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Review

BioShock Infinite Review

  • Game release: March 25, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • X360
  • PC

Columbia the beautiful

What drives a man of God to wash away the sins of his past, only to blacken his heart with a multitude more? How far can a freedom fighter be pushed before virtue and righteousness are replaced by a lust for vengeance? What does a privileged society do when the foundation of its prosperity is shaken? BioShock Infinite dares to explore these heady themes and many more, giving you glimpses at just how the seemingly smallest of decisions can forever alter our realities, and our hearts. As an agent provocateur in the fantastical floating city of Columbia, your actions bring turmoil and strife to an ostensibly idyllic landscape. It's immensely fun to stir up trouble, and even more engaging to see how boldly BioShock Infinite portrays a society torn asunder. You'll be haunted by this thematically devastating adventure, and indeed, its phenomenal final minutes, which are bound to be discussed and dissected for some time to come.

It starts with a lighthouse. As former private investigator Booker DeWitt, you enter this lighthouse knowing that you have been hired to retrieve "the girl"--but who this girl is, and who hired Booker, remain a mystery, if not to Booker, than at least to you. At the top of that lighthouse is a chair, and once strapped into it, Booker is fired into the stratosphere, toward the city in the sky called Columbia. And what a fitting name for this hyper-American domain of 1912, which incorporates the classical architecture of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The red, white, and blue Columbian flag flies from spires across the city, and statuaries and bas-relief panels immediately evoke the sense of old America.

The buildings of that 1893 exposition were part of an area known as The White City, and here, too, Columbia lives up to the name of its inspiration--not just in the whiteness of its buildings, but in the whiteness of its racial structure. At a key early moment, you confront the festering illness corrupting this porcelain-white culture, where anyone whose skin is not the ideal color is ostracized and enslaved. You also confront one of BioShock Infinite's many core mysteries: What is the nature of the brand on Booker's hand? In Columbia, the brand is a mark of the false shepherd, this culture's version of the Christian Antichrist and the 666 that marks him. Identified as a prophesied fiend, Booker has no choice but to run.

Columbia is a tremendous place to be, the all-American dream-turned-nightmare crossed with steampunk sensibilities. Nationalist propaganda is mixed with airships and mechanical combatants, and the moving picture machines you occasionally use elaborate on the history of Columbia, which seceded from an America that just wasn't American enough. The leader of this city is Father Comstock, a self-proclaimed prophet and religious zealot whose likeness and influence pervade the game. What Andrew Ryan was to Rapture, Comstock is to Columbia; he is a frightfully well-meaning man who believes so strongly in his own damaged philosophies that you can only fear him. His worshipers are just as fearsome in their blind willingness to follow their leader, even when the costs are high. In BioShock Infinite, religious and political fervor intertwine, much as they do in real life, and these similarities could fill you with dread and unease.

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.

You eventually find "the girl." She is the supernaturally talented Elizabeth, locked in a floating tower and protected by a monstrous clockwork creature called Songbird. Your first confrontation with Songbird is one of many eye-opening scenes, and Elizabeth's relationship with her protector is a complicated one. So is her relationship with Booker, for that matter, though he is key to Elizabeth's escape from her solitary life, and to the city of her dreams: Paris.

And so the two go on the run, alternately exploring Columbia's private nooks and allying with a resistance force called the Vox Populi, not out of politics, but out of necessity. Columbia isn't as hushed and mysterious as Rapture, but exploring it is no less tense. You are a witness to (and a participant in) an imploding social order, and as the story darkens, so too do the places you investigate. Sunny blue skies and perfect manmade beaches give way to burning streets and ghostly memorials. When the narrative has you questioning the nature of reality, the surreality of the environments reflects your confusion. So, too, does the soundscape metamorphose. The concordant harmonies of a hymn of praise take a sour and ominous turn as the more disturbing qualities of Columbia's unerring faith emerge.

Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean.

Your confusion is appeased by audio recordings you discover called voxophones, which serve as personal diaries to past events. There are clues here to the nature of Elizabeth's gift: her ability to open tears in spacetime and peer into…the future? The past? Other dimensions? Voxophones also elaborate on Columbia's most important citizens, such as Comstock's troubled, martyred wife, whose story illuminates the desperate lengths to which her husband stooped to ensure that his message might be heard in perpetuum. They even provide a few touches of humor, as do other atmospheric audio audio details; alternate versions of well-known tunes could have you grinning once you pick your jaw up off the floor.

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter, but you aren't armed just with machine guns, pistols, shotguns, and the like; you also have vigors. Vigors, like the original BioShock's plasmids, are seemingly magical powers that you can fling at your enemies. Thus, you can weaken your enemies by zapping them with a bolt of electricity or by charging into them at impossible speed. Try distracting them with a murder of crows before gunning them down with your carbine, or flinging them over the edge of a walkway with a shock wave and watching them plummet to their deaths. You may even combine these powers, perhaps setting a foe on fire and then charging into him for an explosive finish.

While many of your foes are of the gun-wielding human variety, the most notable of them have thematic ties to the world they inhabit. Plodding George Washington automatons threaten you with their chainguns, and the best way to bring them down is to aim at the gears that protrude from their backs. The way Columbian flags are draped behind these grotesqueries makes them look like dead-eyed angels of death, a perfect metaphor for the city's faith-driven nationalism. Surprisingly agile mechanical heavies may not be such obvious metaphors, but are more subtle reminders of the the men bound by these skeletons of metal and the factory owner unmoved by his slaves' pleas for a better life. You often face these enemies in outdoor arenas that have you on the move in ways the first two BioShock games never required.

While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.

Such battlegrounds are given life by the Skyline railway system that winds through and around them. With the press of a button, you can latch onto a rail with an implement that functions as both a melee weapon and a Skyline hook. Enemies come at you from above and below, and sometimes even from airships that float into range, forcing you to grind the rails to get to higher ground, make a quick escape, or close the distance between you and a pesky sniper. You can leap from a rail and onto one of Comstock's faithful, skewering him before leaping back onto the Skyline and landing on the deck of an airship crowded with soldiers. It's rewarding to fling fire and blast enemies with shotguns as you zip about the hovering platforms, as if you are a vicious circus acrobat performing a murderous trapeze act.

Elizabeth is usually at your side throughout such acrobatics, staying out of combat proper while offering you support. She occasionally tosses a health pack your way, or some salts, which power your vigors in the way EVE powered BioShock's plasmids. As far as AI companions go, she's a fine one, rarely getting in the way, running ahead to indicate the proper direction, and unlocking doors and safes with the lockpicks you find scattered about. Things can still go a bit awry: Elizabeth might not make it into an elevator with you, for instance, leaving you to have a scripted, one-sided conversation. But such discrepancies are rare, and little touches, such as how Elizabeth exhibits curiosity in the world around her, tend to overshadow them.

Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Elizabeth has one other important role to play: by accessing tears in spacetime, she can pull helpful objects into the battlefield, such as hovering security turrets, boxes of health packs, ledges with hooks to leap onto, and so forth. Such objects appear in the environment as if covered with television static, and you bring them into being by holding a button. This system is a contrived handling of one of the game's important narrative conceits, an intriguing element awkwardly translated into gameplay. Yet these tears also give battles an extra sense of unpredictability, or provide important defensive elements when you most need them. That isn't to say that BioShock Infinite is punishing: when you die, Elizabeth revives you, remaining enemies gain a little health back, and you lose a little coin from your pocket.

The combat does exhibit a wonderful sense of growth, however. You find various clothing items that grant you additional passive buffs, such as turning enemies you leap on into human torches. You spend the coins you pilfer from corpses and cash registers on vigor and weapon upgrades, though you ultimately must pick and choose the direction you prefer, since you can't afford every possibility. Should you run out of ammo and use a weapon you haven't upgraded, the difference is notable: suddenly you're facing a challenge you may not have expected. The final combat sequence gets frustrating should you be pushed into using weaker weaponry; it's the only battle in which BioShock Infinite's stellar gameplay doesn't come together. Fortunately, the astounding narrative payoff is more than a proper reward for triumphing over this visually remarkable assault.

Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou.

BioShock Infinite's combat is more freewheeling and fun than in the other games in the series, but its world is no less intriguing to explore. Secret codes yearn to be broken, and exquisitely crafted gardens and museums cry out for greater scrutiny. This is a game just as much about "place" as it is about "play," and audiovisual touches invoke nostalgia for the original BioShock in effective ways. There's that telltale mechanical tinkling of the vending machines that sell ammo and upgrades. There's the lure of loot, inspiring you to plunder every trash can and every lifeless body. Then there are the old-timey videos introducing each vigor, the sound scratching as if played on an ancient phonograph. Each element draws you further into Columbia--this place that so horrifyingly mirrors parts of our own reality that you could never call BioShock Infinite escapist entertainment. Some annoying texture pop-in and screen tearing are the culprits mostly likely to disturb the captivation.

BioShock Infinite could make you feel uncomfortable. If you adhere to religious faith, or celebrate American idealism, this game may invite introspection or even anger. BioShock Infinite isn't afraid to magnify the way religious and racial extremism inform our culture and change lives. It isn't afraid to depict a less-than-holy trinity diseased by power, deception, and manipulation. As the story circles back on itself, you're left wondering whether redemption cleanses us of our atrocities, or simply invites us to commit greater ones. Once the finale comes, you will want to play again, watching each event and image through the lens of information you can never un-know. BioShock Infinite is more than just a quality game: it's an important one.

The Good
Columbia is an amazing place to be and explore
Depicts uncomfortable, relevant themes in an effective way
Vigors and skyline rails make for fluid, exciting action
Upgrades make you feel increasingly powerful
Mind-blowing ending that you won't soon forget
The Bad
Occasional quirks and contrivances disrupt the immersion
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for BioShock Infinite

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd is a lifelong RPG lover and violin player. When he isn't busy building PCs and composing symphonies, he watches American Dad reruns with his fat cat, Ollie.

Discussion

480 comments
snider83
snider83

Just bought it on marketplace for ten dollars. But I had 5 in my microsoft account from rewards so I saw no point in NOT giving this a whirl.

Jawehawk-DK
Jawehawk-DK

Overreated shit game. Atrocious gameplay and a sorty filled with plot holes.

Mr_Mark_Legion
Mr_Mark_Legion

never planned on playing this game, but with it on ps plus i picked it up. what a nice surprise this game was. i didnt do myself a favor by skipping on it when it first came out.

coaltango
coaltango

gonna grab it free from PS Plus

NTM23
NTM23

Spoilers ahead! Please read if you have finished though:


Something that some people have brought up as a complaint in this game is how some things, like vigors don't fit in, and while it doesn't, it's not meant to. That's where the worlds of Columbia and Rapture collide. In Burial At Sea, it's revealed, and even heavily suggested in the original game Infinite that Fink has looked through the tears and saw Suchong working on things. He stole the ideas for Plasmids and made Vigors, as well as the idea of Big Daddy's to make Songbird; Eve as Salts and perhaps more. 


Honestly, Columbia on its own for me hasn't been stand out enough when compared to Rapture, but I just got the game on 360 the other day, got all the DLC, and the game while in some respects is still disappointing me (for reasons I've mentioned enough already and have little desire at this moment to go into again), I've always felt it was superb overall; it's even slightly better now. There's quite a few conflictions for me about Infinite, and the most recent one is the end of Burial At Sea, I'm not sure how I feel about that.


Oh, and as for Vigors, Suchong also stole from Fink in retaliation for Finks snooping and theft of work, by making ingestible Plasmids through an oxidized agent which Fink had come up with first.

peecee1384
peecee1384

Bioshock 1 and 2 were better games IMO. (B1 = 9 B2 =10 BI = 6).

theycallmeRP
theycallmeRP

I loved the game. I felt like it was too short though. Or am I just being greedy? Either way, I want more levels as part of the main story. I'll have to try the dlcs.

kohdl
kohdl

Anybody else think movement feel stiff?like old fps game,half life2

abhreebhu
abhreebhu

What an end!!!!!!!!!!! now i know why they made Booker toss that coin!!!!!!

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

Is there a way to turn off the hitmarkers in this game? The little X that shows up when you shoot an NPC. I hate story driven shooters that have hitmarkers, makes me feel less immersed in the action. Blood effects work good enough as hitmarkers, the X is just ugly and an insult to the players intelligence.

HipHopBeats
HipHopBeats

I sure hope the Rapture DLC's are standalone plays like Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is. I'd hate to have repurchase Infinite just to revisit Rapture.

boldie
boldie

I don't think this game was very good at all, It was a let down to be honest

I absolutely loved the first two bioshocks and couldn't wait to play this, but this just ain't in the same league as the other two !!

rsj2
rsj2

The biggest puzzler for me on this game is why some people think the combat is tedious and others think it's amazing - people really seem split down the middle, and Tom and Kevin's different reviews are representative of that.  

I'm in the latter camp, by the way - I think the humdrum weapons and bullet sponge enemies are more than made up for by vigor combinations, different gear loadouts and skylines.  Combat in Infinite is exciting and unique, and I say that as a shooter fan with a lot of experience.  

Can someone who disagrees explain it to me?

nameaprice
nameaprice

sorry but there is no way this game is a 9. BioShock 1 was better, so id give this an 8.5 TOPS, sorry but its the truth

alexsherpherd
alexsherpherd

Combat system is a little rough; for some people, the story is confusing but it's actually interesting and really fun to enjoy

Grayman51
Grayman51

I had hours of fun with this great game, finished it just a few days ago. Unlike the previous two games there was not the tension which I missed, not so many bodies dropping on you from some hidden corner, which always made play more intense. This is more in your face you can see your foe coming great in itself but did take something away. Overall highly recommended 

kratospete
kratospete

great now i cannot know when a game has a superb original score or great boss fights  want emblems back

razrabbit
razrabbit

I don't think it was the 10/10 flawless 'jesus game' everyone was touting it to be (that title goes to Dwarf Fortress), but it really was entertaining.

Mozelleple112
Mozelleple112

Creds to Kevin V for delivering yet another fantastic review. Bioshock Infinite easily one of the best games of the generation. I would personally give it a 9.5/10

Lacarus
Lacarus

GameSpot, why did you remove the metacritic score from your reviews? One of the main reasons I started using GS was because I could get three "opinions" on games, from you, other users and the internet! Bring it back, pwease!

XboxGuy1537
XboxGuy1537

Tom's review was just awful in every regard. I would be fine if he gave the game a 6 or a 7, because I understand that not everybody will enjoy the game. HOWEVER, a 4 is just unacceptable and unheard of for a game like Infinite that received endless praise from the critics and fans. Irrational put a lot of hard work into this game and Tom just bashed it for unimportant reasons.

StarsiderSajun
StarsiderSajun

@peecee1384 IMO they were: B1=10, B2=10, B3=10. See I can set meaningless numbers to them as well. The only thing that matters are the pros and cons, which I'm sure people could agree on for the most part. When the save system in a game is obviously borked, no one can really argue with it, but what can be argued is whether that means the game deserves an 8 or a 9. Pretty obvious that the numbers are pointless.



Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

@kohdl na you just suck at FPS games. Your first FPS was prob COD MW. Half Life 2 isnt that old by the way, and the controls are perfect. 

Bob194
Bob194

@boldie hmmm, I love Infinite so I can't really sympathize

max-hit
max-hit

@rsj2 I absolutely hated the 2 weapon limit and it was like a nightmare seeing it but the overall combat was absolutely brilliant and I enjoyed ever second of it.

Kingplayer1080
Kingplayer1080

@rsj2 Well I don't disagree with you, I can see why people didn't like the two weapon limit and the long open world battles compared to the more confined and planned battles you had in the previous ones. I personally hated the gears (a bunch of useless ones and you can only have four) and the fact that they took away hacking and different ammo types was probably the most disappointing parts of Bioshock Infinite. However if you look at the big picture, vigor and weapon combos, melee executions (never got old for me), challenging sub-bosses, and skylines made the combat very fluid and exciting.

vahythefloyd
vahythefloyd

@nameaprice actually most of the games these years get 4 or 5 after felling sorry about them.. not 8.5.. its shows how great BI is


RicardoZagada
RicardoZagada

@Lacarus  Scroll to the top of the page... you are in the review section, you must choose the tab "Bioshock Infinite", the three scores including metacritic are in the upper right corner.

joesguy
joesguy

@XboxGuy1537How was it awful? It raised valid criticisms of the game, criticisms you've yet to make a counter argument against, I'll add.

startman_1999
startman_1999

@XboxGuy1537 If I were to freely express what I think about Tom I'd probably be banned from this site, so I'll restrain myself. Simply put I think he's a useless member of the staff here. He can't review a game objectively if it could save his life. I would visit this site more often if he weren't employed here.

faceless-mask
faceless-mask

@XboxGuy1537 Why? It's his opinion. You can agree with it or disagree with it, but he is entitled to it, and if he's asked to post a review on the game, would you rather he pander to the opinions of the masses or give his own view of the game? I mean, not everyone like Bioshock Infinite. Wanna know someone else besides Tom who didn't like it? Total Biscuit. He likes the story of the game, but he finds the gameplay dull and boring, and thought it was an extremely overhyped game. So no, not everyone believes the game is a masterpiece, and some people won't like the game, for whatever reasons they may not like it. But they're still entitled to their opinions, and you can agree or disagree with them.

kohdl
kohdl

@Dredcrumb9 @kohdl Yeah it`s maybe controller. I played Infinite and Ghost on ps3, I felt similar. When I played BF4 on PC it`s diffrent.

BlackGenjii
BlackGenjii

@shingui5 @BlackGenjii For your information shingui5 this game was made by the same people who made the original Bioshock (witch by the way lets you slaughter little girls), now you're telling me, you don't feel like their are child molester undertones, well to be honest with myself I think that says a lot more about you ...wouldn't you say?     

Darkefka
Darkefka

@faceless-mask @XboxGuy1537 because opinions aren't an excuse to everything, I do not like Zelda:Ocarina of time, but I do understand that it is a masterpiece of a game, I can't stand to play it, but I won't give it a 4/10 because I don,t like it either, that game is widely accepted as one of the best game ever, like I don,t like Star wars, but I still acknolwedge it,s a great movie, Bioshock is one of those game that it's pretty much a fact that the game is a wonderful game, so that 4/10 is a joke, no one can take Tom seriously now, The Last of Us is one of the 2 games that have the highest chance of making GotY(along with GTAV) and it got 8/10, while a movie filled with QTEs got a 9/10...


i'm simply gonna assume that Tom's score are decided by throwing the game box on a stairway of 10 stairs, and the game gets the score it landed on since it makes no sense at all

BioShock Infinite More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    BioShock Infinite is a first person shooter where players assume the role of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt who is sent to the flying city of Columbia on a rescue mission to save Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned since childhood.
    8.6
    Average User RatingOut of 5011 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate BioShock Infinite
    Developed by:
    Irrational Games
    Published by:
    Aspyr, 2K Games
    Genres:
    Team-Based, First-Person, 3D, Shooter, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco