I’m currently in Day 2 of a horrific stomach bug, so I’m home again. Yesterday, my day was spent finishing Bioshock Infinite. Today, my day will largely be spent thinking about how to talk about it.
In fact, I may have to do this in two posts, ultimately – one post devoted purely to how the game actually plays and looks and sounds and feels, and then another post about the story, necessarily filled with lots of spoilers, because, for better and for worse, there are things that need to be talked about. I think I can combine elements of the second into this first post without getting too spoilery, though – or at least I’ll do my best to keep spoilers well advertised.
You know, I don’t even know if I can do this properly yet. I’m still getting my thoughts together about the game, and trying to reconcile the stuff I liked with the stuff that didn’t make any sense, and it’s frustrating because I want to write this post RIGHT NOW instead of hours or possibly days from now, when the thoughts actually arrive.
That said, this is someone on tumblr’s reaction to the Bioshock Infinite ending, and it sums up my reaction pretty well, too:
THE GAME: Whatever misgivings I might have about the story and certain other aspects of the game’s narrative, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that Columbia is arguably an even more engrossing place than Rapture. It is an astonishing place; pretty much every where you look you’ll see something amazing. (I had to stop taking screenshots after a while, since it was getting ridiculous. And if you’d like to see some of those screenshots, you can click this link. I’ve labeled a few of them as spoiler-ish, and so you don’t have to see them unless you want to. I hard a hard time choosing which one I wanted to be my desktop background – I ended up going with this one.)
My concern over the shooting and murdering wasn’t necessarily misplaced – indeed, Elizabeth and Booker have more than a few conversations about all the killing that goes on and how hard it might be to live with yourself after you’ve killed someone, and there’s a bit more I could say here but that should probably wait until the spoiler post. The combat itself is fine; it’s never been why I like these games, but it works well enough. Still, I was far more interested in exploring the world and opening locked doors and finding hidden passages and even listening to recordings. As my friend Caro put it, regarding that last bit:
I really hope the audio log/voxophone/Tomb Raider journal goes away soon, and a better way to communicate such things is created.
— Carolyn Petit (@carolynmichelle) March 26, 2013
Yeah, so. Mechanically, the combat works fine, although I really only used a few guns, and even fewer Vigors (i.e., Plasmids). Some of the Vigors are introduced rather lazily, actually, and I almost missed picking a few of them up. Not that it would’ve changed my playstyle very dramatically, though – I mainly used Shock and Fire (not their real names) for crowd control before mopping up baddies with machine guns and shotguns. Most of the Vigors felt like afterthoughts, to be honest – as if the developers needed something to fill out the radial menu.
But there’s another reason we need to talk about those Vigors. There’s a fantastic Gameological (AVClub) review which I might as well quote directly since John Teti says exactly what I was thinking, and the whole review is worth a read:
Other parts of the BioShock carryover simply don’t make sense. It’s all well and good that the plasmids of the old game have been rechristened as Vigors for Infinite, but in the [first] BioShock, plasmid abuse was an integral part of Rapture’s downfall. More to the point, plasmids made sense in the culture of Rapture, where self-worship was the norm, and man’s freedom to improve his lot was sacrosanct.
Where do Vigors fit into Columbia? I don’t know, and neither does Infinite. There are advertisements for Vigors all over the city, and you can find bottles of the stuff lying around, but very few Columbians use them. In a society that espouses racial purity, you’d think Vigors would be more of an issue. After all, they can turn a person into a demigod regardless of race. But this never comes up. If anything, [the main villain] Comstock appears to tacitly embrace the sale of Vigors. There’s a difference between plot holes, which are excusable, and a disregard for internal logic. Vigors belong to the latter category.
And along those lines, it seems downright odd that there would be so many ammunition vending machines all over the place, especially since there’s this whole uprising/revolution that Comstock is trying to hard to quell. I can’t necessarily speak more about that until I get to the spoiler post, but purely in terms of game mechanics, it’s striding a very fine line between aiding the player in combat and distracting the player’s brain who’s trying to make sense of everything they see. In a game like this, where you can tell that every single object has been placed with deliberate care and purpose, it just seems weird.
I should probably stop now, before I start saying things that I shouldn’t say in a non-spoiler post.