Friday, April 05, 2013

Bioshock Infinite - Review

I really liked the first Bioshock game.
http://thirdworldgamer.blogspot.com/2007/10/bioshock-review.html

So when I heard they were making another one, I really looked forward to it. All the previews and screenshots revealed what could possibly be the next great adventure game.

What we got, instead, was a strange mix of Call of Duty, Gears of War, God of War, Lost and Fringe.

The game starts with a misty aura of wonder. It begins much like the first Bioshock, and if you played that game, the introduction to Bioshock Infinite will definitely give you some goosebumps. I guess it's the anticipation of some great adventure that's about to happen. The thing is, I waited 20 whole hours for an adventure, and only got it in the LAST 10 MINUTES.

When the first big fight in the game breaks out, it's a pretty jarring experience. You get introduced to this really interesting place, which is pretty much Rapture from Bioshock 1, but with civilians, and it's high above the clouds, too. You start to wonder if the entire city will be as dynamic as it is at the start of the game, but it doesn't stay that way for long. When the shooting starts, the entire city becomes as bare as every other first-person shooter game, and the only interaction you'll ever do with Columbia's citizens is by the barrel of a gun.

I often wondered, why is the violence bothering me so much in this game?

Call of Duty, Gears, God of War...yeah I've played those games, and I think some of them are pretty good. Well, except God of War, the story wasn't so great in that game....but I digress. Violence in games is nothing new to me.

But violence in Bioshock Infinite is something else entirely. You have enemies literally screaming at you every ten seconds, blood spurting out of every orifice, it's kind of insane. It just contrasts too much with the elegant beauty that you start with, and when you get to the ending, it just feels weird.

The ending is 'classy'. I wish more endings for games would be done like it. But does it justify 60$ (or in our case, Pinoy gamers, 2,200+ pesos?) The rest of the game just doesn't do it.

The shooting model in the game feels a bit poor. Something about the way you lock on to targets; I found it difficult to hit enemies here, or find cover. It just didn't click as well as other military shooters.

And in later sections the framerate issues get ridiculous on the Xbox 360 version.

The game also seems to rely on a lot of flashing white lights and screen shake to mess up your aim. It's pretty irritating. I don't know if they just crammed so many enemies in there, or they just wanted to make the game artificially hard.

Normally I start out game reviews with a gist of the story. Well, truth be told, when you finally finish the game, Bioshock Infinite doesn't really have much of a story throughout 3/4ths of it. The story only really happens when you get to the end. It doesn't have the immediacy of the first game in terms of feeling interesting or compelling.

I wonder if it was my expectations that made me so disappointed with this game. It's probably a big factor. But if a game of this quality was released without some sort of franchise history, everyone would be talking about all these glaring flaws in the game:

- Elizabeth just gives you potions and items and money. I wish she would pick up a gun and start shooting at something.

- The game has a horrible time telling you where to go. Maybe they wanted it to be less linear but, seriously, this game is pure linearity. There isn't much to exploration, it doesn't add to the game other than let you find a few more audio recordings. But with the audio recordings I found, they don't add too much to the story anyway. It doesn't help that the waypoint marker gets lost on the way to the objective too. I've had that happen once in an area that had a skyrail, the marker kept pointing at the skyrail even if I was NOT supposed to get on it!

- The game has a lot of glitchy scripted areas. There was one where you couldn't leave at all until you kill a certain enemy. It so happened in my game that that enemy was on the skyrail moving around over and over again. I took a good 30 minutes finding the guy before eventually killing him and moving on. This type of problem did not just happen once.

- The game has this horrible, HORRIBLE boss battle in the middle where you fight a creature several times, and there is absolutely nothing new introduced with every encounter.

- Later in the game, it takes forever to kill enemies. Yes I  know you can upgrade your weapons, and I did do that....but I still found it quite hard to kill them even after several upgrades.

And I found it pretty bizarre that your character can use all of these spells, but the citizens of Columbia generally couldn't.use them the same way you did. It was strange because at the start of the game you have all these ads advertising them as daily 'products' they can easily buy from anywhere. So why was it that most of the citizenry just fought me with guns? Couldn't they easily just get an of the 'vigors' and use it against me? It's just a strange inconsistency with both gameplay and the storyline.

When I got to the end of the game, I will say I perked up quite a bit because there was FINALLY more story than usual. Most of the game is literally hordes of enemies shooting you from all directions, and screaming at you too. By the end, there's just this peaceful approach to it all, which felt really fresh. And I ended up thinking, why isn't the ENTIRE game like this?

And there lies the problem with this game. You've got the backdrop for an amazing adventure game, with interesting characters and potentially a good storyline....then you give everyone a bazooka. It's just this really strange mix of design and genre. Granted the first game was a shooter, too, but I don't remember it being this chaotic

I really, really wanted to like Bioshock Infinite. Hey, a 90+% metacritic...it must be ME who is the crazy one, right? If you don't believe me, borrow it from a friend first. Maybe you'll like it more than I did. I just thought this game never captured the spirit of the original.

Final point, and this is spoiler ridden, so stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled:

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The best part of the game is when Elizabeth teleports you to Rapture. At that moment, I was pretty much blown away. Then they decided to scrap that and make it basically fan service.






























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Overall, Bioshock Infinite had so much going for it. The world, the art design, the characters....these elements in the game were interesting on their own. But when they mixed them together into the context of  a game, they forgot to make the game itself fun. They forgot that motivating the player to keep going with a good storyline throughout the game (and not just the end) can prevent it from feeling monotonous. Perhaps the developers, maybe even Ken Levine himself, didn't truly understand why the first game was so good.