It's for real this time. No joke. I've FINALLY made it to the skies of Columbia after a week or so of being without my 360. They were able to fix the problem, so I shouldn't run into the Yellow Ring of Death again for a while---if ever. And you know what the first thing I did when I got my baby home? What else? I popped in Bioshock Infinite at about the same rate of speed as me making a mad dash to the restroom with a full bladder. I played it for quite a bit, reaching as far as finding Elizabeth for the first time and getting her to the relative safety of a beach, which is where my save is suspended as of this writing. Here is, at long last, my early analysis of a game that I had been waiting to play since Bioshock made a fan out of me roughly two years ago.
Columbia is a beautiful city. High above the clouds, it's every bit a technical and architectural marvel as Rapture was. In the opening stages of the game, I spent a great deal of time taking in the sights. Contrary to the dark and depressing underwater bubble of Andrew Ryan's dystopic concrete jungle, Columbia is constantly drenched in bright sun, crowds of people, tons of activity, and endless blue skies. You can briefly play mini-games at a thoroughfare which serve as a introduction to the game's FPS combat and Vigor system (infinite's version of Plasmids and Gene Tonics), or even listen to an acapella band belt a tune on a floating ship. Everything reminded me of the 1900s pre-era World War I---just shy of the Great Depression. And it was somewhat comforting to see people alive, well and running around in the streets----as opposed to the dead and rotting of Rapture's failed society.
Of course, beneath Columbia's erstwhile beauty and merriment, there's an ugliness to it. For one, the orderly yet corrupted social infrastructure of the city is facilitated by a white supremacist ideology. This is clearly evident during one crucial moment near the start of the game involving an Irish man and an African American woman, and the looming statue of John Wilkes Booth (the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln) that greets you in the building riddled with crows. I won't give away too much, but I can tell you right now that it's very difficult to watch---especially in a video game. Yet, Bioshock Infinite faithfully demonstrates the attitudes that did exist during the time period in which the game takes place.
As far as the game itself is concerned, Bioshock Infinite's a little like travelling to a place you've never been to and coming back home again. Given my past experiences with Bioshock and Bioshock 2, the first-person shooting of Bioshock Infinite was a natural extension. Considering the new environment high above the clouds, I had to get used to the idea that I'm no longer fighting splicers or Big Daddies. I've gotten much better at first-person shooters these days, so I didn't have a whole lot of trouble shooting and aiming my targets in the thick of a desperate standoff involving multiple enemies. The Vigors are also fun to use, too. My favorite so far is the Murder of Crows -- where you summon a flock of Crows to aggravate mobs and cause damage over time. Basically, Vigors are Plasmids with different names and different behaviors. Either way, just like the Plasmids and Gene Tonics were a perfect fit with Bioshock, Vigors are a great compliment to Infinite's solid FPS combat.
Bioshock Infinite is actually more challenging than the original games. There aren't first aid med kits to help you when you need them, and enemies are far more aggressive and dangerous. Bioshock Infinite is more open-ended than Bioshock, meaning you might come across a side-quest or two, and Columbia itself is a BIG world to explore. There are also objective-based achievements to watch out for, too, and the game keeps track of them as you progress. For example, you might be asked to perform a certain number of finishers using your melee weapon or find a specific number of video projectors.
You don't fight splicers this time. Thuggish human beings, police officers, deranged cultists and Lex Luthor wannabes are just some of the foes you'll run into, and I've faced and killed all the ones I just mentioned. I haven't scratched the surface yet. But, perhaps the most frightening enemy I've encountered in the game thus far is the Songbird. It's about as big as King Kong and can easily shred concrete like a hot knife through ice cream. It's supposed to be Elizabeth's loyal bodyguard and protector, but the enormous size and terrifying capacity for destruction it possesses is enough to convince me just how valuable this seemingly harmless young woman truly is.
As I said before, I've left off at a specific point after saving Elizabeth for the first time, so my journey continues. As soon as I'm able to finish it all the way through, I'll proceed with a detailed final overall impression when I get the chance to do so.