The only way I can describe Bioshock: Infinite is as Schrodinger’s Cat pushed as far as it can possibly go. An incredible combination of gorgeous and colorful visuals, gripping audio, hair-raising action sequences, and deliciously complex plot elements, Infinite will leave you slack-jawed, craving more, and poring over theoretical physics texts.
Let’s start with the gameplay. In a world dominated with first-person shooters, not many contenders bring new elements to the table and usually offer us the same old repetitive formula that manages to provide brief one-hour fixes, with most of the meat lying in the multiplayer component. Like its predecessors, Infinite is a strictly single-player game, meaning that all of the game’s essentials and extras are concentrated in one place-a welcome change of pace if you ask me. Bioshock adds the element of supernatural/psychokinetic abilities (or whatever category they fall under) to spice things up, and Infinite faithfully continues the tradition. This time, instead of “Adam” and “Eve” as in the first two games, “Salts” are used as a general mana, much like the Elder Scrolls’ system, and the powers at your disposal are devastatingly fun to use and work best when combined with one another. Another trait this game possesses is the now-rare feature of the old-school health system, in which the health bar does not recharge on its own but instead requires the player to scavenge for regenerative items (usually in the form of food), adding-or reintroducing, rather-the challenge of survival and finding yourself close to death more often than you’d like. Some items offer an interesting twist: take the cigarettes, for example. These will chip away at your health bar but will fill up your salts bar; these and other such items provide the player with a critical trade-off to be made during combat should they be found. The weapons at your disposal are simple in nature and are typical of what you’d find in a modern FPS (SMG, semi-auto carbine, shotgun, etc…), but it isn’t until you progress into the game (more on that later) that you find interesting variants of the exact same weapons that are sure to catch your eye-for example, the shotgun becomes a two-shot fire cannon. Did I mention the abilities and how fun it is to electrocute and incinerate pockets of bad guys, as well as turning them on one another? In short, Bioshock: Infinite‘s gameplay is solid and consistent and will leave you struggling to tire of it.
To say that Bioshock: Infinite is a visual masterpiece is an understatement-rather, it’s like experiencing a series of scenic and steampunk paintings and sci-fi novels in tandem. There really aren’t many games out there that place any degree of artistic emphasis on the environment, and not many times have I been floored by a mere glance and the sheer scope of a video game’s environment; Bioshock Infinite is beautiful and awe-inspiring at first and last glance. That Irrational Games chose to set the game in 1912 aboard a f*cking sky city held up by atoms is astounding enough when you first glimpse it. There are no shortage of brilliant colors to match the vast expanses of sky in the background and the changes in environment (rain, fog, etc…) play out marvelously. The game’s audio can be described as both cacophony and harmony-“cacophony” because of the deafening roar of the machinery that comprises the steampunk sky city of Columbia-along with the weapons discharges and explosions that greet the player at every enemy encounter, and “harmony” because of the rather eclectic and stirring score that somehow fits each and every occasion in the game, whether it’s dodging bullets or watching the story unfold. The soundtrack also songs from across the century (you’ll see why) and even famous pieces of classical music, namely Mozart’s Requiem in D minor and Chopin’s Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat major (the latter sounding very honky-tonky). The audio and visual components of Infinite will leave you as baffled and star-struck as the story, which we’re about to get into.
This right here is what made me love Bioshock: Infinite so much: the story. It centers on one Booker DeWitt, former soldier and Pinkerton agent (some kind of government agency that dealt harshly with trade unions) turned P.I. who’s made some really bad decisions that end up with him travelling to the sly city of Columbia in order to retrieve an enigmatic young woman named Elizabeth in order to pay off a presumably nasty debt. More on Elizabeth: you will fall in love with her due to her resourcefulness and youth, but she isn’t your typical damsel in distress-in fact, she shows throughout the campaign that she is more than capable of holding her own in firefights and in the rougher and uglier aprts of the main story. Along the way the player will clash with the brainwashed and often supernatural forces of megalomaniacal prophet Zachary Hale Comstock as well as a giant, biomechanical steampunk bird that serves as Elizabeth’s guardian; the Vox Populi, an underground resistance group composed of racial and religious minorities that have been marginalized by the white, Anglo-Saxon denizens of Columbia; The Luteces, a mysterious pair of English man and woman who appear at the most unsuspecting moments; and tears in space-time that lead to wherever and whenever. Sounds a pretty complex, you’re thinking, and at times it is, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for moments of emotional strain and involvement on the player’s part. I can’t say much more than that at the risk of spoiling it, but this amalgamation of theoretical physics, socio-economic issues(mostly-hell, pretty much racism), redemption, mystery, discovery, conspiracy, religious symbolism, and rebellion all play out stupendously and fall into place to create a marvelous and intricate story that will leave you scratching your head and constantly revisiting Columbia, whether in playthroughs, thoughts, dreams, or visits to the Bioshock wiki, or even texts and/or documentaries on wormholes, time travel, and the like.
Ironically, Infinite’s greatest strength is also its Achilles’ Heel: the plot can get so complicated at times that by game’s end the player’s head-scratching has probably led to him/her boring a hole deep into their skull but even if they manage to manually stimulate the brain no sense can be made of it; I’m still revisiting its wiki page even though I managed to work out the gist of it. Nevertheless, Bioshock: Infinite is a masterpiece in terms of narrative, art, and gameplay, and will likely remain a timeless titan of the video game and art industry for decades to come.
Final score: 9.8/10
Y’all take care now