Verhille: Does Bioshock Infinite live up to the hype?

BY DAN VERHILLE | MARCH 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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Game critics across the world have almost unilaterally agreed that Bioshock Infinite is one of the best games of the year, showering it with adulations and near-perfect numerical rankings. This reviewer looks at the components that made it a front-runner for one of the best games of the year and weighs in on if reviewers have gotten carried away in the hype.

Rifts in the time-space continuum (there are many within the game) and major spoilers aside, the plot of the game follows Booker's attempt to wipe away his debts by kidnapping/rescuing Elizabeth from the tower where her father, Comstock, the self-proclaimed prophet of Columbia, imprisoned her. Players will achieve this feat by wielding a variety of firearms and gear, skillfully utilizing powers, called "vigors," and mastering the art of traveling along the high-speed, roller coaster-esque rails known as "sky-lines."

The City, Columbia

Unquestionably, the dystopian city of Columbia is breathtakingly beautiful: City blocks leisurely float about, disconnecting and reconnecting when necessary, and everything is lightly shrouded in puffs of white clouds set against the bold cerulean of the high atmosphere. Future players can rest assured that the pristine appearance is not permanent and they will necessarily be the genesis of destruction of this beauty.

The developers did an excellent job giving the individual citizens of the town fresh and believable dialogue, which will be greatly appreciated by fans who've grown tired of regurgitated dialogue from non-player characters, a practice too many companies have made a common fixture in their games.

Everywhere in the city there are eerie shrines to Comstock and ominous propaganda inscribed with his prophesies about the false prophet and the lamb of Columbia, who are quickly revealed to be Booker and Elizabeth respectively, giving the entire game the effective yet unnerving feeling of forced locomotion and predestination.

Elizabeth, the lamb of Columbia

After being rescued from the tower, Elizabeth quickly proves to be a lively and helpful companion to Booker, interacting uniquely with different people and fixtures of the world, as well as regularly tossing Booker money and items. She also has the incredibly handy ability to create rifts in time-space to make useful objects (such as weapons or cover) materialize from parallel universes.

The most intriguing part of Elizabeth is not her usefulness in combat but her well-developed interactions with Booker, a relationship complicated by Booker having promised to take the rescued girl to Paris, while he actually intends to sell her to persons unknown to repay his debts.

Credit is due to the writers and voice actors who made Elizabeth's many emotional reactions as poignant and dramatic as the form allows. In fact, the story is most powerful in moments such as when she realizes her father chose to lock her away for all her life, the first time she witnesses Booker commit murder, and the first time she gets her own hands dirty.

The combat system

If there's an area of the game that fails to live up to the example of perfection so many have made it out to be, it's the combat system. Amazing storytelling and voice acting acknowledged, Bioshock Infinite is still a first-person shooter that feels a little clunky when looking down the barrel or through the cross hairs.

It's still a hoot and a half, but I can't help but feel that even after I've mastered all the weapons and the art of the headshot that something is off in the horizontal to vertical movements.

The powers are always entertaining, and the process of mixing and matching them provides for a multitude of creative ways to dispatch your enemy. My favorite is the Murder of Crows power, which sends a flock of vicious crows to eat your enemies alive. Touché, Irrational Games.

Fighting on the skyline system is originally exhilarating as you leap from rail to rail and are magnetically carried about at break-neck speeds, gunning as you go. However, as the game develops, it isn't pushed to fruition and becomes somewhat gimmicky as there aren't levels that require you to remain on them for an extended period of time, navigate a complex system, complete a system with a time restraint, or do all of the above during combat. Hopefully, the future downloadable content will capitalize on some of these missed opportunities, but even if Irrational Games gives us more of the same, it'll still be an adroitly assembled game with a dazzlingly rewarding progression. Is it overhyped? Unquestionably, if it's indeed superior to its peers it's by a slimmer margin than suggested, but a must-play for any serious gamer nonetheless.

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