Friday, June 14, 2013

Sketched Games: Bioshock Infinite

Get out your skyhooks and Plasmids Vigors because we're reviewing Bioshock Infinite!

In order to clear his debt, Booker DeWitt has to go to the flying city of Columbia, retrieve a girl, Elizabeth, and bring her to New York. He soon discovers that there's something sinister hiding underneath the floating city of Columbia.

This is going to be the opposite of a rant. This is just going to be me gushing about how great Bioshock Infinite is and an excuse do some nice-looking Bioshock doodles. I'm telling you right now, it's a great game and you should go out and get it if you haven't already. Five money signs and all. I mean you could be playing it right now. Or now. GO OUT AND GET IT OKAY? Okay. I'm even going to talk about the features that I love about this game without getting too much into the fantastic story or trippy ending! No spoilers here except that the game is good!

It's hard to say which I like better, the original Bioshock or Bioshock Infinite. On the one hand, Bioshock is Bioshock, but on the other hand, they ended with a pretty terrible escort mission (and built an entire sequel on said escort mission, which surprisingly wasn't that terrible) while Infinite revolutionizes the escort mission. It barely even feels like an escort mission! This makes every other escort mission pale in comparison I mean, they were already pretty shitty before, but now they're really, really shitty because holy poop on a stick is Elizabeth an amazing escort… I mean… companion.

You'll just be walking around with her, nonchalantly talking to people, and all of a sudden she'll be like "Oh hey, I found some money here!" and SHE JUST GIVES YOU MONEY. WHAT. WHO DOES THAT?? Every escort mission ever would be 1000% improved if the people you protected just randomly gave you cash. Plus, she barely needs protecting. She goes and hides when she needs to, and no one tries to kidnap her. There's even an amazing text when you first start leading her that says, "Elizabeth can take care of her own!" which sounds like the game is saying A) "SHE DON'T NEED NO MAN TO SAVE HER YOU SEXIST PIG" and B) "This isn't a huge annoying escort mission like Bioshock 2 we swear PLEASE DON'T TURN OFF THE GAME." Also she helps in battle so much that when she's not around, I wish she were.

One of the things I loved about Bioshock was how they got the monetary and inventory systems right. Instead of allowing you to pick up all the ammo, all of the supplies and all of the money, you have limited space for each. It gives the feeling that these systems are made only to serve the story and not so you can go crazy with collecting things. Infinite changes that slightly but still gives the same feeling. Salts and food are eaten to restore your vigors and health respectively, but you can't carry any extra. It's an interesting choice. Don't worry, there are plenty of supplies littered throughout the world and Elizabeth will throw you extras in battle if you need them. And you can carry as much coin as you can find, but considering all the upgrades, you'll never have more than you can use. There's always one more upgrade.

In 90% of videogames, when you die or fail a mission, it's game over. You restart the level, but with the knowledge of what happened before you died. Not many videogames capitalize on this or even explain why. If the restart was taken at face value, the character would have no way of knowing the circumstances of how he died, so he'd die the same way, over and over again, perpetually. I bring this up because the original Bioshock is one of the few games that creates a story element from the gameplay element of restarting. When you die, your consciousness gets restored in a clone, providing a great excuse as to why you would know about your previous life and death. Infinite continues with that tradition. I won't spoil it, but it's a trip, just like the rest of the story.

I hear a lot of talk about the story, but very little about the actual gameplay, which is super fun! It's very reminiscent of the gameplay in the original Bioshock, except more fast-paced and with different supernatural powers. I was looking forward to how they were going to do that whole grabs-gun-from-bad-guy-then-shoots-bad-guy-with-it move in one of the early trailers, but it looks like you can no longer do that. That's a shame. But you can shoot guys into the air, set them on fire, grab them with water tentacles, and hit them with a shield made of their own bullets. 

They do an interesting change here in that you can only carry two guns at a time instead of ALL OF THE GUNS, which is very different. I wish I could have had 4 gun slots so I could have one close range, one long rage, one rapid fire, and one big special weapon, but there's always a variety of weapons strewn around the battlefield that lead to a lot of experimentation. I found myself sticking to the Hand Cannon and Volley Gun most. You can also upgrade each weapon in a number of slots, and upgrade your vigors, and they even have clothing that gives you different effects. It's fun to play around with, but I kind of wish you could see the different suits on Booker.

A strange thing I noticed was that as this is a first person game, and like most FPSs, you don't see any of your body, or trail water behind you. I thought this might have something to do with the story, but it doesn't seem that way. I wish there had been more of a model and we could at least see our own feet instead of thinking we're a sentient cloud with hands. But that's minor. The gameplay is exceptionally fun and gives you a lot of freedom to do what you want to get where you need to go. I'm not sure if it's that Bioshock Infinite is short or if it's just that I enjoyed it so much I breezed through it. It felt like ten hours, but I know it was more like 15-20.

Also, can I say how much I love that there's a shiny green arrow telling you where to go, so I can go in the opposite direction and steal all the hidden goodies? That's immaculate. I also love how they heard people complaining about the hacking in Bioshock and went "Fuck it. We'll make Elizabeth do all the lock-picking." Fantastic.

It's extremely violent and it ties into the story. People who don't like violent videogames might be turned off, but it's no worse than anything from Bioshock. And, like Jim Sterling said in this article, the violence ties into the narrative. Booker is a violent person, and there's a huge difference between games like Call of Duty or even Transformers: WFC where AI companions congratulate you on your great kill, and this, where if you do an especially brutal melee kill, Elizabeth will gasp in horror and look away. There's also a lot of uncomfortable racism, which I'm glad is in the game? It's awful terrible stuff, but it fits for the era, and it's the kind of history Americans (especially gamers and nerds who don't understand diversity and not being a dick) NEED to get.

The game looks fantastic, it feels fantastic, the score is great and the idea of 20's themed 90's songs is fantastic. The story and ending is, of course, amazing; I love this game. I'm still not sure if it will be up there with the original Bioshock as one of my favorite games of all time, but it is extremely close. It does all the right things, and you should do the right thing by going out and getting it!
  • THE GOOD: Great story, great gameplay, great soundtrack, beautiful, fun, fixes the escort mission, great trippy ending.
  • THE BAD: Um, could be more of it I guess?
  • THE VERDICT: What did I say?? $$$$$ Go get it if you haven't already. Buy now it should be around 40, which is an acceptable price for an astounding game.
  • GAMES LIKE IT: Bioshock, Spec Ops: The Line, Dishonored, Mass Effect series
  • ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: You're fighting a motorized patriot, a giant robot with George Washington's face that carries a minigun. Do you possess it and use to mow down other enemies? Do you hit it with water or electricity to disable it temporarily while you lob rockets at it? Do you wait for it to hit you with a barrage of bullets, catch those bullets and send them crashing back? Do you hop on a skyline, get away and take it out from afar with a sniper rifle? It doesn't matter because the important thing is YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IT HURTING ELIZABETH.

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