For whatever reason, I never quite clicked with the original Bioshock. I loved the atmosphere, and the hints of story, but that just didn’t seem enough to tug me forwards. I’m fascinated by Rapture, and I have read a lot about it and the story, but it seems I’m far more interested in the story and ideas behind it, than I am in the game itself.
That’s almost, but not quite, true of Bioshock: Infinite (BI).Instead of being under the ocean, this time we – as Booker DeWitt – visit Columbia, a city in the clouds. The story starts out in a somewhat fantastical way, leaving very little doubt that things aren’t normal here.
You’re given a quiet period to explore the world, learning that you’re here to find “Elizabeth” as a payment for some debts you owe. This period allows you to soak in the wonderful atmosphere. Once you’re nicely settled then the fighting starts, and it comes closer to a traditional shooter – with a bit of “magic” thrown in; with “vigours” which allow you to shock, burn, lift and otherwise do nasty things to enemies.
Weapons, and vigours, are introduced slowly – as you’d expect – pretty much allowing you to try them all and decide what works best for you before you have to spend too much upgrading things.
The currency of Columbia is the Silver Eagle coin, and there are many vending machines around. Some sell weapon upgrades, some vigour upgrades and some just allow you to purchase health, salts (vigour ammunition) and ammunition. None of this feels forced, and it all fits into the world they’ve created.
The other, incredibly fun, mechanic introduced is that of ‘skylines’. The first weapon you get is a kind of rotating hook weapon, that you use for melee. This also allows you to jump to both freight hooks (stationary hooks) or skylines – lines that traverse Columbia allowing freight and passenger “trains” to move around. Once you get the hang of the controls there’s a wonderful sense of fun and freedom to leap between lines, change direction, shoot and even leap to attack from above.
The one downside to this mechanic is that Logic takes a bit of a holiday. You can drop to the ground from incredible heights and speeds – as long as you’re doing it from a stationary hook or skyline. If you try to leap from even half that height off (for example) a roof, you’ll find yourself taking a huge hit in health, or even dying. I’m not sure if they didn’t think this through, or if they were trying to encourage more of the skyline play, but it just irritated the hell out of me.
Back to the rest of the game: sometime later you pick up Elizabeth and indications are that you’re about to have a very long escort mission. However the game quickly notes that you don’t need to worry about protecting Elizabeth as she can take care of herself in combat. Though that’s a bit ruined by how often she gets separated from Booker or kidnapped – and then we’re urged to chase or find her …
She has a special ability to open up “tears” (as in tears in cloth, not tears from crying). These can sometimes bring things through into “this world” or provide another world to slip into. The first ability means that at times she can bring into existence hooks, turrets, medkits, ammo and the like – only one at a time, but she’ll do it as and when you (Booker) ask. Of course, the moment you see one of the types of tear you’ll come to recognise, the game telegraphs that you’re about to have enemies on your hand. Either a lot of them, or some powerful ones.
The other type of tear is mostly used to advance the plot at different points, and ties into the whole “quantum” thing I will have mentioned soon.
The combat, to me, was just a time filler as I learned more about the world and the story. In fact, by the end of it, I was getting the the “Oh Goddess, more of them?” stage. The lure of the story kept me going through that, however. I haven’t yet had any of those Fridge Logic moments about the story and despite what I’ve heard from others about The Ending, I really liked it.
I don’t think I’m spoiling too much when I note that some ideas lifted from the world of “quantum” have been used as a jumping off point for some of the plot elements. A word of warning, however, a lot of the plot is released in either Voxophones (audio recordings) or Kinetescopes (silent movies). If you don’t find a lot of those, there’s going to be some things that perhaps confuse. Of course, being the nut for story and exploring I am, I hunted down as many as I could – and I’m glad I did.
Did I mention that I really love the story in this? And the ending. I really liked the ending. It was almost enough to make me want to go back and start the game again to see what clues I missed as I played the first time.
Almost. I couldn’t really be bothered with the combat again. Truthfully, I don’t know if the combat really is that boring, or if I was more in the mood for story rather than shooting things, but I really didn’t enjoy the majority of it.
The game, however, the game I enjoyed as a whole package. It was worth the money, it was worth my time, and I came away from it feeling satisfied. What more could I ask?