When it was reported Ken Levine personally killed off the Bioshock movie project, he explained that there was hesitation if the right creative minds where at the helm to pull off a film version of what he has created. A diminished budget and losing a director with the next hired being one he didn’t have faith in, all caused him to bring an end to an adaptation. It would be like remaking Back to the Future as a French art house film. Fascinating idea but could very well slam flat on its face. With the release of Bioshock Infinite, Levine and his team are proving that they are capable of creating a remarkable and enthralling experience without Hollywood’s help.
The storyline of Infinite certainly rivals any cult cinema classic constantly loading its pistol with mind-blowing ammunition. Successive plot points hits targets around you, turning your head wondering what is happening before a straight head-shot of plot revelations potentially results in one of the most triumphant videogame storylines in a very long time if ever.
You take control of Booker DeWitt. A change from previous Bioshock titles, Booker is definitely not a silent protagonist. From the outset, we know he is a gambler, drinker, a generic out of luck character being sent to the city of Columbia, the city in the skies. His mission seems simple; to bring back a girl, Elizabeth, in turn paying back his debt. Of course though, nothing is at all as it first appears. The history of the city, Elizabeth’s mysterious powers and the role Booker plays in each part keep the player guessing at all times. Themes of cultism, religion, race, society, redemption and destiny thrust you along at a tremendous pace but are not heavy handed.
The location, like many Irrational games, is a character itself and a truly wondrous place to explore. It demands attention in detail. The need to be a tourist amongst this place is overwhelming; I was frustrated when it was clear I missed the smallest of areas as I wanted to experience every last part of an environment so imaginative and ever changing as it goes through civil war and dimension shifts. Collectabiles to hunt down are true tourist attractions, telescopes and kinetoscopes give increased insight into this amazing world. Different viewing points and short quirky silent films along with voxophones left behind by many characters revealing background information adding to the rich story of Colombia.
Other elements are very familiar from the previous two Bioshock titles. Plasmids are now called Vigors and are powered by salts, for some reason. Weapons are rather standard but you can only carry two at a time. Fighting is often frantic. Enemies ranked rather sensibly in toughness from basic melee foes to armoured heavy gunners and RPGs. The biggest baddies come in the forms of Patriots, automated robot heavy gunner along with the Handyman, essentially a giant cyborg categorised as a heavy-hitter. Amongst all these enemies fights can get very cluttered very quickly leading to at times getting stuck amongst bombardment. However using innovative gameplay tactics like aerial battles on skylines and vigor combinations, mastering the combat can be accomplished to overcome these minor issues.
Once Elizabeth is in your company she quickly becomes one of the most valuable companions in a game. If you observe her movements closely they seem obscure at first but they are carefully choreographed so she does not get in your way. You do not need to worry about her in battle, she will find cover and you will never shout frustration that she is in the crossfire. Instead you may be thanking her several times. Elizabeth helps you by doing scavenging on her own. While looting containers she may hand you a little extra cash and in battle she will hand you ammo, health or salts at just the right times which can very well make a crucial difference. She also adds as the games peculiar method of respawning. Once out of life you will see her revive you and somehow this costs money. I’m not sure why Elizabeth charges for this service but I need to keep playing somehow so let’s not question it too much.
The need to play through again is inevitable, whether it be purely for the story working out the fine intricacies or to tackle the unique 1999 mode. Upon initial completion this mode unlocks and offers a challenge to satisfy the true hardcore gamers. Less ammo, less health items, few of any resources really increase the difficulty for a true challenge. DLC seems to be planned to expand the game and it definitely needs to be solid enough to avoid ruining the already brilliant storyline. For now make sure you stick around while the credits role as there is moving and intriguing behind the scenes video of cast members recording one of the games songs under Levine’s direction.
Bioshock Infinite is a monument to its creators and predecessors. There’s certainly life left in this universe yet and Infinite cements that possibilities are truly endless. This game simply must be played. I stress, it must. You will gather to discuss the plot and I will not be surprised that anyone who isn’t a fan of the story probably doesn’t like Donnie Darko either. Rest assured that Elizabeth will make her way onto ‘best companion’ lists alongside memorable sidekicks like Luigi and Lydia from Skyrim. Ken Levine has shunned Hollywood but not his audience giving them a game truly remarkable. The gameplay may not be revolutionary but the story is the shining example of how it can be done. After Infinite, Bioshock may just be able to go on forever.