A Series of Ramblings

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Bioshock Inifinite was good. Great would be pushing it.

Now that I’ve finally played and finished Bioshock Infinite, I feel that I can properly talk about it. The good, the bad, the really bad, and why I still enjoyed it. I do feel that it’s a game everyone who enjoyed Bioshock 1 and 2 should play. I even feel that if FPSs aren’t your thing (they really aren’t mine), you should play it. If story isn’t your thing though, well, this isn’t the greatest FPS in the world. There will be spoilers in this post though, so do be aware.

Let’s start off with the good. I loved the setting. Columbia was bright, colorful, full of life, unlike the dark and dreary Rapture. It was incredibly yet appropriately racist and jingoist, given the time era it was depicting (seriously, turn of the century America was pretty bad in certain aspects). The score, brilliant. The story, interesting. I loved being able to whiz around the city with my skyhook. It was an audio visual triumph for the teams that worked on it, and they should be proud.

Now, the bad. The story, horribly paced at times. The ending, while a “WHAT A TWIST” moment didn’t necessarily shock me, although that may be because I’m a huge fan of the infinite alternate universe concept, and some of the information given in the game pointed to some of that. The tears in the game really bothered me. They alerted me that enemies would soon be around, and some of the tears at times felt cheap. I’m looking at you, tears with 4 packs of med-kits. And for the really bad: I hated that many of my vigors felt more like stuns rather than doing damage. I hated that while I could carry ammo for every gun on me, I could only have two guns at any time. What. The. Hell.

Okay, with those out of the way, I can get a little more in depth with how I feel about parts of the game. Booker talked too much for my liking. He needed to though, unlike Jack or Subject Delta (or even my beloved Gordon Freeman), he was a character who needed to have conversations with NPCs. He had a personality, which was rather refreshing. Still, him mumbling to himself about his next goal got to be annoying.

I was bothered by how enemies just up and ignored Elizabeth. I did like that I didn’t have to protect her in a ‘typical video game escort mission’ kind of way, but I feel Irrational dropped the ball here. They could have had enemies occasionally yell “Don’t harm the girl!” “We need to bring her back alive!” and her sometimes getting shot and trying to tend to her wounds out of combat. Maybe just a gripe, really, but they could have made it a bit more believable that something was happening to her.

I miss the Big Daddies. Sure, we had Songbird, and he was grand and great and terrifying. But… I never fought him. I never tried to hide from him. I never had crazy battles with him, hearing him come near and being filled with dread. Closest thing we got were the Boys of Silence, and they fell flat. They were glorified security cameras. And I didn’t get to fight them either.

Much of this story is lost if you don’t listen to the voxophones. I’d say even more so than if you don’t listen to the audiologs in Bioshock 1/2. That, to me, is unfair, and also poor design. I understand some of the logs are rather out in the open, and the ones that are hidden aren’t as pertinent as others. Still, there’s so much in those voxophones that maybe not everyone is looking for. Some of the bigger pieces of information you glean from them should have been more apparently shown to the player, given how story driven this game is.

Why was it that the Lutece twins and Elizabeth were the “prettiest modeled” characters? Every other NPC seemed… off. Stiff. Not quite right. I know many of them were minor, but you should still be putting the same effort in them, regardless.

I read a review my dad had forwarded to me from a guy who stated clearly “I did not want to review this game.” Well, why would you review it then? I did get bothered by his take on the ending of the game. That finding God turned you into some power hungry religious zealot and nothing more. It’s not like the non-baptism Booker was truly much better. The man was a drunk who sold off his child to pay a debt. I’d say both Booker and Comstock were crazy extremes on opposite ends.

I really was annoyed with the pacing of this game. Something Bioshock 1/2 suffer from as well. Some parts required far too much backtracking. Others just drug on too long to sustain interest. And for the ending? I have this big crazy long battle involving Songbird and Vox airships, to have the shock and revelation of Booker being Comstock end the game? No falling action whatsoever? That bothered me much more than anything else. But hey, that’s just me.

Overall though, Bioshock Infinite was a good game. It has its problems, but what game doesn’t? It’s ambitious, sometimes a little too much for it’s own good, causing weird story presentation problems. It is worth your time though. Even if it’s just you watching someone else play through it. Like my dad does for many of the games I play. A good story is always enjoyable. Presenting it in this manner causes interesting events to occur.

I wouldn’t call this game “great” or the pinnacle of modern video games. But dammit, it sure as hell tried.



1 comments
emdoubleyewjee
emdoubleyewjee

 I agree with a lot of your criticisms and gripes but for the most part, I was having enough fun that I was willing to forgive the game's failings. Your article fails to bring up what is, in my opinion, the game's best asset: characterization. Elizabeth was remarkably lifelike and believable in her words, body language, and actions. She really developed as a character throughout the game. I loved how expressive she was (one of my favorite moments is that "Oh really?" look she gives when Booker insists he's fine after almost drowning). The supporting cast was also strong, though I admit that both Comstock and Fink were a tad one-dimensional. Even those you only meet through Voxophone recordings came across as real people who peeled back the veneer of Columbia and were left to deal with the realities of the sky-city. The characters are what set this game apart, from other shooters and even from the previous Bioshock games.

I was initially upset at the 2-gun limit (Insomniac has spoiled me) but I think it added a little bit of necessary challenge to the game. With a dozen or so different guns, even if you ran out of ammo for what you were using you'd never run out completely, none of the firefights last that long. It takes too much pressure off the player as well as taking away part of Elizabeth's usefulness in combat. In any case between enemy drops, tears, and weapons stashed all over the city it was a rare moment that I didn't have a plethora of firearms from which to choose- albeit often not the one I wanted. I wish they had been as generous with Carbines as they were with Machine Guns, but that's just me.

I completely agree about the tears. It was a cool concept that I wish had been implemented more... tactfully, I guess? To be fair a lot of those big open spaces (and practically anywhere that had sky rails or freight hooks) were a dead giveaway for an impending fight even without the tears, though that doesn't forgive the med-kit boxes.

On my first playthrough I didn't use my vigors all that much for exactly the reason you cited, but that changed when I learned to use them in combination. It would have been nice for the game to at least hint at these abilities- I only found out about it because I saw an achievement on Steam for using all the combos. Things like Undertow+Shock Jockey or Possession+Devil's Kiss can be devastating, and Bucking Bronco+Charge sends an enemy hurtling through the air- it's just plain fun!

I'll have to disagree with you about Booker, I thought he had the right amount of characterization and while the reminders of what he was supposed to be doing were unnecessary I liked hearing his voice from time to time. I think it would have been far stranger for him to stay silent- I don't know about you but I talk to myself sometimes when I'm alone so maybe I just relate to him that way.

I had the same thought about Elizabeth never being injured in combat; it nagged at me a little but I shrugged it off. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief on that point in exchange for not needing to babysit her. For the game itself to acknowledge the fact would have been nice I guess, but I don't feel it was all that necessary. Even so you make a valid point.

I desperately wanted more encounters with Songbird. I desperately wanted Songbird to be the climactic fight of the game. I can't tell you how tired I am of video games whose final battle consists of little more than waves of the same enemies you've been fighting all along. I already know I can kill these guys, I've been doing it for the past ten to fifteen hours; sending them in greater numbers just seems lazy and uninteresting. This was my biggest complaint and biggest disappointment by far. That said my other fear was that I'd get to fight Songbird but it would be a scripted fight forcing the player to use specific means to beat him rather than just letting loose with your arsenal of weapons and vigors. I'd still take that over defending a generator from a bunch of random nobodies while letting Songbird do all the hard work for me.

Regarding Voxophones, the game is quite liberal with the lockpicks (at least it was on Normal difficulty) so I think the only excuse for not finding them is a desire to rush through the game- and it seems to me that someone uninterested in spending a little extra time to flesh out the story probably wasn't that interested in the story to begin with. That's a pretty broad conclusion to draw, I know, but it's basically my way of saying that I was okay with the Voxophone placement.

I don't have anything to say about the character models except that you're absolutely right.

There were indeed some parts that dragged, most notably tracking down Lady Comstock's three tears. I didn't mind the first time but I definitely grew weary of it the second time around. Regarding the falling action I think the time spent with Elizabeth post-airship battle served that purpose nicely, and that the abrupt end was appropriate (though admittedly I imagine it would be underwhelming for someone who had figured out the "twist" for themselves).

I don't know if I'd say Infinite is objectively great but subjectively it definitely earns a "great" from me for the sheer amount of enjoyment I had while playing it, in spite of its flaws.

Finally I'd like to mention my best friend's experience with the game- a huge fan of Bioshock 1 and 2, he stopped playing Infinite before he even got to Elizabeth. The shift in tone and atmosphere was just too much for him. He wanted it to be dark and oppressive and felt like the bright, bustling city wasn't true to the spirit of the previous games. I like to think he might feel differently if he'd given it more time but he's entitled to his opinion. I enjoyed the way Yahtzee put it in his Zero Punctuation review; something to the effect that in Bioshock 1, you arrive after everything has gone to hell and have to sort through the aftermath whereas in Infinite you get to experience (and cause, I guess) the calamity firsthand. Not a response to anything you wrote, just something I thought was interesting.