Note: I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, but there are certain aspects of the game that are related to the original Bioshock game that I will be discussing. If you do not wish to know anything additional about Bioshock Infinite, read no further than Question #2.
1. What’s It All About?
Bioshock Infinite is the latest release from 2K Games and, although not a sequel to the 2009 hit Bioshock, it does share certain gameplay qualities with its namesake; those familiar with Bioshock will feel right at home. The game put you in control of Booker DeWitt, sent to retrieve a VIP from the city of Columbia. The year is 1912, and history has taken a unique detour in this gameworld. In this world, Columbia rides above the clouds, existing as a colony of floating islands that has seceded from the USA under the leadership of The Prophet, Zachary Comstock.
2. I’m not familiar with Bioshock — will that slow me down?
No previous experience with Bioshock is required. Fans of Bioshock will certainly appreciate some of the nods to the original game, but Bioshock Infinite easily stands on its own. As with the original game, players will be led by the hand early on in learning the basic controls such as weapons, movement, and the use of Vigors. (For Bioshock players, Vigors are the equivalent of Plasmids in this new game.)
3. Will I like it?
Whether you’ve played Bioshock or not, yes… the game is fantastic. The visuals are unbelievable, and the story being told is detailed and extremely entertaining. There’s a lot of gameplay here, and just when you think the game is nearing an end, you’ll discover (as those who have played the original Bioshock did) that there’s a bit more to be done. There are secrets to uncover, optional missions to accept, and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. One of my favorite aspects of this game? The dizzying use of the Sky-Hook system to move from island to island — you get the effects of a roller coaster combined with combat. You have to experience it to really understand and appreciate the design that went into making this possible in a game.
4. Is it suitable for kids?
For young kids, absolutely not — the game is rated M/17+ for a reason. But as with any videogame, parents of older children will need to do their own investigation into the game’s storyline. While their is an amazing amount of storytelling going on in the game, at its heart Bioshock Infinite is an FPS (first person shooter), so there’s lots of gunplay, explosions, and violence. Let me just put it this way — your guns will work 99% of the time in this game, so if you point a weapon at something (or someone) and pull the trigger, you’ll get an action, good or bad. Early in the game you’ll be alerted to the fact that shooting isn’t always a good idea and can bring unwanted attention. Later in the game, it’s your call. Friendly and non-friendlies alike can take damage.
As for the overall storyline, there’s a lot of backstory going on in this game. Keep in mind that there are historical references to events such as Wounded Knee and that the majority of the citizens of Columbia are following a man who is as harsh a racist as he is a religious nut job. There are some derogatory comments (of sorts) thrown around by the bad guys — keep in mind that Columbia’s workforce is mainly Irish and African and you’ll have some sort of idea of the insults being used.
5. I’m familiar with Bioshock — isn’t this just more of the same?
The only similarities I can really find between Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are related to weapons and powers. In Bioshock, you could easily change weapons, but with Bioshock Infinite you are limited to carrying only two weapons at a time. This means proper planning (or just plain being lucky) for certain boss encounters. For powers, Bioshock Infinite uses Vigors — power-ups that match Bioshock’s Plasmids. Once you’ve found a Vigor (such as A Feast of Crows that lets you throw a swarm of deadly crows at an opponent or Shock Jockey that gives you the ability to shock enemies and incapacite them for short periods of time), it’s yours to keep. In Bioshock, you charged your Plasmids with EVE, and in Bioshock Infinite, you’ll be using Salts. As with Bioshock, it’s using a timely blast of a Vigor with a matching weapons attack that yields the best results.
As with Bioshock, the new game is also divided up into areas that auto-save the game and then deposit you in another location of Columbia. You’ll often find yourself returning to a previous area, either to fulfill a side quest/mission or to retreat. I thought Bioshock had a lot of locations to explore; Bioshock Infinite has definitely upped to ante.
One final thought regarding similarities — above all else, Bioshock told a unique story — the underwater world of Rapture and the civil war that was being fought between Ryan and Fontaine. Well, Bioshock Infinite also has a civil war going on between The Prophet and The Vox. But there’s another story going on that involves the VIP you’ve been sent to retrieve, Elizabeth, and this secondary plot is just as interesting, if not more so. There are multiple stories being told in bits and pieces as you play the game, and by game’s end it all comes together and rewards the patient (and exploring) player.
6. Is there anything you didn’t like about Bioshock Infinite?
Early in the game I became extremely frustrated with the movement and firing controls. The smallest movement of my mouse or the WASD keys would leave me dizzy. It took 15 minutes or more of tweaking the controls (specifically the mouse sensitivity) to dial in exactly what I needed for my own reaction speeds. There really is a sweet spot that I believe most players will need to find during trial and error — the pain was that I could only make one tweak at a time, go and test it, and then have to go back into the settings to tweak something else. It would have been nice to have some sort of wizard or tool that could be run to let me zero in on the controls that worked best for me. A minor complaint, but it did slow me down from starting to get into the game.
7. Between Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite, which game did you like best?
That’s a tough question. I am a HUGE fan of Bioshock (I even enjoyed Bioshock 2), and I went into this knowing that Bioshock Infinite had a big hill to climb to match the time I enjoyed in Rapture. I even loaded up (via Steam) and replayed Bioshock a few weeks back just so I would have it fresh in my memory.
And here’s the thing — as much as I loved Bioshock, I think I’m going to have to go with Bioshock Infinite as the winner here — here’s why:
* I liked the visuals better — Much of Rapture was seen through water-filled tubes and windows, so you got the idea that you were under water and could see other parts of the city in the distance. But with Columbia, there were honestly times my palms were sweaty as I walked around the edge of one of the floating islands to gain cover from an attacker. You can fall off! Even better, you can see islands floating in the distance just waiting for you to come and explore (and there are telescopes that let you get some advanced recon occasionally).
* I felt less confined — Rapture was dark, cold, and wet… but Columbia is bright and warm and you get the feeling there really is no limit to where you can explore. The sunshine and birds and breezes all made for a more realistic experience.
* As a steampunk fan, this was a dream game — The weapons, the automatons, the use of language, and, of course, the time period, all made me smile. Subtle details in the fonts used, the posters, the advertisements… it’s just well done.
* I like this Booker DeWitt guy — With Bioshock, I never really knew about my (character’s) motivations until near the end of the game. With Infinite, I got a lot of Booker’s story right from the beginning, and his conversations with other characters start filling in a lot of blanks early on. It also made some of the major plots of the overall story much easier to understand as the game progresses. With both games, the character you are playing is relevant to the story, but with Infinite my being in this place felt less contrived and more believable than that of Bioshock — Booker’s got a history with Columbia that reveals itself much faster and in a more believable manner than Jack’s relationship and delivery to Rapture.
Of course, Bioshock Infinite is a newer game as well. The graphics and sound effects are much improved since Bioshock, and it’s readily apparent that the game developers took much of what they learned from Bioshock fans and made a good thing better. I’ve also learned that there will be additional content available — new stories/missions, weapons, and more — giving Bioshock Infinite more longterm-play value.
8. Minor spoilers allowed, what else can you tell me about Bioshock Infinite? Any hints or advice?
Your role in this game begins as a simple rescue mission — get Elizabeth out of Columbia to wipe away some gambling debts. The simple rescue takes you from the rich streets of Columbia to the slums of the Vox resistance and everywhere in between, and you quickly discover that Elizabeth has a unique ability that can often help you in the middle of a fire fight. Think on the name Bioshock Infinite, and ponder how that title might be relevant to a world where a floating city exists.
Advice? Explore everywhere. Look in every corner. Try to open every door. Spend your money on upgrades — often. Use cover wisely. And always be on the lookout for hooks that can get you to new (or higher) spots to search or from which to shoot.