BioShock Infinite reeks of hype, its coattails smeared with the glorious muck of its predecessor. The stench wafts to all games journalists far and wide and everybody's impressions seem to be overwhelmingly positive. Is it really that good? Read on to discover my thoughts on this new first-person shooter from Irrational Games.
You are Booker DeWitt, rifling through a box that contains a pistol and a photograph of a young lass named Elizabeth, while rocking gently on a boat that moors at a lighthouse dock. From the beginning the visuals are truly stunning. As you sprint to the lighthouse door you cannot help but appreciate the intricate detail of water trickling down the walls and the lights playing off the moist grain of the wooden boards you stand on. Instead of running from point A to point B you often soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the stylised 1900s feel of the environment and the people.
At the top of the lighthouse is a simple puzzle. As soon as it is completed you find yourself sitting in a chair (think Willy Wonka and that glass elevator). All of a sudden DeWitt braces for ascension and sure enough you're flying.
As the clouds disperse details become quickly apparent. Welcome to Columbia, a floating city or rather: multiple buildings and platforms rising and falling together in a state of ridiculous harmony.
To enter Columbia you must engage in a baptism of sorts. The religious overtones exaggerate the bizarre god-like worship of America's founding fathers and the man who seems to be in charge of this paradise.
This game immerses you in an instant and the joyous celebrations leading to the carnival of attractions and the fair is heart-warming. There are children hiding behind some stone blocks, pointing their hands at their friends who are up ahead making 'pew-pew' noises at each other. At the carnival you can participate in a few games, which is a seamless way of adjusting the controls and learning about vigors (or plasmids) which are special powers that you learn over the course of the game. In one of the darker corners of the fair there are two kids smoking.
The fair turns from friendly to hostile when you win the raffle and the local police determine that you are the 'false shepherd'. Things get especially goretastic when you obtain the sky-hook, which is intended for hanging off and moving along the sky rails rather than disembowelling your enemies.
You find the blue-eyed beauty, Elizabeth, early on and she is quite capable of handling herself in combat. She will scrounge ammo for you when your reserves are low and every now and then she will fling a few coins your way which can be spent at vending machines for weapon upgrades and vigor improvements. Elizabeth's story is quite intriguing and to say much more would ruin the surprises and the intense, yet strange ending of this masterpiece.
The weapons you come across are standard fare. Shotguns, RPGs, volley gun (grenade launcher) and the crank gun (wind-up chaingun) among others. You can get through most of the game with just a hand cannon and a bolt-action sniper rifle as well the use of the devil's kiss (flame) and shock jockey (electricity) vigors.
Unfortunatley there is a lack of vigor-related puzzles so you often stick to a few powers and rarely feel the need to experiment. There are many secrets to be found to enhance your health, shield and salt limits. Salt is like mana for your powers.
Combat overall is competent enough however BioShock Infinite is more about the breathtaking art and the metaphysical concepts, which are very reminiscent of the 'veil' in Wolfenstein (2009). After 11 or so hours of gameplay the only real reason to do it all over again would be to try to gain a better understanding of the story and to find all of the audio logs and secrets.
If you are looking for an immersive and beautiful story that will leave you baffled and keen to engage a fellow gaming connoisseur in hours of debate to nut out what it all means then look no further. The Call of Duty crowd, however, should stay clear of this one.