In case you didn’t already know, I’m not really the biggest fan of the first person shooter genre. The camera angle confuses the hell out of me and I don’t like the fact that my character is essentially a floating gun. It takes a special kind of FPS game to get me to even acknowledge it. Bioshock: Infinite is one of those FPS games. All of my issues with the genre vanished with this incredible work of art. That’s right, I’m calling Bioshock: Infinite a work of art because that’s exactly what it is. For a dude who doesn’t like FPS games, saying that should let you know just how amazing this title is.
Bioshock: Infinite takes place in an alternate 1912 on a floating city called Columbia. Colombia was created as a way to show America’s exceptionalism to the rest of the world. America soon disavows the city when its creator, Zachary Comstock launches an attack on Chinese civilians during the Boxer Rebellion. Columbia defects from the United States and becomes its own nation. The founders of the city, the elite ruling class, are racial purists and they treat Blacks and the Irish like second class citizens at best. A rebel group called the Vox Populi has grown out of this racial segregation and they wage an insurgent war against the founders. When you arrive in the city, all seems calm on the surface but there’s turmoil brewing underneath.
You take on the role of Booker Dewitt. Dewitt is a man who is indebted to a mystery person and the only way to pay the debt is to kidnap a girl named Elizabeth from the floating city. Elizabeth is the “lamb” of Columbia and is prophesied to one day rule the city and “burn down the mountains of man”. She has the ability to open up tears that lead to alternate realities and timelines. The main plot of the game is about Booker and Elizabeth attempting to escape the city during the Vox Populi uprising but as things progress we learn more about Columbia, Dewitt, Comstock and Elizabeth’s connection to both men.
While Bioshock: Infinite is at its core an FPS game, what really makes it a stand out title is the story, setting and of course the characters. The city of Columbia is wonderfully realized and feels like a character itself. Some of the banter from NPCs (non-playable characters) about how they view minorities is disturbing but it adds to the atmosphere of the game. Seeing how the upper class lives and how the lower class has to struggle to survive is horrifying. Columbia is both attractive and repulsive. You want to learn more about the history of the city while at the same time, feel the need to get the hell off it as soon as possible. The twisted images of America’s founding fathers (Washington, Jefferson and Franklin) were actually the ones that disturbed me the most. These men are heroes of mine so seeing them deified and idolized as they are in the game was unsettling. This may sound like a negative but it helped to absorb me into the game’s twisted world.
The characters themselves are some of the most fully realized that I’ve seen in a video game. The heart and soul of Bioshock: Infinite is Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a person who has spent her entire life locked up in a tower and who is guarded by a monstrous giant mechanical bird. She’s had to learn about life from books and not from firsthand experience. She’s incredibly sympathetic but she isn’t one to be underestimated either. There’s a reason she’s been a prisoner her entire life. Elizabeth’s powers make her extremely dangerous and while you as a player want to protect her, you’ll also be frightened of her. There’s one part where Booker tells her to stop and she coldly says “you know you can’t stop me”. That part scared the hell out of me. Her character arc was expertly realized and the way her relationship with Booker evolves was also wonderfully handled. People are always asking for strong female characters in video games and Elizabeth stands as a shining example of such a character.
The gameplay of Bioshock: Infinite is just as engaging as the story and helps to hold the entire thing together. There are a lot different weapons to use but the Vigor powers are what set this game apart from your average FPS. Combining your Vigor powers with one another opens up the combat and keeps things from becoming stale. There are rail lines throughout the city and you can use these to move around the battlefield and even to attack enemies. As you progress, you’ll find upgrades for your Vigors and can also buy upgrades for your weapons. Battles never got boring due to the variety of enemies, Vigors, weapons and the well-designed stages. You can go in with all guns blazing if you want but to truly get the most out of combat situations, it’s best to use everything that’s at your disposal—especially Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s abilities aren’t just relegated to cut scenes. During gameplay, she can bring in objects and even people from other realities to aid you. I loved having her conjure up robots that would attack enemies while I went around to their flank to take them out. Elizabeth even tosses health, ammo and Vigors at you whenever you need them. She never gets in your way and you don’t need to worry about keeping her safe. I actually felt more vulnerable when she wasn’t around to help me out. Having Elizabeth there with me during tense battles made combat that much more fun and immersive.
While I was playing the game, Bioshock: Infinite was great but I felt that it may have been a bit overhyped but then that ending hit me like a ton of bricks. I won’t spoil it for anyone but I need to say that it is one of the best conclusions I’ve seen in any story telling medium. After I was done, I had to go online to read other people’s thoughts on it. It was amazing and is the reason people will talk about this game for many years to come. The way that events unraveled throughout the game was incredible and by the end, everything came to a satisfying finale.
Bioshock: Infinite gave me one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had with a video game. This is coming from a guy who doesn’t like FPS games people! The setting is awe inspiring and the characters and plot are masterfully written. This is a profound title that will forever remain in the hearts and minds of all who experience it. If you consider yourself a gamer and a fan of great stories, you owe it to yourself to play Bioshock: Infinite.
Bioshock: Infinite was developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. It is available now on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.