What is there left to be said about Bioshock Infinite? I don’t know! Since the game came out in 2013 I have succesfully managed to avoid spoilers or stuff to ramp up my expectations. If the former factor bothers you, don’t worry about spoilers here: I think I have been suitably vague.
Bioshock Infinite begins with protagonist Booker DeWitt walking through the somewhat linear streets of Columbia, a vintage styled floating city. The restrictiveness is justifiable because of the beautiful detail present: the opposite of a barren open world, the opening portion of the game isn’t huge but has plenty to look at and listen to.
As was the case in past Bioshock games, the plot is largely told through collectible audio logs (here called voxophones). The voxophones are hidden as if they are a collectible rather than an essential feature of the game. Due to backtracking, the player may find some essential context for their actions after they have already killed a significant enemy, or they may never find it at all.
Although there is a lot of swag to find scattered around the world, searching every nook and cranny for a voxophone or a nice new hat upgrade feels totally wrong in the context of the plot. At one point, Booker is chasing after someone in what should be an intense scene, but Infinite trains the player to be scavenging around the corners at all times so as not to miss anything. There is nothing around the corner, likely because the developers intended the player to be chasing with all their might, but the player has no way of knowing when the correct time to be searching for extras or essential audio is. Heading back in the correct direction, the person Booker is chasing is standing still, waiting to be caught up with. Very nice of them to do that while they desperately attempt to escape.
The combat, in terms of mechanics, is solid. At first the action sequences go on a little too long but are satisfyingly broken up by plot and set-pieces. The plot later takes a back seat to the combat and then, just before the end, it turns into a horde mode slog. The original Bioshock’s final fight was met with criticism but this is even less interesting and more monotonous. It is possible that the repetitious skirmishes are in place to elongate the game and it is no wonder when pressure is on AAA games to be lengthy: I have heard some say that Infinite was actually too short.
The same soldiers are thrown at the player in ridiculous numbers throughout the entirety of the game. Enemies including the Fireman and the Zealot of the Lady are really cool at first but also wear out their welcome eventually. The re-skinning of enemies for different factions does not feel organic, and the lack of variety does not match the scope of the game.
The narrative of the game does not pull punches and has some serious ambition. In the first third of the game the pace is unrelenting with every action moving the plot forward. Sadly, the story-telling becomes increasingly like the gameplay as the game progresses. First comes a fetch quest to retrieve something that you already had, grinding the pace to a halt. Still, the game continues throwing interesting concepts and scenarios at the player, but it does feel like, if it had been a movie or a book, Infinite would have been cut or reshuffled in order to be more concise. The game’s ending is as satisfying and pretentious as expected and is great to see in a big budget shooter game. What Bioshock Infinite does well, it does exceedingly well, but the uncharacteristic and tedious combat is disappointing.