SAM MORRELL


ASTROPHYSICIST

First Impressions of Bioshock Infinite

April 10, 2013   |   Reading time: ~7 mins

bioshock-infinite-screenshot

Way back in 2008 I picked up a game called Bioshock. I saw a review of this and it looked absolutely amazing. The whole package. An engrossing story, innovative gameplay concepts and stunning looking shaders to boot. At the time I picked it up and was a little disappointed with it. Firstly, I never really got into it, possibly because I didn’t completely immerse myself in the thick as custard plot. However in the last week I finally managed to finish it. Seriously, if you haven’t played it and you consider yourself a PC game enthusiast, play it! Just do it! But here’s a hint, use the damn camera! It’ll make everything a lot easier. Why did I only just finish Bioshock? Aside from wanting to remove a game from my ever growing ‘need to play one day’ list, it was also a promise I made to myself. The promise was that I would finish it before playing my new purchase, Bioshock Infinite.

I finally got to playing it and I am really genuinely impressed with it. My expectations were very high  to start off with, due to the numerous shining reviews around the web, but it still managed to surpass it. Here’s why…

Story

I won’t spoil any plot for you, mainly because I’m not that far myself, but I’ll reveal this. The writers have done an amazing job on this title. The story so far is an intricately woven thread with plot twists and intrigue in all the right places. Upon making the obvious comparison to Bioshock I can easily say that it’s a much improved experience. Having a non-mute protagonist really helps the overall flow of the story and exposition of new details and concepts; even if he does enjoy needlessly saying “Huh” far too much. Having a companion in the much touted non-player character, Elizabeth, really does help assuage the often lonely and claustrophobic feeling that was the result of the jaunt around Rapture. I’m sure this was intentional, but the atmosphere in Infinite is much more to my liking.

Gameplay

When I played Bioshock I found it very difficult even on normal difficulty. This was mainly due to the gameplay mechanics at use here. The main issue I had was the camera. I didn’t make use of this at the start of my playthrough, and as a result the game got really bloody hard! If you didn’t use the camera each enemy almost took the entire arsenal to dispatch, leaving me mostly devoid of money, ammunition and medical packs. The plasmids of Bioshock are gone leaving instead the remarkably reminiscent ‘vigors’ and ‘salts’. Whereas I found the plasmids of Bioshock to be very much the support weapon of the two, only used to stun the enemy before heading in to make the kill with a more offensive weapon, vigors seem to pack far more of a punch to them, often allowing you to chain them together with offensive weaponry, allowing for some truly devastating attacks. The trade off is that stock-piling the fuel for these powers is no longer possible, making the use of them far more tactical in a pinch. The one major change between this and Bioshock is the inability to carry more than two weapons. This is both a blessing and a curse. The bad part is that often you’ll find yourself without the correct weapon for the job at hand when you most need it, however this is also its strength. This limitation makes you more aware of each weapons advantages so  that you are best equipped to handle the enemy at hand during a confrontation.

Overall, the whole combat experience has been tightened up. Some of the fat has been trimmed off, such as the rather annoying hacking puzzles which allowed you to commandeer enemy machines, now replaced with a vigor, the annoyingly long reload times have been nerfed and some of the rather aggravating bugs which peppered the otherwise flawless landscape of the previous instalment have been addressed. As with the Bioshock, the hard enemies are once again a massive hike up in difficulty from the menial foot soldiers, making the task of taking them down rather a daunting affair.

Graphics

The place where this game shines (literally) is here. Even from the beginning nearly every pixel has been carefully thought out and crafted to perfection. This is where both games shine amazingly. Even today, 5 years after release, Bioshock still holds its own among today’s games. Though, unfortunately it can’t hold a candle to its sequel. Bioshock Infinite is quite probably the most astoundingly fine looking piece of work  I have ever had the good fortune to lay my eyes upon. Everything is set in the map to add to the ambience of the scene. Even the smallest detail is presented in exquisite detail. Just as en example, in one of the establishing pieces of the game there is rain. Not only does the rain patter against the flow and show splashes but you can also clearly see rain running down the side of the building. This is just one example of the many things within the world that have made me repeatedly coo ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’. If I had to pick one flaw with this game, it’s that the facial animation of some of the bystanders could to with a little more care to match up to the leads, but at this point we’re picking at straws, as if you’re spending that long staring at nearby pedestrians you’re probably doing something terribly wrong. I should point out that I only really considered this an issue because everything else is at such an outstanding level, and normally wouldn’t be at all, however it does show here.

Overall

To conclude, if you haven’t got Bioshock Infinite yet and you have a machine capable of playing it, whether it be a computer or a console, just get it! It practically sets a new standard in video gaming. When I heard about Bioshock I thought that it was totally revolutionary for a first-person shooter. Upon hearing of Bioshock Infinite’s feature list, I honestly felt that they’d have a hard time making the game feel fresh by reusing old mechanics, but they totally have. They’ve met the bar they set with their previous work, and far surpassed it in many areas. Although I’m not finished it yet, I can safely say that I’m going to be hooked until the very end. Not only am I wrapped up in a plot that I want to see concluded which includes characters that I care about, but the game is a pleasure to play with just the correct amount of difficulty to keep the whole experience challenging without being taxing to the point of utter frustration. What’s more, the variety of bugs which plagued the PC port of the predecessor, such as various sound glitches, lacklustre controls and often annoying freezes, are seemingly a thing of the past as I have so far had no trouble at all. Another point that gives Infinite gold stars in my book is that it uses Steam for distribution, not including any third party software such as SecuROM and Game for Windows Live, which the previous two in the series have been lumbered with. Overall, I am forced to conclude that Bioshock Infinite is an amazingly good experience in both gameplay and story, driven forward by the superb visuals that are sure to hold up to scrutiny for a few years yet. If you feel like this game could be for you, I say try it. Chances are you won’t be disappointed.

If you have been, thanks for reading.

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