Which is more likely to happen? A city under the sea or a city floating in the sky? Scientific sorcery enabled a lot of what I saw in Columbia and I pieced it together through scouring of personal effects and public kiosks. Like Rapture, the Columbia’s history and how things came to be was not made bare. If I wanted to know more about Columbia, I had to dig for it. I didn’t mind that decision but I somehow missed the “Voxophone” which explained how the “Vigors” — Bioshock: Infinite’s Plasmids aka magic — were invented. That missing piece of information bothered me until the very end where it was made moot. The ending left me satisified but I don’t know how I would feel about it if I didn’t acquire a majority of those Voxophone audio diaries.
Rapture was a grisly and unsettling place. All that remained were recorded memories and the ghostly remnants of happier times. In Columbia, I was able to experience and witness those happier times. I visited shops, museums and beaches; I was also given more opportunities to soak in the utopian society filled with living citizens that weren’t trying to kill me.
I found amusement in eavesdropping in on conversations of racial divide and the problems of the poor. Watching the citizens of Columbia enjoy their city was a nice change of pace compared to the ruckus opening of other shooters. It was weird to see them suddenly vanish at the drop of a hat but I still enjoyed getting what little peace time there was. I even commited acts of racial insensitivity in the hopes of keeping that world intact for just a little bit longer.
Of course things weren’t going to stay merry forever. As the “false Prophet” Booker DeWitt, I played a prominent role in the downfall of Columbia. All I had to do was bring in Elizabeth to wipe away a debt. It was a deceptively simple request that would set off a chain reaction and ultimately bring down Columbia. Along the way there were plenty of familliar (BioShock) opportunities for me to play detective and piece together the cause of a gruesome murder or uncover the conspiracies that were bubbling under that utopian exterior.
The action opened with a gruesome facial reconstruction by Booker’s hand mounted skyline tool. I don’t usually cringe and utter “Oohhh!” to myself but I did for that moment. I wouldn’t say BioShock: Infinite was more violent than the original though. It was more personal and deliberate but we bludgeoned Splicers with wrenches and watched Big Daddies impale people with their giant drills before.
I played the game on 1999 difficulty. I chose this path after hearing people claim the game was too easy on any other difficulty and I wanted to do whatever it took to omit the navigation arrow. That arrow would drive me insane in the original BioShock if I didn’t turn it off. I didn’t want to rush through any area and 1999 mode allowed me to take my time. I had to scavenge for my own well being as well. Even though there was a “Halo” styled shield to protect me, it was paper thin until I devoted skill points towards it. And since skill points, money, health and Salt (mana) replenishing foods were hidden all over Columbia, I needed to take my time and forage through garbage bins hoping for edible food items. Nothing tasted better than an apple found in a trash can.
The fights were manageable despite the high difficulty. I only felt cheated once when a bug rendered a boss unkillable. Most fodder didn’t exhibit signs of intelligence. They homed in on me with with blind rage but they played their role to the T. If it’s a melee opponent, he or she would run up to me with wreckless abandon. If it was a gun wielding foe, they kept their distance no matter how vulnerable I was; they maintained minimum distance and waited for me to lick my wounds — or in this case — recharge my shields. The only foe that struck fear into me was the Handyman which like “Big Daddy”. They were relentless and did not stop until one of us expired.
I feared death only because it costed me precious coin. Money was used to revive, buy health items (which I never did) and upgrade skills and equipment. Unfortunately money was rare and if I wanted to improve my chance of survival, I had to horde as much money as possible without wasting them on needless deaths. I could have reloaded the game entirely in order to save myself some money but then it would have taken me a lot longer than 20 hours to finish the game. By paying money, I was revived to the nearest checkpoint. By reloading the save? I revive at the beginning of an area and that’s not an insignificant amount of retreading.
The skylines and tears were supposed to be the differentiators for BioShock: Infinite. The skylines were quick transport routes and allowed the citizens of Columbia to traverse from one place to another with ease. They integrated it as a means of travel well but I rarely felt in sync with its implementation in battles. Most of the time it made more sense to stay in cover, take pot shots and possess turrets or people instead of riding around in circles.
Elizabeth was a helpful young woman. She found coins, items of interest and tossed me support items and ammo during battles. She also had the ability to open tears and bring in cover, turrets and weapons. The idea was sound on paper but I didn’t find the implementation was elegant. Seeing monochrome outlines of turrets and holding a button to ask her to summon in those things was “too on the nose” for me. In battle, I didn’t view Elizabeth as an ally, I saw her as a proxy for a set of abilities. I would have preferred it if I could have told her to be “offensive”, “defensive” or “supportive” and then have her open tears accordingly. It may have not always worked as I intended it but that’s the beauty of working with someone else: they’re not going to be perfect.
I felt the same disconnect with Elizabeth whenever she found a lockpick. Why couldn’t she hold them for herself? I couldn’t pick locks. I should be the one pointing out lockpicks for her.
BioShock: Infinite was a looker. It also maintained 60FPS at 1080p for a majority of the time only dipping when there were heavy smoke effects. BioShock’s looks didn’t rely on technical accomplishments — I actually found early parts of the game quite ugly upon close inspection. The city populace were nothing more than clones of one another and the shrubbery appeared to be made out of papercraft. Thankfully the most important people and objects were given high quality assets and animations.
After the credits rolled, I sat there on my couch and speculated on how BioShock: Infinite came to be. I’m sure there are official stories out there but I like to believe he wrote BioShock: Infinite as the definitive end of this franchise. I want to believe that he came up with the story as a reaction to the publisher president’s comments. I don’t want to see a third iteration on the BioShock formula from Irrational Games but I do wish to go back to Columbia with new content and mysteries. Hell, I just want to go back and witness more of the unorthodox and intriguing mannerisms of the Luteces. Gameplay design disagreements aside there’s very little that I didn’t love about BioShock: Infinite.
For more information on BioShock: Infinite, visit the official website.
2010 PC Rev. 1.3 was used to play BioShock: Infinite.