Bioshock Infinite Impressions

There is one thing that I think of when I give my impressions of Bioshock Infinite: Attention to detail.

Bioshock Infinite’s main difference from the original Bioshock is that the character you play as has a definite history,¬†personality, and motivation. You’re Booker DeWitt, a man with a checkered past who owes a debt to the wrong people. These mysterious figures ask you to go to a floating city in the sky and bring back a young girl who is kept there, imprisoned. Do that, they say, and the debt will be repaid. That’s how it starts, but Booker finds himself in the middle of a power struggle set in a world of American Exceptionalism, class and race warfare, and labor equality.

Bioshock Infinite looks amazing on my PC with DirectX 11. There are subtle lighting effects that augment the grandiose nature of Columbia without being overpowering. No vulgar lens flares here to speak of. Okay, I found one lens flare, but it totally works. One thing I really liked was that the graphics options menu settings were displayed inside a shoeshine store. I could see the changes in textures as I adjusted various settings, and it quickly let me decide the right balance of performance and graphics.

Bioshock InfiniteCombat is better in Bioshock Infinite than in the original Bioshock. Enemies don’t act like bullet sponges, but will duck and hide behind cover if shot at, and wait for moments of vulnerability to attack, such as when you need to reload. There are no enemies that are quite as iconic as the Big Daddy, but you’ll fight motorized robots made to look like Presidents who wield chainguns, and human-machine hybrids who can take a ridiculous beating, and close distance quickly with mighty leaps. As far as the standard cannon fodder, they can be dispatched in a variety of ways, and Bioshock Infinite is more brutal than its predecessors. Sniper rifles and hand cannons can decapitate foes, and there are brutal melee executions that can be performed at close range.

You can only hold two guns at a time like most modern shooters, which is also a big change from the original Bioshock. With only two weapons, it’s quite possible to run out of ammo for one of your guns, and so you’ll need to switch weapons. You’ll need to think about the balance between your two weapons: Short range and long range? Precision and explosive?¬†Bioshock Infinite also supplements its health and salt gauges (salt is used to power Vigors, Bioshock Infinite’s version of plasmids) with a recharging shield. Like many other modern shooters, it will recharge over time if depleted, if you stay out of harm’s way. Otherwise, your health gauge will drain, and you’ll need to scavenge for food or health kits.

The flow of the game is similar to Bioshock: You’ll move from discrete area to discrete area, sometimes backtracking across the same path to get to different areas. At times, you can stop and explore the vicinity to scavenge for additional ammo, items, or upgrades. Combat, like I said before, is improved, but the same tricks apply. Use your alt fire to shoot a vigor at an enemy to weaken it, then finish it off with gunfire.

If anything, the gameplay is similar, but refined into a more polished form.

Bioshock Infinite's ElizabethThe other major difference is your constant companion, Elizabeth. In fights, she can throw you ammo when you run low, or health or salts if you need them. She can’t do this all the time, but it helps in a pinch. She can also use some psychic ability to change the landscape of battle, creating cover, or summoning turrets to fight for you. She never gets in the way of a fight, and she can’t be killed, so you don’t need to worry about protecting her.

A lot has been said about the skylines that you can zip around Columbia with, but in practice, they’re not really used often. You can shoot from them, and leap onto enemies from them for massive damage, but they aren’t something I gravitate towards. In true Bioshock style, every combat scenario has multiple methods of success. Think of the skylines as another approach.

So what was that attention to detail I was talking about in Bioshock Infinite? It wasn’t really the improved options menu, nor was it the refinements in combat. It’s the way Elizabeth behaves in the world. Unlike many games, she doesn’t just stand around, blank-faced, or occasionally look at you and make some quip. She is always interacting with the environment, whether leaning up against a wall, watching you while you explore a nearby corner, or holding her nose as she follows you into a stinky bathroom, or hold herself, shivering, after a traumatizing experience in a toy store. She’ll find a table and peer around and under it. She’ll look over railings. She doesn’t stand still; she interacts with the environment logically and believably.

This seemingly simple addition makes a world of difference. Elizabeth feels more real, and I care about her more than I’ve cared about any NPC in a video game.

You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned any story elements of this game, and that is intentional. I feel like this game is best served by going into it as blind as you can. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together, but I don’t have all the answers. More importantly, I am excited to find out these answers, and I can’t wait to get back into the game as soon as I finish this article. Expect my review soon, but this is one of the best video game experiences I have had in a long time.

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