Bioshock Infinite was a damn good game. I’m a little disappointed that Irrational is breaking up, because I think they’ve truly redefined FPS as a means of story-telling with the Bioshock series, but I think the success of Telltale Games being able to wield a story-based game without hard actions to focus on the story, is more up Ken Levine’s avenue than always using guns.
While the overall story seemed shorter than Bioshock, around thirteen to fourteen hours on fairly casual stroll, it was a wild ride through a setting that blends my love of science fiction with that of that sort of old-timey feeling that you get from observing the time period. But pretty soon the wibbly-wobbly-timey-whimey catches up and launches you into the sort of crazy tale only Irrational can hide behind such a monumental structure.
I’ve watched a lot of science fiction television and movies, so when it comes to parallel worlds and time travel, I am no stranger to the sort of confusion it brings to telling a proper story. I was telling a co-worker yesterday that one of the more confusing aspects of time-travel is predestination, the idea that for an event in time to change, you have to go back and make that change, but upon the knowledge of that change being made, you will have to go back and make that change because that action was what occurred to make the reason to do so necessary. Think Back to the Future I and II, you saw the events of the first movie collide with the events in the second because, as it turns out, Marty McFly was the reason his parents got together in the first place. Had he not made the journey, he and his siblings would cease to exist. So when he collides with himself the second time, he has to take care not to allow his first self to see him, or else everything would collapse. But it stands to reason that it would be impossible for him to meet his second self, because he never met a copy of himself in the first place.
Infinite weaves a very complex story centered around Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth, and Zachery Comstock. What begins as a simple mission to rescue the girl winds up being a multifaceted adventure through dimensional space as you try to unravel why Elizabeth was imprisoned in this floating fortress for so long, and why it matters so much for Comstock to have this giant city above the clouds, preserving American Exceptionalism at a time when the country was starting to industrialize and face conflict. By the time you reach the end, you start to realize that all of the themes the game addresses in the beginning, including slavery, racism, and nationalism, don’t really matter much when it comes down to the core characters.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead. If you have not finished the game, do so now. Keep reading at your own risk.
I sort of got the impression that Booker = Comstock early on when many of the early game events seemed to coincide with each other. They knew the same people, spoke the same language, and made the same expressions to events unfolding. It made sense for Comstock to know of Booker’s arrival and his part to play simply because with knowledge of the alternate universes, and the fact that he took Elizabeth, then Anna, from him in the original universe, that he would be prepared for whatever may happen, including death. After all, this was the fully-played out branch of that world that regardless of him living, Elizabeth’s role was to succeed him and carry out his will, as seen by 1980s Elizabeth and her raid on New York City. The Lutuce Twins were more of the enigma to me until it clicked for me that they were from different worlds. What I did not know was that they were in fact not twins, but the same person, male in one world, and female in the other. Their interaction through the use of their portal-opening technology either made them believe they were siblings by losing one another in other worlds, or they formed a sibling-like connection due to meeting. That is why they finish each other’s sentences and make the same gestures. It was they who orchestrated the plan to take Anna from the original dimension and deliver her to Comstock’s dimension and call it “The Miracle Birth”. Lady Comstock, presumably knowing the truth, either killed herself, or was murdered to protect the secret. In the end, the multiple Elizabeth/Anna copies merged in the single point in time to confirm to Booker that he is in fact Comstock. By taking the baptism after returning from the war, he becomes Comstock and sets out on a goal to build a city to showcase America’s influence over the world. The original dimension, where he refuses, and continues to live his life, marry, and have a child that would later become Elizabeth. The warping of the different dimensions and different choices caused him to believe that rather than save Anna from himself, he had to save her from himself in a different way, in a path chosen had he gone through the baptism.
There are so many stories folded into this game, including Daisy and the Vox, Fink, and other characters who play roles in guiding along the story, but don’t play significance to the end. The underlying struggle of racism and class-warfare clashing with the image of the city, pristine and full of pro-white American values, highlighted just how bad America struggled with social issues after the end of the Civil War and slavery years before it. What disappointed me a little is given the overall theme of alternate dimensions, a little more of that did not play into those other characters when it could have. We saw the tears come into play and show us the sort of alterations it made to the story in order to complete tasks, but it didn’t really give us any real control over those different dimensions. Having a game mechanic where you can jump between different dimensions in order to learn what happens with people when different decision points are made and maybe even alter them in different ways would make for an interesting mechanic. I almost think that was sort of the goal, but since that would add a very deep and complex layer of gameplay, the mechanic where you got to open different tears with items and mechanical help was used instead.
I don’t think Infinite grabbed me the same way the original Bioshock grabbed me, and maybe that is because the story seemed much more concise and the characters, all of them, played much tighter parts in everything. But, having Elizabeth at your side, making dialogue, and helping out with combat, without having to protect her or ensure her safety, was a mechanic I thought played well. But the similarities between both stories leaves me wondering how far outside of the box they went, and what they could make if they really went into left field. Connecting the universes together though, while leaving room for things like the second DLC Burial at Sea, seemed like a logical place to end for Irrational’s legacy. Maybe someday I’ll finish System Shock.
Speaking of Burial at Sea, that is going on my list for soon. Might just wait until the second part is out and do it in one go.
TL;DR Bioshock Infinite is a must-play for fans of the Bioshock franchise. It’s open-air world and fast-paced mechanics will leave you with many ways to play, while savoring a well-thought and executed story that probably won’t sit with you well when it just sort of ends. But if you offend at the social constructs of the early 1900s, like racism, you may want to tread lightly, or not play at all. It gives zero fucks.
Title: Bioshock Infinite
Publisher: 2K Games, Irrational Games
Platform: XBox360, PS3, PC
Rating (1-10): 9
Favorite Character: The Lutece Twins
Least Favorite Character: Daisy Fitzroy (not because she is black, but because I felt her character could have been written better)
Favorite Level of Columbia: Soldier’s Field
Favorite Vigor Return to Sender
More Bioshock? Now that Irrational is no more, it’s safe to assume that unless 2K thinks it is a good idea to try this themselves, Bioshock has sung its last song. However, if Levine and Co. continue to make games similar to it under a new label, in whatever style, I’m sure we’ll see throwbacks and references that will make sense, just as we got System Shock references in Bioshock.