God only knows what I’d be without you…
Before we get going, I must admit that over the last couple of years I haven’t had the time, or the money to splash out on every big title release. If I’m going to invest anything from 12-50 hours on a game, then I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time, or slogging my way through a story which I don’t care about, with characters that are less engaging than a Mii avatar. But with the return of the Bioshock series, there was never any doubt that I’d be picking this up, and within 10 minutes of playing, it all came flooding back…
Or did it? On the surface it doesn’t seem to follow the mould of Bioshock. No Rapture, no confined spaces, and the dark dreariness is replaced with saturation all round. This time the story takes place on the floating city of Colombia, which was built to spread the word of the American dream. You take up the role of Booker Dewitt, an ex Pinkerton, and now private investigator who has been given the job of bringing a girl back from Columbia, and wiping away his debt. Seems simple enough.
But of course it never is, or at least, never should be, and the story gathers momentum at just the right pace before turning everything on its head, shaking you about, putting you back down again, and telling you to get on your way. The introduction of Elizabeth is perfect, and its credit to Ken Lavine and his design team that she is so appealing, aesthetically and vocally. You want to spend time with this character, and rather than be a hindrance as some secondary characters are, Elizabeth always feels like she belongs there with you. In fact, she is often helping you out by throwing medical kits, ammo, salts etc. when you’re running low. She is a great addition to say the least, and if you don’t believe me, look at some of the marriage proposals on Twitter.
The gameplay has moved away slightly from the previous Bioshock’s, and Infinte feels more like a standard shooter. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, and with the Skyhook, Booker’s melee weapon, and transport all wrapped up in one, you can change the dimension of a fight in an instant. One moment you’re desperately taking cover, the next you’re speeding through the sky on a make shift rollercoaster while firing at enemies. It’s great fun, but it perhaps could have been pushed even further, and used more often. The plasmids of Bioshock 1 and 2 are replaced with Vigor’s, which essentially do the same trick. They never feel quite as fun as they did in the originals, though, but are handy nonetheless. Another small gripe is on Xbox and PS3, you can only carry two weapons at a time, which obviously doesn’t happen on PC, and when changing Vigor’s, it sometimes feel like a break in the action. These are minor things, however, and don’t really detract from what is a great FPS. The hacking mini games are missing in Infinite, but for me, it’s not a departure I miss. Instead, Elizabeth will unlock doors and safes for you, providing you’ve found enough lockpicks on your travels.
Visually, this game pushes the current gen consoles to the limit, and if anything, a little too far. Some of the textures on PS3 I noticed were a little messy, as the developers fought to make this look as beautiful as possible. It kind of made me want to have played this on PC, which from what I’ve seen, looks incredible. That’s not to say it doesn’t look like fantastic on the console, mind. I have heard that it looks a tad better on PS3 than Xbox, so if you have the choice, it may be worth picking it up on that. The research that has gone into creating a believable city is amazing. Rapture was one of the most atmospheric settings in any game, and Columbia carries on this trend. The game is set in 1912, some 50 years prior to the original, but the technology is still decades ahead of its time. The developers have pulled out all the stops with the design. It has a feeling of Atlantic City in its heyday, with boardwalks, beaches and a good old fashioned funfair, complete with a few mini games. The locations never feel stale, and there is always something on offer, even in the few sections of the game where you revisit the same locations. You really feel like the city is alive, and if you take your time soaking up all the city has to offer, you’ll immerse yourself even deeper in this world, and add a couple of hours of gameplay to boot. It’s fantastic how the mood can change so drastically in just a few seconds, by changing the lighting and setting. For my money, I enjoyed the setting of Columbia more than Rapture. It has more life, more believability, and more surprises.
I could talk about this game forever, and plan to, but probably not here, as I’ll spoil it all for you. This game isn’t quite perfect, but to me, it is so, so close to it. If you’re a fan of a gaming, and don’t play this, you’re missing out on one of the best, if not the best game on this console generation. I don’t think I’ll play a game that will come close to this for a long time.