Bioshock Infinite is a First Person Shooter set in the floating city of Columbia. In stark contrast to the previous game’s Rapture city, Columbia is all about blind faith and unity instead of cynicism and individuality. We are sent to Columbia in order to capture a girl who goes by the name of Elizabeth and return her to New York in order to pay off your gambling debts. Upon entering the city we walk in to a rather jolly festival with games, prizes and free magical powers for some reason. Everything seems just dandy until a mysterious symbol appears on your hand, you are spotted then all hell breaks loose. At first you only have a pistol to defend yourself with though it is more than enough to deal with the early enemies as one headshot is all it takes to put them down. In a rather weird design decision you are given some of the game’s most powerful powers at the start of the game effectively making you an unstoppable killing machine. Like its predecessors you will still have an energy bar to make sure you don’t rely on it too heavily.
The only way to recharge your energy bar is by consuming salty foods or salty beverages. Why it runs off of salt or why you don’t just carry a few packets in your pocket remains a complete mystery. Truth be told the powers themselves feel forced into Infinite since they have become a series staple even if it feels really out of place here. Ultimately these powers are a good thing as they lend much more variety to the combat which there will be a lot of. While the other two Bioshocks focused on subtle horror and enemies were meant to feel threatening Infinite goes the full action route and will have you facing hordes upon hordes of goons. It’s a change of pace that really harms the experience as Bioshock has never been known for having good combat and very few of the enemies are memorable while fewer still are enjoyable to fight. Some of the special enemies we have is a bullet spongy teleporting bloke and a rocketeer that doesn’t reload, can see through walls and will shoot a rocket into your face even if you are right in front of him whilst taking no damage.
One of the worst enemies is a giant cyborg who forces you to use Infinite’s new skylines feature which allows you to hook onto a rail and either ride it or jump to higher grounds. It’s a cool feature but will mostly be used for getting to higher ground as riding on one will make you into a human piñata as the enemies are good shots. The problem with the giant is that he is simply too agile for the extremely slow movement speed of this game and for some strange reason our character can only leap an incredible amount off the ground only when you are looking at a crane to hang on to. We also suffer from fall damage unless we jump off a skyline as if adding more velocity to the landing makes it safer. Very petty things to critic a video game about no doubt but these odd contradictions are put in the spotlight when facing the giants and becoming aware of how awesome it would be if you could use your mysterious jumping skills to fight these raging beasts midair instead of waddling around like a new born lamb. In a game where you can shoot crows out of your wrists and has gone to the full action route it wouldn’t be that out of place or it could be made into a power that uses your energy bar to keep it balanced.
We still have a health bar that can be refilled with random food or health kits but in addition we know also have a shield bar that recharges itself after not taking damage for some time. It sounds like that may make the game too easy though it is so weak that you can’t play this like a cover based shooter. Searching your environments you can find tonics that will allow you to either upgrade your health, shield or energy bars. For some reason we now have a two weapon limit which is a subjectively bad change from its predecessors since you will likely be relying on the same two proven and upgraded guns while ignoring any new ones that may show up. That ends up making the combat even more boring due to not wanting to experiment with your load-out in case there is a vicious trap right around the corner. You can’t carry much ammo but this is never really a problem as your sidekick Elizabeth gives you supplies whenever you need it most and she never seems to run out of stuff which confirms the theory that a woman’s purse is a door to another dimension and is why they can fit a near infinite number of objects in there.
She won’t actively help in fights but she can open small pockets to other dimensions in set places that allows her to spawn friendly turrets, supplies or a vantage point to climb up to. With her around you never have to worry about ammo since she will toss some your way whenever you are running low making sections when she is not around very noticeable. One of the things that really irks me is that there is no manual saving and you will have to wait until you reach one of the sparsely spaced auto-save points. As long as you don’t leave the game or it doesn’t crash there is no fear of losing any progress since Elizabeth will not allow you to die and will bring you back to life no matter what happens and how many times she does so. It does remove any tension from Infinite and respawning was in the previous Bioshocks though you cannot disable it here. Elizabeth will be pretty much the only friendly face you’ll be seeing and is a rather interesting character who is not afraid to immediately beat you with a book for breaking a hole in her ceiling. Our character is fully voiced as well and named Booker but while being important to the story he never has anything interesting to say.
Environments themselves are both beautiful and occasionally open ended allowing plenty of exploration. The surreal look of a city floating in the skies never gets old and the steam-punk theme of the game really suits it. Searching your surroundings will net you all kind of goodies like money, food or voxophones that will fill you in to the back-story of characters or environments. A very neat idea was with the cryptic codes written in blood that require you to find a book to decipher it with and then follow its clue to find a stash of treasure. This only happens twice in the game but it was a really neat feature that I would have loved to see more of. Money is a really important factor that will allow you to buy ammo and supplies as well as upgrading both your weapons and powers. One very powerful thing that you can’t buy is “Equipment” that you can wear on four parts of your body for really nice bounces such as being able to reload 30% faster or creating a friendly ghosts when you kill an enemy with a trap. All of your powers can be placed around the environment like landmines to surprise your enemies leading to some potentially interesting fights if you are undetected and allowed the time to rig the battlefield beforehand.
The story of Infinite starts off interesting and starts losing steam from then on. Near the end of the game it really goes downhill as it has you fighting ghosts and finding rifts in a really long winded filler section. While Bioshock’s trademark melee weapon was a wrench, in Infinite it is a Riddick style spinning blade which also lets you latch onto the skylines. They are nowhere near as deadly as you’d imagine and are effectively a much cooler looking wrench though you can use it at the press of a button instead of having to equip it which can mean life or death when in close range. It does have the best combat in the series but even so it is not particularly good, making it a real shame they went for the heavy action route. I would suggest not buying this game just because you really liked the last few games as Infinite is quite a departure from the desolate and creepy city of Rapture. The city of Columbia doesn’t compare to the lore, enemies and atmosphere of Rapture. With that in mind it is still a very decent game that unfortunately bears the name of Bioshock with the only similarities between them being the out of place powers. Regardless, if you are looking for a mixture of both FPS and RPG Bioshock Infinite is definitely a title you should give a shot.