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5/14/2013

REVIEW: Bioshock Infinite (Xbox 360)


If there’s one thing the current console generation has seen, is a huge rise in the amount of shooter games developed and released in every platform. Call of Duty, Borderlands and other franchises are taking the spotlight from other games and some of us can’t help but wonder if it’s worth it. So every time a game of the genre is released, gamers like me with different tastes tend to doubt its quality and look at it with some skepticism. Fortunately, every once in a while, a true gem of the industry comes out in the genre and trust me when I say Bioshock Infinite is one of these. This is definitely a game that will be remembered forever.

Developed by Irrational Games (System Shock 2, Bioshock 1) and published by 2K Games, Bioshock Infinite is a fantastic first-person shooter that mixes many different ingredients that, on paper, don’t seem like they’re going to work out well but end up being the perfect recipe in the end. In it, we take control of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent in 1912 United States that is given a mission to hand over a girl to some unknown characters to erase his huge debt to them. After being left stranded on a mysterious lighthouse, he boards a rocket that takes him to the incredible and beautiful floating city of Columbia, where American exceptionalism is the strongest point of its population.

After a short while, Booker will find the girl he’s looking for, named “Elizabeth” and they will have to work together as a real team to escape Columbia and overcome the hundreds of dangers that the story will put before them like the citizens of the city calling Booker the “False shepherd” and attacking him or a huge bird-like construct trying to take Elizabeth away from Booker. During Bioshock Infinite, we’ll easily notice the game has a strange but perfect mix of Steampunk elements in the design of the floating city but at the same time it has tons of guns, heavy references to physics and alternate realities and universes, robotics and yes, even magic in the form of Vigors, some spells really similar to the Plasmids from Rapture’s two games.

Bioshock Infinite looks great on the Xbox 360. Most of the textures, use of colors, animations, lightning effects and framerate are really good but when compared to the PC version running in a good machine, it’s easy to notice the 360 one running a little short. Still, it’s very, very good. I especially loved the animations in Booker’s hands while playing, like reloading his weapons, his hands changing from the use of Vigor spells and how he usually interacts with objects around the city. Besides, the lightning is excellent and helps with the overall design of the city that floats among several islands in midair and its great atmosphere; the excellent movements of the enemies are also really good, Columbia itself being extremely beautiful and the best of all, Elizabeth’s facial expressions that make her come to life in a fantastic way. To be honest, Elizabeth has to be one of the best female leads in gaming ever created.

The soundtrack is amazing, composed by Garry Schyman, who also worked on the previous Bioshock games and others like Resistance: Retribution and Dante’s Inferno. It fits in a perfect way with the environment and events of the game and really makes you feel like you’re in the United States of 1912 among a heavily racist and religious population that works like a powerful sect. It also has a great pace, changing immediately but not in a sudden way when the events go from exploring to violence and so forth.

Another of the strongest points in the game is the voice-acting. Every character is voiced perfectly and they really fool you and make you think you’re either watching an action movie or participating in the events yourself. The plot in Bioshock Infinite is extremely confusing with tons of weird terminology and events that the player seriously need to pay attention to if he/she doesn’t want to get lost and the voice-acting in the game really helps with the narrative and does each of its parts right. One of the many things that make Booker and Elizabeth an awesome team is their interactions and conversations.

In gameplay, Bioshock Infinite has everything you would expect from a first-person shooter campaign. It follows a formula where Booker will explore a certain section of the city trying to complete a given objective and in the way, he’ll have to engage in different firefights with a lot of very dangerous enemies that go from Columbia police and rebels to even giant robots that resemble American patriots and mounted turrets. All usual kinds of weapons are there: pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles but in this game, most weapons profiles have different types so, unlike Bioshock 1 where for example, the machine gun had different kinds of ammo, in Infinite we’ll have access to different machine guns each with their own attributes like rate of fire, anti-armor abilities and such.

In addition, Vigors spells come in different kinds. One of them called “Possession” allows Booker to take control of a machine or human being so it becomes friendly for a short time. He can also shoot lightning, fire and even a bunch of deadly crows at enemies among other interesting things. Vigors can be used together with firearms by pressing the left trigger (guns use the right one) and along with melee attacks (Y button) make a perfect combination to emerge victorious in the hundreds of firefights Booker and Elizabeth will participate in the game.

The most unique thing about the gameplay is that Booker is almost never alone. Elizabeth will accompany him most of the time and her AI is truly excellent. She can open locked doors and safes using lockpicks and also open portals to alternate universes and make items and objects come out of them like friendly turrets, health packs and even some weapons and ammo that will surely come in handy in a specific firefight. If Booker is injured or running out of Salts (mana used to cast Vigor spells), she’ll usually be able to throw a health pack, ammo or Salts bottle at him when she’s nearby.

Elizabeth is actually invincible gameplay-wise so there’s simply no way she’ll be killed in a fight. You never have to worry about it. She’ll hide or run around the place but the enemies will never attack her (because according to the story, the enemies are trying to rescue or take her away from you). With this, the game avoids being a really long escort mission. She’s pretty useful, is almost always close to Booker (even when he’s riding one of the Skylines, some rollercoaster-like railway system used in Columbia) and has her uses all through the game. Besides, she has a fantastic personality that makes her a little bit similar to a Disney princess at the beginning but that matures and becomes quite independent and intelligent as the game story advances and the dark and heavy atmosphere of Columbia emerges. As I already stated, Elizabeth is one of the best female leads in the gaming industry and the team she makes with Booker is legendary.

Several other interesting things are present in Bioshock Infinite. Like a really HUGE metallic construct that resembles a bird called “Songbird” that is in charge of protecting Elizabeth and will try to hunt you down several times throughout the game. It is really scary and at least in the first playthrough, will have you in high alert at all times because you simply don’t know when it’s going to show up. Other sections of the game include dark scary places with a terror atmosphere that actually manage to be really creepy and scary. These often use the portals and alternate universes thing against Booker. So the pace of the game is extremely varied between all those, the firefight and the normal exploration.

While the game is mostly linear, most areas have a lot of hidden rooms, passageways and Skyline rails that will take Booker and Elizabeth to optional places where they’ll be able to find health, weapons, ammo, Salts and money to spend on robotic vending machines scattered all over Columbia where you’ll be able to purchase upgrades for your weapons and Vigors, and other important things. Voice records that fill key elements to the story are also hidden all over the place, just like in Bioshock 1. Finding and listening to them is vital to understanding a lot of important parts of the confusing storyline the game has.

One of the things that could turn people away from Bioshock Infinite is the lack of multiplayer. The game does not have any kind of competitive or cooperative modes. It’s just the campaign. But to be quite honest, after seeing how many interesting shooters have been negatively affected by the addition of multiplayer, I personally think the decision to not include one in Infinite was for the best. The campaign alone makes this game a really fantastic gem.

Finally, I can say that Bioshock Infinite is definitely the way most first-person shooters should play like. It has all the technical stuff we could ask for, like great graphics, soundtrack, voice acting and gameplay but in addition to that, the storyline, narrative, design and team-based gameplay between Booker and Elizabeth is pretty much perfect. This is a game that will go down in history as one of the gems of the generation and it truly deserves it. Bioshock Infinite is a game that must be played by anyone with an Xbox 360, PS3 or a good PC that can run it. It simply cannot be missed.


Pros:
-          Great graphics, soundtrack and voice-acting.
-          Excellent storyline.
-          Booker and Elizabeth make a fantastic team.
-          Elizabeth’s abilities are truly helpful
-          Thousands of hidden objects and extra stuff to find.
-          Tons of weapons and Vigor spells to use.
-          Columbia is an extremely beautiful and well-designed floating city.
-          Firefights, exploration, story and scripted events make an excellent pace.
-          The Songbird.
-          THE ENDING.


Cons:
-          Dying doesn’t really bring any negative consequences.
-          Even on Hard, the game is not very difficult.


-          Graphics and Visuals……..…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......10
-          Gameplay……………….……10
-          Replay Value………………....10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.8 / 10

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