I got a new video card for my PC (an HD 7870), and got both Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite as part of AMD’s “Never Settle” bundle for free. I played through Bioshock first.
First, what I liked:
+ The graphics – The game looks really, really good. You really get the sense that Columbia is an actual place, giving you a sense of immersion that makes the setting feel more real. You can tell just how much work Irrational Games put into every single area, and they deserve every plaudit for their attention to detail. (If you can play the game on PC, do it–it runs beautifully at 1080p even on mid-range hardware like mine.)
+ The Skyhook – I just loved using this thing on it’s own. The exhileration and tension that comes from dashing on a little rail tens of thousands of feet up was captured amazingly well, and it really added an extra layer of excitement to…
+ The combat – The fighting mechanics have been improved and expanded upon in a big way from the first game. Though built around the same “magic ‘n bullets” structure, the addition of both Elizabeth’s ability and the Skyhook adds an extra punch to it that makes the firefights more fun.
+ Elizabeth – When I first heard that the game would essentially center around a long escort mission, I immediately got nervous. But hearing how she would actually be a valuable asset in battle helped allay my doubts, and you really come to appreciate her assists with ammo and Salts during battle. They did an amazing job with Elizabeth; seeing her interact with the world as you travel with her, the way she grows over the course of the story (most of it anyway) and watching how she and Booker interact through the game really added a lot to the experience.
As for the stuff I didn’t like:
- The ending – The twist revealing that Booker gave up his daughter to clear away his debts was done amazingly well IMO. It revealed that Booker, who had a long sordid history of horrible deeds, had hit absolute rock bottom–a parental sin so vile that he tried to redeem himself for it throughout the game, long before he even remembered what he did.
The twist revealing that Comstock is Booker on the other hand? Stupid, overwrought nonsense. It was done purely for shock value and added little of value to the story IMO. The Anna/Elizabeth reveal did more than enough to drive home the constant theme of redemption and rebirth. Not to mention how it was facilitated by the worst aspect of the story:
- The magical metaphysics bullshit – Overpowered while conveniently vauge and cryptic, it was basically the writers saying “we can do whatever we want and get away with it”. Few things take me out of a story faster than shit like that. I dreaded what they would do with it from the moment we saw Elizabeth open her first tear into the future, and it made me feel empty to much of what happened after the Songbird takes Elizabeth away (outside of the Anna/Elizabeth reveal, of course). It’s hard to stay invested in a story that freely touts “infinite variables and outcomes”.
- The glass ceiling imposed by Bioshock 1’s legacy – The first Bioshock was an absolute revelation for me. Rapture was a joy to explore and fight through; the game offers a pure sense of enjoyment that very few games in this generation or any other could match. The problem was that Ken Levine and co. knew what an impact the first game had, and crafted something that ultimately feels too similar to the original game to match it, let alone exceed it.
Infinite was basically a remake of the first game in a different setting. I rarely got the sense of wonder the first game brought, both because of how often I was reminded of the original and how much more uneven and, ultimately, inferior Infinite was. It’s a good game overall, sure, but it’s hardly the revelatory experience that has critics lining up to bow at Levine’s feet.
I’d give it an 8/10.