An Infinite amount of entertainment awaits in Columbia – Part II

 

This is a continuation from my previous post which I wrote after playing the Bioshock Infinite campaign for five hours. This particular post concludes the last with my final thoughts after successfully completing the game on the afternoon of March 29th. My original thoughts explored in the original post still reign true, and can be found at this link here (http://wp.me/p2tQ7q-6C) where I talk about the graphics, working alongside Elizabeth, the game play and the differences between the previous Bioshock titles and Infinite.

Title: Bioshock Infinite
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K
Release Date: March 26th
Platforms: PC, PS3, XBOX360
Game Length: Between 15 and 18 hours

More Entertaining Than: Singularity

Less Entertaining Than: Half Life 2

Pros:
-outstanding graphics
-powerful weapons and abilities
-Skyhook is fun to utilise
-entertaining action sequences
-interactive characters
-powerful themes

Cons:
-Complicated storyline
-Major game play differences in
contrast to former Bioshock titles
-No multiplayer features

Rating (out of 10): 8

Bioshock Infinite is quite unlike its predecessors as I previously explored. The ability to work alongside a fellow character, Elizabeth, the young woman you are sent to the city of Columbia to extract is a gaming element that was never established in prior titles. Her ability to restock your supplies of health, salt and ammunition when you are running low is something that makes the game all the more easier, and her ability to interact with the environment is something that very few games today actually explore.

The ability to work alongside a fellow character in the game on occasion allows for emotional interactions between Elizabeth and Dewitt, which includes comforting Elizabeth when she is emotionally distraught and discussing ideas of race and religion. Of course, this seriousness is additionally in contrast with the playful banter that exists between the characters, which includes, but is not limited to, Elizabeth contemplating what it would look like for Dewitt to hop onto a merry-go-round.

Unlike in previous Bioshock titles, the emotional connection your character, Booker Dewitt, has to Elizabeth is not quite as powerfully moving throughout the game as it was with the original two. In the original Bioshock, over the course of the game you discover that your connection to the city stems from your character having been born in Rapture, and in Bioshock 2, your connection to Eleanor Lamb stems from you being her Big Daddy protector, Alpha, assigned to watch over her until death.

However, that is not to say that Bioshock Infinite is not shocking or daring in its nature. Unlike in the previous games in the franchise, Bioshock Infinite’s storyline is concerned with some incredibly powerful themes the likes of racism, war, religion and violence. You may not be moved to tears, but a part of you will inevitably bear the brunt of such an evocative storyline that dares to bring to light themes from the past that continue to haunt humanity to this very day.

In Bioshock Infinite, Elizabeth is initially a job to your character. Your goal is to acquire her, and send her back to New York to wipe away a ‘debt’ that is shrouded in fog for a majority of the storyline. It is over the course of the game that Elizabeth becomes something more than just an ordinary job, but a means to an end, and your character, Dewitt, is essentially her bodyguard and protector. Elizabeth needs Dewitt to get off Columbia. Dewitt needs Elizabeth to wipe his conscience clean.

What I didn’t explain however in the last post is Elizabeth’s special ability. It is found over the course of the title that Elizabeth is able to open up rifts (think Singularity), but, instead of these rifts being linked to one specific time and one alternate world, they are linked to many; to alternate versions of the past, present and future. Hence, this explains how a floating city in the sky could be successfully developed in the late 1890’s.

It becomes mandatory over the course of the storyline to explore some of the worlds hidden behind the rifts, and suffer the dire ramifications that come from deciding to go through one particular worm hole and into another.

Confused? Well, friend, you should be, because Bioshock Infinite’s storyline is not as clean cut as the former two games in the franchise. The previous games did not require much thought to sufficiently understand the storyline, unlike Infinite, which starts out relatively sane, and then becomes quite the opposite.

Upon initiating missions that require the use of rifts, and having to go through other rifts inside other worlds, to say that your brain will become bent out of shape at attempting to fathom what on Earth is going on will be beyond an understatement.

Safe to say there are answers to the many questions that you will no doubt generate as the game slowly descends further into what some may view as utter madness, however the answers come incredibly slowly, so patience is key in deciphering the storyline. Over time, you will come to adjust to the oddities the game presents to you. The amazing action oriented scenes are enough to satisfy you throughout the game and keep your eyes fixed on the screen and your trigger finger at the ready.

Much like in former Bioshock titles where one needed to adjust their combat styles to eliminate certain enemies, the same can be said for Infinite. There are aptly named ‘Firemen’, who blast rounds of fire at you, and are immune to the power, and thus need to be dispatched by alternate means; ‘the crow’, who is much unlike the comic book character, who uses crows not just as an attacking power, but as way to disappear, and thus the player will need to find a way to break the defences of this particular enemy and keep them from moving about the map so quickly; and there are robotic enemies that are designed to preserve the religious integrity of the city who are weak from behind.

Moreover, there are no Big Daddies in the game, but there is what is known as the Song Bird, which is a colossal winged giant that is assigned to keep Elizabeth from leaving the city of Columbia. However, again, much unlike previous games where Big Daddies played a crucial role, in Infinite, the Song Bird very rarely appears, and half the time you will probably forget he even exists at all, which is an insult to his character for he is an amazingly powerful being that deserved a far greater role that what he is provided.

Unlike in Bioshock predecessors, there is no specialised ammunition to use, so one simply has to make do with what they have. There are additionally no Power to the People stations where weapons can be upgraded, and instead upgrades need to be bought from vending machines, many of which come at exorbitant prices. The ability to hold several thousands of dollars in your wallet does make this substantially easier though, with these particular upgrades increasingly the damage, range and aim of all weapons.

The weapons however do not look quite as spectacular as they once did, with the likes of the shotgun and machinegun looking rather drab in contrast with the colourful designs that were allocated in the two previous titles. The ability, as mentioned in my last post, to carry only two weapons is considerably unsatisfying considering the player could carry every weapon in the game in former titles. This presents the player with a choice, and a very significant one. Ammunition is sometimes difficult to come by, and it is often mandatory to swap weapons over. Over time, whether you are carrying the weapon or not, Dewitt is able to store all of the ammunition he comes across, so by the time you have swapped back for a weapon you were previously using you might well be fully stocked again for your next battle.

Former weapons the likes of the spear gun have been replaced with a sniper rifle and a carbine, the grenade launcher from the original Bioshock has been replaced with an RPG, and the machinegun from Bioshock 2 has spawned several weapons, including a burst rifle and a Gatling gun of sorts.

Upgrades can additionally be purchased for your abilities, which will more often than not cost over a thousand dollars. Old favourite abilities, the likes of the fire ball and lightning are available, along with a few new ones. These include the ability to toss out an army of crows to chase your opponents around and there is a drag ability, which is used to bring your enemies closer. There’s one particular ability that I liked which allowed you to send a shockwave across the ground that would toss any organic enemy caught in its radius up into the air for a short period of time, thus removing their defences whilst they were in the air, making it easier to eliminate them.

Battles are genuinely not that difficult due to Elizabeth’s ability to keep you fully stocked, and on the few occasions when she is not around you feel it as you become overwhelmed by opponents. Previous Bioshock games had considerably difficult fight scenes, but Infinite has opted for scenarios that you will be able to efficaciously beat. They do make up for it though by having a truly difficult conclusion that will put all of your skills accumulated over the course of the game to the test.

On the rare occasion that you will die, instead of being resurrected at a Biosphere much like in Bioshock 1 and 2, you instead either; are brought back to life through adrenaline and CPR at the hands of Elizabeth, or instead come waltzing out from a rift with a good portion of your health restored. No matter how you are brought back, in addition, your enemies will have additionally being partially revived.

Moving back to the game’s complicated storyline, by the end of Bioshcok Infinite, you will have received a vast number of answers to the many questions that will have been weighing upon you, but even then that is not enough to quench your thirst for knowledge. Although you have the answers, the solution to how the answers were conceived still eludes you, and the game seems to contradict itself and only complicate things further.

Unlike in Bioshock, where at the end the game moved me to tears, and Bioshock 2, where I cried like a baby for a full forty minutes after I completed the campaign, Bioshock Infinite will probably not cause you to cry, but the revelations that are revealed are considerably shocking to behold.

Winner of 80 plus gaming awards and hailed by Time as a game worth looking out for, Bioshock Infinite has been built up considerably on all fronts, and yet, I get the intense feeling that the game itself is overrated, and that the game’s success will be unable to mirror the success of either its PR department or that of the many critics that have hailed it as a game worth playing. There have been a number of other fantastic titles that have come out over the years that have received not even half the publicity that Infinite has garnered, and yet, they were far superior to what Irrational has developed.

If Irrational continue to develop Bioshock games in the future, I only ask that they don’t cause my mind to blow up with such strenuous confusion. If 2K could develop a brilliant campaign that was easily understandable, I cannot see why Irrational are unable to do so.

An Infinite amount of entertainment awaits in Columbia

First Impressions of Bioshock Infinite: The following post details my opinion on this particular game after having played it for approximately five hours

Developer: Irrational Games
Distributer: 2KOfficial_cover_art_for_Bioshock_Infinite
Platforms: PC, PS3, XBOX360
Release Date: 26th February

Pros:
-Exemplary storyline
-Stunningly beautiful graphics
-Upgradable abilities
-Powerful weapons
-Incredibly fun Skyhook segments

Cons:
-No multiplayer functionality
-Vastly different than predecessors

In comparison to the previous Bioshock games, many hardcore fans may be disappointed with the wealth of changes that have occurred since the second game. As a standalone title though, Bioshock Infinite is spectacular, and is well worth the wait since the release of the last game.

Unlike in the previous Bioshock games, where you, the player, were a little dissociated with your character due to never seeing your character’s face and discovering very little about their life or identity, Infinite is, well, infinitely different in that you learn more and more about the lead protagonist, Booker Dewitt, over the course of the game.

Dewitt, who has more debt than he has money to ease his burden, is recruited to extract a young mysterious woman, Elizabeth, from an unknowable city known only as Columbia, located, where else, but in the clouds. Built in 1893, and having being floating around for the past 19 years, the entire city and its founding is shrouded in complete mystery, and so are the reasons behind why your employers are so intrigued in this particular young woman.

However, it would seem that although forces outside of the city wish to have Elizabeth, so do forces from the city within, who revere Elizabeth as being their ‘lamb’, who is prophesised to lead their city when their founding father of creation, Father Zachary Hale Comstock passes away.

On that note, it is prudent to notify the gamer that the storyline behind Infinite is extraordinarily religious, with an incredibly detailed back story being generated to accommodate said religion. As with all religions, there are its heroes, and in this case that would be, you guessed it, its creator Father Comstock, and its nemesis is, well, we’ll get to that…

Upon arrival into the city, you will find yourself unable to look away from the incredibly vivid detail of every surface and each construction. There is so much going on in the world all at once and often there is a lot to take in that you will more often than not find yourself staring admirably at what Irrational Games has accomplished. Every single piece of the gorgeous artwork looks as though it is a necessary part to the storyline, and not a thing seems out of place in this fictitious world that will enthrall you to the very end.

With this writ, there are often many areas to look through, and searching around the environment is a mandate to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything. There is much to explore and even more to find, with the additional support of side quests that will cause you to deviate from your current path in order to find something that will efficaciously assist you, whether it be weaponry or other such offensive and/or defensive capabilities.

Safe to say not everything is in plain sight, so it is often prudent to stay sharp and keep all eyes open. Much like in the previous games though, you can open up cabinets and chests and look inside to discover the loot they contain.

Furthermore, like in the previous titles, much of the back story of the city can be found in the recordings, these particular one’s labeled as Voxophone’s. Although not a necessary mandate to the game’s completion, these recordings provide an invaluable amount of information on the culture and the climate of the city that you stumble into.

There is plenty of money to be found moreover, which comes in the form of Silver Eagle coins, which can be found in purses and prizes, but unfortunately often come in singular pieces scattered about the environment. You’ll be unwittingly surprised by how much money people seem to simply leave about their city. Astounding!

Adjunctively, there is health to be found about the city, which comers in both medical packs and tasty, tasty food. To better protect you, your character later discovers a shield that, much like the shield used by the Spartans in the Halo games, will automatically replenish itself during portions of the game when you are not under attack. This shield you will often find is unbelievably beneficial, and will assist you greatly.

Unlike in the previous titles where you could accumulate an assortment of health packs and hold onto them until a time was critical enough to use them, in Infinite, this is not allowed. You will either pick up an item and use it immediately, or you will simply not pick it up at all. The lack of a storage system ensures that you are kept on your toes more often and pay closer attention to your health bar, because in this game, the only way to save yourself is through finding an item rather than hitting a key and immediately becoming rejuvenated.

The same goes for salt; yes, you read that right, but this ain’t the white specks you put onto your meat for additional flavor – this is the blue stuff that powers you abilities, known in Infinite as Vigors, and as the expression goes on their advertisement, ‘a life with Vigors is a life that’s bigger.’

Vigors are the titles given to the powers that your character is able to wield (think back to the powers in previous Bioshock games, but with different names). In this game, by simply clicking the activation key, you are able to send out a quick offensive attack in the direction of your intended target, but by holding down the key, you are able to conjure a more powerful attack, resulting in a tarp that will heinously harm your attacker.

Each Vigor can be upgraded twice by accumulating such upgrades from a vending machine (bearing in mind the prices are unbelievably frightful). On top of this, your Vigors, your health and your shield can be upgraded with Infusion. These bottles that are scattered about the game can be applied to only one of the three upgradable options at a time, so it is up to you whether you become the healthiest character alive, the most well armored, or the most incredibly powerful.

On the subject of armor moreover, you are also able to equip clothing; not to say that your character runs about stark naked beforehand, not at all. You can exchange your character’s clothes for different shirts, pants, hats and boots, which each come with their own powerful attachments. These can range from defensive abilities activated upon coming under attack, to offensive strengths. Either way, the assistance these clothes will provide is incalculable.

bioshock-infinite-elizabeth-artwork

Moving on, upon arrival in Columbia, not only is the city highly religious and stunningly beautiful, but incredibly peaceful and charming to boot, making it a paradise. Columbia is a city of music, dance, joy and love; at least for a short amount of time. There’s just one little problem – earlier I mentioned that like all religions there was a bad guy, remember? Well, you see, the problem is that you, the character, are the supposed bad guy. Father Comstock predicted that you would one day come to steal their blessed lamb from their city, and upon being spotted for the suspected pariah that you are, the entire city goes from a place of zen and peace to a place of madness and horror, and you finally see the city for what it is; a body of lies, mangled with the disgusting ideologies of racism and hatred that have mirrored society below, only far more intensified. Designed for the privileged, white upper class, anyone who does not fit such a limiting constraint is not treated kindly at all.

Upon being discovered as the enemy to this zealous regime, the game turns into a sudden explosion of blood as you violently attack your oppressors, and in this moment you cannot help but be entertained as the action finally heats up.

You immediately acquire yourself a Skyhook, which is the unanimous device in the city for quick movement. You can hook yourself up to a rail line suspended above the ground and go for a ride, or you can use the magnetized device and leap from one section of metal attached to the side of a building to another as to quickly move about your environment and accomplish your objectives. Or, you could always use the device to bludgeon your opponents to death with, the melee capacity of this weapon being unfathomably astounding.

From above, when attached to a rail line or other like piece where the Skyhook is necessary, you can pounce down upon unsuspected enemies below and instantly kill them in a comical style attack that will leave you breathless.

As for your other weapons, that is one of the disappointing factors of the game. True, you acquire them at an incredibly fast pace, but since you only ever have two weapon slots, you have to choose which ones you intend to carry into combat, unlike in previous titles where you could carry all of them at once. Irrational Games also tend to provide you with a limited assortment of ammo, and you are often forced to resort to using your abilities and being quite tactical. Those who have the bull at a gate syndrome may sometimes find that the more subtle approach is often recommended in defeating large groups of bad guys out for your blood.

Another part of the game you will need to change up and rely upon are your checkpoints. Again, unlike in previous installments where you could save your progress whenever you deemed necessary, you are forced to rely upon the game to checkpoint every so often as you continue through the campaign. Although most games in general today rely upon such a saving technique, it is annoying to be denied something of such great import after having the luxury in the past.

Lastly, as previously mentioned at the beginning, the goal of making your way up to Columbia, was not only to marvel at your surroundings, but to find and extract Elizabeth.

As with all stereotypical video game heroines, Elizabeth is unbelievably gorgeous physically, however, is not just limited to standing around and looking pretty. Having been locked up for most of her life with nothing to do but read up on a wealth of knowledge, she has become alarmingly resourceful, and her intellect is borderline unrivalled. Elizabeth has the ability to pick the locks of doors, and, much like your own character, will be able to search about the environment and scavenge for supplies that she will gladly give to you. However, these environmental interactions don’t stop there, and Elizabeth will also interact with controls, look at videos, talk to the people of the city and even sit down every so often when there is a chair near her location. All in all, the realism of her character is astounding, and efficaciously assists in making the game even more powerfully realistic.

Although I mentioned that Elizabeth’s character is highly intelligent, years of being locked up inside a tower like a prisoner have also caused her to become quite ignorant of the world outside. She is alarmingly sweet and her views are incredibly innocent, heightening her evocative character’s features and causing her to be even more desirable, not just as a sumptuous looking woman, but as a human being.

On a last note, I should mention the lack of multiplayer functionality. I was never entirely rapt with the Bioshock multiplayer and only ever played the games because of their alarmingly fantastical single player experiences. However, this decision to chop out such a popular gaming aspect may well come back to bite Irrational where it hurts and they may well be doing themselves a great disservice for such a feature was available in both of the previous titles.

One may suspect that perhaps multiplayer was dropped as to focus more on the single player campaign. Time will only tell if this is true, and if so, if such a decision was well worth it.

In conclusion, although a vast number of changes have being implemented since the last game in the franchise, and although a number of these changes may initially seem difficult to come to terms with, Bioshock Infinite stands alone as an extraordinary piece of fiction worthy of any gamers’ collection.

IMAGE CREDITS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioShock_Infinite

http://www.entertainmentfuse.com/video-games/pc/pc-news/bioshock-infinite-trailer-certified-gold.html

In the world of video games, the end doesn’t always justify the means

 

Although some may refuse to believe this statement to be true, games have indeed matured since the days of their orchestration. Initially beginning as nothing more than experiences which required the gamer to run and gun their way from the start of a level to its conclusion, additional storylines, character development and in-depth background of locations, scenarios and occurrences have modified gaming into an experience which can easily rival the enjoyment ascertained from reading and watching films.

As the title of this piece suggests, my belief, and a factor of gaming that I especially enjoy, is as follows; although a game may more often than not require a gamer to potentially blast their way from one side of the game to the next, the ending does not necessarily have to end with such violence; nor does the game as a whole.

Nowadays, a majority of games have cinematics and other such occurrences which separate one action sequence from the next which adds depth to the fictitious piece as a whole. In an RPG, this happens more often than not when in comparison with a shooter, a great comparative example being that of the Halo franchise and the Mass Effect series; both are entrenched with an amazing character driven narrative which immerses the player in futuristic alien environments against vile, antagonistic opponents who seek the destruction of humanity. Shrouded with other themes, the likes of friendship, family, love, betrayal, redemption and revenge, these games offer the player a gratifying experience that is worth experiencing again and again.

On that note, if a game has being leading the player through a substantially powerful storyline amidst the many action sequences, the conclusion could no doubt carry the same weight. The days when an ending to a game was simply a mix of explosions, mixed with the demise of the end boss is indeed still apparent, but more is conveyed during the moments that follow on from this particular occurrence, and it is that which I am aiming to discuss.

When I am playing a game and find myself at its conclusion, more often than not I would like to experience an ending which is incredibly emotional; a simpler way would be to say a real tear jerker.

The first time I finished a game which ended in much the same way I have described above the year was 2003, and the title of the game was Unreal II The Awakening. Since that time, it has again happened in regards to titles the likes of Bioshock and its sequel Bioshock 2, Halo Reach, Halo 4 and Mass Effect 3 (especially when played with the Extended Cut DLC).

Adjunctively Gears of War 2 and 3 moved me emotionally, but these moments occurred during the games rather than at their conclusions.

If a game has already proved itself capable of delivering unto the player an experience that is consistent with the kind of powerful storyline you would expect from a genuine blockbuster at the cinema, then an emotionally charged ending is no doubt an inevitability by the game’s end.

Of course, the stereotypical feature only runs for a period no less than two hours, where as the shortest stereotypical game one is likely to experience today will go for approximately three times that amount. So, if I am going to immerse myself into a fictitious world for that amount of time, then I would very much like for the ending to be as passionately powerful as the overall experience from start to finish was for me.

I can only speak for myself, but I very much enjoy being fully immersed into the world of a video game to such an extent that I will genuinely feel something; I will become sad if a protagonist who I had befriended and fought beside dies; I will smile if the vile antagonist who caused such pain and suffering is defeated by game’s end; I will feel contempt at the evocative nature of any relationship that I manage to instigate between my character and a possible paramour.

With that said, certain readers may find it interesting that I would rather be brought to tears by the ending of a specific title, rather than find an epic amount of explosions dazzling across the screen before the credits gradually start rolling. True, I don’t believe that people in general enjoy crying, but that rule does not apply in my opinion when you are viewing fictitious content. To be moved in any which way; to tears; to fits of hysterical laughter; to glances of awe, is not always possible with every title, no matter the content, and to become emotionally distraught by a tragic ending is not something to be horrified at, but something to be ecstatic with.

If a feature has moved the viewer in the way that the writers, director and developers originally intended, then they have successfully achieved that which they had set out to do. If I had not being moved to tears by the game’s ending then that would have being an issue for I would not be acquiring the experience that I had paid for. Game’s in general often cost three times the amount of a film, and to be moved by the conclusion is well worth the one hundred odd dollars that the campaign was valued at.

In conclusion, I would very much like for more game’s to have an emotionally charged ending after playing through the campaign, or, like the Mass Effect series, build up on that possible ending through a franchise. After all, if I am going to be fully immersed into the world of a video game, I would genuinely appreciate the ability to be moved by an ending that has being developed by people as passionate for the game as I am, rather than end on the stereotypical explosive scenario that many game’s to this day conclude upon.

To be moved to tears by a game’s ending is not something that people should look down upon; it simply means that the player is human. As a species, humans are more often than not affected emotionally when something tragic happens. All I ask is that this in-depth feeling of humanity is written into the game’s that I play.

Thank you for reading.

If you have any comments on what I have written, or opinions of your own in regards to the subject matter, please, feel free to discuss them in the comments section below.