Now, most of you reading this came here to see what kind of nonsensical reasoning this hack of a writer could possibly have to criticize Ken Levine’s current masterpiece, Bioshock: Infinite. Many of you came here to defend this game, and many more are already considering it for their Game of the Year. Well, let me start off by saying this: Bioshock: Infinite is indeed a great video game and I will by no means dabble into slanderous affairs. But that is not what this article is about.
This article is about the fact that Bioshock: Infinite was supposed to be so much more. It was supposed to be a transcendent experience that would shift our industry in a new direction by allowing us to explore something brand new, something that has never been seen before in any other video game. Some people have even heralded Infinite as “a true classic for the ages.” But, and I say this with the utmost of disappointment, it simply is not. Here’s why:
The combat is easily the biggest factor that constantly pulled out of the depth and wonder that I regularly lost myself in whenever I would play Infinite. From the very beginning of the game I had the same feeling that I had when I first journeyed the bottom of the ocean: awe and wonder. I was completely enraptured by the city in the sky. Even though it was the exact opposite of Andrew Ryan’s underwater city, Columbia amazed me to no end. Even after being able to experiment with the vigors at each of the booths at the Columbia Raffle and Fair, the game still had me engrossed and I could not wait to try them out on people. Even after the event that abruptly ends the Fair, and I got my first taste of the combat gameplay, I was still head over heels with everything, that is, until this happened.
It was in that exact moment that I knew this was not going to be the game that I had expected. It was not going to be the fear driven, blood-pumping edge of my seat adventure that I had waited six long grueling years to play. You see, rechargeable shields have completely ruined the FPS genre for me. Because when a video game utilizes rechargeable shields, game designers are forced to pace the action in certain ways and this is terribly evident in BioShock: Infinite. Throughout the entire game, and especially during later levels, I constantly got pegged by baddies from halfway across the map when there was absolutely no way they could have gotten a clear line of site on me. Enemies are insanely accurate, and the majority of my time was spent simply trying to figure out who or what was hitting me. All of this, just to tear down my shields so that I could be concerned about my health being depleted. It even reached a point where I could no longer enjoy the gunplay and only used the Murder of Crows vigor to find my enemies; which leads to my next point.
I completely understand the aesthetics of video games; in order for a video game to sell well it has to have unique, intriguing, and explody things. But the vigors, which are introduced almost immediately, are only used by Booker. At least in the original Bioshock, we came to understand that plasmids (vigors) eventually drove the citizens of Rapture insane or turned them into junkies. Columbia on the other hand, shows no examples of dilapidated people, nor were there any signs of any negative effects from using vigors. Yet no one used them. Granted, there were enemies such as the Fireman, and the Crow, but there was no origin given to either of these characters. As a matter of fact, referring to the official Brady games strategy guide will reveal that the Fireman are actually Columbian citizens who committed heinous crimes and as punishment have been locked inside the metal suits which constantly burn them. My point is, an explanation of the vigors would have been nice.
One of the most interesting things that both piqued our interest as well as stressed us senseless was the introduction of the unique form a transportation found in Columbia: the Sky-Lines. We worried that the Sky-Line would be set pieces in the game forcing us to through arduous on-rails sequences. Thankfully this is not the case as Ken Levine has stated that the plan for the Sky-Line was to give players that roller-coaster feeling in a game, but with guns. And truth be told, they have succeeded in doing so because a roller-coaster feels completely out of control.
Ultimately, the Sky-Line felt like a shoehorned mechanic that served as a tidy way to move the game from one scene to another. Who knows, maybe it would have actually been better with a few on-rails set pieces.
Overpromised and Underdelivered
Now that you’ve played Bioshock: Infinite, and if you have not yet stop torturing yourself and go do so right now, you may not remember what the initial vision for this game was. You may not remember that Elizabeth was supposed to be this super powerful being. You may not even remember that there was an electoral civil war brewing in Columbia. Allow me to remind you:
This was the Bioshock: Infinite that I expected; this was the game that had me frothing at the mouth to play. In the final build, Elizabeth does not assist you directly in any way shape or form. Yes, she does assist you indirectly by tossing you ammo, health, or salts, as well as opening tears to provide you with a wide variety of support, but nothing like what we saw in the demo above. Telekinesis being completely removed and replaced by a much weaker variation (Return to Sender) felt practically insulting. Even the name of the vigor would dictate a telekinetic ability, not an addition buffer to Booker’s already overpowered shield.
By the way, up until this point I have kept this article largely spoiler free. If you have not completed at least one playthrough of Bioshock: Infinite, stop reading right here.
Just stop and go finish the game.
Why are you still reading? Go, play it on easy if you have to.
Alright, but you’ve been warned. Major Spoilers ahead!
Lastly, let me just say this about the ending of Infinite, Dream World plot devices are for lazy writers who want to bail out of a bad plot in which they’ve written themselves into a corner. I mean this was like the M. Night Shyamalan of video game endings, and I don’t mean that in a good way. So I figured out about two thirds of the way through the game that Booker DeWitt and Zachary Hale Comstock were the same person. The twist that really threw me for a loop was the fact that Elizabeth Comstock was actually Anna DeWitt, and the scene in which we discover what happened to Elizabeth’s pinky had me on the verge of tears. Then it all ripped back to the lighthouse and instantly my eyes dried into utter confusion. It literally took me a few days for my mind to process the entire thing and that is not a sign of a good ending. At least in Bioshock, there were two alternate endings; one ending gave you closure while the other, well I don’t know what kind of sick minds would get that ending.
Either way, both endings allowed us to walk away feeling satisfied. Bioshock: Infinite left us scratching our heads and trying piece together what we just witnessed. Like I said in the beginning, this is still an amazing game, and I do still highly recommend it. It is just not Game of the Year material as I expected much more from Ken Levine and the folks at Irrational Games.