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Bioshock Infinite: A Kilios Review on PC, X360, PS3

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Irrational Games is back with their first game since 2007's Bioshock. Bioshock, as Infinite's trailers are quick to remind us, stands as “the highest-rated first-person shooter of all time.” Though Bioshock 2 fell relatively flat, Irrational didn't have any involvement in the title. Will they be able to revive the legacy in the third installment, and meet the high expectations set before them? Fortunately, whether you believe they've blown the standards they'd already set or not, your experience in Bioshock Infinite will be exciting, enticing, and memorable.

You start your adventure on a row boat piloted by two mysterious individuals who refuse to address you directly. Though they leave you alone on the dock of an offshore lighthouse, you're able to deduce some basic information by looking through a wooden box and reading notes that have been posted inside about the lighthouse: you are Booker DeWitt, you have a debt, and said debt can be cleared by bringing a girl, Elizabeth, back to New York. When you reach the top of the lighthouse, you're strapped into a capsule that launches you into the sky and right into the beautiful floating city of Columbia.

You emerge from your capsule to a world buzzing with activity and dissonance. The first couple of hours that you spend in Columbia lead you to discover the intriguing, yet backward, ways of the Columbian populace. The sexism, racism, and hyper-nationalism that you cross seems like it's too horrible to be anywhere near the wondrous city. In this time, you'll learn about the local religion, which worships America's Founding Fathers, and is lead by an “all powerful,” “foreseeing,” and repressive prophet who has prophesied the coming of a False Shepherd. After passing through a carnival with several introductory stands and optional tutorialized games, you are propelled into the plot when two policemen seize and accuse you of being the False Shepherd. You are quickly introduced to your first firearm and Vigor which you must utilize to fend off a wave of an attacking police force.

At first, the combat is simple and there isn't much flexibility in how you can fight. Don't worry, this will change. For the whole game, your right hand will hold your weapon. Over the course of the game, your arsenal will consist of a fairly standard line-up: pistol, machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, etc. This being said, they all sound great and have a powerful feel to them. The combat really gets a chance to shine as Vigors (which have replaced plasmids from the previous Bioshocks) are continually introduced. These left-handed powers are simple at first, but you can purchase upgrades to make them more powerful and more fitting to your fighting style. Each Vigor has dual functionality; one function is activated by a quick button press, the other by holding and releasing the button. As you play, you'll find ways that the Vigors can interact with the environment and each other, making for an even bigger bang in combat. My favorite combo was to dispatch a murder of flesh eating crows to attack my enemies, use Bucking Bronco to suspend them the opposition in midair, then cast a bolt of lightning into the crowd, and watch with glee as the lightning spread, frying each of them. The left hand handles the skyhook as well as the Vigors. The skyhook doubles as your melee weapon and your mode of speedy transportation through battlegrounds where skylines are available. The skylines, though not weapons, can play a huge part in combat. They not only provide increased mobility, but provide access to vantage points and, best of all, let you jump down onto foes below to deliver satisfyingly devastating blows. Riding the skylines is always an awesome experience, and you fully control your speed and direction while you ride, letting you adapt as the battle shifts.

There are two passive aspects to combat as well. You receive a Magnetic Repulsive shield early on in the game that can be upgraded. The shield functions almost exactly how shields work in every space marine game ever, and will regenerate if you run away and hide in a corner for a bit. The second passive aspect is your Gear. Throughout the levels, you can find boxes with Gear (either a hat, shirt, pants or boots) that will enhance your various skills. One will absorb health from enemies that you melee; another will cause your enemies to go up in flames each time you attack them from the skyline. Each one is effective and complements a different style of play. Mixing and matching to find the best combination creates a sense of achievement, and is very rewarding in combat.

As you progress through the story, you will partner up with Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a great AI companion; she never gets in the way, and even though she doesn't attack oncoming foes, she'll assist you in your efforts to do so. She will follow you around, throwing guns, health packs, and salts (needed to use Vigors) to you in the heat of battle. Outside of combat she'll throw you money that she picks up. She has the ability to open Tears, an ability that is mostly meant to drive the plot, but has its benefits in combat. By pointing to a Tear, you can ask Elizabeth to open it to bring weapons, medkits, decoys, or turrets from another time into this reality so you can use them against your current foes.

Combat is extremely fun in Infinite, and is very, very intense. In any of the many full-out battles that occur, you'll be using your Vigors, firing your weapons, riding the skyline, and opening Tears all at the same time. At first, these numerous activities can be overwhelming and confusing, but they become fluid and easier to use after a little practice. Once you learn how to manage all of your abilities at once, you'll dominate each fight with extremely satisfactory combinations of your resources. I would recommend playing on hard though, because as soon as you do get used to all of the mechanics at play, combat can become easy and seem more like going down a checklist of things to do than spontaneously reacted to the dangers at hand.

While the combat is excellent and innovative in many aspects, the story is the jewel that stands out among the gold. The story is unceasingly interesting and entangling, never leaving a dull (though occasionally slow) moment in its wake. The beginning focuses on Columbia, its customs, and its history. You should resist the urge to barrel through to get to your starting objective and take your time as you go through each area, listen to everything the people have to say. Columbia is practically a character itself and deserves just as much attention and recognition. Later, as the focus changes, there are still audio recording, videos, and Tears that will give you insight on your environment. These collectibles may only give brief presentations, but will give intriguing background on characters that you've already met or explain some of the mysteries you'll come across, such as why you can hear music from the 50s and 60s even though it's only 1912. All you have to do is go a few seconds out of your way, and trust me, it's well worth your time.

Infinite's main story is not just about you, as Booker; it's about you and Elizabeth. As you venture onward, the story starts to reveal more about the two of you and begins to show how your pasts are interwoven. The story takes time to focus on each character individually from time to time, but some of the best moments in the game are the direct interactions that you have with Elizabeth. She is one of the most intriguing and fleshed-out characters to appear in a video game in recent years. Even outside of dialogue, she acts in a manner that is very organic and believable; she makes little comments here and there that, though small, really add to the whole experience. While you two embark on your adventure, each learning about the other, many other characters appear to add their flavor to the mix. There is a strange couple who keep reappearing at the least expected moments and have the uncanny ability to disappear into thin air. There are two factions (who are in essence, the proletariat and the bourgeois) whose war you get caught up in for a while. During this particular time, the story gets very slow, but permits more time to focus and experiment with the combat mechanics. The mentioned prophet is fleshed out throughout the story, but for reasons I cannot mention, he is hardly present in your journey. Speaking of which, many of the characters, though developed through audio logs and dialogue, have very rare appearances. This is very disappointing as so many of them have tremendous potential to impact the main story in interesting and meaningful ways.

As you near the end of the tale, some parts of your experience become clearer, while other become even more confusing. Thankfully, the final chapter has a heavy focus on the story. Without getting into spoiler territory, the ending is one that you'll either love or hate, but either way, it's one that's going to stick with you for a very long time. After finishing the game once, it's well worth playing through again to see how all of the pieces fit.

Summary
Infinite is the most important game so far this year, and will stand above most releases that are to come as well. With fun and diverse combat, an emotional and enthralling story, and one of the best characters in any recent game, Infinite is a game that everyone should play. It isn't without its flaws, but my complaints are inferior to my compliments, and are washed away by Bioshock Infinite's magnificent brilliance.

- 100% recommended



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HopethroughFaith said...
Apr. 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm
just the first couple paragraphs made me want this game nice job! id recommend shortening the review a little bit though :) 5/5
 
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