Pros: Fascinating story, beautiful art direction, the best NPC companion in this generation of gaming.
Cons: Occasionally repetitive gameplay, frustrating boss battles / final level, lack of a manual save
In Infinite, you play as Booker DeWitt, a mysterious stranger tasked to find a mysterious girl in the sky-bound city of Columbia. Her name is Elizabeth and what starts as a simple search becomes a race against time, cultural upheaval and destiny. Elizabeth "belongs" to Father Comstock, leader and patriarch of the early 1900's city, and he's not about to let her leave without a fight.
Within the first hour, two things are apparent. Columbia is beautiful, Columbia is awful. With floating buildings and breathtaking architecture, the airborne city is one of the best looking games in this console generation. The city of Columbia is massive and detailed, enemy designs are interesting (especially the monstrous Handymen) and the overall presentation is top notch. While there may be the occasional bad wall texture or obvious graphical shortcut, it's clear Irrational pushed the PS3 to its absolute limit.
Unfortunately, underneath all this beauty is a populace ready to burst. Without spoiling anything, the world of Columbia is an abstraction of life in the early 20th century with all the small mindedness and issues of the period. Much of the subject matter, from the subtle wall paintings celebrating John Wilkes Booth to the more outward "baseball raffle" show a city in flux. Levine has never been shy about asking historical what ifs and Bioshock Infinite is no different.
Gameplay is where things tail off a bit. In combat you’re allowed two traditional weapons to carry and a host of vigors. Modeled exactly like the plasmids of the original game, these enhancements give you supernatural powers like setting enemies ablaze with a blast of fire or sending a flock of murderous crows to peck apart your targets. Combat is fast and frenetic, but as you progress through the game, you’ll find yourself sticking to a certain loadout to get through the bullet sponge enemies. Many vigors only become available until late in the game and since everything is upgradable via Bioshock style vending machines, you’ll want to keep your favorites at your side. Tedious boss battles, the inability to manually save your progress (the game only saves at checkpoints) and an overly frustrating final mission take a bit of the shine off this well-polished product.
But don’t let the nitpicks dissuade you. The real success of Infinite is the wonderful relationship between Booker and the mysterious Elizabeth. Not only does she stay out of your way in skirmishes, she’ll extremely helpful, tossing health packs, ammo and creating “tears” that bring elements from another dimension to the battle field. This separates Infinite from the frustrating escort missions of gaming’s past. Resident Evil 4, anyone?
And the list goes on and on. Despite some quirks and issues, Bioshock Infinite is a must play game, regardless of your platform of choice. If you’re a PS3 owner, than The Last Of Us is fighting for top game honors but everywhere else, Elizabeth, Booker and Father Comstock are sitting pretty at the top of the heap. Imaginative, immersive and impressive, Bioshock Infinite is a defining moment in this generation of videogame storytelling.