BioShock Infinite is Ken Levine’s latest epic. After being announced all the way back in 2010 and after seeing multiple delays, the long-awaited spiritual successor to BioShock has finally been released. BioShock Infinite plays very similarly to its predecessor. Nearly all of the core gameplay elements in the original BioShock are present in BioShock Infinite. Infinite shines not in its gameplay, but in its story. In some ways, BioShock Infinite takes many cues from its predecessor and follows a similar mold, but in other ways, it truly leaps out of the water and creates a unique experience that no other game has ever offered.
A Brilliantly Complex Narrative
BioShock Infinite has one of the greatest narratives ever told in a video game. The story starts out fairly basic, but then more and more complex variables are added to the mix. This results in an absolutely incredible plot. The plot is full of twists and turns that even make the first BioShock’s legendary moments (“Would you kindly?”) seem almost simplistic. The narrative is brilliantly structured in a way that allows the complexity of the subject material to never become too overwhelming. The story can be hard to follow at times, but nearly everything adds up in some fashion or another.
BioShock Infinite’s story doesn’t just entertain you, it makes you think. After you complete the game, you’ll spend hours, days, and even weeks discussing the incredible ending. Infinite is a game that is meant to stay in the minds of players long after the credits role. The ending isn’t the only thing that will keep people talking, either. BioShock Infinite takes on themes that most games wouldn’t dare tackle. Serious themes such as racism and religion are at the forefront.
Part of what makes the game’s story so special is the fact that it would not be possible with any other medium. If you tried to recreate the story in a movie or a novel, the story would not even come close to being as impactful. Nearly everything in BioShock Infinite is built around the story. Even small things such as respawning is done in a way that best serves the story. Little details like this keep the story centered at the heart of the experience.
BioShock Infinite’s narrative is both deep without being overly confusing and shocking without being predictable. BioShock Infinite’s plot will go down as one of the highlights of gaming during this generation. The story is easily one of the best we’ve seen in recent years.
Characters That Come To Life
BioShock Infinite’s incredible narrative wouldn’t be anywhere near as impactful or successful if it wasn’t for its truly great characters. In Infinite, you play as Booker Dewitt, a private investigator with a seriously dark past. Dewitt travels to Columbia, a city literally floating in the sky, to retrieve a girl. Dewitt’s immense debts will be erased if he is able to get the girl out of Columbia. He might seem to be an unrelatable protagonist, but is anything but that. When playing the game, players naturally feel a very strong connection to Dewitt. BioShock Infinite uses the first-person perspective to give the story and characters much more meaning. Booker Dewitt isn’t just some character in a video game. You are Booker Dewitt. This connection to the character adds a layer of depth to the narrative that is not present in most games.
As great of a character as Booker Dewitt is, the story wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it wasn’t for Elizabeth, the girl trapped in Columbia. In some ways, Elizabeth is a more important character to the game than Dewitt. Elizabeth feels like a real person at times. She has realistic emotions and isn’t oblivious to the violence and injustice around her. Elizabeth is easily one of the best-written females ever seen in a video game.
Both Dewitt and Elizabeth undergo incredible character development throughout the game. This character development is yet another aspect of the narrative that makes BioShock Infinite stand out. Part of the reason that these two are such great characters is the wonderful performances by Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper. Both of these actors really bring their respective characters to life through their excellent voice acting.
A Wonderful World
The city of Columbia is nothing short of stunning; it is absolutely striking. The colors of the city and the sky combine in a way that makes this one of the most beautiful settings ever seen in a video game. Although the character models of the minor characters tend to look rather wooden, the incredible scenery and backdrops more than make up for the lack of visually impressive characters.
BioShock Infinite is clearly a story-focused game and nowhere is this more apparent than (ironically) in the gameplay. The gameplay is by no means bad (it’s usually quite fun), but it isn’t very memorable. When looking back at the highlights of my time with BioShock Infinite, I think of countless moments from the story before I even consider the gameplay. The gameplay is completely overshadowed by the narrative. While this is certainly not a bad thing in itself, there are times that you’ll just try to rush through the combat to get to the next part of the story. The gameplay is very similar to that found in the original BioShock. Although a few major changes were made, they are all rather underused or underdeveloped. Some of the fights in the game tend to seem rather pointless. Shootouts sometimes feel more like filler content than an essential part of the game.
The enemies do little to change the formula set in previous BioShock games. Most of the enemies are nearly identical to each other and the ones that dare to do something unique still don’t measure up to the high standard that was set in the first game. The Big Daddy has arguably been the most iconic enemy during this generation of gaming. The first encounter players have with the Big Daddy is unforgettable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for any of the enemies in BioShock Infinite. They not necessarily bad, but they aren’t notable at all.
Even though the gameplay is usually a blast to play, it can grow tiresome due to its lack of variety. I found myself doing the exact same things to defeat more challenging enemies towards the end of the game as I did to defeat grunts in the beginning of the game. While this certainly doesn’t even come close to ruining the game, it will disappoint some players who are more interested in the gameplay than the story.
BioShock Infinite presents a completely unique and incredible story that is complemented by realistic characters, fantastic music, stunning scenery, and numerous unforgettable moments. Even small missteps such as the gameplay’s lack of variety are completely overshadowed by everything that the game does right. Infinite creates an experience that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
BioShock Infinite is the kind of game that moves the industry forward.