Bioshock Infinite review

Posted: April 2, 2013 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

bioshock_infinite_2

Do you love the hymns they taught you, or are songs of Earth your choice?

 

I’m going to keep this one short as there are no shortage of other reviews available and my recent reviews have been getting a bit long. In fact, I’m going to leave the gameplay mostly alone as it’s nearly flawless and pretty much in line with what you expect from a Bioshock game. Rating the gameplay point for point would just be an exercise in wasting hot air (pun of the day!). So what I’m going to do instead is talk about this game as a piece of interactive art as well as it’s meaning to the industry.

The first and foremost thing that I can say about Bioshock Infinite is that it cements the Bioshock series as a new flagship series of video games, much like the Zelda or Mario games. There was a lot of hubbub from the usual industry pessimists about how staff changes and difficulties in development spelled likely storm clouds for this game. That is in no way the case as Ken Levine and his team have proved that Irrational Studios and the Bioshock franchise are going to maintain a high grade of quality, regardless of the challenges faced. They had to cut huge sections, rework the plot and drastically change the final product in order to get it to store shelves. You know what? They succeeded in every possible way. Much like we see from Nintendo’s games (and pretty much nobody else), Irrational is showing us that the show will always go on and they take pride in releasing a polished final product regardless. Bioshock Infinite definitely rolled with the changes and as it’s such an amazing game, I can only imagine it was better for it in the end.

As visual art goes, Bioshock Infinite is at the top of it’s class. I’m going to restate something I said about Tomb Raider that is even more true here: “Playing this game feels like playing concept art come to life.” I don’t know how better to put it. The artists and designers worked with such amazing synergy on this one that you really get the feeling of playing art. Not just visual art either. It’s obvious that the writers, actors and even the level designers have a love of music. Great songs of the last century are actually part of the plot and collectibles in a very interesting way. Beyond even that, music permeates the entire game and design. I have to admit, I never liked “Will the Circle be Unbroken” until I played this game. That’s a powerful statement considering my mother is a very talented Lutheran folk musician. Much like “Dominique” from “The Singing Nun” being featured in s2 of American Horror Story, the song ends up being permanently linked to your memories of the experience. There are actually two amazing versions of the song in the game, one performed by Booker and Elizabeth’s respective voice actors.  I don’t think I’ll honestly ever hear the song again without thinking of a literal city in the clouds.

I won’t spoil anything if I can avoid it, but to say the very least this is one of the best plots ever in a video game. That list is shared with several other Shock titles and a number of other games so good they defy rating, but safe to say it’s somewhere in the top 5-10. I went in trying to manage my expectations, as I thought of the first Bioshock as being almost impossible to match. It may just be afterglow, but by Job I think they did it. After finishing this game, I felt so many emotions, all of them good. Every possible expectation you have of this plot will be met and exceeded. The one thing you may doubt is that the game will tie back to the first. It does, but you’ll really have to pay attention. In fact it goes farther than that by establishing a universe(s) in which both games can take place, as well as many more. Infinite goes past just proving that Irrational can make another grade A game. It proves that they are only getting started and have an infinite (puns!) number of stories to tell. Whether the series goes back to space next (Levine got his start on System Shock with Warren Specter), or to parts unknown, I for one am rabidly awaiting another sequel after the end of Infinite.

In conclusion I can only say that Bioshock Infinite is more than the other games I’ve given perfect scores to. Those were also perfect games as far as the actual software functionality goes. Infinite, like it’s predecessor, is more than just a perfect game. It’s a perfect game that defies any other medium to claim they can top it in any way. There is simply no better way to communicate this experience. Even the best novelization would seem flat without the amazing art and music that combine to make a truly medium-transcendent work. Bioshock Infinite once again boldly states that games can be art and like any other medium, can produce timeless, unmatchable masterpieces.

10/10

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