HIGH FLYING IDEAS
2K and Irrational have spent the past three years well, honing an experience centered around high intensity action while demanding it be savored throughout. The game’s backbone is ostensibly the highly customizable and strategic shooting experience, but there is ample time made for flights of fancy into the beckoning world of Columbia.
Infinite creates a fresh level of strategy by allowing Booker to summon in cover, weapon caches, automatronic help, and more to turn the tide of fire fights. It’s limited to one at a time, encouraging a run and gun strategy of moving from one setup to the next while carefully planning the next move. Overall the combat is an easy affair, but that’s not to say that lifting dudes into the air for that trick headshot isn’t supremely satisfying.
Pacing is a perennial focus for Bioshock games – between gun fights Booker is encouraged to explore Columbia and familiarize himself with the stories and characters that comprise her. All of the voice acting is up to the high standards set by the previous games. Found pre-recordings do a phenomenal job of teasing out the hidden motivations and struggles of the minor characters, firmly grounding the momentous plot points in the fathomable actions of those behind the gears.
What’s more is that the 80 or so tape recordings are cleverly hidden, ensuring that each play through will reveal some but not others. The result is that only certain perspectives will be attained each time through, promising different perceptions of the events that transpire. It’s makes for a more profound kind of replayability that goes above and beyond different weapon load outs and the like.
Bioshock Infinite schemes. There’s a prevailing sense that quite a bit is carefully hidden behind the curtain, that a larger epiphany is waiting in store when you finally hit the credits. That kind of delivery is here, no question. Without giving anything away, it’s important only to note that the twist treads in subtlety and has more depth compared to Bioshock’s “Would you kindly”. It gains its power from its contextualization – any spoiler would be cheap in that it’d be incapable of conveying the impact to someone ignorant of the plot points.
In summary: Irrational has shamed similar developers locked into their cash cow franchise. Others struggle to create compelling arguments for relevance after that crucial second game. Bioshock ignores the problem entirely and boldly swoops into new terrain largely unscratched.
Infinite feels like a game that other diminished dev teams release only after letting the franchise settle for several years, then ride the phoenix of a new console generation. That this Bioshock released in the death throes of this current gen and capped off a spurt of what is possibly the greatest early year releases ever seen is a testament to their bold vision and self-confidence.
I mean nothing against this game when I say that the next Bioshock shouldn’t be a first person shooter. Shooting fire and lead is endless fun and the mechanics feel responsive. But it’s ultimately the weakest link in the equation. Ken Levine and his art directors have whipped up truly a masterpiece in Bioshock series and they should be proud. But another genre ultimately bears more promising fruit for their team.