Tea: Rooibos Ginger
Does anyone still remember Bioshock Infinite? Everyone should know the first instalment of the series, namely Bioshock, by now. The utopia built underwater with a bit of a substance abuse problem and the game most used for obnoxious and pretentious “Top 10 Twists in Video Games”. Bioshock Infinite made a big splash of its own with reviewers left and right praising the storytelling and characterization. Thankfully, this is exactly my domain and I am here to show all hollow reviewers how utterly wrong they are while at the same time magically boasting my ego. While it has been out for quite some time, the game still enjoys and air of praise hovering around it, but a stagnant odor stems from the disc when inserted into your console. Let’s take to the skies and explore Columbia.
Bioshock Infinite is set in the utopia for white people called Columbia which is floating around in the sky, because after having success with the underwater utopia you have to mix things up a bit, I suppose. You play Booker DeWitt a man with seemingly massive gambling debts as he is forced to go to Columbia to find a girl named Elizabeth and kidnap her to wipe away his debt (a phrase you will get tired of hearing for sure). All does not go as planned of course and Booker discovers that the citizens of Columbia are equal parts racist and religiously fanatic. At the top of it all stand the white bearded Father Comstock. After finding Elizabeth the two must escape Columbia while constantly running into more trouble and a lot of shot-outs. The story is serviceable, but in no way groundbreaking. It tries way too hard to be another Bioshock at some points while forgetting what made that game memorable and outstanding was its own tone and this keeps Infinite from developing its own. Of course, there is a twist to the story and this is often taken as an example of a “really big mind fuck”. Problem is, it doesn’t make any sense.
– Heavy-Handed Racial Commentary – The Video Game –
Spoiler Alert for the five of you who may not have played the game or miraculously avoided any spoilers so far. 3, 2, 1 Go!
The multiple universe theory of the game makes the resolution of the central conflict impossible. Correct me if I am wrong, but when Booker decides that the only way to prevent all of this to happen is to stop himself from ever turning into Father Comstock, he decides to drown himself during his baptism and “rebirth” (or rather is drowned be the multiple versions of Elizabeth). This poses two problems, since an infinite universe theory leaves every possibility open, meaning the baptism is meaningless for his change to Comstock. Booker might become Comstock in another reality without a baptism or simple already be the person Comstock embodies. With infinite possibilities you cannot rule one out. The next problem is Elizabeth drowning him, since this is impossible. Elizabeth is his daughter and if she kills her father she can never drown him in the first place – Paradox. The game tries to cover this huge plot hole with a vague explanation of constants always existing in every alternate world, such as a lighthouse etc. But even if we assume that the drowning of Booker would somehow create a constant so that no other Comstock could ever be created it still leaves us with the problem of Elizabeth being the drowning force so to speak, since the now constant absence of Booker would imply her never existing in the first place. Basically the game tries to be a lot smarter than it is and assumes players will simply eat up the hastily thrown in explanations.
– The only unique feature of Infinite is also its biggest flaw –
The “great characterization” is also a bit laughable mainly because of Elizabeth. She spends her entire life locked up in a tower and is constantly subjected to experiments, yet she trusts the first person she sees shortly after being introduced to him and later on goes among complete strangers to dance around and be happy. A person that his lived their life thus far as Elizabeth would, in my book, be extremely cautious and doubtful of any person she meets and not an outgoing girl at all. Booker fails to show real signs of character as most of his comments boil down to snarky remarks of current/past events. An exchangeable video game protagonist basically.
So far for the story doesn’t make a lot of sense as a whole. Now to some gameplay criticism: My biggest gripe with the gameplay is usually people’s praise: Elizabeth. She is praised as a great addition and not another annoying escort mission since enemies seem to be generally unaware of her. She still acts like she is hiding all the time, but more than once she walked through open fire and didn’t even flinch, what a tough lady. The enemies’ lack of interest is baffling from a story sense since they should be far more concerned in securing her and returning her to the tower than killing Booker. And what is the point of an escort character that has no effect on gameplay? I can understand that people find escort missions tedious, but the way around this cannot be to simply remove her completely and basically only have her running around as cosmetics. If Bioshock Infinite would be as innovative as it / people claimed it to be, there would be a new, creative, and not at all tedious way to handle escort mission while having the character still matter in active combat aside from chucking spare cash in Booker’s face.
– Perfectly capturing Elizabeth: Standing around doing nothing and being of no relevance to gameplay whatsoever –
The next gripe has both story and gameplay factor: the existence of vigors. Vigors are Infinite’s plasmids and while it is explained where they came from, it makes no sense that they are in Columbia. Bioshock’s plasmids made sense in the world of Rapture not only because it was in the middle of a civil war, but certain plasmids were used beforehand such as incineration to light a fire etc. Vigors on the other hand, seem to be there only for show and of course to have them in the game. Certain enemies use vigors but there is nothing said about why they use it in the first place. Which all culminates into a larger point of criticism: Why is Infinite a first person shooter? I have asked myself that back when I bought the game. The story gains little through this and it is not even used to great effect. Shooting wave after wave of radical fascists may sound endearing at first but gets stale really fast. But I see no reason why it did have to be set in first person, since the perspective is never used in any creative way. A third person shooter might have worked just as fine or not a shooter at all and more of a stealth based game with an ally that can be spotted and the gun is and can only be used in absolute emergencies.
– Every city is in need of people randomly flinging swarms of crows out of their wrists –
I also have to give out a price for the worst boss design in a while. This goes to a ghost boss later on in the game that infinitely revives fallen enemies, has a lot of health, teleports all over the place, and is fought multiple times. Since weapons are scarce and Booker can only hold two at a time there is the theoretical possibility of running out of ammo in the fight with no other option than melee attacks which are next to useless. And while we are at it, two weapons at a time might have been a great idea to encourage player to switch between different weapons and therefore styles of fighting, but bringing upgrades into the mix ruins the entire concept. Upgrading a weapon seems pointless since I cannot be sure when I will find more ammunition for the weapon or the same weapon of that type again. But back to the ghost: Since dying costs you a small amount of money, which Elizabeth presumably takes for reviving your sorry ass, you can also run out of money. This fight simply cements Infinite’s bad decisions in game design and ruins any chance it has for being labeled an “intelligent game”.
– And thw winner for worst boss design is: Bioshock Infinite! Round of applause! –
While my first run through Infinite was marked by curiosity, the more I started to think about the entire affair the more it all fell apart. It is a beautiful stage play and if you do not look behind the curtain it can stay that way, but be aware that the play thinks you are a lot more foolish than you probably are. It is all façade and no interior. If you want to experience a game about a utopian society that crumbles under the weight of its own ideology, the first Bioshock is still one of the best titles for that and in that game the twist actually makes sense, because it is well built-up and doesn’t try to be a lot smarter than it actually is. But perhaps in an alternate dimension Infinite is actually good and fun to play and I am a writing octopus living in a giant tire.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- https://media.playstation.com/is/image/SCEA/ps3-game-6502-ss62?$MediaCarousel_Original$ (Last date of access: 03.06.2016)
- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/IVX880qI784/maxresdefault.jpg (Last date of access: 03.06.2016)
- http://b-i.forbesimg.com/erikkain/files/2013/04/2013-03-30_00020.jpg (Last date of access: 03.06.2016)
- http://imgur.com/6OGBxrO (Last date of access: 03.06.2016)
- http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/bioshock/images/c/ce/2351095-ss_04681ab14f888b0688e8ef7b2afa84cd4d8488f9.1920×1080.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130509155149&path-prefix=de (Last date of access: 03.06.2016)