November 14, 2013

Out of MP: Bioshock Infinite

I've chosen a very bad game to introduce this article type to you. Bioshock Infinite is not so terrible a game that I couldn't stand it, I just simply had no motivation to finish it. It just so happens I had some extra manpower laying around to take the reins after I gave up, so I still got to experience the game to the end, and I'm kind of glad I did. Out of MP blogs are meant to showcase terrible or misleading games I couldn't finish. Since I technically didn't complete the game myself, here it is. Bioshock Infinite.

warning: may contain spoilers

The very first Bioshock game remains to this day one of the very few First-Person Shooters I've ever felt compelled to play. I enjoyed it quite a little more than a bit and it has engraved, in my head, a mighty reputation for any title that begins with "Bioshock". Sadly, I am still waiting for a title that matches or exceeds the quality of that first game. But let's get to Infinite. Some pals of mine came by for what was supposed to be a game binge, before I got completely side-tracked by The Last of Us, and Bioshock Infinite was one of the titles we intended to check out as most of us hadn't yet. After my pal Simon made off with the copy of TLOU I had been playing, Bioshock was next on deck and once again, I got a bit carried away. I think I have both my expectations of the Bioshock series and the fact that I've been craving more action games lately to blame for that, but as I progressed into BI, I became more and more tired with it, and eventually didn't even care to play anymore. Since I was already a few hours in, my buddy took over, insisting we finish what we had started since we already put the time in.
First of all: the game is absolutely gorgeous. I prefer the setting of the first Bioshock game, but Infinite is nothing if not stunning. The setting is bright and colorful, and the amount of detail that went into the level design is ridiculous. No really. I don't understand why they would put so much time and money into graphic details that a lot of players won't even notice. At some point, you stop checking out every wall, nook and cranny, and as such there is a lot that will be overlooked, much of which is key to your understanding of the plot or the history of Columbia. It's interesting to me that so many gamers these days are hellbent on graphics, and yet I think this game is almost too much. Exploring is often my favorite part of these games, but in BI, there's so much to see that it kind of overloads your brain.
The audio in the game really bothered me. While I appreciate the developer's attempt to make it seem like the world exists with or without you (except nobody acknowledges all the dead bodies?), there was a lot of overlap in busy areas and it just didn't sound good. The dialogue would always trump the voxophone I had picked up seconds earlier, and I'd have to replay it two or three times just to hear it in full (sometimes hiding in the middle of battle to do so). All that said, the soundtrack (music) on its own is quite beautiful and unique, and does add a moment or two in the game in which you need to just sit back and soak it in. And then there's songbird. Gah!

I found the objectives to be fairly linear. Like previous Bioshock games, it doesn't make much of a secret about what you're supposed to do next, and even provides a little arrow if you've lost your way, which was helpful, in such a saturated level. One of the reasons I dislike some action games is that it's often easy to either get lost or miss important things if the level design isn't straight forward enough. BI not only shows you the way, but actually presses you to move the hell on. In a game in which there's so much to see and explore, it's a little annoying when the game doesn't afford you the time to do so. Even Elizabeth sighs when you're taking too long. Is that really necessary?

Gameplay is a bit troublesome and a little different from the previous titles. Combat is staggered and unexpected; you're often overwhelmed by enemies and they are everywhere. It seems you're also presented with less options for handling the situation, it's either run like the wind or lock and load. I'm not a big of fan of FPSs to begin with, and with little to keep me involved, I'm not willing to tolerate this. In BI, you only get to keep two guns handy, and will have to discard one if you want to pick up the next, and you usually have to switch up regularly to be prepared from the oncoming section. This makes upgrading a cumbersome task; you'd like to upgrade your favorite guns but you often won't even have them with you. On a more positive note: I really dig the Skyline Strike. In fact the Sky Hook in general is pretty badass. The shield wasn't a terrible idea, either. Vigors were cool, but seemed kind of random compared to the way that plasmids were introduced to you in the original game. It was nice that they kept the "magic power" though, it helps tie Infinite into the previous titles, and they certainly come in handy. Murder of crows... yep.

The biggest reason I couldn't be bothered to finish Bioshock Infinite is that the story, while terribly intriguing,  takes forever to present itself. The set-up is fabulous, and ties BI into the previous games beautifully, you are introduced to the game with great excitement and then you run around Columbia waiting for something of purpose to happen, and it just kinda... doesn't. This, mixed with all that's going on gets to be really disappointing. You're being dealt a sensory overload but no proper objective. Really, you won't understand what is going on until the very end of the game. In the meantime, the game tries to slip in little connections to Rapture and the original games, in the worst way possible, often negating what you learned from Bioshock and destroying the awesome, original narrative.
The only thing you really know is that you've got Elizabeth and she is weird.

And she looks like a Disney character! Elizabeth wasn't as annoying as I expected her to be, but it still feels like you're babysitting. Her story is also handed to you in small pieces, but on the plus side, at least she finds you money and ammo. The way she can summon cover for you in battle is also handy. I think if ever I was forced into an escort mission, I'd want Elizabeth. She keeps this game alive, and thankfully, she takes care of herself along the way (you don't have to worry about protecting her). It was refreshing to have someone - however melodramatic - to communicate with throughout the game, instead of depending solely on a radio for interaction. That said, Booker was nothing special. Not memorable at all and his story is both empty and confusing. He also never shuts up, and makes you long for the days of a silent protagonist.
There are a ton of other characters thrown at you throughout the game, but their purposes are unclear and their development is lackluster. I do like the Luteces, however. They were entertaining.

The ending, while answering all questions regarding why the game is called "Infinite" was really unfulfilling to me. I'm glad I didn't play it through because there is little payoff. A whole lot of WTF. The final, little allusion to Rapture was cute though.

Bioshock Infinite does not live up to its namesake. It has a lot of great cosmetics and a few neat concepts and perhaps mechanical improvements, but I feel as though this is a game I'd have to play through several times just to find satisfaction in the plot alone. Seeing as I couldn't bring myself to complete the game once, Bioshock Infinite earns few points in my book. That said, I almost feel compelled to give this game another shot someday, after I've completely forgotten everything about it. It's strange, but I really want to love this game.

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