By Jacob Holley-Kline and George Hyde, Staff Writer and Volunteer
After six long years of rumors and mounting excitement, “BioShock: Infinite” is everything gamers have hoped for and much more.
At the very least, “Infinite” is one of the defining games of the seventh generation, along with “Mass Effect 2” and “Portal.”
Players take control of former private investigator Booker DeWitt. DeWitt is sent to the floating city of Columbia to accomplish one task, “Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.”
Columbia is a fully realized utopia that revels in American exceptionalism. It is a mythologized America, but it is still wholly recognizable. It is lead by the self-proclaimed prophet, and primary antagonist, Zachary Comstock.
Surrounding Comstock is a Christ-like mythology that, coupled with his pastoral diction, makes for a compelling monster that holds historical precedence.
In this city, America is religion. Citizens worship George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. This blind patriotism leads to an ugly drive for racial purity that undercuts the otherwise Eden-like Columbia and serves as a backdrop for important plot points.
The narrative is impeccably crafted, incredibly nuanced and contains surprises at every turn. Even fans of the original “BioShock,” who are used to the twists and tropes seen in this genre, will still be stunned and shocked by the end. “BioShock: Infinite” deserves a place with other achievements such as “Mass Effect” and “Half-Life.”
Following this narrative is an incredible soundtrack. While tracks like the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and Cindi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” sound uncanny in the setting, the renditions only serve to reinforce the game’s narrative later, never hindering the experience. A pulsing score that raises the already ingenious firefights to new levels accompanies every encounter.
Some of the most moving moments are underscored with a song. The Christian hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” plays an integral part in the game’s emotion and narrative. In a given chapter, players can be mowing down droves of enemies at one moment and listening to a Billie Holiday recording in the next. It’s this sequence of violence punctuated by utter beauty that makes each moment resonate so deeply.
“Infinite’s” stunning creativity is at once subtle and lucid. The most illuminating details would fall by the wayside if it weren’t for the interactivity gaming offers.
The action sequences are acrobatic and exhilarating, but they wouldn’t be as memorable as they are without the silent moments in between. One facet of the environment is the presence of “Sky-Lines.” Sky-Lines are metal airborne rails that Booker can latch onto with his “Sky-Hook,” an item that also functions as a brutally efficient melee weapon.
With you on this raucous journey is the game’s emotional core, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth quickly earns the player’s respect and affection. Her character avoids a lot of the elements that come with the standard “damsel in distress” cliche. She is an important factor both to the story and to the gameplay. Her artificial intelligence is evocative of Alyx Vance in “Half-Life 2: Episode One,” and it’s sometimes hard to tell there’s not another player cooperating with you the entire time.
Elizabeth takes care of herself in firefights. Oftentimes, she helps you more than you help her. She has the power to open up what are called “tears” in the world. These tears are doors to alternate universes that, in certain situations, have helpful items and non-player characters behind them. Their role in the game increases as you progress.
Many important details come in the form of scattered audio and video recordings, paintings, posters and statues. To miss these aspects is to miss not only some of the most interesting aspects of the story, but also what makes gaming such a worthwhile investment.
All of these elements come together to form a masterpiece of game design and narrative. The only real flaw of this title is the fact that it ends after a mere 13-15 hours, but the game is highly replayable.
It is not a game to be rushed through. Take your time and get lost in the world, and don’t pass up the opportunity to focus on the smaller details. “Infinite” is a perfect experience that should not be missed by any gamer.
Game: “BioShock: Infinite”
Release Date: March 22, 2013
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Platform: 360, PS3, PC