PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS GAME SPOILERS!
Since Sam already did a great review of Bioshock Infinite, I’ve decided to write a bit of an opinion piece on it, rather than review it all over again, when I feel pretty much the same as she does.
All in all I found Bioshock to be an amazing, well rounded gaming experience. Yes, some of the game mechanics were common, and the gun play was average. However, the rest of the game, graphics, audio, plot, that all made it an unbelievable experience for me. I haven’t played a game like this in ages, to be honest; no game I have ever played has resonated with me as deeply as Bioshock Infinite.
I think that this game is a perfect starting point for the next generation of gaming. It has opened doors – and the eyes and minds of previously disinterested Gamers - to the next level of game development. A person who invests more time in gaming than the average Joe, wants more from their games than “run, shoot, fetch, shoot!”. When the original Bioshock came out, people felt much the same, and while Bioshock 2 wasn’t up to Ken Levine’s standards and felt his absence very sorely, it kept our Bioshock hunger at bay long enough for Infinite to come into being.
Let’s talk a little a little bit about characters. Immediately we meet Booker. Booker is a former agent for the Pinkerton’s and an army veteran, with way too many demons inside for him to live a quiet, peaceful life. Instead he drinks and gambles his life away; he has after all come to Columbia to wipe away the debt he has brought upon himself. This all leaves a bit of a sour impression of the man with the player. However, the longer you play as Booker, the closer to him you become, the more you FEEL for the man, for the situation he is in, and for the feelings of protectiveness he starts to harbour for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, the lamb, is innocent, has been locked away for all of her life, and has no idea of how or why she has the power to tear open dimensions. She is haunted by the past that she has no idea of, and feels as if she is a monster. At times she is very moody, which somehow doesn’t sit right with me as a player, but the longer I sit and think about her behaviour, the more I can understand it – she is lost and confused and most of all terrified – she has no idea who she is, and she’s fighting a war to survive. Again, all of these elements combined with excellent script work make a player feel the terrible things Elizabeth is going through, and it makes the game that much closer to the heart.
Zachary Hale Comstock is a bit of a mystery for most of the game. We know he’s the prophet, we know he has done terrible things, and tries to rule with an iron fist. Besides that, he’s a mean man and throws all and any obstacle in your path. Zachary Hale Comstock is the Booker De Witt who decided to wash away his sins and went to extremes to keep himself clean and redeemed of his guilt. The Booker who just saved Elizabeth is the Booker who felt himself unworthy and would rather live with his guilt and let it consume him. Comstock and Booker are one and the same.
Elizabeth is their daughter, and they have both wronged her in different ways. This has to be stopped, and Comstock must be killed before he can make the choice of baptism, putting all of these events into motion. They are the same person in different universes, and once this fact is revealed, absolutely everything comes together; it was as if a giant puzzle came together in my head with a snap. It was heartbreaking, but it was utterly brilliant at the same time. It highlighted the importance of choice, of lifestyle, of morals. No other game I have played has left me thinking for hours or even days after playing it and no game has ever addressed real life issues in such a mind-blowing way.
There are various other characters, but the pair of Booker and Elizabeth holds the game together. The plot revolves around them, and it is so well built that thinking back I can’t find a hole or a question that comes to mind that can’t be answered by information offered in the game. The world is so well created it is REAL to a player, and that is what adds to its utter brilliance.
The characters are relatable, you feel for them, form relationships with them. The world is real, the sadness that I felt at seeing the city of Columbia torn apart and burning because of events that I had been part of, was real. This game surpassed something I do in my spare time, it surpassed even the greatest expectations I had for it. It became an alternate reality that I was so deeply involved in I felt REAL emotions – and that is what the next generation of gaming needs to be. It needs to be real, it needs to be appealing, and most of all, it needs to be thought provoking.
I feel as if we’ll have another game like this on our hands with Beyond: Two Souls, although the games are wildly different, they both focus on more than the gameplay, and that is what makes them stand out.