Today I finally finished Bioshock Infinite. I’d rage quit for a bit after not being able to get through the Zeppelin-based madness near the end. My save game for that chapter was first saved on April 2nd, so I’d been stuck there for a while. At this visit I got through third time lucky (and just by the skin of my teeth) and finally got to see the amazing ending. I hope it isn’t a spoiler to say that it’s worthy of the name “Infinite” and it’s pretty mind bending.
Up until today I’d had a bit of a problem with the game and I think I feel a bit better about it now that I’ve completed it. This post was originally going to be a bit of a kicking for the game because some of the content made me feel uncomfortable indeed and up until today I hadn’t been able to take down all those bloody mechanical patriots on the last level. (It’s the last level for a reason, so I understand that it’s hard but there’s some a bad decision on the user interface front that also make it a bit harder — one that I can’t really write about for spoiler purposes.)
For the last few weeks if you had asked me, I would have said that Bioshock 2 was a better game (Minor spoilers follow for a four-year old game). The reason being that it didn’t actually bother too much with plotting and just let you get on with the business of whacking splicers and Big Daddies in an increasing decrepit Rapture. I liked that. I also liked the way that the key to achieving the happy ending was to take a stake in people’s lives and show forgiveness. Until Infinite‘s ending, I wasn’t sure that the newer game was headed in that direction at all. All I can say without ruining it is that Infinite is effectively about one man’s sins unravelling and manifesting in front of him, and that sometimes sacrifice is better than forgiveness. Well, that’s what I took away from it.
Let me explain what I liked about the game overall and then I’ll wrap up with some of the things I did not like so much. Overall it looks amazing, the Bioshock games all have fantastic art design and there’s a lot of love and care that goes in to how the look and feel of Columbia drives the plot and surrounds the characters. In fact it’s not just the look, there’s also the sounds too: a barbershop version of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and a ragtime version Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” are particular highlights. (When the credits roll there are so many songs credited that there must be quite a lot of musical Easter Eggs to go hunting for!)
It’s also an incredibly satisfying game to play. The start is mysterious as you’re transported to the city in the sky and then languid as discover Columbia’s delights. In a masterful turn of pacing that I’ve not experienced before in a video game everything goes south pretty quickly at the city fair. After that you can play for about an hour or two with the pace barely letting up until you find Elizabeth. And then… well you’ll have to play it.
However, once it gets going it is an incredibly violent game and there are moments where you just have to plough your way through hordes of enemies. There are some interesting scenes where you find yourself in a war zone and all hell is breaking loose, in those scenes you have allies and it is nice to be in a Bioshock game without having to face an onslaught of deranged enemies without back up. Some of the enemies are outright deranged: the guys carrying coffins on their backs who shot crows at you (think of a Houdini Splicer from the original Bioshock but about twenty times more of an arsehole) are just mental and the Big Daddy redux the Handyman is just too strong. I completed the game on normal but I don’t make it through on hard. Obviously games like Bioshock have to be a bit violent, or else we’d just be playing Journey and Tetris all the time, not that that would be a bad thing.
The level that featured all the ghosts in the graveyard was a bit irritating and felt a bit forced. It was an interesting way to drive the plot forward (you have to find three bits of evidence to convince the ghost of Lady Comstock to let you pass) but it’s a mechanic that has been used in the previous games. In fact, the bits of this game that I liked the least were the parts that felt like a retread of previous games. Another example is the way that they introduce a new game mechanic by making you do something with it immediately, usually in some low pressure contrived setting.
Personally I think I admire Bioshock Infinite rather than love it in the way that I love Uncharted or Portal 2 but I definitely enjoyed it. I will play through it again one day. By the way, if you fancy a copy I think the PC version is on sale at the moment.
This was the source for the hero image. I cropped it and applied Analog‘s Stereoscopic filter. I wanted to show how I was trying to view both sides regarding the issues that this post raises — and it looks pretty cool too. As always, I used jpegmini to ensure that the file size of the jpg was as small as possible.