Ken Levine deserves some kind of medal. First, he introduced us to the world of Rapture, where we would kindly roam the halls of a forgotten city whose inhabitants are all plagued by the drug known as ADAM. Now, Ken Levine welcomes us to the city in the sky; a place as supposedly pure as their leader – Columbia. This is Bioshock Infinite – arguably the best story of this current generation.
You play as Booker Dewitt, who has accepted the task of bringing a girl back from Columbia to wipe away his mysterious debt. Being rowed to a lighthouse by two people who keep talking about you, but do not actually say anything directly, Booker takes a look at a picture of the woman he has to rescue – the young and sheltered Elizabeth. At the top of the lighthouse is a seat, where Booker would sit, get strapped in, and sent to Columbia, a place that is as gorgeous as it is hideous.
Hideous might sound harsh, but it’s true. One of the earliest scenes you see, right before true gameplay starts, where you have the option to throw a baseball at either an announcer, or at an Irish man and African American woman that you just won. Yes, won. There’s ideology everywhere that shows the time period of which you play in, including colored and Irish bathrooms that have a sign telling them to clean the room themselves –because it’s their job. Or a museum of sorts that portrays Native American and Asian people as offensive political comic-like caricatures. Worst yet, you will lean in on conversations of people yelling at their children for even going near “that potato eater.” Your mouth will drop with every bit of iconography you see, mixed with every gorgeous location you visit.
The warped view of Comstock, a prophet that has locked up “his lamb” for years, is who you are fighting against in this epic story. The control of his city is overwhelming, including an early scene where a woman decides to burn herself to death once he gives her the word. His power also brings out some rebels, who are guided by hate of him and his peers, instead of Comstock’s views of his religion. The duality between the two creates no heroes, but enemies on both sides that want you dead at some point or another.
The gameplay this time around is as crisp and as fun as ever. The gun play in Infinite feels familiar without feeling boring. You’ll spend most of your first playthrough swapping weapons and Vigors (instead of Plasmids) trying out what best fits your play style. Mine was the Carbine and Shotgun with the Bucking Bronco and Undertow Vigors. The former bursts my enemies in the air so I can pick them off one by one, while the latter brings them closer to me and my barrel. Either that, or I can burst them in the air, then push them off the city completely. It’s satisfying when you end a giant battle with one little push. The aerial combat introduced by the Skyhook feels fluid and fun, though jarring for the first couple of attempts. This adds another dimension to combat that gives you the chance to truly experiment. Even when combat is over, it’s pretty fun just to ride around the city and find some nooks and crannies that holds some valuable information and experience you will need later in the game.
Some battles though bring a lot more to your table. Instead of Big Daddies like in Bioshock, we have Heavy Hitters; a different enemy whom uses a different ability to help them out. Enemies like the Handyman, The Motorized Patriot, and Fireman come out at seemingly random times during a fight, which makes you reconsider your priorities in the fight. One Heavy Hitter, The Boys of Silence, only comes in towards the end of the game, and creates the only scare-you-silly moments in the game. Another, The Siren, is a level specific Hitter that brings the dead back to life – over and over again until she is no more. Although their parts are limited, the game definitely makes them a worthwhile foe to face, and don’t overstay their welcome – you can only face something like the Siren so many times before it becomes a chore.
Lastly, there’s Elizabeth, the girl in the tower being watched by everyone, including the massive and terrifying Songbird. Elizabeth is no normal woman, as she can bring in things from another dimension to help you out in combat. In fact, for a game that is specifically asking you to escort her, this doesn’t feel like an escort type game. She hides when combat starts, throws you ammo when you need it, and helps any way she can using whatever abilities she can to help you get out alive. She and Booker’s interactions are perfect, thanks to the fantastic voice work by Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper. The dialogue between the two drives the story forward and creates a connection between you and Elizabeth that you don’t want to be broken. Even the softer moments, like when Booker and Elizabeth take a break from the action to sing to a scared child in the bottom of a bar, helps create this bond that makes you just want to continue on. She is never just a tagalong, never a bother, and always someone you look for to make sure that she’s okay.
The game itself is all about different dimensions, either literally through the story, or figuratively with the combat. As long as you keep an open mind, Bioshock Infinite can be one of the most engrossing, beautiful, thought provoking and truly fun games to come out in this current generation. The ending is something that I didn’t see coming, but in retrospect makes perfect sense. That’s one thing that holds this single player story above a lot of other shooters out there – replayability. Its ending was gut-wrenching and truly emotional, and something that was hinted throughout the entire game. This makes me want to go back and find all the stories that Columbia has to offer – even though the ending will always be the same.
Final Grade: A+