I recently talked about how Bioshock Infinite is still under the protection of the Statute of Limitations. However, I have now beaten it, and have gotten Holly started playing it, so I want to talk about the game a bit at least.
I don’t feel like enough time has passed for me to really say, but this is a contender for being one of my favorite games ever. And I don’t want to just say it – I am mulling over several of the reasons. So after the success of my post about Five Great Parts of Final Fantasy VIII – here are five great parts of Bioshock Infinite! I would say there are gameplay spoilers, but I will try to avoid plot spoilers!
So Many Ways to Complete the Challenges
Okay, so the challenges in this game are mainly combat. Nonetheless, there’s more than one way to complete the challenges. In fact, there’s a ton of ways.
Because first off, you can only carry two weapons at a time. So in terms of combat, this part reminds me a lot of Halo, with only two weapons, and you want to make them count. Except they give you access to new copies of these weapons more easily than in Halo. Then you can upgrade the weapons, but only so much, and only so many – there’s not enough money to upgrade them all!
Then, you can only have two of the Vigors equipped at once, though they are easy to switch. These also have upgrades to change them, and you can only get so many. Most any of these should have a purpose in most fights, so which to use? Incapacitate? Damage? Traps, or direct?
Then, there are Elizabeth’s powers, which you have likely seen in trailers if you haven’t played the game. She provides additional variety, by giving you access – one at a time – to various spots around a fight, be it weapons, health, cover, or turrets. All useful stuff – which to use?
I am excited to play this game again, because this level of variety gives the game some serious replay-ability. Even now, Holly is playing with different weapons and Vigors than I was… and seems to be doing better than I was, too!
Elizabeth Helping in Combat
You might think that being able to create variety in a fight would be enough for Elizabeth, but they did more. You might think that not having to defend her, but that she can take care of herself, would be enough – but they did more.
Because Elizabeth finds you needed items in combat.
For instance, she gave me my first Sniper Rifle in the game, something for which I can be grateful. But then, she’ll give you ammo when you’re low. Health when you’re low. Salts when you’re low.
And really, in just about any big fight, one of these at least is going to get low. Maybe you keep well hidden – well, you’re probably using a lot of ammo to go with that take-cover play-style. You use lots of Vigors, which makes the fighting easier, but needs more Salts. Or you maybe use powerful weapons that need few shots, shotguns or snipers, but using them leaves you exposed, and you need health. In some way or another, you will need something from Elizabeth all the time.
And she delivers.
The Level Design
So, the weapons and powers system is solid, because it lets you pick how you want to play, and provides variety. The game then proceeds to give you a companion who is not pointless, nor helpless, nor an escort. So really, they could have stopped there, and had a great game.
But then, the story.
Not to say anything specific of it. But instead, that the story bits are far more interesting than the fights. Exploring every nook and cranny was fascinating. Reading notes on the walls. Listening to all the Voxophones. Listening to Booker and Elizabeth talk.
The world they have built in Bioshock Infinite is so immersive that if it were a movie, I would watch it. (Actually, this seems to be a thing people have done on YouTube… and yes, I may have to watch it… http://youtu.be/6iZZg2qiBos). If it were a book, we’d all be reading it. A TV show, and they might even skip the filler episodes.
But they made it a video game, so that we could really immerse ourselves in the story. And as a video game lover, I really love this game.
So, let’s look just a little harder at the story… mild spoilers I suppose below!
Bioshock Infinite, more than the previous Bioshock games even, really entrenched itself in history. By not being completely hidden away underwater, the world knew more about Columbia, the city in the sky.
But still, it’s an invented place, an invented history. So by history, I don’t necessarily mean “everything in this game is totally, legitimately real history!” That’s an absurd claim. However, it is definitely well informed by history. It’s steeped in the complications of history – Race, Class, Religion, Politics…
I think it does all of these things justice by making them all really messy. The racism is enough to make us, a century later, cringe and rage. It makes you almost want to tear Columbia down around you! The class issues they do a nice job of not taking either side fully – both tend towards extremes. The religious overtones were enough to make some people not even want to play through the beginning minutes of the game. And it’s all tied together in the utopian politics that are familiar from Rapture as well.
All this is to say, these realistic problems, these real issues from the real 1912, make Columbia a far more realistic place. By not hiding from real issues, we get a game that doesn’t feel like other games. It feels real.
Oh, and who’s to say that we’re in the real world anyway, right?
Quantum Mechanics – Or, a Woman’s Intuition
Watching Holly starting up the game, I was reminded of how they talked about Columbia early on – floating, not with fire, or rockets, but with Quantum Mechanics. This was confusing to the people presenting the idea, so they say of the lady inventor that it is merely “a Woman’s Intuition.”
Holly has pointed out the irony of a society that doesn’t want women in science, where a woman invented the means of keeping the city afloat.
The steampunk world they have created in this game is fantastic. The science they placed in the past – the quantum mechanics – makes for an incredibly interesting world. That they have a solid reason for why most of the things are the way they are is a testament to their science fiction. Indeed, steampunk almost does not cover it…