BIOSHOCK INFINITE [Review]: The Last Great of the Last-Gen?
Okay, okay, I know. The game came out just over 2 months ago and we’re just getting around to reviewing it now. I hear you. I do. And I agree that I should’ve been mesmerized by the overabundance of hype behind the game; but the cynic in me couldn’t help but assume a game with this much sky-high ambition would just be another disappointment.
After giving into temptation and picking up a copy, the cynic in me has officially been killed, brutally, by everything Bioshock Infinite has to offer. The disc’s Big Daddy-sized ambition has become fully realized! Infinite builds from its predecessors and emerges as the best told story of this generation. The visuals suck you in, but the dense plot and (somehow) relatable characters, Booker and Elizabeth, will leave you nonetheless obsessed.
Trust it; I mean obsessed.
Marathoning this game is almost impossible to avoid. Within 15-minutes, Infinite throws player character Booker DeWitt, an “in debt” war vet, into one of the most beautiful landscapes since the original Bioshock’s Rapture. Infinite does a great job of making the 1912 alternate-reality city of Columbia seem believable — as believable as a floating city can be.
First laying eyes on Columbia can be a little blinding, as it only feels like your eyes are being fed to a whole new world (cue Aladdin theme..). The steampunk-style city feels both vast and intimate. No two places look alike, yet fit together like Kim and Kanyeezus. The detail in the architecture recalls that of Rapture, but in no way gives the impression that Irrational Games recycled anything. It all feels new, as some of the most fun you’ll have in Infinite is exploring the city, listening to every hustle and bustle. That is, before the action kicks into high gear and everyone is trying to kill you.
While the visuals of Columbia and its inhabitants hook you in, the real factor that allows Infinite to surpass the first two Bioshock’s — yes there was a second game — is the inclusion of, in my humble RPG-loving opinion, the best companion character of all time, Elizabeth. She is helpful, she is lovable, and best of all, she doesn’t get in the way. So much so that the first time you’re accompanied by Lizzy, text pops up on the screen that reads: “YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF ELIZABETH.”
Thank you, Comstock!
From the moment you meet Elizabeth (she is Booker’s mysterious objective; “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt”) she stays by your side, helping you find ammunition, health packs, and picking locks. She is the Scottie Pippen to your Michael Jordan, allowing you to be a superstar while dishing out help where it’s needed. Elizabeth can even alter the layout of the battlefield with her ability to tear dimensions, activating an automated — and ultimately badass — turret, a stash of med kits, or a wall of cover, to name a few things. Add that to the familiar array of upgradeable guns (my personal favs: the carbine and the sniper) and Vigors (basically Plasmids from Bioshock 2), and Infinite’s gameplay mechanics simply spell d-y-n-a-m-i-c.
Side note: Master it! It took me way late in the campaign to find out the hard way. Combining Vigors — Shock Jockey to set paralyzing traps, Bucking Bronco to suspend enemies in mid air, or Devil’s Kiss to burn the living hell out of hell — with your basic shooting skills and dimensional-tears will allow an easier time during the more difficult, late-game battlefields. You’re welcome.
Not to forget, your prime melee comes courtesy of the Skyhook. This tool allows players to brutally execute enemies (with low health) in gloriously gory fashion and ride the various Skylines throughout Columbia like a steampunk Tarzan. Though, I’ll admit, I rarely used this murder-wheel to kill, unless absolutely necessary. Where the Skyhook shines, though, is through gliding around Columbia while trying to avoid the giant mechanical George Washington(s). Uh, Iron Patriot anybody? Oh, and comet-punching the other soldier morons from the Skyline is pretty great too. Zesty Skyhooks aside, the quick combat logistics are this; you can carry two guns and equip two Vigors at a time, and swapping between the two is pleasantly intuitive. The combat stays fresh throughout the game, and every battle poses a challenge (set traps using your Vigors; it will save you from “Frequent Death”).
Bioshock Infinite knows it’s a Bioshock game. There is an impossible city (in this case a flying city, as opposed to Rapture’s subterranea), whose people are following an egotistical shithead, in this case “The Prophet” Zachary Comstock, in an “utopian” society. That being said, “utopian” means “very very racist” to anyone who spends 5-seconds listening to what’s going on in the background. Nevertheless, Infinite does a great job of owning these similarities and plays with them in such a way that when you realize what is going on, you will yell “What!? No!? Yes! Oh My God That’s AWESOME!”
Infinite is better than previous installments due to the mega infusion of emotional depth. Just having Elizabeth there for me to care, raised the stakes a shit-ton. When she was in trouble, my heart beat quicker. When she talked, I listened. I cared. And I will forever rave about how well crafted Elizabeth was. From the moment you enter Columbia, you are bombarded with Comstock’s hatred for you, so you have almost no time to think anything but. There are even posters all up around Columbia telling the townsfolk that you are the “False Shepherd” who will come to take the lamb, you know, Lizzy. Even the Songbird, a giant robot/bird hybrid made to protect Elizabeth up in her tower, felt like a real, somehow sympathetic character.
Supporting Cast: Check.
Now, while a bunch of other first-person shooters were released in the last year, including the likes of Crysis 3, Dead Space 3, Gears of War: Judgment — none of which Moody reviewed, ironically — Bioshock Infinite may very well prove the death of them all. Not merely because of its incredible combat system, but because it comes with some of the best storytelling on any medium. But, hey, if the FPS is not dead, is it.. evolving? Let’s hope for more immersive single player modes like this.
Bioshock Infinite may also very well be the last great game before the arrival of the PS4 and Xbox One, if not the best of this entire generation. Whether the latter point can be argued for more titles by more annoying fanboys, the former is a much easier point for me to make. GTA V? Surely a threat to the Bioshock throne-I-just-made-up-now, but there hasn’t been enough evidence for that judgment call. Grand Theft Auto 5‘s open LA-based world appears more expansive than ever (saying a lot) and the characters, both in their personalities and interaction with their own corrupted world, seem to reflect the best any GTA has to offer. Whether Grand Theft becomes a next-gen or not, I suppose the true Tale of the Tape will have to wait ’til September; because, for whatever reason, Rockstar Games has a superiority complex over E3 (and the odds of me playing it will be slim *shudders*).
Classic Status: Check.
***The following section of the review is for people who have already mastered Bioshock Infinite. That means SPOILERS.. AHOY!***
That damn ending. There’ll be more people talking about this thing that the “believing” that stopped and blacked out “The Sopranos”. The 20-minute-or-so cinematic masterpiece that weaves every plot point together — and includes references to the previous two games — gave me both chills and more philosophical thoughts then my brain was ready to process. So. Here.. We.. Go…
After killing Comstock and fighting off more waves of troops than thought existed, Booker takes control of the Songbird for some time…only until our friend’s unexpected utter demise. Hey, I wanted the damn thing alive, and Elizabeth clearly had an affinity for him. Call it, Stockholm syndrome. I think. With Lizzy goin’ all batshit on us, it was time to faint like a girl with braces at a Justin Bieber show: Rapture. DeWitt now operates the bathysphere, giving us the chance to visit “between dimensions,” riddled with lighthouses and other such glowing mindbleepery.
After refusing baptism at the dimension of Wounded Knee, Booker is joined at his apartment by Robert Lutece — one of the two physicist siblings who constantly prognosticates our hero’s fate. That’s where things get a little Inception. Book denies the existence of this baby, this child, this.. lamb, Anna, with extreme desperation; that is until he realizes through the dimension disturbing of Comstock and the sure purpose of the Lutece’s, that Elizabeth is really Anna. Then, through the acceptance of this sin-cleaning in a new place/dimension/reality — good to take a fresh shower every now and then — Booker discovers that he is.. Comstock? Many Elizabeth’s now appear and proceed to drown Booker as he gets baptized, killing Comstock as well. The Elizabeth’s disappear and the credits roll.
And now the Analysis:
Bioshock, as a series, comes full circle in explanation the second you step into Rapture. The implication of arriving there is that Rapture is just another reality created parallel to the one Booker is born in and parallel to Columbia as well. Now, I’ll admit to being as giddy as a little kid discovering bubble wrap for the first time when I saw the name Rapture in big letters. This implies that all of these worlds are connected, and I love the idea that maybe, just maybe, this was the plan ever since the beginning (but it probably wasn’t).
- When Elizabeth and Booker enter a bathysphere, you operate it with ease — which should only happen if you are of a specific biological makeup. Specifically that of Jack Ryan/Andrew Ryan from the original Bioshock. If you remember correctly, only Jack could operate the bathyspheres. Now does that mean that Booker DeWitt/Comstock are somehow related to the Ryan’s? Maybe. I’d like to think somehow that, despite time probability telling me otherwise, Booker is in some way directly related to Jack Ryan. And I’m not talking the Tom Clancy dude, either…though that’d be just as cray!
- AD on Booker’s hand stands for Anna DeWitt. I assume he wrote it on his hand to make sure he remembered his objective.
- When Booker chose to decline the baptism, he went on and had a baby. This choice created another alternate reality in which Booker accepted the baptism. This caused Comstock to come into existence. Now, the original Booker and Comstock exist in different realities, but because Comstock needed an heir and was unable to have a child he created a tear (using the Lutece twins) and took Booker’s child, Anna. It’s OK for his heir to be Anna, because, technically, Booker and Comstock are biologically the same, making Anna technically.. biologically related to Comstock as well as Booker, even though they are of different realities. Got that?
- Booker has been in Columbia over a hundred times before (had to play through again to notice this one). We know this because when Booker enters Columbia, the Lutece twins ask him to flip a coin. He does it, and it comes up heads, which on the board the twins are marking what has been noted over one hundred times. So, no matter how many times Booker goes to a reality with Columbia, the outcome is always going to be the same. There is a very clear message here about how totally scripted the events Booker goes through are. No matter the choices you make, the events are always going to unfold the way they have gone for all the 100+ Booker‘s before you. In every dimension where Booker has a baby there is a Comstock who needs her, resulting in endless amounts of dimensions where Comstock takes Anna from Booker, and Booker visits Columbia to save her. It’s a fairly haunting thought and one that you really only notice on a second play through — and it’s not like there’s anything else out nearly as titillating to play right now anyway. So do it.
- When Booker realizes he needs to kill Comstock to stop any of this to happen, he knows that he has to let Elizabeth kill him. Because Booker is killed right at the point of baptism, he eliminates any possibility of Comstock existing. Because Comstock can’t exist anymore, he can’t come and take Booker’s baby, and he never makes Columbia.
- Now don’t get the wrong idea, Booker didn’t kill all versions of himself, only the version that becomes Comstock. He killed himself at a point of “spiritual” rebirth, not actual birth, so there are still Booker realities out there. This can be proven by the post credits scene. After the credits roll, there is a very short scene where Booker wakes up in his apartment and hears the baby, Anna, crying. He walks into her room and calls “Anna?”. This is one of the Booker realities that exist now. Comstock free. This scene is the last scene that exists before Comstock had any involvement in the previous Booker’s life, so this is the reality that now exists and must carry on. No Comstock, no Columbia, no taking of Anna, and more importantly (to my feelings, of course) no adult Elizabeth.
- When Elizabeth drowns Booker, she disappears. Uh-huh — all versions of her. At first, I though maybe it was because she is now out of existence, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Elizabeth disappears, yes, but Anna doesn’t. Remember, Anna is Elizabeth, sort of. This new reality that is created, because of the absence of Comstock, allows for Booker to have and raise Anna. Without Columbia. This is important to remember because the Elizabeth that we know only existed in a reality where she was taken from Booker and brought to Columbia, so the Elizabeth/Anna that will be alive in these new realities will be the same person biologically, but not in personality. Because the Elizabeth we knew was from a different reality no matter what, there is no way that Anna will grow up to be the same person in this new reality. Anna will not be able to open up tears like Elizabeth could and will have entirely different personality traits influenced by unique factors to Elizabeth. So in a way, Elizabeth no longer exists, only Anna.
- I have some Ibuprofen handy, if you want some…