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05/10/2013 11:00 am ET | Updated Jul 09, 2013

Reviews Of BioShock Infinite - "The Reason Why I'm Proud To Be A Gamer"

This review originally appeared on Quora.
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Answer by Connor Eckstein,

There is a lot of good stuff here.

The characterizations of Booker DeWitt, whom you control, and Elizabeth, your sidekick, have a depth you rarely see in games. You learn about both of them through very natural means, namely without a single cutscene. I can guarantee the voice acting, facial expressions, and body language of Elizabeth will suspend your disbelief in a way no game has done before. You're able to internalize Booker without him having to be a silent protagonist and pushing you through a sea of dialogue choice. You really get invested in both of these characters.

Aesthetically, Columbia is a worthy successor to Rapture. You see the facade and the innards of this floating city, its ideals, and the sacrifices it makes to uphold them. You want to explore and linger over these places that tell a story just as effectively as conversation. The real joy playing Bioshock is not in murdering waves of enemies, but in observing the architecture, paintings, etc of the place you just fought in.

The story is what enraptures most people for the above reasons and more. It is able to tell a very personal human story while also tacking politics and religion. I love that people are getting offended at this game for a reason other than the depiction of violence, which seems to be the only thing many games care to do. Bioshock is provoking thought and conversation, and it is purposeful. There is a great deal of replay value. The story is meant to be held up under scrutiny, to be replayed, and unveil previously insignificant details.

With all of this being said, the meat of the gameplay is not my favorite. Combat is the weakest link of this game. I actually liked the combat fairly well, and the Vigors were very creative, but the quality just does not match that of the other game elements. It feels like a shoot out in a crowded mall all the time where everyone is armed. You might say it is my favorite beat em' up of all time. You burn through a wave of enemies and then savor the walk to the next wave.

I would still give Infinite a 5 because everything it does well is raising the bar for the entire medium. Combat is something video games pretty much have down, I don't think there's contention there. I didn't mind that it wasn't spectacular because I wasn't playing it for the guns. I played it for Columbia, Elizabeth, and wanting to know what would happen to them. And I found that out!

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Answer by Vijay Sarathy,

I haven't played a game like this.

You won't play a game like this.

If you relate yourself, even slightly, to the notion of the term 'gamer' and you haven't played this game yet, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.

Barring a very few things that I found didn't sit very well within the amazing universe this game is set in, I'd say that overall, Bioshock Infinite is exactly the reason why I'm proud to be a gamer.

Let's dissect this masterpiece.

Story

At the core of Infinite's heart lies its fantastically woven narrative. You play as Booker Dewitt, a Pinkerton agent weighed down by debts due to some trysts with gambling gone wrong. You are given a mysterious task; you are promised that if you find a certain girl within Columbia, all your debts will be wiped away. And so you set off, arriving at a lighthouse and ascending to Columbia - a steampunk city set in the clouds.
Welcome to Columbia - Land of Awesome Beards

The first (and last) 30 minutes of the game are mind-blowing in every sense of the word. The scene that greets your eyes when you arrive at Columbia is, frankly, indescribable. In the good way, mind you.

However, the illusion is quickly broken as you find out that Columbia is, in fact, a dystopia, pervaded by racism and ruled by a slightly lunatic person - called Comstock - who imposes his ideals upon the citizens of Columbia and who proclaims himself as a 'Prophet.'

The girl you are tasked with rescuing is Elizabeth. She accompanies you throughout the game, and her AI is hands down one of the best out there. She never comes across as a hindrance, but always adds to the story in subtle touches. Her relationship with Booker is very believable and it's no mean feat that these fleshed out characters manage to make the gamer connect with the story.
Meet Elizabeth. As for the ending: Put simply, it blew me away. It took me a while to 'get' it, but when it did ..."Oh wait, it just blew me away again."
Revealing anything more would just spoil the game. This is a game that needs to be experienced for its true impact to be felt. So, if you are looking to buy a game for its story more than anything else, would you kindly buy this one?
Visuals/Art: Columbia is a beautifully realized city, brought to life by amazing artwork. Even though this game may not look as technically proficient as other games of this time, the art design - which is nothing short of a few dozen 'Woah!'s - that runs through the whole game more than makes up for it.
Columbia is beautiful. I found myself gasping in awe every time I entered or exited a place. The interiors are as well done as the exteriors - something which cannot be said for most other games today. And the light shafts.
OH, the light shafts.

Even running on a modest PC at medium-high settings, I was enraptured (ahem) by Columbia.

Sound

I thought this deserved a section of its own because it is so well done in the game.

Voice acting is superb (ARGH, I'm running out of adjectives to use). They bring the characters of Infinite to life - more so than animation. Other game developers, do take note.

Voxophones - which are audio logs scattered throughout the game - also sound great to the ears. Although their contents may sound like mumbo-jumbo at first, revisiting them on the second playthrough (this is a must!) is quite the revelatory experience.

The music never feels overwhelming, but like the other things in the game, it adds to the overall experience. And is there good music in Infinite.

The song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" is one of my favorites. It also helps that the song takes on a whole new meaning after you complete the game.

AND, it is responsible for this evocative scene in the game.

*Possible spoilers below*

Gameplay

Now we arrive at the most contriving aspect of the game - the gameplay itself.

Bioshock Infinite is a first-person-shooter. It involves guns, colorful executions, and, of course, summoning crows from your hand to attack enemies. The in-your-face videogamey-ness of Bioshock at some points are, according to me, the things that detract from the otherwise otherworldly experience.
Murder with a murder of crows.

Picture this: Elizabeth has just witnessed you murdering people for the first time. She's visibly distressed and thinks you are a monster. She runs away. You are supposed to follow her, aren't you? But wait! What about the shotgun ammo that your enemies must have in their pockets!? And the money that you are sure is in the trash bins nearby! And the vending machines in the room that offer you gun upgrades! So you make a decision. A crying Elizabeth can wait, money-in-trash-bins can't. (Also see [1])

Such things happening can periodically break the immersion that this game so painstakingly tries to sustain, but it's difficult to blame Infinite for that. Because hey, it's a videogame. You signed up for all the videogamey-ness in the first place.
Pictured: Videogamey-ness.

However, when looked at from a standalone perspective, the gameplay is actually quite good.

Combat is made refreshing by Columbia's air-transport system, called Skylines. You can jump on one, go on a roller-coaster ride (literally!), then awesomely give your enemy a neck massage. While flying. With a spinning hook. Oops, the massage went too far. The enemy doesn't have a neck now.

The guns pack quite the punch; the shotgun and the carbine are especially great to handle. You also get to wreck havoc with Vigors, powers that you wield on your non-gun hand. You obtain them by drinking from custom bottles, and the sequence that plays out after drinking each one is amazing. And shocking.

Even though some people questioned whether Infinite even needed combat [2], I thought that it existing is actually for the better. It nicely brought out the contrast between the beautiful environment and the ugly underbelly of Columbia.

Besides, it's a Bioshock game.

BUT, I did feel that combat was a chore at times. At some places, it felt like mindless slaughtering, which didn't move the story, Infinite's strongest point, any forward.

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In the end, though, what I'm doing is the equivalent of nitpicking. Because Bioshock Infinite gets right everything it needs to get right.

If you play games for the visuals, you are going to like this game.

If you play games for the gameplay and just want to have some fun pumping enemies' faces with lead, you are going to like this game.

If you play games for the story, you are going to LOVE this game.

5/5. Easily.
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* MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW * - Visit this section AFTER you complete the game.

At this point, your brain is probably in little pieces - after being pummeled by the mindf*ck that is Bioshock Infinite's ending. That, or it is completely whole, confused as to what the whole fuss was about.

Reading this should help. It did for me!

References:

[1]: An Effin' AI In BioShock Infinite Is More Of A Human Than I Am
[2]: The Problem With BioShock Infinite's Combat
[3]: Screenshots: http://forums.2kgames.com/showthread.php?222521-Bishock-Infinite-Screenshot-Thread-(possible-spoilers!)

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