Anybody who is anybody knows that Bioshock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013) is the best game ever. Full stop. And what better time than during an anniversary to release the remastered bundle of the games that everybody loves? Sept 13, 2016 marks the anniversary release of Bioshock The Collection which will include the game of the century – Bioshock Infinite (hereafter BS:Infinite, or is that Infinite BS? HEYYYOOO!). Spoilers – but not sorry, because you played this YEARS ago, remember?
If the visual artistry of this game didn’t do it for you I don’t know what will. I really don’t. You’re crazy. Leave this place.
Visual Aids (Not visual AIDS.)
Long after completion of the game I will have forgotten character names, and will be hazy on the details of the intricate plot—but I will never forget the motes of dust caught in the beams of light filling the ruined corridors. I will recall the heavy draperies and thick bed linens, the disturbing, sanitary, white-tiled bathrooms spattered with drops of blood, the ruined building façades and dark, smoky rooms and lavishly decorated secret society halls… Sorry, I was caught in artful flashbacks. But it’s true.
GOOD OL’ RACE WARS!
The idyllic floating utopia, Columbia is hiding a dark cloud of corruption, racism, and revolution. I mean…what did you expect? BS:Infinite ham-fistedly rams the ills of racism down your throat for much of the game. And capitalism. And socialism. And dysfunctional family relationships. You can tell it’s trying reaaaaally hard to get you to care, but the antiquated version of old-timey racism and other superficial political ‘isms’ they employ end up feeling like toothless, unconvincing pantomime.
However, for those who suggest that these themes are tired or no longer relevant, remember how Obama as president was supposed to herald an era of post-racism in the United States? Yeah. That didn’t work out. Well in that way it’s probably very good and right and important to keep hammering away at these same themes to an audience who will hopefully suck it up. Until these l issues are resolved, it doesn’t hurt to raise them in an art form. Right? (But if you want to talk about beating a dead horse, there are TWENTY-TWO World War II movies coming out this year, in 2016. Seriously? I think we’ve probably explored all angles, guys. This is just a fetish now.)
Still, at many points BS:Infinite lost the plot. It tried to tackle too many social injustices at once, piling the blame all on Zachary Comstock and indirectly the American South. And while that’s fun, it isn’t honest. And the frustrating thing about blaming all the ills of history on one man means that when the man is dead everyone pats themselves on their backs and they go home, seldom addressing the real issues that caused his rise. (I’m looking at you again, WWII movies.)
I admit, once Comstock was dealt with, I assumed that would be it for the game. Boy, was I wrong.
ARE WE DONE YET?
There were definite issues for me that made tedious an otherwise engaging game. Dragging pace: There are eleven acts in this game. That was about 10 acts too many. I’d been a ruggedly handsome hero, a wanted man, an unlikely revolutionary. I saved the girl, exposed the rotting insides of Columbia to the audience, and killed the boss, therefore ending systemic racism and society’s ills, it seemed. OFF TO FRANCE! Wait... I now have to save the universe in a really drawn out, convoluted way involving shooting everyone (including the mentally ill) with diminishing returns in the satisfaction department? Oh goody. Don’t forget to stop by the obligatory insane asylum level, the blimp level, and the ‘mend relationship with dead mother’s ghost’ level. What, no sewers?
Overlong combat sequences: BOOORING. Again, getting through waves of samey enemies in an admittedly ‘fine’ shooter wasn’t too bad FOR THE FIRST HALF of the game. Now rinse and repeat for 16 hours. Convoluted and useless map design: For all that the maps were beautiful, getting around them was balls. Either it felt like you were on rails, or couldn’t tell where you had to go. While it was likely a selling point of the game, the skyline was goofy, improbable, and wholly unnecessary. Is this employee transport equipment OSHA compliant? Doubtful. Except for bits where I was forced to use it to move between maps or loading areas, I completely ignored the skyline. I found that being airborne, whizzing past everyone, and having the use of only one hand, simply made my big, handsome head a delicious target. Instead, I stayed back and sniped everyone from the comfort of my couch. Done. No skylining necessary.
CAST OF THOUSANDS!
At various points these smug people show up and allude to sciencey things and quantum physics. It’s easiest to just ignore them, they go away.
Enough about them! Let’s talk about Elizabeth. Why am I excited about this? Because I really enjoyed Elizabeth. They introduced a character who could have single handedly ruined the game by being a clingy ingénue, or a jaded, sarcastic ‘damaged goods’ character. She did not mope and neither did she swoon for the lead. She came across as a capable, savvy, resourceful female. Her appearance changed as her personality developed, illustrating her rough path to adulthood. Perfect. I enjoyed her company and for me the game would have been an empty shell without her. And if there’s one more thing I can say about Elizabeth, it’s that she blessedly stayed OUT OF THE WAY. That’s a rare gem in the trash pile of escort games. It was a relief to not have to worry about her walking into my gun sites, or taking damage from friendly or enemy fire. She didn’t block doorways or get stuck, and was generally positioned far away from me, running down a hall and showing me the way to go, without nagging me or getting herself into trouble. (Call me lazy for not wanting to babysit in games.)
If there was one weird aspect of the ‘team’ it was her throwing weapons, health kits and gold at me from across the map. That was never not strange. “Hey! I know you’re really busy dodging bullets and hellfire, but I found this! Stop what you’re doing! Look at me! Take this thing I found!”
The ending was probably pretty obvious to most people, but it was handled in a way that made me thoughtful and quiet at the end. I would have liked the aspects of manipulation of the future and past and time and space travel to have played more of a role in the game. A power so amazing and profound that it required the lifetime imprisonment of a main character was reduced to occasional parlor tricks.
And finally, the DADDY ISSUES man. The daddy issues. And I wasn’t even feeling it from Elizabeth. It was radiating throughout the game. Columbia has daddy issues. Booker has daddy issues. America has daddy issues. The ending even aroused my OWN daddy issues and gave me insight in how to solve them. Thank you, BS: Infinite.