Bioshock Infinite takes what we know about the established franchise and turns certain elements on their heads, giving us a game that's both fresh and familiar. The biggest change is Booker Dewitt, the protagonist who is already defined as opposed to the anonymous Jon we traversed with in the original. The other big change is Columbia, an anti-Rapture of sorts whose populous blends political and religious philosophies together. Fit in some solid shooting, a great NPC companion, and an overpowered, but awesome, vigor system (replacing plasmids) and you have a game that at least equals the original in quality.
Booker is tasked with rescuing the girl Elizabeth from Columbia to clear a debt. Once you have rescued the girl, things start going more and more down a rabbit hole. Not only does the game spin a tale about the good, bad and potential of an alternate America, as well as ours, but brings a surprising amount of emotional connection and existentialism.
Following the franchise's form, Bioshock's fights are brutal and shooting guns and vigors feels great and look fantastic. Switching between the two weapons as well as your vigors is quick and easy.
Ammunition can be quite a problem, especially if you stick with the same two weapons throughout the experience. Elizabeth does help you during fights, adding some tower-defense style elements by being able to open tears that summon certain types of ammo, turrets, etc. based on what's available in the area.
The game as a whole looks fantastic, despite some minor pop in and flat textures on the PS3. Sunrays shine brightly and the white buildings literally glow with the impressive bloom effects. The townsfolk are animated well and often provide some amusing dialogue as you pass by them.
Overall, the game is hard to describe, much like the original. There is a lot that can be left up to interpretation, especially if you stick through the credits. The game's twists are surprising, but I never felt myself getting lost. Irrational spins a meaningful tale that never feels stretched too far, even at the game's relatively lengthy 12-14 hour campaign.
Bioshock Infinite is an impressive feat, sticking with things that are familiar while adding fun elements, such as the skyline and the strategic tears. Columbia is a wonder to behold and Elizabeth is a great assist in combat and a great character. Shooting and story progression may be a bit linear, but with combat this solid and a story this good, it's easy to overlook. In many ways, the adventures in Columbia surpass those in Rapture and show us exactly why this is such a celebrated franchise.
Great story with great twists
Elizabeth is amazing
Combat is fun and frantic
Some texture issues, pop-in
Ammunition can be surprisingly scarce
Ending may be lost on some
Less emphasis on exploration than the original