I thought that I should take the time to review Bioshock Infinite because, as someone who’s never played any of the previous Bioshock games, I felt that I could offer a valuable, unbiased opinion. I’ve witnessed all of the hype – from the 10 out of 10 ratings to the varied criticisms on what’s considered a profound ending to an even more profound plot. The real question to anyone clutching their $60 is whether or not Bioshock Infinite lives up to the hype of mainstream reviewers and longtime fans. I believe that I can help you answer that.
As you really get into Bioshock, the first thing that stands out is the immersive universe. You step through the opening gates of Columbia an instantly realize the early 1900s style, technology and propaganda. You transcend the cobblestone streets where racism, steampunk-esque technology and magic seem almost omnipresent. For me, the animation and the settings were very reminiscent of Dishonored, and given that Bioshock was around first I’d reckon it was a major influence on the stealth-action title. Nevertheless, the weirdness only evolves in this standout FPS.
The gameplay is typical of a first person shooter. You’re running through levels shooting robots, people, dead people and bigger robots. As you encounter more advanced enemies, guns eventually begin to feel a bit antiquated. I found myself pumping Handymen (bigger robots) with shotgun blast after shotgun blast. While the lack of power can be irritating, you’ll find that you often feel rewarded when you single-handedly take down each Goliath with a different slingshot. I can appreciate the challenge that Bioshock Infinite offers, especially given the lack thereof when it comes to FPS games today.
Once you get the hang of this game, you find yourself sliding across weird pipelines in the sky and shooting enemies from above (which is pretty cool). You can earn new clothes and change up your outfit for various buffs; however, the game really gets going when you start obtaining special powers from a form of magic known as ‘vigor.’ This is obtained through bottles that are scattered throughout the game and conveniently placed where you’re most likely to bump into them. Unfortunately, after a while of playing Bioshock Infinite, most of these powers (no matter how cool) begin to feel more like novelty items. Using them is like throwing a banana peel in front of a pursuer in an old, Technicolor cartoon. It's a crappy delay.
As for the plot, it remains easy to follow up until you enter the first alternate universe. From there, the needlessly complicated machinations of Bioshock Infinite will likely elude you unless you like weird, abstract stories, typically understand these types of plots or have played the previous games in the series. After a while of shooting robots and entering portals to alternate realities, my general feelings toward the game were something akin to ‘screw it.’ I just wanted to get it over with. You descend deeper and deeper into the depths of Booker’s plight in the worst way -- ultimately wanting to leave Columbia to get the damn game over with but being sucked into the city’s deepest political conflicts.
On a superficial level, I can appreciate some of the morals and philosophies that Bioshock Infinite divulges about power, politics, discrimination and hatred. No, I’m not approaching this from the ‘waah, I just want to game’ angle, because that’s all too typical and there are too many mindless shooters to make this kind of complaint. However, conversely, there are also intricate games that take an extra step to push the envelope and sometimes just come off as slightly pretentious and overwhelmingly confusing. With Bioshock Infinite, the latter makes me contrary to popular opinion.
I believe this game is worth your time but I don’t believe it’s a masterpiece, nor do I equate it to things like the Mona Lisa or whatever that BS was that some guy on GiantBomb was going on about. It’s a decent shooter with a message that will appeal to most who make the efforts to understand it. It’s new, it’s fresh, and for a while it’s even fun, but eventually Bioshock Infinite begins to feel like it needlessly drags itself on and overcomplicates what could be a decent plot with unnecessary twists and turns. At the end of the day, most people will like it and some won’t, but everyone should at least give it a try.