastered on the walls. Players can also locate kinetoscopes that portray Comstock as a savior who protects the citizens from those “evil multi-racial immigrants”.
Fighting his way past endless waves of armed soldiers and police officers, Booker rides the skyline to reach Monument Island. Most of the combat here involves firing a gun with one hand and casting vigors with the other which I will get into later. For the non-human enemies, we have automated turrets and heavily-armored robots like the Fireman. It’s not hard to find firearms and ammunition scattered all over the place.
The combat isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it. I have to admit, Elizabeth is a huge help when she summons Mosquitoes or activates Automated Guns to take the heat off of Booker. But the Motorized Patriots are particularly strong, they take forever to destroy unless a player shoots them in the back. And don’t get me started on the Handyman, they are relentless about destroying you.
Before entering an area swarming with enemy officers, constructs, and religious cultists, players will have access to puppet vending machines, selling emergency supplies from health kits to bottles of salts in case they are running low. Players are going to need to restore their health and fill up their salt gauge before a big fight breaks out. During combat, items are scarce, obtained by looting corpses or picked up from hidden rooms.
Unable to keep his guns together, Booker resorts to storing a wide range of Vigors in his left hand. Automatons are immune to crows whereas Patriots are too heavy to lift. Some enemies are weak to water while others are vulnerable to mind possession.
Booker can obtain new Vigors by drinking tonics, which grants him extraordinary powers. He’s able to cast Vigors with his left hand, blasting nearby opponents with fire or a strong charge to avoid wasting ammo. The Murder of Crows is a very nasty one, covering the victim with flesh-eating crows. My personal favorite is Return to Sender which absorbs all damage like a second shield.
The skylines provide the fastest route of transportation between floating platforms and hard-to-reach areas. Booker’s skyhook lets him latch onto skylines to accelerate or reverse direction whenever enemies are on his trail. It can be difficult to aim while sliding on one, but performing a sky-line strike is the best way to instant-kill soldiers on the ground; assuming the player doesn’t get lost in their surroundings.
Booker discovers that the girl, Elizabeth has been put under maximum surveillance by Comstock, and was forced to spend her entire life trapped inside the towering angel statue. Apparently, she was too dangerous to let out into society due to her ability to open “tears” in the fabric of reality. Despite having nowhere to go, Elizabeth could still experience the world by opening these rifts into other dimensions.
They narrowly escape alive from the tower, pursued by a mechanical Songbird. Although Elizabeth seems naive and innocent, she proves herself to be quite resourceful in the heat of the moment. Their next stop is the First Lady Airship since Booker promised to take her to see Paris. But because he lied and sets a course for NYC, this angers Elizabeth, who swiftly knocks him out before seizing the airship.
Booker has a run-in with the Vox Populi, a resistance group led by Daisy Fitzroy. She agrees to return the First Lady if Booker goes to retrieve their weapons from the slums. This becomes complicated when the weaponsmith Chen Ling, is killed by Comstock’s men. Elizabeth offers to open a tear into a world where the guy is perfectly alive and Booker sacrificed himself to further the Vox Populi revolution.
The dynamic duo reunites again, after realizing that they can’t survive without each other. They try to escape Columbia once more but to no avail as Comstock’s agents continue to track down Elizabeth. As the game progresses, players learn about who Lady Comstock was, how Comstock manipulated Elizabeth into taking over his legacy, and what the Luteces were doing with the tear experiments.
Our Lady Elizabeth Godspeed Thy Judgment.
Elizabeth is at the center of several major conflicts, her story getting progressively darker the more a player investigates Columbia’s origins. Once again, flashbacks to when Booker handed over his daughter are prominently shown. The player will start to appreciate the close relationship between the two protagonists.
They start to panic when Elizabeth is kidnapped by Songbird. They are just as disgusted when they hear her pleading for mercy, while scientists subject her to horrific torture and attempted brainwashing.
Back to the Mechanics of Bioshock Infinite
Players can pick up some sweet, passive upgrades for the journey ahead. Infusions automatically raise Booker’s health bar, shield absorption, and salt gauge. I would recommend increasing salts first for players who rely on casting Vigors. Upgrading shield takes priority over health since it can regenerate immediately.
Gear is pretty useful to equip if players want some special perks like igniting enemies at close range or giving themselves temporary invincibility. One has you exchange health for salts. Many provide offensive advantages in the form of extra damage dealt by guns. Too bad you aren’t allowed to equip more than one set.
Upgrades are a dime a dozen for your standard machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, or carbines. But I don’t really upgrade them for a faster rate of fire or an increased magazine size because money is hard to earn as is. The guns rotate between shootouts so players just take what they can get.
Stepping into tears has permanent consequences such as preventing the player from returning to a previous save state. On the other hand, taking items out of tears is fairly harmless. For example, you could open a tear to take cover or release a crate full of medkits during intense sections of combat.
At the end of the day, Bioshock Infinite is a first-person shooter, following the winding narrative of Booker DeWitt and his partner in crime, Elizabeth. The game is as tragic as it is intricate in how it handles the concept of Multiverse Theory using Elizabeth’s powers to explain the limitless possibilities.