While in development, Bioshock Infinite was known as Project Icarus.
Not too often do I find myself enjoying a game so much that I'm able to walk around and happily explore the environment for an hour and a half without progressing in the story. Welcome to Columbia. As the third installment in the successful Bioshock series, Bioshock Infinite stands out as perhaps one of the last great games on this generation of consoles and arguably one of the best first-person shooters of all-time.
Set in 1912, players step inside the shoes of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt. Deep in debt, Booker has only one chance at a clean slate: travel to the city of Columbia and rescue a girl named Elizabeth. Located off the coast of Maine, Columbia is a floating city (think Cloud City from Star Wars) which seems to be a utopian paradise at first glance. In reality, Columbia was founded by religious fanatic Father Comstock whose citizens worship the Founding Fathers of the United States. Under his leadership the city has become a haven for sexism, racism, and every other –ism one can imagine. A rebellious group called the Vox Populi is leading an uprising against Comstock and his followers – making Booker’s task that much more difficult. Will you be able to help Booker and Elizabeth make it out alive?
Gamers will be hard-pressed to find a game more visually stunning than Bioshock Infinite. At times, instead of taking care of threatening enemies, you’ll be more interested in exploring parts of the city. Early on in the game, Booker makes his way through a carnival being held in honor of the Raffle Lottery. It would not be an exaggeration to say that one could spend over an hour playing midway games, inspecting shops, and listening to conversations. Game designer Ken Levine has created a masterpiece that makes you want to explore every square inch of Columbia in hopes that you won’t miss even the smallest detail. The story is so well done that my fiancé is content to watch me play and she absolutely hates first-person shooters. As a result, I am only allowed to play when she is present.
Veterans of the Bioshock series will be pretty familiar with the gameplay. With his right hand Booker can wield typical weapons like pistols, machine guns, and sniper rifles. With his left hand Booker possesses psychokinetic powers via the use of vigors – basically plasmids in previous Bioshock games. There are a total of 8 vigors in the game including the ability to throw fireballs at enemies (Devil’s Kiss) or the power to swarm enemies with crows (Murder of Crows). Vigors can also be combined for more devastating effects. Instead of tapping the trigger button to use vigors, players can also hold the trigger to place vigor traps which adds a healthy dose of strategy to some battles. Another new feature of the gameplay is the Skyhook which Booker uses to travel on Columbia’s Skyline. While certainly useful for transportation, the Skyhook can be also be used to crack some skulls in melee combat.
While near perfect the game has a few minor shortcomings. The control scheme, like previous Bioshock games, utilizes the shoulder buttons on the PS3 controller in order to use weapons and vigors. R1 and R2 fire or switch your guns while L1 and L2 deal with casting or switching vigors. In the heat of battle, sometimes the action gets a little hairy and the control setup lends itself to mistakes. Another small negative are the respawn positions. Anytime I perished, I seemed to immediately be thrown directly into the midst of battle. The majority of my health is drained before I even realize my surroundings. Both of these nitpicks can be slightly frustrating at times, but they never spoil the fun.
In a year filled with some great games already (Tomb Raider, Luigi’s Mansion, Ni No Kuni, etc…) Bioshock Infinite stands out as the best of the bunch. Although we are near the end of the current generation lifecycle, the game feels like one of those debut titles intended to launch new consoles. Simply put, gamers get that “new console” feeling. As an added bonus, the original Bioshock is also included on the disc for players who have yet to explore the underwater city of Rapture. DLC is forthcoming which Ken Levine has described as a “love letter to the fans.” Although not yet May, I feel fairly comfortable proclaiming Bioshock Infinite as the game of 2013. Absolutely a must own for any respectable gamer.