Ramble Reviews are not supposed to be score driven, they are a stumbling, disjointed and thought lead overview of a game. They are more opinion piece than purchasing advice and should be taken with the bias and hatred towards all ZX Spectrum games the 1up-Island crew has.
Game : Bioshock Infinite
System : Windows 7
Ramble Review by :
Bioshock Infinite exploded out of no where for me, having been in a weird quiet but progressing development cycle, I wasn’t aware of its upcoming release until it had already passed and everyone on my Steam friends list was playing it. I had enjoyed the first Bioshock, found the second to be a cash in and thought Infinite was a spin off in the same fashion as Crystal Chronicles is a Final Fantasy spin off, basically free marketing and not much else. After seeing a preview showing the combat I had lost interest, it looked like a cluster fuck and confusing, but hey, its a dry patch for anything I want to play so why not give it a go?
Bioshock Infinite is just Bioshock scaled up, the problem is Bioshock doesn’t scale well. The world is larger and more open, which lets them pack more crap into it, but the crap they put into it is lifeless and empty. You approach the game the same way you would the others in the series, searching everything to make sure you don’t miss an audio log, an upgrade tonic or a new Vigor (Plasmid), but where as Rapture was small and enclosed Columbia is massive and full of side areas to explore. This becomes a big problem in the first 30 minutes of the game, where you explore a massive carnival, full of old timey slide show videos, circus performers and an excellent barbershop version of “God Only Knows” by the Beach boys (which is the best bit of the game BTW). But there is so much stuff there that you’re worried you will miss something vital or useful so you’re forced to go to every single stall, check round it and pick up a single piece of food or a single coin and move onto the next one. This quickly becomes tiresome and it continues through the entire game. There are lots of side areas and they all contain small trinkets of no real value, a carry over from the Bioshock but on a much larger scale that it becomes annoying, but you’re still wanting to see everything so keep jumping through the hoops. I know this is very much a personal problem in that I’m a loot whore, but its still a problem for me. Extra content is great, but reward people for hunting not just give them useless money. This isn’t helped by the way the feel of the game switches between the dark rapture like interiors and the bright skies of Columbia, the extra areas feel tacced on rather than part of a larger whole.
The presentation is fantastic, its a world you want to know more about, a world you want to explore and that has some excellent ideas. The problem is that none of these ideas are capitalized on and come off as being half arsed. The game starts with 2 very strong themes, Racism and Religion. Neither of which is carried through to the end of the game in any valuable way. Religion hangs around but the moment you start hopping dimensions Bioshock Infinite immediately drops racism and instead moves into trying to make a statement on the class system, but before it goes anything meaningful it quickly drops this, making the entire middle of the game feel like unneeded filler that belongs in a different story.
Elizabeth suffers greatly from this. She has 3 major character development moments. One of them is how she responds to Booker, one is to herself and one is the end of the game. The problem is in the first two she doesn’t change as a character at all. There is maybe a 5-15 minute segment where she freaks out in a suitable way but then she is immediately back to herself again. She is throwing you ammo, making “witty” comments and any development she had goes little further than a change of outfit. Even at the climax where she makes a decision to do something, she happily sits by idle as Booker pulls the trigger so to speak, even after arguing about doing so with him. Elizabeth is in general a bit of a wet fish, they try to make you feel sorry for her but she comes across as a weird mix of a Disney princess and Yorda from ICO. Shes the key to unlocking doors you have to progress through and adds little more to the game beyond that. Her key feature is taking survival out of Bioshock, whenever you run out of Salt (Mana), ammo or come close to dying, she will toss you whatever you need, giving you not only several seconds of invincibility but also removing the need to scavenge and vending machines almost worthless. She will even toss you money every time you come near a vending machine, making the money you find from side areas pointless. Her handy work as well as the Halo:CE style shield mechanics, makes Bioshock Infinite a much easier game than the previous titles, even with the problems the combat has.
Money means nothing, you will have more than enough to buy upgrades for your Vigors and weapons, which is to say the only 2 Vigors and weapons you will use. There are 8 Vigors in total, with 3 styles, which is to say there are 3 Vigors with slightly different heavy attacks. Possession is super useful, its a free kill at worst and a couple at best. Murder of crows, Devil’s kiss, Shock jockey and Undertow are all the same vigor for most part, you can just pick your favourite one and then add shock jockey or murder of crows to work on the bigger enemies immune to your favourite, I found myself using those 3 for the entire game. If it was robotic I hit it with Shock Jockey, if it was human I hit it with Murder of crows (which is the coolest one). The upgrades don’t do much but up the damage or make infinite loops of killing, leaving a trap which kills to leave a trap. Weapons aren’t any better, they are just another small set with variants. Pistol, Machinegun, shotgun, RPG and a sniper rifle. These are your weapons, you will find a stronger pistol, 4 different machineguns which shoot slightly differently, same with RPGs and well a sniper rifle and a shotgun. The game will try to force feed you a Carbine and a shotgun for almost the entire game, which I thought were the worst weapons in the game and wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. I spent most the game with a machinegun and then switched between a sniper, RPG or rarely when I ran out of ammo I’d switch to a handcannon or another machinegun until I found more ammo. The weapons just don’t feel good to use, they feel like Bioshock weapons which had some weight but you never felt powerful with them, which was fine at that scale, but Infinite is on a new scale and they feel weak.
Combat suffers from the new scaling. Areas are huge and often foggy or full of ledges with 2 pixel high people shooting at you, completely impossible to see until they hit you and your damage warning pops up to give you a hint. I found myself stepping into the open just to take a hit so I could find a target, throw out possession on them and let them find the other enemies for me to kill. This changed slightly when the tear mechanic came into play because I would often summon a turret which would then find the enemies for me. But the same rules applied, enemies either run at you screaming or they sit back where its impossible to see them. Its clear they wanted you to use the rails to get around and spot the enemies in some of the more arena like areas, but the railings didn’t work for me. I never felt like I was in control of them and would often struggle to detach and some times when I did the momentum would throw me right off the other end of the platform I had aimed for. That isn’t to say the railings are a bad mechanic, they just need to be refined a bit, having completely different controls from normal gameplay and being difficult to jump down from (you need to be at an angle, you can’t just drop).
About half way through the game tears start to become a thing, which is to say, you have to push X to make even more health and ammo appear. I found this pretty disappointing, having assumed the tears would be used to jump between different locations, like fighting in Paris in the 2nd world war, to jump to modern day new york and then off to God knows where. But I was completely incorrect, they are little more than ammo crates, the odd bit of cover and most often summoning an allie to pick out enemies or be a distraction. They are great ideas, but under perform just like everything else.
Bioshock Infinite is a disappointment in the same way as Duke Nukem Forever. The game has some great ideas but doesn’t refine any of them enough to be something good. The dull combat, a lack luster story that chickens out half way through and an ending on par with Evangelion for fandom bullshitting, makes Bioshock Infinite hard to recommend. The presentation is top notch, but its pretty face doesn’t make up for the fact that it has no substance under it. When it goes on sale for 10 bucks on Steam I would pick it up, but it is not a title that deserves full retail price.