Bioshock Infinite is the third entry in the famous “Bioshock“ series, developed by Irrational Games with assistance of 2K Marin, Human Head Studios and Darkside Game Studios. It was published by 2K Games, the release date being March 26 for the PS3, the Xbox360 and the PC version while the Mac version is planned to be released some time in summer.
The game features a single player mode with a length of around 12-15 hours. You can choose between four different difficulty settings, the hardest of which has to be unlocked by beating the game once on any other difficulty or entering the Konami code in the main menu of the game.
Story (10/10) “There is always a lighthouse. There is always a city. There is always a man…” The story in Bioshock Infinite is honestly one of the best stories in my personal video game history I had the pleasure to experience, probably only challenged by Heavy Rain or maybe Half-Life 2. You start in a small boat at the entry of a light house, in the middle of nowhere. Being introduced as “Booker DeWitt” the player only has one objective: “Retrieve the girl and wipe away the debt”. Without any further clue what to do or how to find the girl DeWitt enters the lighthouse, where he finds nothing besides corpses and an empty chair. It turns out the chair is actually some kind of rocket device and transports Booker to the city of Columbia. Upon arrival Booker gets “baptized” and blacks out, awakening in the middle of the city. At the first sight Columbia seems to be a perfect city – it is beautiful, stainless, seemingly without poverty and highly advanced in the fields of science and technology. During a lottery first cracks in the image appear, when the prize turns out to be the privilege of mistreating a black slave. This incident marks the point where all goes downhill…
I won’t give any more info on the story as anyone should experience it for themselves, but expect an insane amount of plot twists. Bioshock Infinite is the first game in a while to play with your emotions and expectations, absolutely pulverizing them. Try to obtain as many of the Voxophones as you can, they contain a number of side stories which will greatly improve your understanding of the main story, until the (quite literally) mindblowing ending fucks you all over again.
Graphics (9/10) As I am not able to provide you with a deep technical analysis of my own I will instead center this part of the review around my personal impressions rather than detailed facts. With Bioshock Infinite Irrational Games must have created one of the best looking and most impressive Unreal Engine 3 games so far. The game makes a nice use of the Bloom effect to give Columbia a warm atmosphere during certain scenes and the DX11 effects also are very good. Flesh melting off your bones has never looked as good as it does in Bioshock Infinite. Add AA and AF in, the result is a very clean looking game with high-class special effects.
Sound (7/10) Really not much to say here. Now, about three months after playing through the game I don't remember any of the soundtracks used in the game, neither in a positive nor in a negative way, so it should be safe to assume the soundtrack was fitting, but not outstanding in any way. The weapon sounds also are nothing special, really. The only outstanding sound effects are Soundbird's screeching (it is incredible how many emotions they managed to convey with a simple screeching sound) and the "Possesion" Vigor, which is a reversed track of one of Shakespear's poems.
Gameplay (8/10) Unlike the other Bioshock games "Infinite" is an Ego-Shooter first and foremost. This is most notable in the level design. Most areas are pretty linear and don't allow for much exploration besides some side rooms you'll have to unlock with a lockpick. You'll have an abundance of ammo and (regenerating) health, since you can pick up any weapon of most of your opponents. Speaking of weapons, they aren't very "special" in this game. A revolver, SMG, shotgun, rifle and a rocket launcher in two variants each (regular and "Vox Populi"), which need to be upgraded separately. The updates are nothing special, more damage, less reloading etc. Unlike in the original Bioshock they also don't change the look of your weapon, which is a HUGE disappointment in my book. You are better off saving the money for Vigor upgrades. The gunplay is nothing special. Aiming over the hips is a bit too precise (you don't need the Iron Sights at all in this game) and the brainless enemies turn into massive bullet sponges later in the game, which is a bit annoying, but not an insurmountable obstacle with the help of your Vigors.
Vigors and Elizabeth are the two gameplay mechanics which really differentiate Bioshock Infinite from most other shooters. If you already played through the original Bioshock games, the Vigors won't be a surprise - they (minor spoiler: literally) are just renamed plasmids. Among them are some pretty conservative ones like "Devil's Kiss", which basically is a grenade or "Shock Jockey", which stuns and hurts a foe, but also some more creative like "Bucking Bronco" which leaves foes vulnerably floating in the air. Each Vigor can be casted in two ways - uncharged, which is the "basic" version of the attack and charged, which results in most Vigors being casted as a trap, which will be activated upon enemy contact. You can combine the effects of the Vigors for some pretty devastating combos (e.g. take control of an enemy and then shock him to create a walking Tesla Coil), but doing so will take a massive chunk of your Salt Bar (aka Magic meter). Unlike with the guns, the Vigor Upgrades can massively change the way you'll use them and thus should receive all of your available money. Another way to improve your Vigors (and everything else) is using special outfits you'll find mostly behind locked doors. These outfits can do everything ranging from adding additional effects to your Vigors to simply increasing damage and allow for a great amount of customization.
In terms of gameplay Elizabeth is a nice addition. Although you are supposed to protect her (the game basically is one single escort mission) it really is the other way around. First, Elizabeth is invulnerable, unlike you. This takes the massive amount of frustration that usually comes with escort missions out of the equation. Most of the time she acts as a portable dispenser, handing you ammo, salts and healing items during a fight and money outside of it. During exploration she is the one to unlock doors, safes and everything else - provided you have enough lockpicks in your inventory. Much more interesting is her ability to open "rifts" into different dimensions. This way she can provide you with cover, stationary weapons and anchor points during combat, which is a really nice (and cool looking) feature.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Bioshock Infinite is a much needed break from the over-abundance of realistic shooters these days. It has a clean and colorful look (as opposed to the muddy brown of other Ego-Shooters) while featuring a pretty dark and mature story with some incredible plot twists towards the end. It's a shame that the core of the game - the gameplay - can't match the brilliant story. While the Vigors and the support by Elizabeth are some pretty fun mechanics they can't completely hide the disappointing gunplay. The weapons are far too conventional and the AI isn't any impressive either. Nonetheless, Bioshock Infinite is a brilliant game, possibly one of the best of this generation. If you choose story over gameplay, feel free to up the score to 9.5, but I can't just ignore the gameplay weaknesses in a review.