Bioshock Infinite: five reasons why it's like no other shooter
1st Feb 2013 | 00:54
A couple of months ago, you'd be forgiven for having forgotten about
A three hour hands-on session with Infinite though, and long simmering misgivings quickly fade away. For two reasons: a) because now we're 100 per cent sure this game is actually happening (we held it in our hands!), and b) because Bioshock: Infinite is a gorgeous game. What follows are the five strongest impressions our hands-on time left us.
The world is beautiful
This is probably a no-brainer, but it's worth reiterating: interacting with Columbia is nothing like watching it in trailers. The city is in constant motion: airbourne skyscrapers literally bob in the air, barbershop quartets sing from parked zeppelins, and NPCs try their luck at turn-of-the-century carnivals. The colours of Bioshock Infinite are awe striking. Bright, luminescent blues, gorgeous deep purples, Shiraz reds.
When Booker DeWitt first emerges into Columbia proper, it resembles a quiet, peaceful civilisation seemingly oblivious to the propaganda emitting from ubiquitous loudspeakers. There's tension bubbling under the surface, but the carnivals, beaches and bricked promenades have a faded, nostalgic quality that is mesmerising. It's so... soothing, that when you finally execute your first kill it's a genuine shock to the system. It's ugly and brutal. It feels totally at odds with the environment. In a word, it's a powerful death.
The set-pieces are genuinely breathtaking
During our session, not once did Booker DeWitt hang desperately to a ledge while an edifice collapsed around him. A huge monument did collapse in flames, but only once we'd safely evacuated it. One highlight involved a brief but intense sniper battle in a Museum of (alternate) American history. In a display for the Boxer Rebellion, cardboard cutouts of shrubs, boulders and soldiers acted as cover as we fought against forces on the other side of the display. All the while primary antogonist Comstock barked a twisted version of history over the loud speakers, retrospectively implicating himself in the Allied forces' victory.
The game is genuinely weird
There's a strong sense of the uncanny laced throughout Bioshock Infinite's world. Mysterious yet eerily familiar figures emerge in the most unlikely places, and with obscure agendas. Popular music, such as The Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows', emanates from Columbia's streets in strange new forms: in this alternate history, media is cribbed from the future and distorted through a dreamy lense. The world is never still: nearby buildings bob like massive balloons, and the distant suburbs of Columbia prick from distant clouds like apparitions. The world often feels vague and illusory - like it could vanish if focused on too intently. The last three seconds of our hands-on time hinted at an enemy confrontation straight out of the Wizard of Oz.
The game is genuinely funny
That's right - it's not all ethereal beauty and cognitive dissonance in the world of Infinite. Once Elizabeth comes into the picture, Booker DeWitt evolves from relatively silent protagonist to something of a wise-cracker - but not in the traditional Arnie-in-Total Recall fashion. The droll banter between DeWitt and Elizabeth reaches surreal proportions at times, but even then, you'll probably get more of a laugh listening in to NPC's conversations, or paying attention to the lavishly detailed environments. Even the simple act of riding the Sky Hooks is inherently entertaining, especially when you turn around and notice Elizabeth behind you, riding several kilometres above the earth like it ain't no thing.
The gameworld is ripe for exploration
You'll get lost in Bioshock: Infinite. There is usually only one direction that you need to travel in to complete the mission at hand, but unless you spam the hint button you're likely to get lost a couple of times finding it. During our playthrough, we found whole explorable buildings that were non-essential, yet filled with detail and characters. Riding the Sky Hook can make for a disorientating experience, especially if you land somewhere you're not meant to. Of course, we've come to expect a certain level of detail from Irrational Games, but it feels like Bioshock: Infinite sets a new standard - this is a world that feels like it existed before you got here. It wasn't made especially to be a fun place to kill things. There's few artificial borders here, unless you count the blue abyss that Columbia floats on.