March 25, 2013

Bioshock Infinite - game of the year already?


Here's a some snippets from the first reviews of Bioshock: Infinite which some punters are already calling the game of the year.

Here's what Game Informer had to say:

"Dealing with themes like religion, racism, and xenophobia, Columbia is a richer and more nuanced setting than even Rapture, and the unveiling of the city’s culture is masterfully executed.

Whether you’re looking at a piece of propaganda, listening to an audio log, or participating in a horrifying raffle, almost everything you encounter contributes to your understanding of the floating world.

This is one of the ingenious ways Infinite blurs the lines between its component parts; Columbia may be a backdrop for the action, but the setting, narrative, and combat all loop back to reinforce each other.

My favorite aspect of Infinite is the one about which I can say the least: story. The build-up is slow, but it works wonderfully thanks to the small ways other elements flow into the narrative. Elizabeth’s observations help you get to know her, and when she assists you in battle, it strengthens your connection to her.

Opening tears keeps you thinking about the possibilities of other realities. Hearing the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” being sung in 1912 reminds you that you have a lot of questions that need answers. My only complaint on the narrative front is that the hulking Songbird is under-utilized; for such a cool concept, the beast is relegated to the role of screeching deus ex machina. Otherwise, Irrational ties the remaining story threads together to create one of my favorite game endings in years."

Gerrad Campbell at Stuff was also very positive:

"The melee combat is brutal, too, thanks to the sky hook DeWitt picks up from a dead policeman early on.

Perhaps one of the most fun aspects in the first couple of hours of Bioshock Infinite, though, are the skylines, the railway-like travel system linking Columbia's various islands together which DeWitt can use to move between locations.

It's fast paced and frantic, with DeWitt able to jump from skyline to skyline, as well as taking down unsuspecting enemies from above.

Once DeWitt finds Elizabeth she's a valuable ally, not some dumb escort mission that can't take care of herself.

She has the ability to open dimensional tears that appear around Columbia and helps DeWitt during combat by tossing health, ammunition and salts when he needs it, which is especially helpful when the odds are against him.

The narrative is engaging and tackles some serious societal issues, notably sexism, religion and racism that the player is forced to confront."

Here's the launch trailer which features the Song Bird attempting to cause a lot of havoc:

IGN sings the game's praises:

"Irrational Games – a studio that’s made a name for itself in eschewing predictability and is known for pathological cybervillains and brutish Big Daddies who earned our sympathy in their staunch protection of Little Sisters – somehow makes a city built on the clouds seem plausible. It's a place that feels alive. Townsfolk bustle in the plaza streets, birds flit about almost everywhere, and propaganda extols the local prophet's racist, ultra-nationalist beliefs. Columbia has its own history and hierarchy, to a degree that most shooters – or games of any genre, for that matter – can’t even aspire. It's created using a vibrant color palette and a unified vision of a twisted, jingoistic take on America. Simultaneously, no two of its many diverse areas ever feel alike. All these elements give this fantastical city a sterling sense of genuine place.

Elizabeth herself, in fact, plays a central role in BioShock Infinite’s story, and in the moment-to-moment experience. Once she’d established herself at my side, any period of separation was noticeable. Not only does the action revert to feeling very much like BioShock 1, but it made me feel as if something was genuinely missing: emotional depth. Over our time together, Elizabeth's expressive performances elicited everything from sympathy to fear and even guilt. She provides motivation and moves the story forward, and like the clear bond the Big Daddies and Little Sisters had in the first game, I was compelled to protect her. And from a purely mechanical perspective, it’s a half-miracle that she never gets in the way – but she doesn't. What's great about Elizabeth is that her presence always adds something, and never takes anything away."


Xbox360Achievements was moved to give the gave 100/100:

Topping BioShock 1’s story was always going to be a tricky task from the outset, but unbelievably, Irrational has truly knocked it out the park. Instead of the game suffering from a mid-game climax and never quite recovering like the original, Infinite refuses to blow its proverbial load early, saving the best moments for last. That’s not to say there’s nothing to sink your teeth into along the way. Oh no. In fact, you’ll spend the majority of the 12-16 hour campaign asking yourself “What does this mean!?”, “What does that mean!?”, “Who are this mysterious couple!?” and slowly, with the assistance of audio diaries (Voxophones) and video diaries (Kinetoscope’s) should you seek them out, Irrational reveals more and more about this mysterious flying city. It’s a story that sinks its tenterhooks into you early on and refuses to let go until the final credits have started rolling. The pacing is spot on for the most part as well. Oh, and that twist in BioShock 1? Well, BioShock Infinite eclipses that and then some.

Amidst all that is a touching story of two out-of-place souls: the troubled Booker DeWitt; and the excitable and genuinely brilliant Elizabeth – an adorable character in her own light, if only for her infectious lust for life; she’s like a kid at Christmas when she first leaves her cage. The performances from Troy Baker (Booker) and Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth) are what really sells it with their incredible chemistry, further bringing to life their complicated relationship. It’s a campaign full of personal and touching moments, none more memorable than when Booker picks up a guitar from within the environment – something which isn’t part of the story and is a huge reward for fans that stumble upon it. We won’t spoil it for you, but wow. Just wow.

And finally, EGM was also fervent with it's praise for Infinite:

Columbia venerates the great American Presidents, too, albeit in far more sinister ways; the dark underbelly on display here shows how those lofty patriotic ideals that birthed Disneyland can be twisted into something monstrous in the wrong hands. (But for those who think Disney was far more enlightened than what you’ll find in Columbia, check out the now-laughably offensive “What Made the Red Man Red” musical number from Peter Pan, released 41 years after the setting of this game.) And just like the Disneyland Railroad links the various lands at the heart of the Disney experience, a spectacular Sky-Line transportation system connects Columbia’s various ports of call. (Again, there’s a dark truth here; the American railroads were cruelly built on the backs of Chinese and Irish immigrants.)

This is a slow burn, and it’s worth playing through that way, taking in the assorted sights and getting to know the various players in this inviting, disturbing city in the clouds. So many videogames hold your hand and tell you what to think or shove quick-time events in your face and instruct you what buttons to press. BioShock Infinite gives you a world, asks you to explore it, and trusts that you can find the vast majority of the answers yourself. In all, I spent 27 total hours in Columbia and took my time to investigate every last nook and cranny—and I still didn’t find all the scattered audio recordings (which return from the original game and are far more effective as a storytelling tool here) or optional content.

Oh, and you can also unleash Elizabeth’s potent powers to turn the tide of battle. This is one area where the game does match a target demo; the 2010 reveal footage featured Booker and Elizabeth teaming up to defeat scores of rampaging Columbians. While the particulars have changed, the overall goals haven’t. You can call in a freight hook to escape an onrushing brute, animate an automaton to unload on a sniper, or unlock a stash of medical supplies when you’re down and out. Elizabeth will even toss you health and ammo when you’re running low, but it never feels like it cheapens the challenge—it’s more like rewarding you for finding a way to survive the oppressive onslaught. Elizabeth’s powers strike just the right balance of keeping things challenging while still offering a helping hand when you need it most. Late-game encounters augment these powers in rewarding ways, taking advantage of the strategies you’ve learned along the way. To call this a mere “first-person shooter” does a disservice to the combat diversity.


While it's only day one for the release of Infinite, I was unable to find any reviews which were wholly negative about the game. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say hello!