“What is Columbia if not another Ark, for another time?” - Z.H. Comstock, The Great Prophet
The year is 1912. You are Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton detective faced with mounting debts and forced to take one last job… You must travel to the mysterious city of Columbia to find a young woman and return her safely back home to New York City.
BioShock Infinite is the sequel to BioShock 2 and consequently the third game in the BioShock series. The first two games were closely related and based inside the underwater city of Rapture. In Infinite, the experience is literally elevated from the depths of the ocean up to the city of Columbia, which is a series of islands floating atop the clouds. The city was founded and led by the self-declared prophet Father Comstock.
The departure from the previous games is striking. Whereas both the player characters in the previous games were silent, faceless heroes, now you are Booker DeWitt, a character with a big attitude and a shady past. This is also notable in the rest of the game in general. One good thing is that it’s a breath of fresh air seeing that the enemies are not mindless junkies, but members of the police force trying to stop you from causing more trouble. The problem is that there’s not a lot of variation and apart from some exceptions, the encounters all start looking the same after a while.
It seems that your only task is to cause trouble wherever you go. However, the true protagonist of BioShock Infinite is Elizabeth. She is the very damsel in distress that you are sent to save. Always following you around and supporting you with health and ammo when you need it. She also takes away the task of unlocking any locked door or container you encounter in the game. It seems like the developers had to justify somehow the removal of the hacking mini-game from the previous games by handing this task over to Elizabeth, but it does get repetitive quickly.
As regards gameplay, BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter. This time you can only carry two weapons at a time, so you are forced to choose regularly between getting a better weapon with limited ammo or relying on your trusty pistol for example. You get a sky-hook too, which is also handy for melee attacks and pretty impressive finishing moves I might add. You will also encounter bottled potions of Vigor that give you special abilities like throwing lightning bolts and fireballs. When you die, there is a cost to get back on your feet. The only reasonable explanation is that Elizabeth is pinching money away from you while you are knocked out, only to throw them back a bit at a time when you are near a vending machine.
Columbia itself as a battling ground is awesome with a life of its own and explores some interesting concepts that were not possible underwater. The vast areas, however, seem to detract somewhat from the experience that was previously created due to the confined spaces in the earlier two games. Another consequence of having a city above the clouds, the weather is always the same. The graphics are breathtaking, but perhaps it feels like some weather effects would have provided some more realism.
Speaking of realism and again compared to the first two games, although BioShock Infinite uses similar concepts in the available superpowers and technology, this time around they seem less believable. It could be that everything else is so much more realistic (the weapons for example) that anything too zany really stands out. Another possible explanation is that an underwater city is more believable than a floating city in the sky. But then again, there are as many alternate realities where things could have gone differently. That can also explain how two seemingly unrelated cities, located at extreme opposites (as related to altitude), set in different time periods do the same things. For example leaving recorded messages for other people, vending machines, Plasmids and Vigor.
One last mention goes to the game’s score, which is absolutely fantastic. From start to finish the game is an aural pleasure. And at that finish point, the game’s ending leaves you wondering if you’re having a bad dream or just turning crazy. In summary, for me personally, the first BioShock is still the best game in the series. Mainly because it introduces the concept and makes it work brilliantly. However, BioShock Infinite comes in as a must-play close second.