Rise from the oceans and into the skies
The original Bioshock introduced us to the dark and wonderful city of Rapture where scientific progress was not hindered by rules and laws, where humanity’s greatest minds could escape the shackles of the “less enlightened”, all manners scientific experimentations were allowed and oh, did I mentioned the deranged residents of Rapture who possesses superhuman abilities. Bioshock developers Irrational games crafted a dark and beautiful world which explored the dark underbelly of Liberalism and Science, the city itself is a perfect manifestation of Dr Frankenstein’s monster. The city literally rotted from the inside under the leadership of Andrew Ryan who wanted to play god whom in a twist of irony is an atheist.
Fast-forward to 2013 and we now have Bioshock Infinite, developers Irrational Games ditched the leaky pipes of Rapture for the skies – literally – the city of Columbia is a quite literally a city in the sky held up by a series of giant blimps and connected to each other via a system of hand cranked sky-rails. The city of Columbia is founded and ruled by a man named Comstock who is the personification of American Nationalism(racial bigotry included). Comstock is more commonly known as “The Prophet” by the populace worships the founding fathers of America as gods. You play as Booker Dewitt, a no-nonsense ex-soldier and Pinkerton agent whose life has spiraled into a mess of alcohol and gambling after falling in hard times. Heavily in debt, he accepted a lifeline offered by his debtors; hunt down a mysterious girl named Elizabeth and his debt would be wiped clean.
Upon reaching Columbia, Booker finds the city in utter chaos and is on the brink of a full on civil war. On one side, there is Ultra-Nationalist Comstock and his followers who models their ideals after the founding fathers of the United States – both good and bad – while on the other side, we have the almost communist like Vox Populi who opposes Comstock ideals and rule; they are however also as ruthless and cruel. Both factions are also looking to control Elizabeth to help tip the balance in their favor. One of the most powerful sequence in the game is an early scene where the player is presented with a “Prize” of stoning a mixed-race couple for winning a raffle( yeah… a good old fashion stoning) an act actively being encouraged by Comstock and his goons. Don’t be mistaken, there is no good verse evil here; the Vox Populi are just as cruel and ruthless as Comstock, they just don’t have a preference in their victim’s skin color.
Behind the beautiful architecture of Columbia and wonderful story lies competent gameplay that manages to take what made the original Bioshock enjoyable while still having its own personality. If you missed out on any of the old Bioshock games, the basic premise of the game is simple. You blast through seemingly never-ending firefights against increasingly tougher opponents with a repertoire of firearms and Plasmids(it’s a fancy term for magic). Bioshock Infinite builds upon the basic gameplay of the original by letting you juggle firearms and “vigors”(Infinite’s term for spells/Plasmids) while keeping an eye on your “Salt” meter. The firearms available to you are your standard fare of pistols, rocket launchers, shotguns etc, though you are able to apply a myriad of upgrades to expand their effectiveness. Drinking Vigors allows you to deal with opponents in a more creative way such as lobbing fire grenades, shoot lightning out of your fingers and even summon a murder of crows to distract your enemies. Ingesting Vigors in Infinite is an intense experience as Booker’s hands are grotesquely transformed with each bottle(the skin on Booker’s hands get burnt off when you first ingest the “devil’s kiss” vigor)
Bioshock Infinite’s leading lady Elizabeth is first introduced to the player as a clichéd damsel in distress -heck, she’s locked up in a tower like Repunzel- I was personally expecting the whole game to be one giant escort mission but boy, was I wrong. Elizabeth is everything you’d wish in an AI companion, during combat she’ll assist you with her myriad of reality tearing powers that could dramatically change the way you play. On one occasion, Elizabeth was able to force a tear in reality which allowed me to jump on a ledge where I could safely take out enemies with my sniper rifle instead of charging headlong into a heavily defended position. Elizabeth would occasionally point out locations of Salts, ammo and health while a tap of a button would get her to toss them to you.
Bioshock Infinite is a game that built on the foundations laid out by the original but manages to inject its own individuality. It’s clear that infinite is a vast improvement over the original. It’s a faster pace than the original but still carries the sense of dread and explorations.
Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars
by Chen KangYi
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