BioShock Infinite is the latest installment of the BioShock franchise and easily among the best games of 2013 so far. Infinite brings gamers back to the good old days of when a first-person shooter didn't need online multiplayer to be considered worth it. The story of BioShock Infinite is the main draw so don't worry, this review won't have any spoilers.
Players take on the role of Booker DeWitt, a former soldier and security guard who is sent to the floating city of Columbia to find a girl named Elizabeth. Booker owes someone a huge debt and delivering Elizabeth to his employer will supposedly square them. "Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt," is a line you'll often hear repeated throughout the game. It seems like a pretty straightforward plot but there are a few interesting twists where seemingly innocent lines from the beginning of the game will suddenly have much more importance later on. BioShock Infinite has one of those stories that after you beat the game, you sit there looking at the screen for a few moments to reflect on what just happened.
After finding Elizabeth, she will accompany Booker throughout much of the game but BioShock Infinite actually makes her useful instead of dead weight. For one, she will take cover on her own so you won't have to protect her in combat. Not having to worry about Elizabeth when things get hectic is a huge plus. She also has a few support abilities that will help you during battles (for example, she can keep you stocked on useful items by finding things like ammo and health on the fly). If you end up dying in combat, Elizabeth will also resuscitate you with first aid. Outside of battle, Elizabeth can help you get into places by picking locks, will sometimes find you extra money, and will also point out important items nearby.
BioShock Infinite takes place in 1912. In addition to a wide variety of weapons including pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rifles, and explosives, Booker can also find and wield special powers called Vigors. There are eight total Vigors which can be found throughout the game that have their own unique abilities. For example, the Shock Jockey Vigor can be used to electrocute and stun enemies. Another Vigor, Possession, can be used to temporarily turn an enemy into an ally.
Vigors are powered by an energy meter which is itself replenished by salts. Salts work like mana potions and are pretty easy to come by so frequent use of Vigors in combat is encouraged. Players will likely favor certain Vigors based on their individual play style but it is also possible to use combinations of different Vigors for added effects. You can only wield two Vigors at any given time but it is possible to switch to any of your Vigors when you need to.
Rather than carrying around his own personal arsenal, Booker can only have two weapons. Personally, I found the carbine most useful due to its effectiveness at both medium and close range. As a secondary, it's always good to keep something heavy in reserve, like an RPG, for emergencies.
Gear adds another level of depth to BioShock Infinite. Booker has an equipment slot for a hat, pants, shirt, and boots. He can equip one item in each slot for added passive bonuses such as increased melee damage or an increase to splash damage radius from explosives. With over a dozen possible pieces of gear for each slot, this adds more customization and variety to the game.
Money can be spent at vending machines scattered throughout Columbia to upgrade your weapons and Vigors (or to buy ammunition if you're running low). The upgrades can get to be very expensive so constantly searching every nook and cranny for extra coins gets to be second nature after awhile (anybody who has played Fallout 3 or New Vegas knows how important looting everything is).
Saying BioShock Infinite is a good looking game would be a drastic understatement. It may not look ultra realistic but the graphics have a certain artistic elegance. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, especially in the beginning when you first get to Columbia and start looking around. Many have called Infinite the first video game that can truly be considered a work of art and perhaps they are right. Check out some screenshots in the slide show above this review.
Although there are a few references to previous the BioShock games, players who haven't played either BioShock or BioShock 2 will still be able to fully enjoy and understand BioShock Infinite. It's a standalone storyline for the most part.
As previously mentioned, there is no multiplayer in BioShock Infinite but that's okay because it doesn't need any. The campaign is sufficiently long and story satisfactorily engrossing enough to justify spending $60 on. It will take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours to beat on normal, depending on how much time you spend exploring and looting places. There's also plenty of collectibles to search for and achievements to work towards. After beating the game for the first time, you'll also unlock 1999 mode for the ultimate challenge.
BioShock Infinite isn't just one of the best FPS games of this generation, but might be one of the best of all-time. It brings everything good about the genre to the forefront while minimizing the frustration and repetitiveness other games suffer from. This is one game you don't want to miss out on.
Final Score: 5 /5 stars
(This review was based off a review copy of the game).