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Review

BioShock Infinite Review

  • Game release: March 25, 2013
  • Reviewed: March 25, 2013
  • PS3

BioShock Infinite is a stupendous game, portraying a beautiful and broken city that will absorb your every waking thought.

by

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.

Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.

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.

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.

Neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it.

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.

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.

Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.

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.

They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.

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

/ Staff

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

111 comments
Kituco
Kituco

One of the best games I played, I like story-telling stuff and this game is immersive you can spend lots of time to get all puzzles done and seeing all the little aspects of it.

daviz88
daviz88

 I have never played bio-shock, so after seeing the reviews for this game i decided to get this one and i must say the game is a lot of fun with so many playable option which give the game a lot of replay value. well defined character, good visual,vast environment and interesting but confusing story. now the bad, like I mention before the combat is fun but there a certain points where the combat just feel overwhelming leaving little room strategy as a result such area just feel poorly designed and is it me or for a shooter your bullet finish quite finish fast. despite these problems its a breath of fresh to the FPS genre and also worth playing.

flameon12346
flameon12346

I’m pretty new into the Bioshock series. I played the demo of Bioshock 1 (Planning to buy the game one day) and I borrow Infinite because I heard it was like a amazing game and one of the best. I beat the game and It wasn't that bad. The ending for me was more confusing then a surprise but I still liked it. But for me I somehow liked Bioshock 1 then Bioshock Infinite. The reason is because Bioshock 1 always got me of guard and saying "Oh snap" and "Whoa" and the atmosphere felt creepy and mysterious and I had little support which was more challeging for me. In Infinite it also had this amazing colorful atmosphere and a fun gamplay but I just felt like it was just a hallway of a FPS game intill the end.

Even though it was a very good game which I give it a 8.5 out of a 10 because of it unique ending. To me it wasn't all that great and fall in comparison to the orginial Bioshock 1 game. (I have no idea what Bioshock 2 is about)

carnivalshow
carnivalshow

Im shocked this got an nine and other games this year got way lower than that and they where way better . I bought this game from there rating back in the day and it sucks they should pay me for making me waste my money and time .

sohail5566
sohail5566

just finished the game love the story but gameplay was not like bioshock 1 and 2

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

after playing TLOU...this game is really crap...the shooting, fighting, everything mechanics are lousy.  I'll finish this as i've only played about 3 hours and I hope it gets better but count me in the "i don't get it" list...word Yo

mr_azim
mr_azim

Can devs get rid of the "Floating Camera" Character?  It isn't hard to put arms and legs, or a torso when you look down.


Definitely loose immersion when you're supposed to be gliding with Elizabeth on your back, but you're just floating in the air, no arms, no legs, no Elizabeth.  Lazy.

ahmed74
ahmed74

bioshock infinite & the last of us are two good games but extremely overrated and overhyped, I'd say Infinite deserves a 8.5/10 and TLOU 8/10

the first two bioshock games were far superior and more fun than bioshock infinite

Uncharted 2 is clearly better and more fun than TLOU, even Uncharted 3 Graphics are better than TLOU graphics

the most important factor of a game is FUN

mjaddo
mjaddo

Honestly im not much of a first person shooter fan but i must say that i really enjoyed this game. It truly has an ending that i wont be forgetting any time soon.

zone6whiteowl
zone6whiteowl

Should I play the first two BEFORE playing this? I was gona go buy this right now but I've never played the first ones... Ok sorry, I looked down and saw this exact question. Thank you to those who answered this question already!

NTM23
NTM23

Here's some news that I just figured out, some unfortunate news. If you have a home theater system, but not one that goes above simply Dolby Digital (look on the back of the case for this sign http://worldofphones.net/microsoft-will-include-dolby-digital-plus-tech-in-windows-8-after-all/) such as DTS Dolby Surround, but want the full effect of immersion from a sound perspective, do not buy the PS3 version. 

I went to go buy it earlier on 360, and they didn't have it other than some used copies (which I refuse to get), so I opted for the PS3 version instead. The game, as far as I've been playing just didn't sound all that great, but I brushed it off as just how the game sounds; underwhelming, but just now, after a few hours of play, I figured out the game doesn't support Dolby Digital by checking my home theater system, and the case out of instinct, but the 360 version does.

I am so disappointed now. Every game this generation should support Dolby Digital, not lower (Dolby Pro Logic II), or higher without Dolby Digital. This really ruins the immersion for me, and once I found this out, I was so frustrated I turned the game off, and now I'm here. Some may see that as kind of petty, but it really ruins it for me.

supermarioooooo
supermarioooooo

CLEARLY A TRENDY GAME. THİS GAME İSNT A BİOSHOCK GAME

Degnchr
Degnchr

Is it a must to have played the first 2 games before starting this one to get the characers and story?

sohail5566
sohail5566

love the game but the didn't like the part when u die your half money is gone also

supermarioooooo
supermarioooooo

its not a bioshock game. its just a trendy game!!!!!!!!!!

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

I beat the game today after finally getting it on Monday. I say BioShock Infinite is the best first person shooter I've played since Half-Life 2. I'm not saying it's better than Half-Life 2, but damn it, it is just as good. 

BigB-65
BigB-65

I've just finished the game and while I agree that this is a far better game than the soulless jumble of FPS games that the industry constantly spews at us, I must say that it is a little over-hyped and over-scored. It was rather enjoyable and interesting but nothing truly groundbreaking or unique and it does have its fair share of flaws.
Although it felt old-school in combat and exploration (which is nothing bad I must say!), it was also gorgeous, laid with beautiful visuals, music and voice acting. The downside was its somewhat boring and repetitive level design, especially in the second half of the game. Also the ending was slightly predictable, a little stupid, apathetic and needlessly confusing. My only technical nag about Bioshock Infinite, is the lack of a "New Game Plus" feature. You cannot start a new game with all your money, lock picks, powers and upgrades intact and continue to improve them, you must simply start over from scratch and that killed any sort of replay value, at least for me.
Overall, it certainly is a game of high standards and although as I said earlier, a bit over-hyped and over scored, I'd recommend it anyway.

ViskiJack
ViskiJack

I just finished it yesterday and it's a god game.If Spec ops the Line did not do it already it would be quite original but it deserves it's hype.Mostly because of Elizabeth IMO the most iconic game character in this generation.My only critic of the game would be the frantic and clumsy combat mechanics.It is a great achievement and one of the few FPS games worth a look these days. 

Derugs
Derugs

I absolutely love this :) 

Sincerelyyourz
Sincerelyyourz

Finished Bio Shock in two days. Bio Shock Infinite isn't as atmospheric as it's predecessors. Basically it's a first person shooter thats feels really limiting. There's only a small handful of enemy types, the fighting mechanics are novice, enemies spot you from beyond the horizon and hit with accuracy regardless of weapon type. The game feels very linear and makes you track back and forth from places recently visited. I personally find it difficult to see how Bio Shock Infinite rated a 9.0. The game also has little to no replay value. 

I did enjoy the utopian scenery though. I read the review here and made the purchase. Maybe it's just me but I found this game a disappointing purchase good luck.

randallsilver
randallsilver

Good review. Bought the game today. Only played two hours so far, but I liked it, once I got past the slightly boring and ling- winded beginning. Very curious about the ending now, so I guess I'll switch to "addicion" mode starting monday.

supermarioooooo
supermarioooooo

unfortunately game is too easy boys. girl always throwing you health, ammo ... and its not neccesary to walk around and explore somthings like old games. its little trendy game. too much talking too much scream too much explode too much hollywood.


i dont say game is bad but it doesnt follow the previous games. so what i mean bioshock is not all about shoot people.


bioshock is about loneliness , exploring ,  fear , claustrophobic....


i couldnt find these in bioshock infinty

Sp0ilzbury
Sp0ilzbury

Give me System Shock and we'll talk.

Hated 1 & 2, and here we have Bioshock:Steampunk edition.... No. Just no

NTM23
NTM23

... I honestly feel kind of sad when I think about the fact that I still haven't played this game.

2bethann2
2bethann2

There is a lot of hype about this particular game. It is an interactive game not just a shooter game that some of the others are. With characters that seem lifelike, this particular game is one that anyone can play. The graphics are incredible. I had no idea that a game could look so real. However, that said, this game is best enjoyed on the pc due to the detail on the graphics. Although it is available in all of the standard gaming formats. There is a download version of  Bioshock Infinite available below. 

I have details regarding characters, shooting, levels and more here. 

http://www.squidoo.com/bioshock-infinite-download-buy-and-review-is-this-the-ultimate-gaming-experience

kratospete
kratospete

Kevin V where is the "Arthouse" emblem?

carnivalshow
carnivalshow

@sohail5566 This game sucked i could not even play the whole thing it was that bad how anyone loves this game is shocking to me.

ibonedyourmom
ibonedyourmom

@philMcCrevis Just played TLOU as well. I pretty much agree with all of that. I wouldn't say "lousy", but it seems like this game is a generation behind TLOU. Very unimpressed overall.

daviz88
daviz88

what do you mean by "even uncharted 3 graphics"?

flameon12346
flameon12346

@ahmed74 I agree on your opinon about what Bioshock Infinite rating system should have gotten but I haven't played The Last of Us yet so I don't know about that.

mr_azim
mr_azim

@ahmed74 I have to admit, I hate Bioshock 1 & 2.... but Infinite is the best I've played in a long time.

Price2411
Price2411

Nope, this a completely new story

aIogic
aIogic

@Degnchr Its not necessary to have played the original two bioshock games, Infinite starts off a new story and new characters! Although you should play the first 2 simply because they are amazing games/stories! 

missliner
missliner

@sohail5566 For others reading this, it's only half of your money if you're at a really early stage of the game (or don't scavenge at all).

FernoFrY
FernoFrY

@sohail5566 so your only complaint is that there is a penalty for dying? what a noob...

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

@BigB-65 Given that you need to collect a certain vigor as part of the story. I think new game plus would ruin it.

Cochleadoc
Cochleadoc

@Sincerelyyourz Thanks for the comment.  It's always useful to have different perspectives on popular games. 

abidhossain
abidhossain

@supermarioooooo what is wrong with you? you definitely picked the easy or normal mode... and now complaining about it... if you want a challenge then pick the 1999 mode(it will be harder than you can handle). It is just sad that the game developers take the effort of making the game easy or challenging for both types of player but a lot of them just select the wrong difficulty mode and bitch about it. 

izmickey
izmickey

@FernoFrY @sohail5566 Who is going to compliment a penalty? Who would like half of their cash taken? But, penalties are needed, it keeps you on your toes.

missliner
missliner

@mr_azim @ibonedyourmom @philMcCrevis They're talking about The Last of Us.  Phil - you absolutely have to keep playing!  For people really into FPS mechanics, this game is sure to disappoint, but the environment, characters, story, bad guys, audio . . . it all comes together and is truly hypnotizing.  I finished it like a month ago and I can still close my eyes and be right back there, sounds, colors and all.  And I'd argue it has one of the best endings EVER.

BioShock Infinite

  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • PC
  • Macintosh
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.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
Check out even more info at the BioShock Infinite Wiki on Giantbomb.com