Sunday, 9 June 2013

PC Game Review: BioShock Infinite

Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Buy on Steam

Before I start talking about the game, I just want to say that this is the first BioShock game I've played. I actually never played BioShock 1 or 2 and bought this game for the sole reason that it seemed intriguing and got a lot of great reviews from both people and critics. A lot of people seem to really love this game and most people have already compared it to Half-Life 2 in terms of how good it is. So I thought that now that I've finally finished this game (on Hard difficulty mind you), I'd share my two cents on what my thoughts are about BioShock Infinite.

The first thing that really caught my attention about BioShock Infinite was the graphics. This game oozes atmosphere and pure raw STYLE from the moment you start it up. It's basically set in a sort of steampunk fictionalized 1920's, and stuff like religion and not to mention a good deal of racism is alive and well. You'll even find a lot of advertisements for cigarettes marketed to children. The graphics do a wonderful job setting you in the right mood and making the environment feel alive and vibrant and this is by far one of the best looking games this year. You'll probably benefit from buying this game on PC, seeing as it's far superior to consoles in terms of graphics, if you really care about that sort of thing, but it probably looks great on consoles too since it's more reliant on style rather than photorealism, something I tend to prefer in most cases. If you look at something like Deus Ex Human Revolution compared to Call of Duty Ghosts, in my opinion, Human Revolution wins out.

Vigors are an essential part of the gameplay and helps add some needed flair to it, though the weapons feel uninspired.
Another thing I noticed was how well paced it was. Being a sequel (spiritually anyway) I expected this game to more or less throw you right into the action and just toss everything at you at once. Instead the game gradually eases you into its concepts and introduces everything pretty smoothly. When you reach Elizabeth, who is in many ways the second protagonist in the game in addition to Booker, that's when the game really begins and you get introduced to the more heavy story elements. Before that the game spends a considerable amount of time just letting you wander around, soaking in the environment and getting familiar with the setting before it throws you into the action. Up until the point where you meet Elizabeth, you've already had the time to get familiar with the combat and basic weaponry and the game does a wonderful job easing you into more and more concepts, building them gradually like Lego blocks. It's this kind of game progression I enjoy in most games as it can be rather overwhelming when everything is thrown at you at once. It doesn't hurt that the story is really good and will definitely keep you playing for a long time. I won't really go into any big spoiler territory here but the game is long and has several great twists, especially one at the end and it does involve time travel and multiple dimensions and stuff and it's really good fuel for thought, which I'll admit is a rarity in most of today's games.

But no matter how good the story might be, the gameplay elements though tend to feel rather... uninspired. It's hard to put into words precisely but the game does feel like it's lacking a lot of things and I'll explain why. The first thing is the weaponry. You're given this skyhook thing, which you can also use to travel on skylines, which by the way is as fun as it looks, I'll give it that, and you use the skyhook as a melee weapon. However, unlike when the weapon is first demonstrated, you can't really do any finishing moves or executions using the skyhook. Most you can do is thwack people with it repeatedly until they die and it's not really that satisfying to use as a weapon and in most cases it's only usable to finish people off after stripping most of their health away with your other guns. In of itself it's a rather disappointingly weak weapon. The other weapons also feel almost dull and you're never really given anything that stands out particurarily or feels particurarily satisfying to use. I mostly stuck to the Carbine or Revolver since the two only automatic weapons, the machine gun and the crank gun (basically a minigun with a crank), feel rather underpowered and especially on Hard waste a lot of ammo and aren't that useful. I really wish you could have something like an assault rifle that felt really satisfying to use. You also have a rocket launcher and a grenade launcher, but all of the weapons feel rather standardized and boring to use and nothing really struck me as feeling radically satisfying.

Meet Elizabeth, one of the most expressive and interesting sidekicks since Half-Life 2.
Another thing that really struck me was that death has no real consequence in this game. Sure, it takes some money away but you don't really get any penalty for dying. You either just step back out of an office (which is a pretty cool idea I'll admit) or Elizabeth revives you. Either way, it's kinda like in Borderlands where death feels entirely inconsequential. I just wish there was more of a penalty so that you didn't get this "eh, I'll just get back into the fight" feeling since enemies don't even regenerate health while you are gone. I mean, it's kinda unfair on the enemies too and I really wish this game stuck to quicksaves instead of basically giving you infinite lives. I guess it makes the game feel smoother but it also makes death feel entirely without consequence and it kinda bothers me when I think about it. I know that Spoony touched upon this issue in his review and I definitely agree with him on it. By the way that's a review I'm gonna have to do one day, Borderlands, seeing as the infinite respawns make NO sense in story context and are purely there as a way to keep players interested since a lot of modern gamers probably just turn off the game when they die even once (no offense intended here, I've been guilty of it myself).

The enemies behaved rather well, though a lot of them suffered from "running into you without any regard for self-preservation" syndrome. I mean, we're in 2013 and we still haven't figured out to make AI that doesn't do stupid shit like this? None of them felt really memorable aside from some of the higher level enemies like the Patriots and the Handymen (which are TERRIFYING by the way since they don't give you time to react at ALL). I also liked some enemies in one level of the game which essentially are living flashlights that can see you and warn everyone else, those kinda creeped me out. The game also notably had a lack of boss fights. Other than fighting Lady Comstock (and you don't really fight her as much as you fight her minions), I can't really remember any memorable boss fights in this game, which is a bit of a bummer for me. Hell, the final fight is really just an airship battle with no real boss to speak of.

The Skyhook is one of the coolest aspects about Infinite, especially when you can strike someone from a skyline.
That being said the game does have some cool gameplay elements. The biggest draw of the game are of course the Vigors that give you several different powers and they can be upgraded via vending machines that sell everything from weapons and ammo to different Vigor upgrades. I definitely preferred some Vigors over others and you'll probably quickly find your favourite among them as it's kinda like a case of finding one you like and sticking to it since switching Vigors mid-combat is a bit of a chore, especially if you're playing this game on anything but PC (on PC you can hotkey to any Vigor you want). 

The game relies pretty heavily on looting as well and it gets almost absurd how much money and stuff you find in trash cans and just lying around and sooner than later, it kinda strikes me that I felt a bit like a kleptomaniac playing this game, not to mention a glutton. I mean, even with full health, I'd stick my hands into a trash can and fish out some food and eat it and it's nothing gamebreaking but it does kinda make you a bit grossed out when you think about the fact this guy even later on stuffs his face with all kinds of nasty shit, even rotten fruit and such. I mean, it even says rotten fruit and the guy still eats it. What a pig! XD

Don't let the silly design fool you, these guys can make you shit bricks...
A lot of people have mentioned that Elizabeth is one of the best companions in a game ever, and while I can see where people come from in the sense the game is kind of an escort mission but never feels like one, she doesn't really do a whole lot other than throwing you some ammo and stuff once in a while. She's basically immune to damage and it's kind of hilarious to see her running among the enemies and them not really giving a shit about her and I can't really say it makes her an active sidekick, but it does keep her from getting annoying and she is genuinely charming and has a lot of expression and emotion to her. I just disagree that Elizabeth is really that good of a sidekick since she doesn't really do anything other than opening doors for you (which makes her basically an extended lockpick and you need to gather lockpicks ANYWAY to use her) and tossing you ammo mid-combat, which I'll admit comes in handy but again, it doesn't really make her that useful.

So yeah, the music and voice acting is also top notch, I can't really find anything bad to say about that. All in all this game isn't GREAT or PERFECT by any stretch but it's good, really good. The story however is rather linear, there are no multiple paths (even if it's hinted at) and once you've played the game once, there's not really much reason to replay it, unless you really like playing around with different Booker builds and Vigors and stuff. I don't really feel like replaying it though since the ending kinda makes the entire game feel a bit inconsequential, which is one of my biggest pet peeves with some stories, when it kinda opts for that pussy out ending of "this never happened", which I won't go into any spoilers about but you'll know what I mean if you've played this game.

The Vigor effects tend to take centerstage at times.
Gameplay: 7/10
Nothing really groundbreaking, you'll either love it or just not find it that special. I belong to the latter group on this.
A great story but the ending for me kinda ruined any replay value and it felt very linear.
Graphics: 10/10
An absolutely breathtaking game. One of the few times a game has me awed at the sheer style and smoothness of the graphics. It really takes you into a whole other world.
Sounds: 7/10
It's pretty average. The music is largely forgetable, though the voice acting is great. The weapon sounds could definitely have been a bit better.

Average Score: 8/10

- Alyxx

No comments:

Post a Comment