Sunday, August 25, 2013

Constants and Variables

Game--Bioshock: Infinite

System--PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Release--March, 2013

When I first heard of Bioshock: Infinite my expectations were low. The prequel to the ever popular Bioshock couldn't possibly be better. How could it top the under the sea dystopian antics of Ryan and Fontaine? Especially after the sequel panned out to be a pale imitation of it's predecessor.

The answer lies in time manipulation and companionship. Similar to Half-Life 2, Infinite tells a tale through the interactions of the main playable character, Booker, and the non-playable character, Elizabeth. The relationship between the two characters is one of the driving forces pushing the plot, and it is well executed.

Many touching moments are shared between Elizabeth and Booker that are seldom seen in games today. There are also strong themes throughout the story that range from religion and industrialization; to temporal distortions and paternal problems. Not surprising, the city in the clouds has much in common with its sister in the sea.

Booker is sent to the city of Columbia with a simple task. Find Elizabeth to wipe away his debt. Taking place during the early 1900's the American city is a utopia for the privileged white elite. You know. Those kind folks who didn't appreciate Lincolns little war. They just wanted a safe haven to practice their faith, and protect their white babies. Turns out it's a heck of a lot easier to secede from the Union when you are a floating city in the sky. Of course Columbia doesn't reject their darker skinned brothers and sisters. Someone has to work in the industrial sector, and keep the place spic and span.

Naturally the town goes to hell in a hand basket shortly after Booker arrives. He has to fight his way through waves of armed forces using any gun he can find and Plasmids--I mean Vigors. That's the bottled goodness granting you magic from your finger tips.

There's decent variation between enemies, but the guns could have been better. Luckily the Vigors nicely supplement the lackluster arsenal. If you've played any of the Bioshocks, then you'll be familiar with the gameplay. The powers are different, but not to the point of confusion. Fire is fire. Lightening is Lightening. Bees are now Crows. etc. The new twists lie with your partner and the Skyline.

Elizabeth is your best buddy in a firefight. She will throw ammo, salts (used to refill your Vigors), and health packs when you need it most. She can also make all sorts of items appear with her temporal powers.

Not to be outdone. Booker can leap on to the overhead railing and zip around the area in style. The swashbuckling feel is enjoyable, and landing on unsuspecting enemies is rewarding. The rail device attaches to the left hand, which also doubles as a viscous melee weapon. Players can access melee, guns, or powers at any time without having to switch between the three. As a result the whole combat system feels more streamlined, and the action wasn't interrupted as frequently as past titles.

Infinite does a great job implementing new tactics into a familiar setting, while simultaneously redefining the Bioshock universe. The developers brilliantly found a way to explain why the formula would be copied from the previous titles. Elizabeth is gifted with some serious temporal powers that allow her to tear open time itself. This provides all sorts of interesting twists and turns throughout the story. By the end players will have a completely new perspective of this fictional playground.

If you are like me, then you'll immediate start up a new game to catch all the foreshadowing and innuendo. Bioshock: Infinite is easily my favorite game of the year, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming downloadable content Burial at Sea.

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