BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. The story follows a private investigator named Booker DeWitt who is sent to the floating city of Columbia to find a young woman named Elizabeth. His mission is to return her to New York City in exchange for a chance to have his debt totally wiped clean. For Booker, the mission is also a personal journey of redemption to fix some of the greatest mistakes in his life.
BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series and is set in 1912 during the growth of American exceptionalism. Upon Booker’s rescue of Elizabeth, the two are pursued by the city’s warring factions: the Founders that strive to keep the city for pure Americans and the Vox Populi, a rebel group representing the common people. Elizabeth is a central character to this conflict, and is part of an ongoing experiment as far back as she can remember. She is confined by her father, Zachary Comstock, the town’s religious fanatic who calls himself “The Prophet”, to live in a tower with an oversized mechanical bird called Songbird as her only companion and warden. Elizabeth accumulates strange powers from those painful experiments, which give her the ability to manipulate rifts in the space-time continuum known as tears.
Players control Booker throughout the game, with the AI-controlled Elizabeth offering assistance in the sideline by throwing Booker health and ammunition items when he needs them. There are RPG elements to the game like the ability to upgrade weapons such as increasing their clip size and damage efficiency as well as equipping stronger gears for better armor and protection. Like previous BioShock games, Booker is also gifted with different psychokinetic powers granted through vigors which allow him to freeze, stun, shock, or levitate his enemies via the use of his left hand. Elizabeth’s own powers are also useful in battles. She can use her tear-opening ability to aid Booker by turning invisible objects in the environment real, such as bringing an automated defense battling units to life in addition to other simple objects like a cover to shield Booker from incoming bullet attacks or a ledge for Booker to grapple onto and swing his way out of enemy hordes. Elizabeth can only open one tear at a time, so players must choose wisely.
As with previous BioShock games, the story and history of Columbia are gradually revealed as players locate more audio logs called Voxophones and film projectors called Kinetoscopes. Booker will soon realize that he’s dropped right in the middle of a land caught in a political strife where one half of the city promotes racial-purification concepts such as racial segregation and Nazism. The town of Columbia is plastered with propaganda posters all over with racist statements like “We must all be vigilant to ensure the purity of our people”. Early on in the game, Booker is asked to participate in a carnival game that involves throwing baseballs at a black and white couple. This event is what triggers the town’s animosity towards Booker because this is when he is revealed to be “The False Prophet” that Comstock has prophesied a long time ago, purportedly from one of his visions granted by an archangel.
BioShock Infinite is a very beautiful game. The floating-city of Columbia showcases a palette of bright color schemes that sharply contrast with the darker palettes used in previous BioShock games. Early on in the game, taking a stroll through Columbia feels like walking around an amusement park that’s fully equipped with its own mode of transportation called the Sky-Line. Instead of seeing statues of Mickey Mouse or other cartoon characters, gamers are treated to statues carved in the likeness of The Founding Fathers of the United States like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The Founding Fathers are apparently very much revered by the people of Columbia to the extent that it borderlines on idolatry.
BioShock Infinite is extremely fast-paced. Actions are non-stop and battles are fun, but at times can feel like a chore due to a massive number of enemies to fight at once. Fortunately, the game lets you continue where you leave off if Booker dies during battle, which means that the enemies that you recently killed will remain dead when Booker comes back to life again.
The gripe that I do have with the game is that I sometimes find myself not sure where to proceed next. There is a built-in navigation arrow (and I’ve learned this too late) that indicates Booker’s next destination. Unfortunately the navigation arrow is not easy to spot so I’ve spent the entire game playing without it enabled. Without it, I find myself having to do a lot of backtracking, but to my pleasant surprise, the game seems linear enough that I always end up moving in the right direction.
The land of Columbia is filled with old music of the era playing via phonographs that can be found in almost every room that you walk into. Music ranges from gospel and ragtime to blues and jazz. Players do have the option to turn off the phonograph. Garry Schymann who composed the original scores for both previous BioShock games did a wonderful job with the music for this game as well.
Overall, this is a solid game. It didn’t take that long for me to be fully immersed in both its story and gameplay. It also has one of the strangest and surprising endings for a video game – one that’s actually quite clever and satisfying. The ending is simply mind-blowing and will likely spawn more questions than answers for most gamers. The intricate narrative of this game can certainly be considered Hollywood blockbuster material, most notably for its mind-bending plot that is reminiscent of smart and elaborate films like Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced first person shooter with great voice-acting and a solid storyline, BioShock Infinite is definitely worth checking out. However, since the game isn’t that long and seems to lack replay value, you may want to rent before you buy.