Good. At last, a point regarding Shooty-Bang-Bang video games that also include some spell-casting has been clarified, in this fun Shooty-Bang-Bang game that has magic casting. It's about the atmosphere, which itself is about the art and sound design. Bioshock Infinite does those things remarkably well.
It also adds a bit of plot, some historical edginess, a bit of pseudo-sciencey-metaphysical stuff with some Freud-level psycho-babble, and manages to construct a thoroughly fun few hours of escapism. Which is exactly as it should be.
Like the previously claustrophobic games in the series, Infinite
drives you through its occasionally worthy plot with a set of comfortingly violent set-pieces. Unlike the previous titles, however, Bioshock
is set in the open air of a magic, floaty city much like that of ace-satirist Jonathan Swift's Laputa
This means something new: what has been added to the Bioshock
mix here is a sort of elongated jumping, sliding, 'Spider-Man-y' element of gameplay. Personally, I hated it. I can, however, see why other people, bored with exploring tunnels, might love the ability to leap from rail to point and then descend like some deathly lump into the face of a foe, ripping that foe's body into shreds with the slidey hook attachment.
It is a perfectly lovely and very workable gameplay mechanic that is well-realised and serves the purpose of adding zing, making me want to vomit, and showing off the city. Which, in terms of the current level of gaming graphics, is a pretty impressive burg to view.
All of this is pleasing. Hugely so because having been reviewing games since the late 1980s, for me the first-person shooter is the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, drunken, crack-addicted gutter-begging attention seeker of gaming.
Not so much here. There is an astonishing amount of talent over at Irrational Games – talent which is visible in the set design and audible in the fabulous soundtrack (not so much, for me, in the tedious booming-voiced and seemingly constant needy antagonists). It's a pity, for me, that this talent has to be sacrificed at the altar of the mainstream industry's nervousness. I hope it makes loads of cash though, so that the talent and creativity that truly shine through in all the Bioshock
games can be freed of the shackles of the shooter.
But enough of hopes and dreams... what about the now?
I really enjoyed Bioshock
and Bioshock 2
. Both of the Irrational titles that preceded Bioshock Infinite
came with lovely, rigour-free pairs of set-ups and twists. They made the Shooty-Shooty-Bang-Bang (and magic casting) stuff seem, well, interesting. And boy-oh-girl, did they look and sound good! Yes they did. But not simply in a pretty way. They summoned up atmosphere. They made me feel uncomfortable. They made me believe that all my violence was being carried out in a genuinely 'period' pair of environments.
Yes, forget all the “ideas” for a moment, Bioshock's
lovingly realised graphics and sounds (including music) bathed me in their artisanship and well executed craftpersonmanwomanship. They made me realise that it is exactly those elements that raise Bioshock
, Bioshock 2
and now Bioshock Infinite
above the drunken crack addicts of other FPS games.
I love a party with an atmosphere. And what is a game but a party for the senses? Relax, Bioshock Infinite
has atmosphere in spades. There were moments, even playing it with the curtains drawn and in the piss-tepid excuse for sunlight that passes for an English Spring day, that I found myself dreading the next corner.
But Bioshock Infinite
has more than just good looks, neatly created and crackly sounds, and doomy, “bad parent” threatening expositional voices (which I find dull as ditch water but some people like).
Like its forebears it uses a plot that, in a similar vein as The Road
or TV's immortal Quantum Leap
, drives the viewer/player along from one scene to the next, hoping against hope that the ending will offer slightly more than: “All along, it was we, the humans who were the savages!”
Like its two parents, Bioshock Infinite
uses a set of repeating philosophical questions:
“Why are parental figures so mean to me? I hope I am not mean like that when I am a parent... surely I won't be mean like Bioshock's
Andrew Ryan, or mean like Bioshock II's
Sofia Lamb, or mean like Bioshock Infinite's
Zachary Hale Comstock? But what if I am!????”
These questions speak to all of us who were born of human egg and human sperm. The ability to de-stress by shooting things and casting spells (well, plasmids... or in this case, “Vigors”) at virtualised meat and machine bags is also bloody good fun.
In short, Bioshock Infinite
does exactly what a Shooty-Shooty-Bang-Magic based videogame should do: it
entertains. Its plot helps this all along with great dollops of beautifully luscious hocum.
Of course, there is a female character too. Fine and dandy you, as the person with the controller in hand, are in control of a male main character (please refer to my previous mention of risk-aversion). He is a very manly male too. I reckon he'd have a throbbing, big motor bike and enjoy the sports on TV.