Much as I enjoyed replaying Bioshock recently I do have one small admission which may make me stand a little to the side when it comes to the masses of Bioshock fans... I preferred the sequel just a little bit more.
There was a little more variety, and because I'd been there before getting into the swing of the gameplay was much easier, you couldn't rely on the one-two punch of Freezing an enemy and then unleashing the shotgun on the frozen body... protecting the little sister as she gathered Adam was much more challenging than fighting a Big Daddy and there were the fights against the Big Sister at regular intervals... but... if I were to choose one game to demonstrate all that's good about the current generation I'd pick the Original.
And now we have Bioshock Infinite... and we're not in the water anymore.
I'm expecting bright colours, more variety in locations and bigger more sprawling areas to explore as the level designers are being so constrained by the underwater setting... Rapture had, by its very location, to be a little dark and forbidding... but up in the clouds there is more scope for freedom of expression and imagination.
It's also the first game I've played for a while without a guide or walkthrough to nudge me along... and I'm looking forward to that, the second play will be the time for hunting down Achievements, searching or deliberately hunting down every document or collectable... purposely switching to a less favoured weapon to rack up a few kills as necessary... but the first run will be all about the game, the thrill of exploration and the nervous creeping around new areas when I've just been handed a new weapon, or vigour, or a whole bundle of healing items... we all know what that means.
There will be spoilers in what follows, but only for those who have delayed playing... if you're into Bioshock you'll have probably seen everything listed here already and much more... if you've not played it maybe this will be the nudge you need to start it up now rather than wait any longer... to mimic Buzz Lightyear, "to Infinite and Beyond!"
[color=yellow]March 26th:[/color] I get home and find my package waiting for me, I'm already fighting the urge to play... but I resist... dinner first, code for pre-order goodies located and eventually I spend an hour working slowly through the early level.
This acts as your training level nicely disguised as a country fair styIe event, booths are set up to allow you to try out a couple of weapons and get to grips with using Vigors in various situations, the first time you get your hands on a full Vigor is just before you have to use it to move on through the level... it doesn't feel like a training level... surely a good thing.
Its jaw droppingly stunning, bright, full of life and, as expected, a million miles away from the drab colours forced upon the two previous Bioshock games... the locations and outfits worn by other characters are full on 1912 styIe... a lot of effort has clearly gone into the game.
I avoid the easy mode in favour of normal, I turn on Subtitles and damage indicators, Borderlands has made it a joy to see numbers spewing forth from an enemy when they've been hit so this was a no brainer.
You can only carry two weapons at the start but this does make you think about which weapons you carry around with you, especially as early doors you have very little health and no shielding.
Plasmids have been replaced with "Vigors" which do the same thing, rather than Eve to power these you have a supply of "Salts" which are used up as you use your new powers, Possession (which allows you to control turrets and machines) uses up a hell of a lot of salt each time you use it, two blasts of possession and all your salts are gone.
The game progresses, the story unfolds as you hunt for "The Girl" only it was never going to be a smooth trip, you're branded the "False Shepherd" and its clear your arrival and intentions have been made known to the authorities... how else would the "Prophet" know of my aims or even my name in the very early stages of the game.
Movement between areas is tricky to get the hang of at first, having learnt to use the hook to climb there was an instance where I just hung there and got killed as there was no explanation of how you get down and I was looking for another hook to latch onto.
When you find Elizabeth the game opens up and calms down a little, everyone you see no longer wants to kill you, but her reaction when you first have to shoot someone in her presence is handled brilliantly.
By the end of the evening I've spent three hours wandering and exploring, collected a handful of Achievements but with it being my first time through (and there will be more, I've also shelled out 1600 points on the season pass for DLC) they aren't important now... I'll set a target of 650 points from the game which will take me close to 80,000 Gamerscore, not the biggest of totals but some of the Achievements listed online look brutal... I don't have a chance of collecting some of them, others will obviously take some work on a second run through or by replaying chapters.
[color=yellow]March 27th:[/color] Elizabeth starts to come into her own more as the story progresses, she knows that Booker is not a good, honest, reliable man but also knows that he is her only way off Columbia... and thus she helps out.
Thankfully when it comes to combat she isn't a burden, she doesn't have to be protected like so many other sidekicks who attract bullets like a magnet, she takes cover and will search nearby areas for Salts and Health packs to help you out.
This is crucial as the fights get more crowded and you find yourself up against greater and greater numbers... a handy assist with a Salts bottle can make all the difference if you use it right.
I've worked through the story a bit more, collected a few more weapons and discovered upgrades... they were always coming, Bioshock made a big thing about increasing the power and scope of your weapons and plasmid abilities so it was always going to happen in Infinite... it's also led to my now being cash strapped as I splurge on Vigor and Weapon upgrades whenever I can.
I resist the urge to buy ammo as there are always plenty of weapons left around to either restock your own ammo or to simply swap your weapon for, there are Achievements for killing a set number of people with a weapon type and I've yet to collect any of these as I'm switching weapons too often to concentrate on any one and I hope that your kill totals carry over into subsequent plays.
I had worried about getting myself lost when it came to using the skyways, lots of tracks leading to all different places but they've ensured you can't get lost with smart placement of carriages to limit your movements when needed.
In a hideous dilemma as I get home from work I find that my copy of Tiger Woods 2014 has also arrived (a day earlier than the scheduled release) and as I've bought the Historic Edition Upgrade for 1600 points that is getting mighty tempting... but it can wait... I want to see what happens next in Columbia.
[color=yellow]March 30th:[/color] A long session sees me approach the conclusion of the game and what you expect to be a boss battle against the huge bird which acts as Elizabeth's guardian.
Now this will be the only warning I give... HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Turns out this is not the case, the bird may well be her guardian but it's only acting out of her best interests, it will defend her to the end and thus far from being your foe, it's an ally that can be used to take out the bigger enemies in the final battle.
This is a bit of a let down... but it's not the worst thing that you'll see before the credits.
Whereas before as you approach a big battle you'll find lots of weapons and ammo vending machines scattered around this is not the case at the end, you've just come off a huge battle with a deranged and angry spirit and you'll be low on ammo already and there just aren't the opportunities around to change and stock up on bullets.
In the end you're defending a Zeppelin from the Vox Populi who you were originally helping, this is the twist in that once they get on top they do more to destroy the world of Columbia than anything else... to take down the ship they need to destroy the Power Core which is, conveniently for them, totally exposed on the top landing deck of the ship.
Gunships and raiders will attack it and you can direct the Bird to take down the gunships and bigger enemies, but if, like me, you have a dodgy weapon selection at the end, the last battle can be a struggle as I had an under powered weapon and a low ammo weapon to take out the foot soldiers who attack the ship.
You will die in this battle, a lot.
Once done it starts to get all Metal Gear and very talky... very, very talky.
With the Vox Populi out of the way the Bird comes for Elizabeth and she tears open time and space and suddenly you're somewhere else... Rapture.
The talking continues, when you leave via a Bathysphere you come to the Lighthouse where you started the game which is, you're told, one of millions in an Infinite number of potential worlds.
You're also told that the main premise of your mission was wrong, the phrase "Give us the girl and you're debt will be cleared" is a reference to another time and world where Booker gave up his baby daughter Anna to clear his debts... and hadn't left the room since such was his remorse.
Her the symbolism of the AD mark on the back of your hand which marks you as the "False Prophet" earlier... Anna DeWitt.
It gets worse, Elizabeth has a missing link on one of her fingers, and you see how this came to be... she's the baby girl you gave away years before and this missing piece was cut off as the Prophet took her away through a tear in space and time... so Elizabeth is your daughter.
And they've not finished there... turns out that Booker is also the Prophet, so the grey haired old man whose head you bash in later in the game, is yourself just in a different version of the world... very confusing and very annoying.
This whole ending was more annoying to me than Mass Effect 3, it put a downer on the experience and sort of put me off a second play straight away... I'm certainly regretting picking up the season pass before I finished the game, so I put the game away and start something else till I feel the urge to replay it... and I will replay the game, just not now.
The atmosphere the game creates is brilliant, the hospital level as you search for Elizabeth who has been taken from you, is almost as creepy as the asylum level in Thief 3, you desperately want to find her as you keep finding Voxophones which make out she's been away from you for years, all of these apparently having been "misplaced" through time and space, and you're given a clue as to what to do by a much older version of Elizabeth herself.
When you do free her you can't help but feel relief... she a genuinely great sidekick character and the game is much better for her presence and mannerisms, without her the game would be a simple First Person Shooter... it's just a shame that the ending ruined the game somewhat for me.
At the end of it I'd collected a round 500 Gamerscore which is less than my 650 target but I'll be able to collect the rest on a second run through... had the ending been better this would be a certain candidate for my Game of the Year... but right now it's not there... we'll have to see what the DLC adds later in the year.