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Stewart: Bioshock Infinite is everything you've ever wanted

BY SAM STEWART | APRIL 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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How far would you go to pay off your debt? A strange question, but it's the one facing Bioshock Infinite protagonist Booker Dewitt as his small raft approaches a mysterious lighthouse off the coast of Maine.

A small box containing a gun, some notes, and a picture of a young girl are his only lead as he steps onto the pier. This opening scene is an obvious callback to the original Bioshock, but instead of boarding a submarine to Rapture, Booker soon finds himself rocketing into the sky to the floating city of Columbia, clutching a note that reads "Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt."

Once he rescues "the girl" in question, Elizabeth, it quickly becomes clear that she is far from normal and definitely not a damsel in distress. She is fully capable of helping herself, and even lends Booker a hand by providing him crucial supplies during battles. But Elizabeth isn't the only character full of surprises, and you may soon begin to suspect that Booker's debt might not just be from gambling. I don't know if I have ever experienced a more perfectly crafted story in any medium, with an answer for every question — assuming you take the time to find it. Divulging anything more would be too much, so trust me when I say this game's story makes it a must-play.

Infinite's remarkable story presumably wasn't enough for the developers at Irrational, and Infinite is also one of the best first-person-shooter experiences I have ever had. Much like the first Bioshock, your character wields a gun in one hand, powers in the other, and they can be used simultaneously. The basis of the combat remains the same, but it has been simplified and improved.

The number of Vigors has been reduced from the first game, but each feels wholly unique, supplementing your guns in a specific way. Each Vigor offers its own set of strategies, but all are equally useful. You could stick by a favorite for the whole game, or use a combination of all. They perfectly mesh with any play style.

The number of guns has also been reduced, and you can only carry two at a time. At first, this seems like a limitation, but in practice, it adds intensity to the combat, forcing you to get creative with your limited weapon set. Frequent weapon drops and limited ammo create an environment in which your strategy can change on the fly, and battles are so fluid and fast-moving that you will rarely feel the need to hide or take cover.

Although the city of Columbia itself is a beautiful, marvelous place full of interesting locales and stories, Infinite's graphics won't turn any heads. The semi-realistic cartoon art style is charming, but I was never blown away by the visuals. The music, however, deserves special mention. Seemingly inspired by industrial styles, the combination of conflicting sounds perfectly captures the intensity of the battles, as well as the tense atmosphere during key story moments. The closest comparison I can make is one of John Cage's prepared piano pieces: very hard to explain, and better experienced for yourself.

Bioshock Infinite is a rare example of a perfectly executed game. Irrational didn't slack on any part of it, creating a product whose every piece is a triumph, once again proving that there is still plenty of room to innovate in the first-person-shooter genre and in video games as a whole. It is a masterwork of both story and play that will leave you in awe, and its daring narrative will take up residence in your thoughts for years to come.

Reviewer Score: 10

Bioshock Infinite
Developed by Irrational Games
Platform: Xbox360, PS3, PC
Cost: $59.99
Released: March 26th, 2013
Rated M for Mature


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