Bioshock Infinite review
Bioshock Infinite opens with a single instruction: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” That’s all the encouragement protagonist Booker DeWitt needs to board a rocket bound for Columbia, a floating city ruled by self-proclaimed prophet Zachary Comstock.
As Booker’s quest begins, players get to experience Columbia at its peak – the city feels alive as buildings float through the sky and its citizens go about their daily lives. Whereas Bioshock’s Rapture was a decaying shadow of its former self, Infinite paints a much more vivid picture of what Columbia’s creators were trying to achieve.
Comstock's influence can be seen everywhere throughout Columbia
Your target is Elizabeth – a girl with the ability to prise open 'tears' in space and time - who is imprisoned in a tower overlooking the city. As soon as you free Elizabeth, the city begins to succumb to a nightmarish class war between the ruling classes and the workers - who have been treated like slaves in order to keep Columbia running smoothly. Infinite deals with some dark themes, including religious indoctrination and racial segregation, but all are handled with the greatest of care and are crucial to the story; it’s a testament to the game’s creators that it manages to pull this off without coming across as clichéd or deliberately controversial.
Understanding Elizabeth is the key to following Infinite’s labyrinthine plot. Once liberated, she accompanies you through the majority of the game, but hides plenty of secrets – most notably, why she was imprisoned and why a giant mechanical bird has been tasked with keeping her locked up in Columbia’s walls. Her naïve innocence is refreshing, a perfect counterpoint to Booker's grizzled war veteran. By helping you scavenge for health, weapons and money when exploring, and picking locks to let you access hidden areas, she certainly comes in handy, but it’s during combat that she proves her worth.
Vigors mix up combat, and are crucial on the harder difficulty levels
By opening tears to provide cover and extra weapons, or activate sentry guns and environmental obstacles to help you fight your enemies, Elizabeth adds a new dynamic element to Bioshock’s familiar guns-and-superpowers gameplay. She never gets in your way and doesn’t need to be healed, so you never feel like you’re babysitting an unruly AI.
Of course, you’re well equipped to deal with Columbia’s many dangers yourself. Infinite has a much larger arsenal than previous games, designed to let you take full advantage of the large, multi-tiered levels. If you prefer to stay out of sight and pick off your targets one by one, the carbine and sniper rifles will be your pin-point accurate best friends. Fans of explosives will love the RPG and grenade-spewing Volley Gun, while the hand cannon and shotgun are on hand for getting up close and personal. Each weapon can be upgraded using scavenged currency, adding extra damage, bigger magazines or faster reload times to make you even more deadly.
The mechanised Patriots are a force to be reckoned with, although they don't have the same impact as Bioshock's Big Daddies
Vigors, which are Bioshock’s Plasmids by any other name, mix things up further. As well as setting traps for unsuspecting enemies, you can also send them flying with a burst of energy, pull them towards you for a quick melee strike, or send a murder of crows to distract them while you find a better line of sight. Despite sounding varied, though, many of the vigors have largely similar effects.