Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, has his head on the clouds. I really mean it. Things all start off quietly enough for him, with two people escorting him to a large lighthouse in the middle of the sea. However, soon after arriving at the lighthouse he finds himself being rocketed to a city in the sky, known as Columbia. The reason he is heading there is that he's been hired by mysterious individuals to infiltrate the air-city and rescue a young woman named Elizabeth. Getting her back to New York will free him of old debts, but then things are never that simple, not in the world of Bioshock Infinite.
Booker's main task when first landing in the city of Columbia is to find Elizabeth, it's his sole aim and nothing is meant to get in the way of this, however as soon as you lay eyes on this city built on the clouds it's hard not to be distracted. It's an incredible place, filled with townsfolk, propaganda and more personality than most current gen games put together. So much care has been put into the attention to detail that it is hard not to be impressed. In this respect, it is wandering around the city of Columbia that will give you the first taste of what is to come, as you explore the carnival, play various games and are rewarded with silver. However there is one prize in particular that will help you more than most...Vigor.
Vigor is a potion that Booker drinks which in turn grants special powers. It comes in various forms, allowing him to turn machines in his favor, fling firebombs, electrocute enemies or even wash them all away. Vigor is activated using the L1 button on the PS3; L2 will switch between the two that are active, while holding L2 allows you access to all of them. These powers are essential to getting you through the game, helping you to weaken multiple adversaries to the point where you can then finish them off with any of the game's huge arsenal of weaponry.
Helping to mix things up even more, you are soon introduced to the Skyhook. Given that Columbia is essentially a city in the clouds, then there has to be some way of getting between platforms when you have missed the last air balloon, therefore soon after claiming his first victim Booker manages to get hold of a Skyhook. Essentially this is a magnetic tool which allows him to attach to the rails connecting each of the city's platforms, allowing him to travel at speed and if necessary, jump between rails without falling to his death. One of the bonuses about the skyhook is that because you are up high in the air you are able to launch onto any enemy below, taking them out with one swift hit. In fact the Skyhook makes a pretty special melee weapon itself, taking out anyone who gets too close to you in the most bloody and brutal way imaginable.
Using the tools mentioned above Booker eventually fights his way to Elizabeth and in all honesty this is when the game really begins. When first meeting Elizabeth you realize that she seems to be a scared young lady. She doesn't really understand why she has been captured, or why Booker has suddenly appeared to rescue her. Even once they become aquatinted Elizabeth is still a little guarded as far as Booker is concerned, however as the game goes on she opens up to him, becoming more open and more willing to help, which is quite handy considering the unique powers you soon discover she is hiding.
Unlike most AI characters, Elizabeth is actually pretty handy to have around. Not only will she throw money at you, but during combat she'll keep you topped up with health, salt (which is required for vigor) and ammo. Perhaps her greatest use though is her ability to open portals. Using this power Elizabeth can open up turrets, provide cover for you to hide behind or even open up skyhook points for you to latch on to, giving you an advantage over the enemy. There are occasions throughout the game when Booker and Elizabeth are separated and it's quite telling that these moments just don't feel the same. Protecting Elizabeth and having her help really makes Bioshock Infinite stand out. Not just because of her abilities but also because of the emotional attachment that you will form with her throughout the game.
As with any great game, Elizabeth and Booker are not alone in their quest for freedom. As you would expect, wherever the good guys go, the bad guys follow. The villain of this piece are particularly nasty, first up there's 'The Prophet', he's the perfect villain, constantly hounding you and always reminding you of his presence through propaganda and his evil views, although there is a even greater threat, 'The Songbird'. Every time you think you are getting somewhere, up pops this flying metal beast to stop you in your tracks. The Songbird is certainly a formidable looking foe and is also involved in a twist or two as the plot unfolds.
Of course the two enemies mentioned above are not the main presence as far as enemies go. Mainly you'll be facing up against cops and other rank and file bad guys as you try to make your way through each area in order to reach your goal. Most of these enemies are easily taken down, although it's their sheer numbers which may stop you in your tracks. Occasionally you'll come up against some tougher enemies, such as the motorized patriots or Bioshock Infinite's 'Big Daddy' who is known as the Handyman. Taking these enemies down is a lot tougher, but no-one said getting through the game was going to be easy anyway.
Away from the combat, you'll find that there are plenty of collectables for you to find should you wish to explore a little. Doing so will allow you to collect items such as Gear, which you can wear and in turn gain additional abilities. Other collectables include Voxphones, which will help build the background to the story, while you will also come across vending machines, allowing you to rebuild health and upgrade both weapons and Vigors. As with previous games you can also loot bodies and boxes in the wake of battle, allowing you to build up your strength for the next fight. There are certainly plenty of options to explore within Infinite, it just depends if you want to spend the time doing so.
Having completed the game in around 12 hours, I have to say that I did feel Bioshock Infinite dragged on a little. It seems to fall in to that old trap of sending you on collect missions in order to pad the story out a little. Thankfully the lulls in the story never seem to last long though, with the game always finding something to surprise you around the next corner. Could it have been a little shorter and still an amazing game? Yes of course, however don't let this put you off as it's a minor blip in what is otherwise an outstanding experience.
I've not played the PC version of Bioshock Infinite as of yet, but even still, you can certainly see the signs of age on the console versions. There is no doubt that it looks absolutely fantastic, however some of the textures and the occasional pause in the action tells me that the PS3 is struggling a little to keep up. This doesn't take away from the experience too much, however when the game does struggle it pulls you out of the immersion of it all ever so slightly.
It has to be said that thanks to the brilliant storytelling, the outstanding performance of the cast and the simply wonderful design, Bioshock Infinite is a must play title. It may not be perfect, however every second you spend in clouds of Columbia will be time well spent.
(Version Tested: PS3)
- Wonderful storytelling
- Fantastic fast paced action
- Great acting, provides emotional attachment
- Looks fantastic
- Story feels a little padded out in the middle
- Console version occasionally struggles to keep up