The dream of an aquatic wonderland birthed the city of Rapture. A sight of monolithic beauty bathed in the vision of an idealistic man. Andrew Ryan created a fantastic utopia of scientific freedom that slipped into a nightmare. Bioshock is thrilling, terrifying, and lived up to the legacy of the System Shock titles. Infinite shirks the underwater abyss and boldly takes off to the heavens. In place of Ryan is the “Prophet” known as Zachariah Hale Comstock. He created a city of perfection that only a certain few could enter and revel in its beauty. The rest of the world disagreed with this, and so Colombia seceded from America and drifted off above the clouds.
Booker DeWitt is a man with financial problems, and all debts are paid if he ventures to Colombia and retrieves a woman named Elizabeth. Unfortunately, this is not an easy recovery by a long shot. She is the “lamb” and the one who will reign over the hovering city after the “Prophet” ascends to his final resting place. She’s locked away in a tower like a Disney Princess, and he has to find a way to reach her without alerting people to his presence. It’s too bad that Stealth is not even remotely an option for DeWitt. He’s revealed as a “false prophet” almost immediately on his arrival in the city, which leaves him no choice, but to find Elizabeth and shoot his way out of town.
Booker discovers many things in the city of Colombia. The gorgeous city in the sky sits atop a facade of outdated prejudices. It may float freely through the sky but all of that melts into a pot of hatred and religious posturing. This city is an illusion to cover up all of the ugly tensions of racism and bigotry that inhabit it. A revolution boils underneath all of the pretense and hatred, and the Prophet Comstock has his hands full trying to quell it.
Elizabeth will uncover a few truths about herself as she explores the city with Booker. The reason why she spent her life locked away in a tower and why she is able to rip open time and space itself are just the tip of the iceberg. Who is the man who calls himself the Prophet? How does this city hover in the sky? Bioshock: Infinite asks many questions, and answers them all in the most satisfying of ways.
The provocative story line would be nothing without the brilliance of the art style. This fantastical creation is both impossible and believable at the same time. It’s like being a part of a living and breathing dollhouse. Elizabeth for example is eerily realistic despite her rubbery material. Her expressions and idle movements share a likeness to Pixar films. That is not mentioning the brutal creations that pervade the Bioshock titles. The vision of the hulking monster named The Handyman, or the horrifying power of the Songbird are unforgettable experiences.
The city on the other hand, accentuates the spectacle of the character models. It exhibits awe-inspiring backdrops that tell a tale as well as any script could. Each section of the city exudes a level of detail and beauty that many other titles neglect. It begs players to explore and absorb every nook and cranny. The world achieves its goal at being rich and astounding, but the sound design enriches the success.
The voice work is phenomenal and quite possibly the best in the business. Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper deliver a stellar performance for Booker and Elizabeth. The emotional development between these two characters never borders on phony. Their charisma towards each other is unmatched, and it brings a heightened sense of warmth, despair, and hatred as they take on the perils of their adventure. Their magnetism has single-handedly created two of the most memorable characters in the medium.
Booker and Elizabeth are stellar, but the additional cast also brings their A-game. The harsh rhetoric spewed forth by Comstock, or the randomness of the Lutece twins are ingrained in our minds. The music choices feature songs of the 70’s and 80’s re-purposed into old time classics from the 1900’s. It comes with the territory that players get to hear the rattle of gunshots and explosions, but those moments where it’s eerily quiet and the player can enjoy a song is a soothing sensation.
Above all else, Bioshock titles are tactical first-person shooters. Infinite inherits the hybrid shooter mechanics of former titles. A mixture of gun-slinging and adaptable powers is at your disposal. Shooting people is fluid and accurate, but the fun comes in the form of the “Vigor”. Vigor’s take the place of plasmids, and allow players to use a form of biological magic.
These abilities allow players to convince their enemies to join their side, or instead pelt them with a destructive bolt of lightning. Each of the Vigor’s can be setup as traps that can take out unsuspecting enemies. If an enemy does indeed get too close, the player can beat their opponent senseless with the sky-hook If an adversary is stunned at any point, the player has the option of brutally executing them.
Combat broadens after the player teams up with the mysterious Elizabeth. The dangers expound considerably and she will provide the player with ammo, health, and money. She is also a master of unlocking, and Booker will keep a steady set of lock-picks to open various doors scattered across the city. Her real gift lies in her ability to open “tears” from other worlds. Her time altering skill allows her to bring a useful item in from another dimension. The tears can bring in turrets, med-kits, and even enemy vehicles to serve Booker’s purpose.
Enemies are unforgiving in the second half of the game. Automatons, turrets, and the hulking destruction of the Handyman block our heroes’ path. DeWitt has to utilize everything at his disposal to survive Comstock’s army. The smaller enemies will overwhelm Booker, while elite foes like the motorized patriots keep him from remaining static. It’s the nature of the level design that stops Booker from backing into a wall. The sky-hook is both a melee tool and a means of traveling the world. Booker can leap into the air to attach himself to freight hooks, or glide along the travel rails known as Sky-lines. The Sky-line offers the speed and exhilaration of a roller coaster while at the same time providing a speedy escape from gunfire.
Booker’s battle prowess depends on his collection of tonic upgrades and coins dropped by his antagonists. Vending machines provide weapon and Vigor advancements throughout the course of the excursion. Increase the damage of a weapon, or boost the range of certain Vigor by dropping a pretty penny on it. DeWitt has the option of obtaining gear as well. Each of these pieces of gear will increase attributes, or add an enhancement to Booker’s skill set. The combination of all these elements is why the Bioshock titles are engaging and enjoyable.
Bioshock: Infinite’s story is on a linear path, but there are chances to explore each of various locales. It isn’t the path of freedom one would expect from open-world games, but players can indeed discover the history the people who lived here. Booker and Elizabeth will find Voxophone recordings that catalog the thoughts of the denizens. These audio clips do not affect the story, but intrinsically unravel any mysteries that cut-scenes do not solve. Elizabeth can also crack ciphers hidden away in buildings that lead to a bevy of treasures.
Bioshock: Infinite is a title that eschews stagnant story telling while providing engaging and thoughtful gameplay. An astounding escapade that should not be spoiled by “Let’s plays,” or someone who can’t hold their tongue to the mind-boggling ending. Bioshock: Infinite receives an A from Geek Citadel. Go outside and grab a copy of this tantalizing title; you owe it to yourself to breathe in the greatness of this wondrous creation.