March 26th couldn’t come fast enough for me. After several setbacks and what seemed like forever, Irrational Games’ third installment to the Bioshock franchise was finally released. Bioshock Infinite, was proclaimed to turn the franchise on its head…and boy does it ever.
It’s All About the Story…
Bioshock Infinite “starts” with an all too familiar feature for the series…the lighthouse. Filled with scripture, this lighthouse is creepier and more foreboding than the others. Instead of descending into the ocean via bathosphere, you’re shot into the sky via…well, I don’t really know what to call it. A “pod” I guess? The creators at Irrational Games must have heard me lament about getting turned around and “stuck” in the bathosphere during my first experience with the original Bioshock, because now the game conveniently pushes you out of it. Good call guys!
Unlike the previous two Bioshock games, Bioshock Infinite is set in the floating city of Columbia. The year is 1912, and you, Booker DeWitt, are sent to the floating city knowing only this, “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debit.” Cryptic, but at least it’s a start. If you want a more detailed and possibly spoiler-filled synopsis about Bioshock Infinite head on over to Wikipedia.
Personally, I found the story for Bioshock Infinite far surpassed the plot for Bioshock 2. It has twists and turns similar to those in the first Bioshock, and the complex storyline does leave you guessing until the very end. Of course whenever you have elements of trans-dimensional travel or tears in the fabric of space-time, things are bound to get complicated. Again, I don’t want to give to much away, but this is a game where you definitely have to pay attention or you’re left going, “Wait…WHAT?”
What surprised me (and probably shouldn’t have) about the storyline was the overwhelming amount of racism present. It’s one of the plot’s driving forces. As Lord Monkeypants pointed out to me, the game is set in 1912 and well, things were a LOT different then. In the age of political correctness, this element is a bit jarring at first. But the ongoing battle between the elitist “Founders” and the Vox Populi (composed of minority groups) really does add something to the story that would have been lacking otherwise.
Racial tensions aren’t the only historical element to pop up during Infinite. You also get glimpses of the Pinkertons, the Boxer Rebellion, the Battle at Wounded Knee, and Lincoln’s assassination. PC & Tech Authority did a great overview of the historical elements in Bioshock Infinite. I highly recommend it. If you’re a history buff, then Bioshock Infinite will definitely please you.
But wait, there’s more! As if racial tension wasn’t enough to drive your plot, Irrational Games throws in religion! Say goodbye to Andrew Ryan and hello to Father Zachery Hale Comstock. Lucky for you, Comstock doesn’t follow Ryan’s Ayn Rand philosophies. Oh no no no. This religious zealot calls himself “The Prophet,” and claims he was tasked by an arch-angel to build the beautiful floating city of Columbia. Comstock’s new religion is what creator Ken Levin calls “a hybrid of Christianity and the worship of the Founding Fathers as religious figures.”
You’ll quickly learn Columbia is far from heaven and the utopia it’s supposed to be…unless your utopia is filled with racism, sexism, and the unlawful persecution of minority groups.That’s right folks! Here in Columbia, Washington, Franklin and Jefferson are your gods now!
Playing the Morality Game
Bioshock is known for their storylines being driven by a moral choice. Do you harvest the Little Sisters or save them? Your choice, or combination of choices, determines the ending of the game. I’m not so sure that’s the same with Bioshock Infinite. To follow the story you’re only given one option each time. Do you go into the Hall of Heroes or not? Well, if you don’t, then the story doesn’t move forward. Sure you can putz around on the Boardwalk some more, but it’s only a matter of time before you give in and go where the game wants you to go. There are, however, little moral choices you can make. Do you leave money in exchange for the things you’ve taken from a store? Do you steal from the cash register (which, coincidentally causes the shop-keep to call the police, which you have to fight off)? Other moral choices? They’re there…and the consequences of your decisions do show up later in the game, but I won’t spoil it and give it away.
The Lamb of the Prophet…or Badass Sidekick?
The other big change to take place in Infinite is the sidekick system. It’s not a two-player game. Don’t get your hopes up, but once you find Elizabeth you’ll get an AI that revolutionizes the sidekick system. Those of you who have played games like Skyrim will understand what I mean when I say that sidekicks are generally useless. In Skyrim they mostly just get in the way, or run head-first into battle when you’re trying to be sneaky. In the Lego series, they do very little to actually stave off your attackers. Sidekicks have, until now, really only been sort of helpful.
Infinite changes this. Elizabeth may not directly engage in combat, but she sure doesn’t get in the way either! She helps you out in a, well, more helpful way by tossing you ammo, health and salts as needed. If you’re a terrible shot like me, this is a much needed addition to the battle system. Plus the dialog between Booker and Elizabeth really enhances the story and makes you connect with the characters.
Columbia is a floating city and that doesn’t mean it’s a giant floating island either. Instead, it’s several floating islands and you’ll need to figure out a way to navigate between them. The best way to do this, especially when the “islands” are close together, is by using the Skyline. It’s like a ski lift without the seats. Instead, you attach to the Skyline via a Sky-Hook, which you acquire near the beginning of the game. Don’t worry if your aim is off. Apparently the Sky-Hook gives you superhuman jumping abilities (at least when it comes to attaching to things) as well.
The Skyline is the one element of gameplay I was NOT looking forward to. I have a hard enough time aiming at enemies when I’m not moving. Adding in fights on the Skyline, while appealing to more well versed gamers, was a turn-off for me. I’m happy to say though that I WAS WRONG! The Skyline fight system really isn’t very hard at all. Once you spot an enemy, you have the option to “target” them. It really just means that your shots have more of a chance of hitting until the enemy falls out of view, but every little bit helps. If you don’t want to fight using the Skyline, you don’t have to! I found that in most cases the Skyline is really just an option to use during a fight. Of course you’ll still need it to get from Point A to Point B.
In the Rapture-based Bioshocks you have what are called Plasmids- genetic enhancements that let you do nifty things like shoot fire out of your hands, freeze your enemies, catapult splicers into the air, or send a swarm of bees after them. In Infinite, the Plasmids have become Vigors and instead of running on EVE, they run on Salt. You still get to shoot fire (Devil’s Kiss), possess your enemies (Possession), and shock them with electricity (Shock Jockey), there are a few new Vigors as well. So play around with them. It’s pretty fun!
Say Hello to My Little Friend…
You’ve still got plenty of weapons to choose from in Infinite. The only downside? Remember how in the previous games you could hold one of each weapon and access them during battle via R2? Yeah, not anymore. You’ve got two weapons and that’s it. Of course, you can carry ammo for every weapon imaginable, but you can only “carry” two weapons at a time. This is a pain at first, but you manage to get used to it. Though if you’re like me and you’re bad at making decisions, the choice to drop or pick up a weapon becomes nerve-wracking. Still, it’s worth it to try each weapon at least once. My favorites? The hand cannon, shotgun, repeater, and machine gun…since not much aiming is involved.
Bad Boys. Bad Boys.
Of course since the game is set in a city in the sky, your baddies are going to be different. Gone are the Big Daddies (*sniffle*) and those awful looking Splicers. In Infinite we get what are called “Heavy Hitters.”
Your four Heavy Hitters are:
The Handyman- Columbia’s version of Robocop (except he’s not a cop), who got his name from his GIANT porcelain hands. Pay attention to what The Handyman says while he’s attacking you and you’ll think twice about killing him (even though you have no choice). The Handyman is hard to beat. He can jump long distances, and electrocute the Skylines. Aim for his heart to do the most damage.
Motorized Patriot- Remember the animatronics in Disney World’s Hall of Presidents? Now imagine them shooting you while quoting the Constitution. These creepy crank gun toting giant dolls are really annoying. Stun them with Shock Jockey then shoot them in the back for maximum damage.
Siren- Why this is a Heavy Hitter, I don’t know. You see ONE Siren in the entire game. Seriously, ONE. Of course the Siren’s thing is they can resurrect the baddies you already killed and send them after you, but really they’re nothing to worry about. You can shoot them just like everything else.
Boys of Silence- These guys are creepy more than anything. You can’t kill them, so don’t even try. They’re walking security alarms that, when they go off, send demented people wearing Benjamin Franklin masks after you. Then they disappear…until you come across them again…and again…and again. When you see a Boy of Silence it means it’s time to get your sneak on.
Songbird- Not an “official” Heavy Hitter, but definitely worth mentioning. Songbird is probably your biggest foe for most of the game. His job is to protect Elizabeth…and keep her in the tower. Needless to say, when you rescue her from said tower…he gets a little pissy. Really, there’s nothing you can do to stop him, so just try not to die…
GreenEggsNSamm’s Tips for Playing Bioshock Infinite
- Pay attention to the dialog and collect Voxaphones. (Turning on Closed Captioning helps!) The banter between DeWitt and Elizabeth isn’t just fluff. Important background pieces are thrown out occasionally as well.
- Explore! Explore! Explore! There are shops to go in, people to talk to, and things to see. Infinite has the same attention to detail as the previous Bioshocks. Take advantage and look around!
- Different weapons can carry different amounts of ammo, so my tip is to pick up ANY ammo you see. You never know when you’ll run out and need to grab another gun that’s lying around.
- Upgrade your favorite weapons. There’s no more hunting for a “Power to the People” station. Upgrading your weapons is as easy as going to a vending machine.
- Remember, not everyone in Columbia is out to get you. So don’t automatically shoot at everyone you see…no matter how tempting it is.