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Game Name: Bioshock Infinite

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Irrational Games

Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Year: 2013

Players: Solo

Rating: M (for Mature) 17+

Retail Price: $59.99

Category: First person adventure shooter

I’ll point out I’m not a fan of reviews which give away too much of the story of a movie, game, book or what have you as I think including spoilers is not only slipshod reporting but really a disservice to anyone who may be interested in purchasing the item being reviewed. With that said if something is horrible in my opinion, and to be avoided like the plague, I’m more apt to explain why it’s awful and if I let slip some details which shouldn’t be revealed I don’t feel too bad doing so because many times the plotline is what kills it in the first place. Plus, I don’t think I can ruin a steaming pile of garbage by explaining why it is trash and that’s hopefully going to keep a few bucks in your pocket.

Have no fear, Bioshock Infinite is about as far removed from trash as possible; in fact it’s an excellent game and well worth the prerelease hype. I’m just going to do my best to sing its praises while pointing out some of the areas I believe are the game’s strongest points (story being one thus the lack of getting into much detail here) and where it may not come up to the original Bioshock in some gamers’ eyes. While there will be millions of players who love exactly what Ken Levine and the team at Irrational accomplished there will be a few who end up a bit disappointed by the end result.

I’ll assume the reader doesn’t live in a cave and understands the basic premise of Bioshock Inifinite: The year is 1912 as the player takes on the role of former soldier and current Pinkerton agent Booker De Witt on a mission to rescue a young woman named Elizabeth from the secessionist flying city of Columbia. As in previous Bioshock titles the protagonist is dropped into an unusual setting and faced with coming to grips being a fish out of water. This time around your alter ego isn’t the strong and silent type but a man with a past on a mission who has plenty to say.

Visually, Infinite offers plenty of eye candy. The game runs along smoothly on PC (which is the edition I played for review) and the city of Columbia comes to life with small touches of life carrying on no matter what challenges Booker and Elizabeth may face at any moment. Columbia is a living breathing entity throughout the game and the player is immersed in the midst of a flaming revolt.

While many of the conventions of Bioshock and Bioshock 2 carryover, such as crafting weapon upgrades and utilizing superhuman powers acquired through play, much of Infinite feels fresh and unique rather than simply being recycled with a new coat of polish. Combat is fast and furious, with plenty of options, and you’re never shackled in playing a specific way in order to succeed. Where Infinite ups the ante, not only in gameplay but also emotional immersion, is in the inclusion of Elizabeth. You’ll find much of the game takes place with the heroine at your side. Elizabeth’s not only the lynch pin which holds the story together, providing greater depth, but also a nearly perfect aide to De Witt’s adventuring. I can’t think of a recent AI companion who comes across as less a scripted NPC but more a wholly developed partner in the proceedings. Truth be told I found the moments during the story Elizabeth isn’t at your side to be a little less fun because of the completely different way the title seems to play.

Where Bioshock Infinite is the strongest and will burn a well-deserved place in your gaming consciousness is the area I’m want to discuss: story. The greatest joy of the experience is in discovering the world of Columbia and it’s mainly xenophobic, racist and rather unsavory inhabitants. It isn’t as if the Bioshock series is the first or only titles to tackle religious zealotry, fanaticism or the darker side of human nature. Yet the way Bioshock Infinite tackles these conventions, without resorting to the usual cardboard character stereotypes, but also the threads in which we weave not only our history but reality itself is something which sticks in the mind long after you stop playing.

As I mentioned there are sure to be some gamers who end up a bit disappointed in Bioshock Infinite but I believe this will be more due to unrealistic expectations than anything else; Infinite isn’t simply the original Bioshock on steroids but an utterly new cast of characters in an original setting. While there are plenty of thrills and chills to be found in Infinite I didn’t find the title to be as downright creepy as the first in the series. I have no issue with that because even though I enjoyed Bioshock 2 immensely I didn’t think the sequel pulled off the scares – outside of the “Damn it!!! Here comes another Little Sister!!!” moments and I say those were more based on dread than anything else – in the same sort of dosage as the original either.

Bioshock Infinite 3Two areas I will quickly mention, which knock the overall score of Bioshock Infinite down a touch, are the fact I felt the game dragged a little in the middle and felt a tad padded and one of the major baddies of the title comes across as underutilized in my book. Neither of these is much of a complaint but they do add a dab of unevenness to an otherwise exceptional game which is on the cusp of perfection.

By all means Bioshock Infinite is the game of 2013, as of this writing, and it’ll be hard to top. Honestly I can’t crow enough about Infinite because it’s a stunning achievement all around! If you haven’t played the first two titles in the series you owe it yourself to do so but you don’t need to have played either of the previous Bioshocks to have just as tremendously a good time as any veteran of the genre. With near perfect execution, this tale is one which you’ll love in the telling and, if you call yourself a gamer of any true stripe, a must have hands down! I considered playing the first Bioshock to be my highlight of gaming over the past decade and after finishing Infinite, I think this new title has usurped the crown.

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