VIDEO CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Review and analysis of BioShock Infinite.
BluBerryGamer as Experience.Pts
All opinions and views expressed in this video are the sole opinion of ActionPts and no one else.
We’ve passed the point of ridiculousness. It’s great for games to be taken as a serious
medium, but taking things seriously means giving them some serious criticism, not
Alright, let’s get this show on the road.
The game, is in a word, modern. The player is given a two gun limit, a melee attack and
two Vigors they can readily use on hand. A skilled player can still get by just on
upgrading their guns and grabbing the appropriate firearms littering the streets. This
weapon limit may not only have been a result of stream lining gameplay for consoles but
also to make the player more reliant on Vigors, these are various elemental magic the
player shoots from their hand, which are oddly out of place in Colombia and are likely
included to carry over the familiar mechanic from BioShock and BioShock 2. For all
intents and purposes though BioShock Infinite plays like the previous games with some
old elements simplified and a few new ones thrown in.
At the start Booker is armed, immediately disarmed and then forced to walk around an
hour long tutorial and exposition segment before he’s tempted with a choice that gets
interrupted regardless the player’s decision and then tossed head first into battle. This
demonstrates just how flimsy Colombia’s pristine façade is but starts an uneasy pacing
that will follow Booker until the end of his journey.
The player can kill people who aren’t attacking them while suffering no consequence
other than hostility from armed forces in the immediate area. The story doesn’t change
because you killed non-essential innocent or allied characters. While Rapture was a city
descended into madness, Columbia is still functioning and the lack of meaningful
reaction to the slaughter seems drastically out of place.
To make matters worse, Booker’s back story is one plagued with guilt of brutalities and
his going Colombia is another chance at him trying to clear himself of his past. Aside
from Elizabeth recoiling in disgust at some of the gruesome executions Booker can
perform there’s no change in the gameplay to punctuate how even the meaningless kills
are antithesis for man trying to find retribution.
Had Booker been kept a silent character like Jack Ryan, these matters could have worked
better with the player internalizing the dilemma. As with everything in BioShock Infinite
rigidly pre-determined, Booker makes it clear what he thinks and feels contrasting what
would be expected. He doesn’t show much remorse but then does not take delight in
killing like some characters describe him to.
Elizabeth’s presence is a convenience to the player. She dispenses powers ups,
ammunition, health and money as well as creates useful combat elements by way of
tearing open universes. With lockpicks and code books she can also open various doors
and safes and give the player clues to simple puzzles respectively. While Elizabeth is
important to the story, she’s only tangentially important to the gameplay outside of
opening a handful of necessary doors. Her role in the game could easily have been filled
by Booker if he had the ability to open tears and pick locks. In previous trailers Elizabeth
fought along side Booker and even risked her health to use her powers. With combat
being such a large part of Booker’s harrowing experience, those crucial interactions are
one sided and great potential to feel invested in her has been lost.
When Elizabeth learns Booker’s real intention the revealing dialog strangely happens
twice and the second time she erupts into some unconvincingly acted sobs that contrast
with competent performances from her and the cast in general. For a period after this
Elizabeth is angry with Booker but her voice continues to sweetly announce when she’s
found items to give him as if she’s wasn’t grimacing in betrayal.
Aside from mostly linear level design with halls of bad guys, the player will occasionally
be locked into more open area where Booker has to battle a large group of enemies with a
strong bad guy thrown in for good measure. This makes these shoot outs something like a
boss battle. The sky rail is utilized primarily in these arena segments and it goes in a loop,
serving only as a way for the player to get to higher ground or maneuver around the
varied enemies. What should be a mode of transport for Columbians is transparently just
used for battle. While a video game should aim to have successful gameplay above all
else, a game so heavily focused on story will challenge the players believability when the
setting goes against it’s own logic to do so.
There’s plenty to marvel and look at but there’s hardly a sense of choice for the player.
The player’s route is decided for them and even in situations where they are forced to
make a decision the greatest result will be a cosmetic change to Booker or Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is never in danger during any gun fights. If exploring or by accident Booker
goes over a ledge, he will instantly respawn. At least a quarter of those times Booker will
hit invisible walls that make Columbia feel limiting.
This “illusion of choice” is done purposefully as it’s an ongoing theme for the BioShock
series but is already set to conflict with the overall tone.
Action.Pts: A story like BioShock Infinite’s needs careful dissection. Two heads are
better than one.
-Quantum relay connects to Experience.Pts-
Exp.Pts: Hello User. Oh wait. No… Hello Root Admin.
Action.Pts: Hello to you as well, Root Admin.
Exp.Pts: Your lead then.
Action.Pts: Much Obliged.
Irrational Games clearly has a talented staff of artists that have put a tremendous amount
of work into its visuals. Architecture, costumes, props and other things are appropriate to
the era and are conductive rounding out the setting.
Exp.Pts: There are minor visual errors such as an odd corner not being textured, buildings
not being properly placed leaving strange gaps and weird lighting…
Action.Pts: …but these likely aren’t something that would distract most players.
The music adds more character to the city and fits the events of Booker and Elizabeth’s
journey. There’s even a couple remixes of more contemporary songs that are made to suit
the 1890’s styled soundtrack.
Exp.Pts: There’s never a time where the music becomes distracting or out of place.
Action.Pts: Infinite’s story has a number of strong themes like religion, patriotism, racism
and the paternal bond between Booker and Elizabeth. Some of those remixed songs even
allude to their relationship. Water is still a fairly important theme as Booker’s baptism is
an integral part to the plot and even relevant to the death of two important characters.
Exp.Pts: The themes are appropriate but like its symbolism are used in a heavy handed
The world sets a tone of Infinite possibilities.
Exp.Pts: Universes of slight change and dramatic differences.
Maybe someone lost their car keys in one universe where in another
Action.Pts: …Russia won the Cold war.
This theme destroys this exciting prospect of infinite potential like going to an ice cream
shop with a couple dozen flavors and only being allowed to have chocolate or vanilla.
Exp.Pts: Or maybe it is more like asking for a double scoop of your favorites and getting
only vanilla from an ice cream vendor who swears those thirty other buckets aren’t really
Action.Pts: As the previous BioShock had two endings and BioShock 2 had six. Infinite
has only one.
Exp.Pts: Vanilla actually is my favorite.
Action.Pts: Mine as well. Should we get some after?
Exp.Pts: We should.
Action.Pts: With growing complexity all modern games must have an illusion of choice.
Maybe the player character fails their mission when they leave the immediate area…
Exp.Pts: …or they’re closed in by invisible walls.
Action.Pts: These sorts of obstacles destroy immersion and bring attention to the theme.
Video games need player input and this makes it even more tricky than other mediums.
Infinite’s illusion of choice lacks the subtlety of BioShock’s mind control command
Exp.Pts: “Would you kindly?”
Action.Pts: While the story was building with Jack’s background, the phrase is
Exp.Pts: Was repeated? Had been repeated?
Action.Pts: …was repeated without much notice until it was revealed to have been more
important. While the player might have looked out the windows and pined to explore
those far off buildings, these walls were welcomed as it prevented the certain death of
drowning. A concept like Infinite’s requires a lot of exposition and is far from elegant.
Exp.Pts: It starts to fall apart when Booker and Elizabeth need to rescue a gun maker
named Chen Lin and find they’re too late.
Action.Pts: They then open a tear and go to universe where Chen Lin is alive only to find
he no longer has his machining equipment and then make a trip back to find that the
machines would be too heavy to get back to his workshop anyway.
Exp.Pts: The resolution?
Action.Pts: Open a tear to a universe where there Vox Populi,
Exp.Pts: …the rebels they’re helping,
Action.Pts: …already have weapons.
With the convenience of Elizabeth’s power the side stepping of plot dilemmas devalues
the conflict. Why do we care about the conflicts and characters if Booker and Liz are just
going to abandon one universe for another?
Exp.Pts: There’s no tension and we aren’t invested because we didn’t see things through.
So we didn’t put this rebellion into action.
Action.Pts: These conflicts are brought up and quickly dropped making them feel
contrived. In an effort to give it meaning, the player is shown a few characters suffering
echoed memories from their fates in other universes but the concept is not fleshed out.
Exp.Pts: It still fails to create an investment because in a multi-verse scenario everyone
will have died an infinite number of times.
Action.Pts: Any of its major flaws can be explained away with easily made up rules of
“Quantum Mechanics” that allows for infinite possibility.
The use of Quantum mechanic is so liberal it’s even offered as an excuse for the creation
a ghost boss and zombies reanimated with ghosts.
Exp.Pts: Zombie Ghosts. (playful spooky tone)
Action.Pts: With such flexibility it may well just be called magic.
Exp.Pts: So if Comstock is Booker but not the same Booker the player has control over,
what is the benefit of his sacrifice?
Action.Pts: Would there not be an infinite more number of instances where this happened
or has the combined efforts of multiple Elizabeth quantum magic become the deciding
Exp.Pts: Why would Booker still be alive in the post credits scene when the
disappearance of multiple Elizabeths suggests he has die in baptism and prevented her
from ever being born?
Action.Pts: Dies. Died. Will die.
BioShock Infinite is an adequate, linear, modern first person shooter. It’s very much like
its predecessors and for those who are content not looking very deep it’s satisfactory. It’s
something like Hotline Miami, they’re both trying to manipulate the gameplay to work
with the story…
Exp.Pts: They both include a seemingly misplaced stealth level.
Action.Pts: …but they’re deeply flawed if not enjoyable games.
It isn’t a strong example of a game as good art though. It tries to use the lack of player
choice as a theme in a meaningful way for Booker’s development but it ends up feeling
shallow by how it’s purposefully vague. The story’s fails to take notice of the carnage the
player can inflict and give it appropriate value. If the actions are meaningless and moving
from universe to universe means finding a timeline where what you want is already done,
the entire journey becomes self indulgent.
This isn’t a matter of prophets or false shepherds, only the individual’s truth. In this
world or others, people can and should make their own choices before buying the story
they’re being sold as gospel.
FEATURED MUSIC ARTIST:
“With Purpose” by Michael Talley
“Heads or Tails? Orechestra” mixed by Blake Robinson
VO Cleanup: http://www.youtube.com/user/KyleJohns…