It's been almost six years since we were introduced to the original BioShock experience; a game that carries a heavy weight to its name for mostly positive reasons and you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't like it, nevermind know of it. Following three years later, a rather disappointing sequel was developed by 2K Marin with a multiplayer component (no surprise there.) Some claim that the original BioShock set the standard for single player games of the seventh generation. Most people agree with that credo and go further to say it was revolutionary and innovative. I must contest as gamers and critics alike throw around both adjectives so much when a game has garnered so much positivity that I firmly believe they'd forgotten the definitions of the terms.
BioShock is a series that I tend to go back and forth with; the games, in my opinion, try too hard to be deep and philosophical instead of just being deep and philosophical. The games are quite often praised for such when in reality, they are simply action games with an intriguing enough story to keep you interested with generic gameplay and an inevitable plot twist that keeps people talking about it for years. To be honest, behind the smoke and mirrors, I find the games to be nothing shy of ordinary.
Let's take BioShock: Infinite for example: I can't deny that the game shines brightly in terms of narrative, visuals and audio. While it's great to see the often ignored aspects in video games focused on more, gameplay is sacrificed and that is not okay - it's a video game, after all. When I'm playing a video game, I want to feel like I'm playing a video game, not watching a film - and I must point out to avoid confusion, I am not insinuating that the game mirrors Heavy Rain or anything of the sort. It's just that while the narrative and visuals and audio are given the attention, the aspects that make a video game a video game sadly suffer.
BioShock: Infinite takes players on a journey to Columbia - that's right, hasta la vista, Rapture - a 1900's era landscape blooming with scrumptious detail and an almost dystopian feel; an eerie combination, in essence, of Oz and a post-apocalyptic aura. Visuals are undeniably award winning and wonderfully impressive and serve a solid factor in immersion. Booker DeWitt - the game's leading protagonist - an alcoholic with an inescapable debt is brought on by a strange character to infiltrate Columbia and free a hostage named Elizabeth, a lovely young woman with deadly supernatural abilities.
DeWitt's presence and his aiding of Elizabeth's escape causes the two factions within Columbia to turn - almost robotically - hostile and this is where the game basically goes from forcing the philosophical background to forcing a bullet hailstorm. I feel as though this is a weak point in the narrative - while the BioShock games have always truly been about a strong narrative and even stronger combat (notice how I said combat and not gameplay,) it was ultimately a missed opportunity for something different. I could easily picture the two protagonists being thrown into the centre of a political power struggle between the two factions and inspire the philosophical and emotional theme to actually be relevant to the narrative as a whole instead of it just being implied. Instead, suddenly everyone is an enemy and you honestly wonder where all the guns came from in that seemingly idyllic environment.
One of the notable feats of BioShock: Infinite is that while Elizabeth serves as a companion to the protagonist, the game does not turn into an escort mission - Elizabeth is perfectly capable of holding her own and serves as a rather reliable ally. Considering the rather disappointing transition from seemingly open-world exploration and discovery to gun-toting madness was basically thrown in your face, it's nice that the game almost literally says, "Hey, sorry about that. To make up for it, here's an independent AI who you won't have to play guardian over."
Combat is slightly different than before but reminiscent enough to appease fans of the previous instalments' mechanics. I personally find it to be enjoyable but nothing 'revolutionary' or 'innovative.' Some claim it to be tactical, I find it convenient. As always, you have your firearm and your plasmids (now referred to as 'vigors,') that work well together as always. There's not much depth as others have claimed - it more so just rests on the surface and says, "Hey, I'm a good idea. Use me." To keep things interesting and less repetitive, some enemies are unaffected by certain vigors forcing you to change your methodologies and actually do more than just pull triggers. You have the ability to put on different gear pieces with apply improvements to the effects of your weapons and vigors.
Enemy characters are different this time around - you're not going after waves of splicers. You'll find yourself up against 'normal' opponents such as security guards, but you'll also be up against 'heavy hitters' which is Infinite's version of Big Daddies, just less intimidating. Enemy AI however is nothing to lose your pants over - glitching, stupid behaviour that we shouldn't be expecting in 2013 and the only way for the combat to truly be something of a challenge is to play on the harder difficulties. I could get through the game in my younger days when I was new to shooters and always played on easy modes.
Unlike BioShock 2, Infinite does not offer a multiplayer component - awfully developed or otherwise - so thank the God of your choice.
Overall, BioShock: Infinite is a decent enough game with a well-written narrative, excellent character development - more so with Elizabeth than DeWitt - charming visuals and pleasant audio. However, I still to this day do not understand the grovelling fan base surrounding the series as I find them to be ordinary games with mature themes and intelligent plot devices. General gameplay needs to be taken into better consideration to be considered revolutionary or innovative as people so often label it. Infinite uses philosophy and emotional drive as a plot device but as always, BioShock relies too heavily on fun-centric gun fights to truly focus on anything that would prove the games worthy of their revolutionary and innovative monikers.
Author's Note (4/10/13): Please refrain from criticizing me on what score I gave the game. "It does not deserve a 7" is your opinion and considering that I gave it a 7, I beg to differ. Please do not treat your opinion as fact. Thank you.