Game: BioShock Infinite
Publisher/Developer: 2K Games/Irrational Games
Genre: First-person shooter
Describe This Game in
Three 12 Words: Kicks more ass than Liam Neeson getting his daughter back from kidnapping donkeys.
Plot Synopsis: In 1912, Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton detective fallen on hard times, agrees to travel to the floating city of Columbia in order to pay off a gambling debt. His mission is to retrieve a mysterious girl named Elizabeth being held captive by the city's leader/prophet Zachary Comstock, who led Columbia in secession from the United States. Booker must battle his way through the beautiful but strife-ridden city as the religious fanatics and ultranationalists come under siege from an underground equality movement.
Up Up: BioShock is the reason I bought a PS3 in the first place. The third installment in the series tops the original. It isn't just game of the year; it's probably the best game of all time...at least until we finally see Portal 3.
Booker DeWitt is the first truly relatable first-person protagonist I can ever remember playing. It's not that you didn't feel for Jack and Subject Delta in the first two games. Both were sad and powerful figures, but their silence worked against them rather than for them. It's not like Chell from Portal, where pointed muteness is a direct attack against a gabby antagonist. In BioShock, we were always slightly caught between being able to identify with our avatar and being held at arm's length.
As you ramble through the incredible floating city, Booker's personality and interactions bring him to life. Apparently the script for BioShock Infinite is 20,000 words longer than the average novel, and that writing shows.
It pales in comparison to Elizabeth, though. Irrational Games has done the impossible. They have created a competent and enjoyable sidekick. The minutes that you team with Elizabeth change the gameplay completely. She's a helpful buddy, scrounging for money and supplies. You never have to worry about her in combat, and many thanks to whichever video game god finally destroyed Protecteron, the demon of annoying escort missions, to get us here.
She also acts as a moral compass and guide to DeWitt, and just being around her makes you want to do the right thing even more than the Little Sisters did. Having such a powerful foil to play off of is what ensures that BioShock Infinite will hold a place as the highest form of video game art.
What's equally amazing is how strikingly different yet still the same the game is. Infinite finds the perfect balance of continuation and innovation. It starts in a lighthouse; you quickly discover incredible powers; the initial fetch missions follow similar formats; you get knocked out halfway through and thrown into a new quest by a new character; and, of course, our protagonist isn't all that he seems. In one way, you could lay the plot of Infinite over the first game and fit them together seamlessly.
Yet the differences are subtle and brilliant. It's a light city as opposed to the darkness of Rapture, and those looking to relive the horrors that Rapture was capable of will be out of luck. Instead, the game is slightly more of a mystery along the lines of the old MacVenture game Déjà Vu. But, you know, with way more shooting people.
Columbia is a thriving metropolis, not a rotting hulk, and there are plenty of normal people that you don't have to kill. They'll even wish you a good day, or in some cases inquire in a quaint old-timey way about boning you. That's not to say there are no horror elements, but it's a wider and much different world than Andrew Ryan's shattered libertarian wet dream.
Down, Down: Your skyhook melee weapon seems to have significantly less range than Jack's wrench or Delta's drill...that's it. That's literally the only thing I could find to complain about.
Oh, and I believe this is the first game ever to allow you to electrocute a used sanitary napkin. BioShock breaks new ground yet again!
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Left, Right, Left, Right: You notice two significant things about Booker that set him apart from Jack and Delta. The first is that he is noticeably slower. The second is that he's limited to two guns at a time. This ups the realism factor, forcing you to scramble for guns when your current one runs dry, but it does sort of make scavenging occasionally feel pointless. What's a first-person shooter without that "All right, got the BFG!" feeling?
B, A: There has never been a greater soundtrack in the history of video gaming. Ever. No one has been able to put together a soundtrack for a game the way Tarantino does for a film, but Infinite accomplishes it. You're walking along and you realize that you're listening to a Gregorian chant version of "God Only Knows." Next thing you know, you're just murdering along when you stop dead and say out loud to nobody, "Is that a Tin Pan Alley rendition of freakin' 'Tainted Love'?"
It may seem anachronistic, but trust me, there's more to the story. That's nothing compared to the period music you find all around you in the game. It's like someone made a video game of O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Start?: There is simply no good reason not to play BioShock Infinite.