I’m aware that nostalgia is a powerful thing, but still, I have to make note of the fact that I recently saw the results of a poll conducted by a popular gaming community (True Achievements) in order to determine the best games of the last generation. The results of the poll determined that BioShock was the best game of the 7th generation of consoles. Without making any reference to the game of the generation poll, or its results, I admit that BioShock is a game that really stands out and back in 2007 it was truly remarkable. Even now as we played it, in 2014, its technical shortcomings, compared to modern games, faded away, making way for an immersive and captivating experience. But by comparison, BioShock Infinite is clearly much more than its predecessor, making it obvious how much things have changed for the better in the last 7 years; particularly in the complexity of the story and the way it’s being delivered.
All games are dreams, worlds for the mind to play in. Some draw closer to the everyday experience that we call reality, but they’re all dreams. BioShock Infinite goes beyond what most other games do in creating based on this knowledge, enabling it and even, in a way, celebrating it. It manages to create a well rounded, seamless experience that doesn’t take you out of the dream with the introduction of several elements, like the detective’s office in which you respawn in case you die without Elizabeth present to patch you up. It reinforces the notion with the introduction of the Luteces and by starting off your journey into Colombia in a very dream-like setting. The sanatorium sequence and the travel between dimensions all serve to create and maintain this notion. The whole game takes place in a floating city, high up in the sky, after all; a more fitting place for this dream to take place in, would have been hard to find.
The Relationship – A First Step
We were expecting a remarkable experience and we got more than we expected. Most notably from the relationship with the character Elizabeth. A lot of praises have probably been written about the Booker – Elizabeth relationship and it’s true it’s remarkable given the current state of gaming. But what I see first and foremost is a path, a path on which the interaction of these characters is a first step(a) Still a bit rough around the edges, it could definitely have done with more interaction, particularly more dialogue towards what can develop into something truly special in the years to come. Something that can really set games apart from all other media of human experience and creation. There is an opportunity to create richer, more interactive, even more personal relationships in the future, particularly given that most developers are probably already aiming for a much higher lowest standard, given the proliferation of the next-gen consoles and their highly increased processing power. Having said this, I’m aware that special fiction and fictional relationships come from special individuals and those are rare, regardless of what they choose to do. My hope lies in the fact that video game conception and development seem to have so far drawn in a higher average(b)We’re still talking about a very small percentage here. of special individuals than any other human creative outlet, probably because it’s by far the most complex.
A noticeable thing is the fact that the game has as its main theme beliefs/religion; something that is usually avoided by big budget, mainstream productions, regardless of medium. This is even more surprising (pleasantly), as the views presented in the game are not quite favourable to it, often quite damming of its hypothetical belief system. The bearded prophet that keeps a tight grip on the society he controls, not turning away from any atrocities in order to maintain his power and to ensure his will is law during his lifetime and during the reign of his heirs, rings awfully true in our world as well.
The world of the bright Columbia, the Columbia that is featured in promotional materials, the main menu and the prologue, the world which you tend to associate with BioShock Infinite is visually remarkable, particularly among video games, that more often than not feature a dark and sombre palette. Unfortunately, that world is only visible in a relatively small portion of the game, toward its beginning. Mostly, the action takes place either indoors or in a dark, smokey, version of the city. It’s true that the clear sunny skies, beautiful outdoor parks and general tidiness of the bright Columbia suggest a calm, trouble-free atmosphere that wouldn’t have matched the action in the rest of the game. However, we would have liked it if more of the game had taken place in this setting, as we often found ourselves wishing for it(c)Probably somewhat influenced by the images of the main menu which greeted us every time we started up the game. .
Rather than the “blank slate to be filled in” route, that most other first person games take, the protagonist gets a voice and thus becomes a presence, a character in his own right, that you happen to control. It could be that the decision to give the character a voice was taken exactly to prevent a full overlap with the player’s consciousness, because of the not so desirable facts you discover about him. But, ultimately, this has little importance. The voice of the main character, as is the case with the majority of other characters and extras that appear throughout the game are well acted, without any hiccups whatsoever and with quite a few moments that stood out.
The Blue Bar
By now most gamers probably don’t even think about the blue bar. Red for health, blue for mana, mana is used to cast magic, period; end of story, all games that feature magic use it. But because BioShock changes the system a little bit and along the way tries to explain, throughout the first game, how the powers/plasmids found in Rapture came to be and how they work, I’ve come to expect the same from BioShock Infinite. This expectation was coupled with the fact that Salts is a more common term than Eve and as such we tend to associate it with things we know, more easily. That’s why one of the most important omissions felt like the lack of an explanation given to the origin and nature of Vigors and their relationship to the Salts that power them (only few vague hints(d)More details about how they came to be and how they work are given during the Burial at Sea DLCs. were given in some audio logs/voxophones).
The addition of the sky-lines adds a whole new dimension to the combat system and the gameplay in general, adding a lot more verticality to the whole experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work as intended and a lot of times I found myself jumping up and down, taking enemy fire, when I had intended for the character to attach to the sky-line; or I found myself getting down from it when I had intended for a sky-line attack. But these problems don’t happen very often and overall it’s a welcome and unique (thus-far) addition to the FPS game mechanic. Enemy wise, there wasn’t anything truly remarkable except for the Handyman. First of all, he is big, but fast and agile, as opposed to the big & slow cliché and has the ability to incapacitate and hurt you in a number of ways, making him quite formidable as an opponent. However, besides his battle presence, another element that stood out was his back-story and how his origins as a sick man were integrated in the combat through his pause for cough moments. Overall, they felt like a more menacing enemy than the Big Daddies of the first BioShock, although they didn’t quite have their presence and mystique.
Although not particularly well sown together and featuring more than a few things left unexplained, as well as a few soapy elements, the ending of BioShock Infinite stands out in the gaming world. Game creators probably get free reign over the endings of their games from the bureaucrats, because of the very low game completion rates industry wide and the low impact to a company’s bottom line thus perceived. Humorous anecdotes aside (though probably real in some cases), it truly was one of the most thought out endings in gaming, somewhat redeeming BioShock (the first), which despite of its great story ended with a caricature of a boss-fight and a cliche cutscene. More often than not we’ve witnessed games build up a great story arc, only to fall apart when it came time to bring them to a close. So despite the gaps in BioShock Infinite’s ending, it truly stands out from the majority of other games that put emphasis on their story.
|a.||Still a bit rough around the edges, it could definitely have done with more interaction, particularly more dialogue|
|b.||We’re still talking about a very small percentage here.|
|c.||Probably somewhat influenced by the images of the main menu which greeted us every time we started up the game.|
|d.||More details about how they came to be and how they work are given during the Burial at Sea DLCs.|