Bioshock Infinite Review (PS3/360): “To Infinity and Beyond”

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Bioshock Infinite is a first-person shooter that was developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Easily one of this year’s most anticipated games, BioShock Infinite seeks to take us from the horror and action of the murky depths in Rapture, and whisk you up into the floating city of Columbia. Despite its vibrant facade, underneath the surface holds dark secrets and menacing plans just as its underwater contemporary did. Bioshock Infinite suffered several delays since being announced in August of 2010. Luckily, that hasn’t stopped Irrational Games from crafting another enormous story-driven journey. However, does Bioshock Infinite live up to all the latest hype and string of perfect scores? Lets dive…no, lets fly into this review and see!

Story: 5/5

Bioshock Infinite has to feature one of the most elaborate stories to grace a console in this generation. The story not only makes you care for the main characters involved, but really challenges your mind through science and philosophy. Rest assured, this isn’t an undergrad philosophy class but the game does brush onto metaphysics more than once. The gamer’s choices and parallel universes in this game are set in the year 1912. The main character in Bioshock Infinite is Booker DeWitt, a man who has been hired to bring back a girl named Elizabeth, who has special abilities. He is bringing her to New York in order to pay back a debt. The hook is that Elizabeth is currently on the floating city of Columbia and when Mr. DeWitt arrives on this magical city, he soon discovers that it’s not quite what it seems.

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Unlike the dark corridors and evil in the city of Rapture from Bioshock 1&2, Columbia is the complete opposite in appearance. As the game progresses further into this mystery, DeWitt discovers that Columbia is a city torn apart by groups and a controlling dictator called the Prophet. The story touches on regret, guilt, oppression and religion. The Prophet’s Columbia is a city founded on the literal adoration of America’s Founding Fathers. Except the Prophet’s vision contains a twisted place, where racist, nationalistic attitudes are legitimized by its leader’s religion and a brutal, industrialized inside keeps the exterior surface serene looking. There is a plethora of mature oriented content that pops up in Infinite. Religious zealots, racism, class warfare, and the American city of Columbia in 1912 are all under the microscope. Some may argue that a lot has changed; while other things have still remained the same in our modern times, and that is what I believe Irrational games was trying to get across to the gamers.

Eventually, Booker is reunited with Elizabeth, and the story of Bioshock Infinite kicks into high gear. The action ramps up but so does the emotional aspect as well. The relationship between Elizabeth and Booker feels real and although she despises him at first due to the men that he killed, this relationship soon changes into something more comforting. It’s this interaction between Elizabeth and Booker which really makes this game so great. The elaborate story takes no shortcuts while exploring societal issues such as religious zealotry, class warfare, fanatical patriotism and awful racial intolerance that make the game even more intriguing to watch.

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Gameplay: 5/5

Bioshock Infinite starts you out with the basics. Explaining who you are, why you’re here, what Columbia is, and how they got to where they are, all within the first ten minutes. The intro is soaked in symbolism and Victorian art styles. The rescue of Elizabeth comes early on, and after that, you’ll soon find out that she’s far from a helpless little girl. Elizabeth has been trapped in Columbia for a very long time, and once outside, all these new interactions can sometimes evoke confusion, astonishment, or just plain horror, but she often finds inner strength and eventually becomes tougher.

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Elizabeth’s abilities are a great asset to your adventure as she can do a great many things. It’s clear that Irrational games spent a lot of time and energy working the game to make sure that as a companion, Elizabeth is positioned as prominently as possible. She provides a full range of emotions and assortment of powers that make her a delight to have around, not annoying or burdensome like in certain other games that will remain nameless. Elizabeth can open a space time rift and bring in helpful robots to aid you in battle. She can also change the battlefield in mid-fight, while tossing you supplies such as ammo or health. She will not fight enemies but on the plus side, she also cannot die either during battles. It’s amazing that the entire campaign was created with a buddy AI that was completely not burdensome or poisonous to the momentum of the script. The entire gameplay could have easily gone downhill by mistakes or errors made by the AI of Elizabeth, but instead she was created flawlessly.

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The in-game combat is played out just like in previous installments. Gamers will have a wide range of hard hitting weapons. This time around, you’ll be finding and equipping upgradeable “Vigors”. These Vigors are exactly like Plasmids from the original BioShock, a magic liquid spell that grants the body special abilities. Most Vigors are unique mostly because they all have a secondary function as well. Most are useful and enjoyable, but occasionally it’ll take some trial and error to figure out which Vigors do the most destruction to the game’s enemies and bosses. Through all of this, you’ll be rummaging enemy bodies and the environment for ammo, weapons, money, health vials, and Salt (which is used like the original Bioshock’s “Mana” to power your Vigors). Figurine decorated vending machines have been placed throughout the city and function as the place to buy health, ammo and upgrades.

My favorite part of Infinite has to be the sky-rail system. The sky-rails play a big part in both BioShock Infinite’s exploration and combat. There’s an easy interface for using your hook attachment to zoom around on these rails and attack from above when dismounting, but what’s more fascinating is how you can completely change the nature of a firefight with these aerial rail systems. Pop around, behind, and up close to pay a couple of enemy snipers a little personal visit. Or you could fire rockets down on enemies while sliding from the rail itself, and pounce on a powerful enemy that’s near a ledge to dump them off of it in one hit. Not all firefights involve hooking onto rails, but many of the game’s best firefights feature it.

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Using the sky-rails, I couldn’t help but feel that I was on some high-speed ride at Disney World zooming past all of the little toy towns and people below, which is exhilarating and nostalgic in its own right. You’ll also find some gruesome and gory deaths with the use of both the Vigors, as well as up close melee attacks and more destructive guns, and you’ll see these especially with some of the little perks that are added with your Gear (simple pieces of clothing that change your combat capabilities). There are four distinctive slots for “Gear”, and these items will give you extra critical damage, stuns, Health steals, and other aids that aren’t locked to a particular gun. However, there are some specific Vigors that can be modified by adding Gear items.

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There is one underlying theme here, and it’s something smaller at first but gradually becomes more prevalent as you venture deeper into the game. The friendship that begins to bloom between Booker and Elizabeth is something from yesteryear that you just don’t see that often and I’ll explain. If you’re an old-school gamer and a veteran of first person shooters (pre-Call of Duty days), then you’ll remember how limitless the old games of the pre-2000’s era felt. You are a lone secret agent or super hero who happens to be a typical badass. You’re allowed to run riot on a level full of brutes without any dependents or commanding generals shouting in your ear. Most developers are usually unsuccessful in creating and implementing authentic character interactions, feelings, and dialogue into a hardcore action shooter. Seldom do FPS designers achieve this task, and to quite Andrew Ryan, Irrational Games has “chosen the impossible”. Most of the adventure and action is wild, enormous and open during its inspiring action sequences. Then suddenly, in a masterful stroke, it becomes soft, small, and passionate, all while preserving the view point of your protagonist DeWitt Booker.

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Graphics: 5/5

The very first thing that you should notice about Bioshock Infinite when booting up your PS3 or 360 is how gorgeous it looks. The attention to detail is stunning and seeing this early 20th century city floating high above the clouds is just beautiful. At times, it feels like Ken Levine and his team actually built this real city brick by brick and wood by wood due to the attention to detail. Whether it’s the puffy white clouds floating around the skyscrapers or softly dipping down as you see buildings slowly moving up and down in the sky, it’s almost angelic like. The game was built on Unreal Engine 3 running on hardware from seven years ago, but is a rather astonishing to see how Irrational packed so much detail into each and every space.

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Most environments in the game are nearly spotless, and without contrasting the slight visual differences between the consoles and PC version, almost everybody should be more than enthralled. Unfortunately, some of the game does suffer with some textures of the game being a tad muddy and unpolished up close. Facial animations of enemies and certain objects in the areas become downgraded as you approach them, sometimes. However these are infrequent issues, but it does remind you that the PC version is slightly superior then our rapidly aging home consoles. The frame rate in Bioshock Infinite is reasonably steady. Once or twice during the most intense of battles does the visual engine skirmish to keep up.

Bioshock Infinite truly shines in its art style. The early 1900’s “Americana” representation is present everywhere you gaze. Videos displayed in the Kinetoscope are short silent films similar to old Charlie Chaplin movies. These clips present a variety of news footage on Columbia and its famous citizens. This all contributes to the richness of the experience, and how its history feels authentic. It is amazing how flawlessly the team at Irrational has captured the iconic appearance and sense of the early 20th century. Another praise must be given to the animation department. Elizabeth moves in a natural way, conveying facial reactions I’ve only really seen in titles like the Uncharted. Just the actions of her walking into a shop, leaning on a counter, inquisitively touching random items in the shop, or making intelligent comments on the current environment all make the experience that much more stunning and impactful. Ken Levine wanted to make Elizabeth feel like a real person, and here they succeeded again.

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Sound: 5/5

The music is another highpoint for the game. The eerie versions of classic and modern songs can sometimes make you feel like you’re in the “Overlook Hotel” in the movie “The Shinning”. I’ve come to expect nothing less in the voice acting department for a Bioshock game, and here it remains the same, if not better. The voice acting is expertly done. The main protagonist is probably my favorite in the entire franchise. Booker DeWitt is charming, passionate, intelligent, and can also be deadly and aggressive. Voice actor Troy Baker (The Last Of Us, Saints Row 3, Ninja Gaiden 3) conveys all of these emotions so effortlessly that it is a treat to hear him bring Booker to life.

Elizabeth’s voice actor is equally as good, going through dialogue with a certain passion and authenticity not seen too often nowadays. The game is best played on loud and surround sound would be nice, if not some Turtle Beaches, to totally experience the great ambience of this title. Lastly, I must say that I always enjoyed how Irrational Games made the anti-hero rewrite the history of America and as they say, “the victors write the history”, but in this case, the dictator does. Another thing I always loved is how amazing the Bioshock soundtracks are. Not being a fan of today’s popular music, I have fallen in love with older songs because of Bioshock. I am indebted to developers like Irrational, and games like BioShock for showing me to records I wouldn’t have otherwise ever remotely heard of from eras 50+ years past.

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Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10

The original Bioshock released at the beginning of this generation of consoles, and it showed us an FPS with a groundbreaking story and phenomenal setting. The city of Rapture was unlike anything any of us had ever seen before. It became an instant success, grossing millions, two sequels and a rumored movie as well. Every gamer I know who dives into Rapture feels its lasting effect. Bioshock has become part of our culture, including our video game language and music. Fast forward five years and we are now nearing the end of this console generation, yet Bioshock Infinite looks as if it is repeating history. Flying to the sky and providing not just another revolutionary story, but a game that enterprises the entire franchise to new heights.

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It goes without saying that Bioshock Infinite is a title that will likely change how game designers make games just as the original Bioshock did years ago. It’s a game that defines why we play and love games and it defines our generation. It’s a title that taunts to dig into alternate realities, and tackle modern patriotism and the dark morality of an uprising. It shows us prejudice in a way I’ve never seen before in a video game. With the quality of Infinite’s art, music, script writing and voice talent all being polished, you’ll understand why you’ve had to wait years for this game. One cannot can’t just throw money and manpower at a title of this magnitude, and still have it turn out like this, it also takes tremendous talent and extensive time.

PROs:

+ Phenomenal writing from opening to close

+ Visually beautiful

+ Fantastic voice work throughout

+ Captures early Americana perfectly

+ Skyhook combat is an excellent new mechanic, feels like an exciting Disney ride

+ This game screams immersion

CONs:

– Certain Visual aspects take a hit occasionally

– Why did it have to End

Copy purchased by reviewer for review purposes. Played through on the Xbox 360 console.

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Sweet Pre-Order Bonuses For BioShock Infinite

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Irrational games has decided to award early adopters of BioShock Infinite with virtual gifts. Announced today, those who pre-order the new BioShock will receive the Industrial Revolution pack DLC. The pack contains a selection of character types, extra in-game cash and five lockpicks. One can only imagine that these lockpicks will come in handy during your playthrough. Aside from that, players will receive the Sugar Rush Gear: Speed Boost, Fleet Feet Gear: Evasion Boost, and Handyman Nemesis Gear: Increased Damage. I can say, that with all this free DLC just for pre-ordering one of the most anticipated games of 2013 will only make the purchase sweeter. For more news on this, stay tuned to Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”

Top 10 First-Person Shooters of All Time

First Person Shooters are one of the most beloved, yet over-saturated genres currently in the gaming industry. While there are a lot of great ones out there, there are an exceptional bunch that stand out over the others. Here are my personal favorites in the industry that truly stood out:

10) Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas

Ubisoft welcomed gamers with the tactical FPS, Rainbow Six Vegas, when it hit the market back in the Fall of 2006. With it’s hybrid of FPS mechanics and TPS cover system, you got a nice blend that gave gamers something different from your typical FPS. Couple that with some great environmental design, strong soundtrack and gripping story, with an ending no one sees coming, and you’ve got a stellar game here that FPS fans owe themselves to play.

9) Doom 64

Doom has always been a sweet FPS that many hold dear to them. However, what set Doom 64 apart from the prior installments was the creepy mood it captured. Environments were much more expansive than ever before and the audio really set a strikingly creepy vibe. In the previous ones, you’d have bumpin’ rock tunes to listen to while shooting away at mutants. This one had you sitting tensely thanks to atmospheric tunes that set your mind in a more “horror” mentality. It was still the same game we grew to love, only evolved into a horror state.

8) Half-Life 2

When it comes to FPSs, Valve is certainly known for providing groundbreaking experiences and that came with Half-Life. We had never seen or played any game like it before and to this day, still stands out as a revolutionary experience. Many years later, after much hype and demand, Valve released the highly anticipated sequel, Half-Life 2, to much critical and consumer reception. Implementing a whole new physics engine that had never been seen before, along with a gripping narrative, Half-Life 2 set out to create a new standard in FPSs and did exactly that.

7) BioShock

“Son, you were born to do great things…” Upon hearing that line, the airline you’re on begins to malfunction and crashes in the ocean. As you swim to the surface, you look at the remnants of plane, astounded by the visuals Irrational Games achieved. BioShock easily has a lot going for it. Set in alternate 1960s era, you’ll be greeted with a mystifying narrative, outstanding visuals, strong environment designs, fine-tuned combat and some of the best water effects seen in a game to date. The city of Rapture was a joy to explore as you never knew what to expect next.

6) Resistance: Fall of Man

To start off, Insomniac Games is one of my favorite developers. Granted, I never really got around to playing the Spyro games on PS1 but I started with their Ratchet & Clank titles on PS2 and damn, were those flawless games. At the release of the PS3, there’s no denying that there was a lack of solid titles to pick up alongside the pricey system…except for Insomniac’s “Resistance: Fall of Man”. Not only was it the best PS3 launch title, it was one of the best FPSs ever created. Solid visuals, a mystifying story, tight gameplay, lengthy campaign, intense 32 player online mode, suspenseful soundtrack and some of the best sound effects in a shooter, Resistance: Fall of Man is one FPS that should not have been missed.

5) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

While Call of Duty is turning into a mundane yearly affair for many, there was a recent time where we didn’t trash on the game as much. COD4: MW was simply the best one as it wasn’t too heavily structured as being a mindless shooter. Easily the best campaign in the series, it also had the most polished and fine tuned multiplayer. As the series went on, they aimed for a “more is better” approach on multiplayer which in turn, made the series become a turn off to many die-hard fans of COD4.

4) Turok 2

Turok 2 is the definition of how an FPS adventure is done right. Brilliant weapons, sharp visuals, environments full of detail, phenomenal cinematic soundtrack and finely tuned shooting mechanics. This game would eat up an easy 20-40 hours just to get through the rich campaign. After this installment, the franchise fell from grace with the questionable Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, atrocious Turok: Evolution and mediocre reboot that hit the current gen simply known as Turok.

3) Perfect Dark

Another stellar FPS to hit the N64 (and later with an HD remaster on XBLA) was toward the end of the system’s lifecycle. Perfect Dark pushed the visuals of the N64 beyond anything thought imaginable on the system at the time. It built upon and perfected the gameplay mechanics made for GoldenEye and had a ton of content to take on. Awesome weaponry, outstanding soundtrack, a mostly solid campaign (starts amazing but begins to feel a bit jarring towards the end), one of the most robust multiplayers that still competes with today’s standards, and flawless mechanics made this an FPS that couldn’t be missed.

2) GoldenEye 007 (N64)

No matter how you put it, GoldenEye was one of the pinnacles of FPSs to ever grace gamers. At the time, there was really nothing quite like it. A solid campaign that made players complete a variety of objectives, along with an untouchable 4-player multiplayer that provided for some of the most memorable moments when playing with friends. The game added further complexity by adding cheats to unlock by completing missions on specific difficulties while speed running them. Simple unlocks consisted of the infamous DK Mode and Paintball Mode, but truly skilled players could unlock Invincibility by completing the Facility level on 00 Agent in under 2:10, which is incredibly impressive.

1) TimeSplitters 2

TimeSplitters 2 was developed by the same team that was behind the flawless GoldenEye 007 back on the N64 but also behind the game that shut them down, Haze. Regardless, TimesSplitters 2 had it all. An over-the-top, fun campaign, deep and fully customizable multiplayer and a full-blown Map Maker so that you can not only make your own multiplayer maps for you and your friends to duke it out on, but also create Single Player missions! Top this with nostalgic mechanics from GoldenEye, a brilliant soundtrack and a rock solid 60 fps and you’ve got a package that is truly astonishing.

Did you play these titles? If so, which ones were your favorites? Sound off in the comments below!

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