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BioShock Infinite

By Mokman30-03-2013
Leigh Cobb (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

Irrational Games
2K Games
Action, Shooter
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Quad Core
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 560
AMD Radeon HD 6950
4 GB
30 GB
10, 11

The Case

It's five hours since I've started the game. I quit, reluctantly, to go get a drink, and shower. Immediately my rig chugs and lags, and I wonder what's wrong, before I spy the little counter in the Steam screenshots uploader. 620. In five hours, having finished only approximately 1/3 of the game, I've taken 620 screenshots, enough to slow my rig as it attempts to process picture after picture of beautiful, fictional Columbia. That's how good the art design in BioShock Infinite is.

I daresay BioShock is one of my all-time favourite games. I've had more fun playing other games, I've had better times screwing around with friends in multiplayer ventures, but I've never had as good a story, as close as an artistic experience when gaming as I had with BioShock. The mood, the atmosphere and the plot were astounding, revolutionary and it reverberated through the industry with a frightening force, as millions were stupefied by the intense experience (and the mind-breakingly amazing plot twist). It received an incredible amount of accolades, and was loved by both gamers and critics alike - garnering awards such as the 2007 BAFTA Game of the Year with ease.

Thus, it is easily apparent that BioShock Infinite, the spiritual sequel of the BioShock series (ignoring the only-decent experience that was BioShock 2), has much to live up to. Does it? Well, here's an argument that's gonna be around for a long, long time.

The Trial

Let us first talk about the centerpiece of the game, the floating city - Columbia. As with the original BioShock, what marks the game most is its setting, and what Rapture was to BioShock, so is Columbia to BioShock: Infinite. The first impression you get is that of immensity, as the doors open and you find yourself standing upon a floating, steampunk city, it is easy to be overwhelmed. That's not to say that it's open-world, of course, far from it. In most cases, there is only one direction in which to head, with occasional choices giving you two or three paths, and some minor areas to explore. But ultimately, it grants you areas by areas, small, localized set-pieces that form a whole. However, the art design combined with the atmosphere generated gives players this sense of immensity that about them is an actual living, breathing city. In some ways it is both like and unlike the effect Rapture gave to players, like in the sense that the city is truly there, that it is an organism which has existed and has an actual history behind it, unlike in the sense that the city is still alive. Everything, the movement of the people, their stances and their little groupings, the placement of the buildings, the sounds and sights - it all seems incredibly natural, and that is what truly brings the city to life.

So not a children's game then?

So not a children's game then?

And yes, the art design. I have seen graphically superior games. I have seen crazier and more outlandish settings. But I have never seen a setting as beautifully crafted, with as much attention to detailed displayed, as that shown in BioShock Infinite. One can almost feel the passion that was put behind the making of this game, from the deliberate placements of everything, from signs to books, clipboards hung just at the right angles of tables to hats askew perfectly on racks, every screenshot I took looked almost as if they were paintings. The art design and realistic animations lend themselves to the atmosphere at every stage of the game, whether it is a dark and grimy atmosphere, or a bright and cheerful one. As such, the mood of the player is strung around, played to the tune of the piper that is the setting. Upon reaching a section where the theme was oppression, not only is this reflected overtly in plot and environment, but in a thousand tiny ways such as the way people move and stand, or the shading and strategic lighting.

It almost makes up for the gameplay. Almost. However, sad to say, it seems that all the genius, all the innovative techniques went into the other parts of the story, leaving much too little for the game itself. It's not that the gameplay is bad, it is very much polished, something that works without a squeak. However, what it is though, is uninspired. I expected much more from Irrational, and yet, the gameplay seems, at the end of the day, to be not so dissimilar from that of BioShock, perhaps even worse. The addition of the sky-lines and the tears (dimensional rifts which Elizabeth can open to reveal mundane things like ammo and such) are gimmicks at best, and the vigors, though varied, are all variations on powers we've seen before in such FPS games. There's the generic fire one, the generic lightning one, the generic stun trap, the generic grab, the generic charge... the list goes on. Even the alternate firing modes of these powers simply make them traps that enemies can walk into.

The City of Columbia.

The City of Columbia.

The gameplay is frenetic, heart-pounding, but it gets old fast, and unfortunately, stays old, despite a deep upgrade and gearing system - all these factors simply cannot make up for the fact that the gameplay gets stale. By the thousandth or so henchman I've dispatched I was thoroughly sick of the whole business, dreading the moments where I'd have to keep playing the actual game, instead of exploring and looking at the pretty sights. Worse, as the game goes on, it makes the cardinal sin of ramping up the difficulty by giving foes more hit-points, making combat at times a frustrating experience. The tears themselves are the game designers shouting at you, thrusting choices in your face (do you want to conjure up the turret here? Or do you want to conjure up an RPG there?) - ultimately, not contributing much to the gameplay while proving annoying when it is needed. With trans-dimensional rifts, you'd think the possibilities would be endless... infinite, so to speak, and yet the best they could come up with was to conjure up, from an alternate reality, health bags and ammo.

Don't get me wrong, the gameplay is by no means bad, and had it come out six, seven years ago, it would have been hailed as revolutionary, amazing work. But in 2013, it simply does not cut it.

And now we reach the meat of this review. The characters and the plot of the game, its story and its ending. Starting with characters, we realise that the writing and the voice acting for them is brilliant, the dialogue superbly well done. The relationship between Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth is incredibly well-thought out, far from the shallow companion-player relationships, or love interests we commonly see in video games. As the story goes on, you truly do feel for her - in one stage where she was taken from Booker, I literally ran past every single loot point in the game so I could rescue her, something no other game has ever made me do.

Elizabeth is the most expressive video game character I have ever seen.

Elizabeth is the most expressive videogame character I have ever seen.

Other characters too are masterfully done - eliciting just the right reaction from players towards them. For example, I didn't really feel anything for Comstock until I realized the game wanted me to feel that way, that it had meant for Comstock to be an aloof, crazy figure that one only felt apathy for - that's Booker's viewpoint. Booker himself manages to come across as a likeable anti-hero, giving him a character that very much fits his past. You get the impression that the way he acts and reacts to the world about him is the result of previous character development and growth, that he has a history that he lived, rather than one thought up for him in a meeting somewhere.

The story of the game...well, there has been so far, in the few days since its release, an extremely mixed reaction to it, and I do not expect that to change, only to intensify as more people play the game. People will either love it, or hate it. Love it for being amazing and incredibly deep, something that actually requires thinking, but hate it for what a game like that entails - in a sense, it is an incredibly intellectual story, but also one that requires a powerful suspension of disbelief. The story deals with pseudo-scientific concepts and hard physics, as well as philosophical concepts of predestination and agency of choice, while requiring a mind to not follow down certain avenues of inquiry in order to accept the story.

As such, to me, is very representative of the Steampunk genre, where hard science and occasionally philosophy is called into play, but then one must also attempt to ignore the floating steam trains and rayguns. Should one choose to do so, it is easy to find plot-holes, and yet, personally, I have read many a book, watched many a movie, which require a substantial amount of forced ignorance in order to accept the story and still enjoy it - and many of these works of art I regard with great reverence. I believe, that this situation is not the fault of the game itself, but just the way things are. The themes that BioShock Infinite goes into are not "safe" themes that one could enter without endangering the solidity of the plot - it was a brave decision to do so, and I applaud them.

You have to be at least “this” high to enjoy the ride.

You have to be at least “this” high to enjoy the ride.

As for the ending, I fully expect hundreds to finish this and sit back, stupefied by its immensity of thought and immaculately crafted ideals, as well as the mind-bending revelations. Yet, I expect quite a few to also sit back in disgust, stating that was a "bullshit ending". To them, I can only ask that you think long and hard about it, and read up online on the theories behind the ending, as many of them truly are able to explain it for what it is. To those who put in the effort, and a certain degree of suspending their disbeliefs, the ending can be seen foreshadowed through the entire play-through.

The Verdict

The ending and its effect on the gaming community cements its role in the gaming industry. Something that is indecipherable, that can only be interpreted and argued upon, that transforms once it falls out of the creators hands? It is a work of art, no question. It is almost as if Ken Levine brought his development team together and created this in response to the ongoing debate over whether games can be considered art.

It is, in my opinion, more-so a work of art than a game - as an aspiring artist I love it. I love the absolute passion that was put into creating it, I love the dedication and care that created the setting and so on. As a gamer, I have my gripes, for ultimately the gameplay is disappointing, and the game eventually turns into a carriage/vehicle for the story and the setting and the atmosphere. Giving a score to this game feels like sacrilege. And I believe, or at least I hope, that's how Ken Levine and the team behind it wants me to feel.

Case Review

  • You Gotta Have Soul: The passion put into this game is easily apparent, everything is immaculately detailed and done with great deliberation and forethought.
  • Surprisingly Smart: The story and the setting itself is surprisingly intellectual - in an age where most plotlines are dumbed down this is a rarity.
  • Good Audio: The audio, as expected from a BioShock game, is amazingly atmospheric.
  • Decent Graphics: The graphics are okay, I guess, slightly dated but it’s hidden well by the beautiful art.
  • Boring Gameplay: Not that it’s badly done, it’s well-polished in fact, just that for all of BioShock’s greatness, it is a disappointingly mundane game to actually play.
  • Start Well, End Good, ‘cos Nobody Remembers the Middle: Everything, story, gameplay and setting droops slightly around the middle but picks back up quickly afterwards.
Score: 4/5
It is a work of art, no question.


By Merc

If there is any game that has massive expectations, it is BioShock Infinite. The first game is loved by many and praised for the innovations it gave to the gaming world, so how does Infinite stack up? There are not enough words and time to say how great the game actually is. The game starts with an amazing sequence and the player is left not knowing what exactly is going on. The presentation of BioShock Infinite is absolutely stunning in every way. It is not a detailed game in the way that Crysis 3 is, but it has one of the most beautiful art styles in any game, ever. From the lighting, animations and particle effects, everything is wonderful. It is a joy to be in the world and explore every nook and cranny. Infinite has set a new bar on how games with a story need to be done, anything else from now on will not be enough. Well done to the developers for taking such care and time with their game.

The gameplay and combat are also superb, they take the first games combat and put some amazing twists into the gameplay. It still revolves around using what amounts to super powers (vigors) and the huge arsenal at your disposal. It is really fast paced because you can zip around on the skylines, jump off, and just cause chaos. Play it on hard if you have played many FPS games and you will get a good challenge. So at the end of the day, the sound, graphics, gameplay, storytelling, voice acting, just every step of the way BioShock Infinite is one of the best games ever created. You should play this game, now, stop reading and go!

Score: 5/5


The first BioShock was a nice, fun game which brought some novel concepts for those who never played System Shock. At first glance, BioShock 2 seemed like a sequel, but was mostly a bad rehash of the original. BioShock Infinite looks much different than the first one, but it continues the feeling and the fun of it. Getting into the flying city of Columbia and exploring provides that same sense of the amazement as the underwater Rapture gave during the first visit. The game provides a rich world, inviting you to explore and assemble the pieces of the grand narrative. The plot remains very strong and interesting throughout the game, especially if you take your time to find additional details scattered around the city. Sounds, music and voice work also help a lot in immersing you in the atmosphere. Developers did their history well – while technology and science is different from our world to get a flying city in late 19th century, a lot of cultural, social elements of the time as well as some language differences reflect a lot upon the USA during those times.

The fun of combat comes in the variety of weapons, vigors (magic abilities), Elisabeth’s summons and the environments you can use. Unfortunately, what seems to me a design decision to make the game playable with gamepads, you can carry only 2 weapons at the same time and there is less vertical combat than in the E3 2011 demo. This game isn’t COD or Battlefield, so those additional limitations are quite disappointing. Other technical qualms include auto-aim being on by default and the single save slot – not game breaking, but still inconvenient. The visual part of the game is done very well. Artists did a great job to show the city in the clouds with its breath taking vistas and steampunk inspired design. The graphical side is quite solid – most textures are sharp and lightning is beautiful. For those with powerful hardware, DX11 advanced post-processing is recommended, as it brings high-quality DOF that looks natural and doesn’t have artefacts on the edges between background and foreground. Overall, BioShock Infinite is an amazing game, which provides a memorable and fun experience. If you liked the first BioShock, then Infinite won’t disappoint.

Score: 4.5/5

Judges panel

MrJenssen Score 4.5/5
StuntmanLT Score 4/5
Comments (4)
You must be to post a comment.
Posts: 241

I really want this, going to wait until the price drops a bit though.

Posts: 267

On medium difficulty and without checking every corner, you can definitely finish it in some 12-14h or less.

Posts: 240

Just completed it last night. For the record, I have no idea how people completed it in around 16 hours or less as it took me 21, such was all my exploring. But I actually completely disagree with the two negative points of the main review about the gameplay and pacing, particularly the latter which I especially can't fault in the slightest. Really curious to see what this single player DLC will be now though.

Posts: 596

Judges panel is cool. Overall it seems to be a good title. I guess I will definitely have to try it now :D