The Seed of the Prophet Shall Sit the Throne, and Drown in Flame the Mountains of Man.
I generally try not to review two games back to back, but this review simply could not wait. Not only did I talk about it in my previous review, but I just beat it and simply had to tell people about it. I don’t really know anyone that’s played this game but me, but I’ve seen lots of talk about how amazing it was before I finally purchased it. And I didn’t wait to purchase it because I didn’t expect much out of it. I waited because I had other games that I should finally play and knew that my drive to play this game would not wait. I loved the first game in this series, and I was even fond of the sequel, but now the game has been returned to the hands that treated it so well originally. And so let’s talk about BioShock Infinite, designed by Ken Levine, developed by Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Human Head Studios, and Darkside Game Studios, published by 2K Games, and including the voices of Troy Baker, Courtnee Draper, Kiff VandenHeuvel, Kimberly Brooks, Jennifer Hale, Oliver Vaquer, Bill Lobley, and Keith Szarabajka.
In 1912, Booker DeWitt (Troy Baker) is taken to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine. Inside, he finds a rocket silo that transports him to his destination, the floating city of Columbia. His mission here is to find a girl named Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), daughter of the revered Prophet of Columbia, Father Zachary Hale Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel). If he’s able to find this girl and return her to New York, he can wipe away his massive debt. But Elizabeth is not a normal girl; she’s able to tear holes in reality that go to either parallel universes or through time. And, quite frankly, this game is far too complicated for me to tell without spoilers, and I wouldn’t dare. Here’s a spoiler: go buy this game right now!
Damnit. I just ruined my whole review. I guess you can close out this review now… Okay, I’ll tell you why this game is amazing: because it is! It’s smart, it’s deep, it’s vaguely confusing, and it’s amazing. I doubt it was because of this, but the game I played right before this game was Duke Nukem Forever. Very similar games, though. Both first person shooters, both have some form of everlasting in their title, but only one of them you will wish will last forever. The other one will welcome you into eternity by making you want to kill yourself. But we’ll discuss the Duke later. The story of this game is better than any game I can currently think of. BioShock was already a brilliant story by having deeper messages within, but this one jumps past that one by also being mind-bending in all the best ways. People talked a lot about the racism in this game – as they talked about the “rape scene” in Tomb Raider – but I have the same reaction to both: get off their nuts. This game is like a snapshot of that time, and people were racist back then. But what I loved about the depth of their story was the hidden messages, the ones that were confusing at the time but (as I make my way through my second playthrough) actually hide messages that you only see once you’ve beaten the game, which leads to it being a total mind-fuck. I won’t spoil it, but the ending was amazing. It was even better for me because nobody ruined it for me beforehand. I would say that I kind of had an idea of what was about to happen – or at least one part of it – but explaining that too much would ruin it. In fact, I liked it so much that I won’t even put it in spoiler alerts here. Go play it and find out for yourself. But, during my second playthrough, strange things are starting to make sense, mostly dealing with the Lutece twins, or when they dropped hints that you were about to be ambushed at one point with things like a violin player that couldn’t play violin. I would say that I wish the ending were happier, but it’s what helps set the game apart as artwork and not just giving me what I want. And I do think this game would be my leading argument for games as artwork, and probably as my favorite game of this year.
We could use this time to go through the whole process of me saying that the game wasn’t perfect and that there were things that didn’t sit right with me, but let’s face it. This is all just an excuse for me to fit jokes I thought of into a review. There were a few things that popped into my head while playing, but I wouldn’t dare say they took away from the quality of the game. One thing I thought that could’ve been done better was how surprised Booker and Elizabeth seemed to be when they found out that she was Comstock’s daughter. I thought we knew that from the beginning! Was that supposed to be a Shyamalan twist on the story, because I thought everyone was just aware of it. It’s revealed at one point that Comstock was taking credit for things that Booker actually did at Wounded Knee, but Booker won’t tell Elizabeth what he did. Why be so shy about it? You’re walking around a city that worships the guy that says he did those things, so why should you assume someone would judge you for being the one that actually did it? Well, she probably would have though… What you can’t judge me for is my reaction to the Vox Populi. (Good transition, Robert!) These guys want me to help them out right? Shouldn’t they start by trying to endear themselves to me? Y’know, instead of throwing me out of an airship when I already have a head injury? The other thing was one I had heard complained about before, but the items you find when searching things was sometimes odd, like finding a pineapple on a dead body, or coffee in a mailbox. Even stranger that I would eat a hotdog I just found by searching a trash can.
The only thing that I would say seemed problematic about the story to me was that I never really felt the impact of the choices I made. As best I can tell, there’s no good or bad ending to the game, but there are choices that make it seem as if you’ll have an impact on the game. I’m okay with both existing, but not really okay with them existing together. Why bother making me choose whether or not to throw a rock at a guy that was fraternizing with a black lady if the only thing that happens because of it is that later the show up and say thanks for not throwing a rock at me. I haven’t beaten the game twice yet, but my investigation on the internet leads me to believe that there’s only one ending to the game, which I’m torn about. Part of me says that I should have more control over a video game and be able to make choices that end me up in different places, but the other part of me appreciates that the game makers decided that this was the ending they wanted to represent their art. I guess I really just wanted a happily ever after…
Since I mentioned it in my review of Tomb Raider, I feel like I have to close it out here. My friend Phil was complaining that he had heard people talking about how spectacular the look of BioShock was when Tomb Raider existed, whose visual style was far superior in his mind. Now that I’ve beaten BioShock, I have to disagree. I wouldn’t say either game is far superior to the other visually, but I thought of a comparison to describe my feelings about the look. Both games are beautiful in their own ways, but I don’t feel that they should even be compared to each other. The difference to me would be like comparing the Mona Lisa to some beautiful photograph (I admittedly don’t pay attention to photography as an art form). Tomb Raider is photorealistic and an impressive work of art in that sense, where BioShock doesn’t try to be photorealistic and instead goes for an artistic style all of its own. Both beautiful in their own way. Going to Columbia is as spectacular as going to Rapture was, and similar in feel even though it’s much brighter and sunnier in contrast. Two issues with the look though. Why does everyone have to look at their wrists when they’ve been released from shackles? Can you not just feel that they’re off? And there’s one scene shortly after that where you walk down stairs that have water rolling over the steps. Very pretty, but pretty impractical. You must have people breaking their necks all day long.
Speaking of beautiful, I think the thing that made me get into the game most of all is that I fell in love with Elizabeth. No girl will ever live up to Elizabeth. No girl is as innocent, as adorable, as pretty, and as able to tear reality asunder. It was clear to me that they spent a lot of time giving Elizabeth such life in the game. Her expression always matches her situation. She explores the environment when nothing else is going on, she’ll have a seat on a bench when she’s been walking too long, she’ll buy cotton candy, she won’t go into the men’s restroom when you do and she’ll criticize you for going into the women’s restroom. She’s like a real person. And she only gets cuter when she changes her clothes into the gear that she’s wearing in most of the promotional stuff for the game. And the best part about her is that she’s always an asset and never a burden. Most people figured that you would have to drag her ass around, trying desperately to keep both you and her alive, like a new version of Ico. But in combat, she can’t be damaged. She just hides in the corner and occasionally throws you something you need, like ammo, health, and salt (that’ll make more sense when you play the game, which you should be doing already). You can even have her tear reality and bring a turret in to assist you. Even when not in combat, she’ll throw you money, unlock doors, and point out items you should pick up. She is a pleasure to have around in every way.
Not much to say about the gameplay here. It’s not really revolutionary to me because it’s not far removed from a regular first person shooter. And at first, I was resentful that the right trigger was fire and the left trigger was for your Vigors. The left trigger should always be aim. How many times did I use some ability when I was just trying to aim, having forgotten that that is done by the R3 button? …Eleven. But I got used to it pretty quickly … especially when I realized I rarely felt the need to aim. I just think that shooters need to get on the same page and the big things – like shoot, aim, melee – on the same buttons, and then the rest can be used for the stuff that makes your game special. I also took issue with the fact that I could only carry two guns at a time. That felt a little low for me. The big thing that set this game apart from other shooters was the Skylines, that you could jump on to for travel, shoot from them, and jump off to kill enemies. I was unimpressed by Skylines. They were fine, but I could’ve done without them just as much as I enjoyed them. It seemed more appropriate for the game just as a method of transport than something I ever cared to use in battle. Also, the Handymen in the game were not nearly as cool as the Big Daddy. Just as difficult, but not as cool.
The achievements are roughly the same as I remember from the other BioShock games. The greater majority of them are not insurmountable. You have some collectables that you actually want to get because they make you better in a fight or give you insight to the story behind the story. A couple of easy to get combat related ones too. The only one that seems to be a problem is getting through the game on 1999 mode (which is what they called Very Hard for some reason). Getting started is very rough on this mode before you get the shield, and then it’s more about playing it safe. Also, you can’t use a vending machine that I never used because I saved my money to buy upgrades to weapons, so that was much easier.
BioShock Infinite is amazing. It’s not only the best game I’ve played this year, but it’s the best I’ve played in some time. I would expect to see this game again when the end of the year reviews come up. The story is great, deep, and mind-bending, and the combination of the great story and the fantastic visual style of this game makes it lean closer to a work of art than simply a video game. I don’t only want my readers to play this game; I demand it. Seriously, I need someone to talk about this game with without spoiling it. Get this game now! BioShock gets “You’re still fuckin’ reading? Go buy this game!” out of “…No seriously.”
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