Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bioshock Infinite

I have been a fan of the Bioshock franchise from the debut title and it is one of the only series aside from Uncharted that I have played from start to finish. From the first time that I heard about Bioshock Infinite, I was instantly hooked and eagerly anticipating its release. The first trailer showed this idyllic utopia with a lot of odd little details. The uneasiness that the first trailer established is what initially drew me to the game. It stands on its own from the original two games and only loosely connected to those tales. On its own, Bioshock Infinite stands above most of the last generation, and the only game that I enjoyed more than it was Dishonored.

The story of Bioshock Infinite follows Booker DeWitt, a survivor of the Battle of Wounded Knee and gambler, who is hired to retrieve a  "girl" from the floating city of Columbia to pay off his debts. His target, Elizabeth, is a mysterious young woman with more than a few "powers" that come in handy from time to time. He is at direct odds with Comstock, the overseer of Columbia, who is a religious zealot that is a technical genius and a massive bigot. Booker and Elizabeth are taken on an adventure to discover their own origins and the mysteries behind Columbia.

The tech behind this game is absolutely stunning and is one of the most technically advanced games of the current generation. The graphics and framerate are smooth throughout and there is no slow down despite the huge amount of action going on at one time. The draw distances are impressive and all of the small details put into the backgrounds such as burning posters and groups of NPCs interacting with each other keep you engrossed in the setting. The game can be drop dead gorgeous in one moment and then brutally gory in the next moment when the action scenes begin. There is no shortage of blood and gore in this one with graphic up close kills and nasty "vigor" kills as well. The tech behind Elizabeth is incredible and it was the best AI companion that I have seen since Alyx from Half-Life 2. She is not just a drone looking to do your bidding but an independent entity that is helping you along your journey and at times is your most important asset. Other studios should take the time and really study the tech that went into Elizabeth when looking to make companions for their games.

Even the sound design of the game was incredibly impressive. There are so many lines of dialogue in this game that taking the time to record each one must have been a huge undertaking. Booker and Elizabeth have interactions for almost every single situation that they are in and even have extra banter for the quieter moments in the game. There are hidden voice journals to recover that unfold the mysteries of Columbia and you should seek them out if you want the full story of the game. The single creepiest sound effect in the game has to be Songbird's "song", it signifies some of the most explosive set pieces in the game and the appearance one of the most interesting characters of the game.

The controls are smooth and the combat is nothing revolutionary but it goes retain the same solid feel of the first two games. The game plays like a standard first person shooter but the quality of the presentation and story is what really takes it over the top. The one complaint that I have with the game is that the difficulty escalates way too quickly and there is no real way to adjust to it. I am by no means a novice gamer and I generally play on hard through my first playthrough of any game but this one put its boot on my throat and would not let up at points. The action was so chaotic and ammo was so limited that some parts were simply impossible. It is a minor gripe is an otherwise wonderful experience.

Controversy has followed this game from its release with people complaining about the game's depiction of violence, racism, and religious beliefs. The violence, while over the top at points, is nothing that has not been seen in dozens of games before. It is addressed in the game that Booker kills a huge amount of people and how it weighs on him throughout the course of the game. In most games the violence is never acknowledged but this one discusses it a bunch of times. Racism is shown because the idea behind Columbia is purity and Comstock is the tyrannical overlord who will do anything to keep his city pure. There is nothing horrible in the game in regards to racism but it is definitely present throughout the game. The religious beliefs in the game are primarily Christian and religion does play a massive part in the game. This is mainly due to the fact that that Comstock has a revelation about creating Columbia after receiving a baptism and having a vision of the future. Most of the controversy was due to the complex nature of the narrative and the importance of the themes to the overall story. Nothing was overly offensive and people need to chill out.

Bioshock Infinite holds the distinct honor of being one of the best titles on any platform, ever. It is an achievement on many levels including AI, graphics, and storytelling. This was one game that grabbed me and would not let go. If you are looking for a game that is not in the Call of Duty mold, then do yourself a favor and pick this game up as soon as possible.