About A Girl: Assorted Thoughts On Bioshock Infinite

By Kieron Gillen on April 6th, 2013 at 8:31 pm.


Heavy Spoilers, obv.

As the credits rolled and Bioshock Infinite’s re-arrangement of God Only Knows reprised, I starred at the screen and a question formed.

Does Ken Levine have kids?

He’s talked about his wife in Interviews but not kids, as far as I’m aware. Absence doesn’t really prove anything to my satisfaction. If I had kids, I wouldn’t necessarily want to talk about them in the games press either.

Assuming that the core idea actually came from him – and that’s a big assumption – it’s an interesting question. It doesn’t change what the game argues, but what was the way in? Was Ken primarily thinking like Booker, and wondering what he would do to get his kid back after losing her from his terrible weakness , or was Ken thinking like Comstock, and wondering what a guy who had left it late to have a kid may do to make ensure he has one?

In other words, where did Bioshock Infinite come from?

(The wonders of writing is that the answer doesn’t matter. Comstock and Booker are the same man. They’d be the same man even if they weren’t the same man, because that’s how writing works.)

I mean, a Bioshock game about parenthood? It’s not exactly a surprise. As Rab argues, the Bioshock games have always been about parenthood in one way or another, Infinite takes it further than even the explicitly they-(could)-fuck-you-up-your-mum-and-dad-’em-up of Bioshock 2.

It’s not really about Columbia. Because for all the splendour of the city above the hills, it’s a backdrop to the story of a man and his daughter. Columbia is both the setting and the ultimate threat to be averted at all costs. Not that Columbia doesn’t try its hardest to be the star. As a game whose setting can be summarised as “The 1893 Chicago world fair takes off and becomes an American Exceptionalism Death Star.” it shouldn’t even have to try that hard. Still, she tries, but she fails. And that “she” feels important – I couldn’t help note that rather than the conceptually named Rapture, this city is called the name of the goddess of America. Columbia is literally the other woman.

(In passing, among the many things I like about Bioshock Infinite is its refusal to treat its players as ignorant. It plays outrageous games with the period, and relies on you having paid attention enough to history to at least get the basic gist, or failing that, trusting your curiosity to do the research. And there’s no shame in the latter. I’ve always loved work of art that are doors to other worlds, and Infinite fits comfortably among them.)

Columbia rarely feels real. It feels a damn sight better than real. It feels like a stage, because that’s exactly what it is, and what it’s designed to be. Arguments in favour of naturalism fail to understand exactly what Infinite has achieved, and how a more Assassin’s Creed city would break that. Columbia isn’t a place, it’s a bunch of ideas housed inside a videogame level. Even before Alec explained the undeniable links, it was always harking back to that cinematic ur-city, Oz. It’s a game that seems as equally influenced by those two bastions of videogame anti-realism, Dear Esther and Super Mario Galaxy. It reminds me of Brazil, in that I have a similar baffled “they tricked an international corporation giving them millions upon millions of dollars to make this” response to its existence. Often times Bioshock’s studied videogame formalism, love of set-design and visual showpiece reminds me of how musicals operate, but with painful hyperviolence in place of vocal histrionics. Why has the set been cleared of extras? Why is there a big fight here? Because it’s a first-person shooter, silly.

It’s fine with that.

The first Bioshock was bitter at videogames, that angry j’accuse aimed at the whole mainstream, gamers and developers both (including Irrational). You spend your entire life doing these tasks just because someone in power tells you? What are you? What are we? A man chooses, a slave obeys.

Infinite’s metacritical point is softer, both in terms of its overall importance in the game, and towards the medium (and specifically genre) it utilises. Throughout by its chosen action and made explicit in its last twenty minutes, it says it’s okay to be a classical videogame. Videogames are about their programmed boundaries placed by its designers and populated by our actions. And every single game, even the most linear, is different – is fundamentally and absolutely yours. Those choices, those tweaking of experience, that killing of an enemy, that head-flick of the camera or pause in step makes a whole different world, and it’s wonderful, boundless and infinite.

Infinite is much more of a classical first person than either of the first two games. Alec was especially right to nod towards Doom’s arenas, its space and exploration… and Infinite feels comfortable with that. Its confidence in itself even shows in stepping away from once radical elements that are now closer to standard, like the heavy internal story choices and multiple endings. No, believes Infinite, the fact it has a single end doesn’t change the multiversity it contains.

I’d suggest a careful examination of the two most artificial levels in the games hints towards that larger point. Compare and contrast the mocking grotesqueries of Bioshock’s Fort Frolic (whose critique is aimed towards the artificial nature of videogames) to the mocking grotesqueries of Infinite’s Hall of Heroes (which uses the artificial nature of these videogames to aim towards its larger socio-political targets). Fort Frolic despairingly laments that this is all we do. The Hall of Heroes says this is what we can do with what we do. In fact, thiis is what we can do with what we do, is Infinite’s refrain throughout. Whether it chooses to be beautiful or horrific, it pushes to the extremes. Whether it chooses to awe or horrify, it succeeded. I can’t think of a game that made me want to drag other people over to the monitor to share.

As much as I’m excited by radical rejectionists and year-zero approaches, Bioshock Infinite’s design is a careful small-c conservative counterpoint. The problems are not necessarily problems. It’s possible that some of the problems are merely the form. While it’s true that poetry does not and should not have to be a sonnet, it doesn’t follow that a sonnet cannot still be profoundly beautiful.

Heh. Both formally and explicitly in the narrative we hit the same point: “Don’t throw the baby out.”

That Columbia is the setting rather than the story does mean that it’s actually a little less of a political game than I was expecting, more about people and less about ideas. For a left leaning guy, I’m surprised to find myself okay with the presentation of the Vox Populi’s rebellion as a murderous rampage. The period Infinite charts starts with the French Revolution and ends with the Russian one, and both had their associated capital-T Terrors. Both are clearly referenced with the visual motifs and even explicitly. I’d also say Fitzroy’s most striking literary forebear is the proletariat-angel-of-vengeance Madame DeFarge of A Tale Of Two Cities. Yes, Fitzroy’s a monster, but what turned her into one?

A corrupt and abusive system ferments dissent, and when that’s sufficient to cross into open revolt, what follows isn’t pretty. It’s less “Everyone’s as bad as each other” than “this is another side-effect of a truly broken dystopia”. Bioshock Infinite states that an obscene system that makes no attempt to reform will lead to an equally obscene revolution, and you’re a naïve romantic to think that the walls aren’t going to be painted in blood when it snaps (Elizabeth’s initial reference to Les Miserables souring into a realisation of what it really means). That said, I’d be more comfortable with more of an authorial nod towards the fact the violence is a product of the system Comstock put into motion, because it is arguable the game comes close to a shrug heavenswards rather than a firm conviction.

Well, it’d say what stops it being just the aforementioned shrug is the actual Booker/Elizabeth/Comstock story. The point is to stop this world from ever happening. Given the choice, better to prevent a world that leads to violent revolution or brutal conquest because anything afterwards is going to be choices between devils. Don’t let it start and make a better world.

There’s been considerable debate around whether Bioshock Infinite’s ending lines up, and while I’ve followed it, I’d immediately decided I didn’t really care. Even if it didn’t all make sense (and I’ve seen explanations that convince me) I’d file that sort of criticism into the over-literalism of the Columbia-isn’t-a-city. Like a musical, the emotional is the foremost thing, and Infinite makes striking, chest thumping emotional sense, coming into sharp focus with the aforementioned return of God Only Knows. As far as endings go, it’s paradoxical knot on the hangman’s noose around all the characters’ necks that they’ve finally worked out how to cut in appropriately Gordian style. Cue primal drowning, sad piano notes and the gut-punch of one of the most beautiful love songs of all time, warped to Infinite’s remit, using the prism of a muliverse to make the simple question of what would I be without you​ sing louder than ever. It’s a vertigous rush of the body-fear of parenthood and not-parenthood and life.

(In passing, the sound design is astounding throughout. There’s another article in there. I found myself thinking about how amazed we all were with Vice City’s use of pop music, and thinking how long we’ve come from there. Once again, Infinite excellence within a tradition.)

And it’s all about a girl.

I suspect of the things I disagree with in Alec’s What I Think, him noting that she’s the best companion since Alyx is the one that most raised my eyebrow. For all Half-life 2′s character charmed, she was one wonderful part of Half-Life 2, and Elizabeth is Bioshock Infinite. She’s not the best companion since Alyx. She’s the best companion.

At least since Another World, anyway.

You can write multidimensional stories like the clockwork puzzle. It’s one valid approach. But Bioshock Infinite is in the tradition of those that are primarily interested in questions of how people could be, and the road untravelled and what’s worth living for anyway. It made me feel a half dozen things at once, which is the entirely point of the best of anything.

Infinite does require the sort of intellectual buy-in you make any time you’d go to a theatre and see a character doing a monologue. If you wish, you can sit and critique it for that. And I don’t mean that sarcastically. If that doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work. Some people just hate musicals because nobody goes and bursts into song.

But that’s not a problem with musicals.

I’d happily swap a lot of reality in games for much more of Infinite’s poetry.

It’s a fascinating game. The more you give to it, in terms of your thought and attention, the more it gives back. I’ve rarely been more happy simply watching and thinking in a game. I’m more amazed I felt I explored so much of it, and still missed so many of the audio diaries. And as I haven’t mentioned it in this cheery download, I also liked shooting dudes a lot.

If there are infinite dimensions, then inevitably in one something like Bioshock Infinite would exist. I think we’re lucky that one happened to be ours.

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289 Comments »

  1. Eddy9000 says:

    Oh sod you all, I was going to wait to get this on sale while I play through my back catalogue, but it looks like Im just going to have to buy it now and play it through so I can read the analysis articles that keep appearing everywhere. I hope you’re very happy, I was going to spend that £30 on toys for Barnardo’s orphans but now they’ll have to go without.

    • Innovacious says:

      If you get it on greenmangaming you will still have £6 left for the kids!

      • Eddy9000 says:

        But then how will Gabe Newell afford to eat? Does nobody think of Gabe Newell?

        • Sander Bos says:

          You really think Gabe needs to have more food?
          (It’s okay, I can joke about this, because I’m also fat)

          • Phantoon says:

            I don’t think it matters if you’re fat or not, the guy is a multi-millionaire. It’s weird that people suddenly think things are “off limits” for comedy now, because ???

            You can joke about anything, as long as you’re funny.

    • Itkovian says:

      Literally the same situation. Was hoping to wait until the price dropped so didn’t buy it on pre-order and now am stuck paying full price so I can read the above article at some point in the next week or so…

      Those orphans are down £60 worth of toys now.

    • Ruffian says:

      At least it’ll be worth it. IMO, anyway. The first time in a long time I’ve seen a game compared to HL2 and felt the game to be actually pretty deserving of that comparison.

    • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

      This game is utter nonsense, do not buy it, is this some sort of case of mass hysteria or what? How are so many people buying into this garbage? How is anyone playing this and not saying “uh, this isn’t actually any good is it?”

      • Phantoon says:

        “It’s bad because it’s bad you’re dumb” isn’t an argument. Bring up an actual point other than “it wasn’t deep enough 4 me”.

  2. Web Cole says:

    Yay, Kieron :)

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Yay indeed!

      Though honestly I like Master KG best when he’s tearing things or opinions apart with his ever-razor-sharp criticizer.

      This to me seems too … enchanted? Blinded by love? Praising too much, overlooking the obv. ?

  3. Lemming says:

    I like everything you’ve said Keiron, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe the reason the shooty bits are so ‘classic’ is a symptom of all the production delays. Perhaps it was going to be more than just shooty bits and it’s been scaled back to something manageable because of some development problems?

    If that’s a case, it kind of undermines what you and Rab have said about it. Hopefully not, but perhaps worth considering.

  4. PopeBob says:

    Its odd choices like civilians magically disappearing instantly take you out of the escapism into a realm of “I’m Playing a Videogame and that was Weird” which is almost like a form of Brechtian alienation. Except the narrative itself fails at every level to achieve that goal, so it ends up just feeling like laziness. There’s a lot of things that Infinite does right, but reaching the heights of Epic Theatre it does not.

    • AngoraFish says:

      It’s not just civilians magically disappearing instantly, it’s Elizabeth disappearing instantly in the last scene.

      The game goes to all this effort to create a vibrant woman fighting for the chance to experience the world, who will fight voraciously for survival, who suddenly and completely without warning comes to the conclusion that she must snuff out her own life and all of her experiences, by eliminating the timelines in which she ever existed.

      Suicide much?

      Deus ex machina much?

      At least in Booker’s case you could make an argument he didn’t resist because of post traumatic trauma and regret. What excuse does Elizabeth and her alternative selves have?

      • Heatvision says:

        She becomes a god at the end. She has the power to see every thing that ever was or could be, and the power to create and destroy universes at will. She’s an anomaly. Would you want that power or that responsibility? By closing the Comstock/Booker loop (which, by the way, the Luteces created, and are subsequently trying to fix), she doesn’t erase Anna; she frees Anna to grow up in her own way, complete with her own possibilities. Same goes for Booker. He gets the chance to be a dad. We don’t know for certain what will happen to them, but we get a glimpse of the kind of woman Anna will likely grow up to be. Creating Anna was, by far, the best thing Booker’s ever done in his life, and his only real chance at redemption.

        • AngoraFish says:

          For anyone stuck in their own individual timelines unaware of what their own “selves” are up to for their entire lives, for all intents and purposes other selves are simply other people.

          It would take quite an inhuman level of altruism to deliberately sacrifice yourself for some unknown “twin” one has never met.

          It’s also takes quite a leap to assume that this alternative reality has any greater possibility than offered by the current reality where Elizabeth is still young, insanely well educated and incredibly powerful.

          On the other hand, Booker at the time of his daughter’s birth is essentially an unemployable, traumatised war veteran. The odds would have to be very high indeed that Elizabeth in this alternative universe will simply die of Small Pox, marry an abusive husband or live life as an illiterate beggar in abject poverty.

          • blackmyron says:

            The indication at the very end – that Booker is confused that he is hearing Anna in the next room – seems to imply that Booker does have a hazy partial memory of what happened, which would imply a better ending for the two of them.
            Besides, I doubt Elizabeth wouldn’t have stacked the deck a little bit in their favor when she was all-powerful.

      • PopeBob says:

        Not… not entirely sure how that relates to my post, but sure. Okay.

      • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

        I didn’t think the game went into much effort into anything it did. Like songbird. Why is this game acting like this is supposed to be something I care about? Like it’s some unbeatable threat? Why is it acting like it’s death is some big traumatic thing? The whole game is like that, it doesn’t earn anything.

        You’re in an airship, ready to escape the floating city, and elizabeth is upset you’re going to new york, not paris (never mind that I already explained to her I was hired by people in new york to come get her, she’s choosing now to act like she’s hearing it for the first time (why is there so much repeated dialogue like that in this game?)) so she conks me over the head, suddenly I wake up and the airship is in the hands of rebels. They kick me out of the airship, luckily at the same part of columbia elizabeth is in, I meet up with her and tell her I made a deal with rebels and she decides to be my buddy again because “me and the airship are her only way out.” What. in. the. hell. This game is utter nonsense. Beginning to end. Why are people fawning all over this thing?

        • horus_lupercal says:

          “I didn’t think the game went into much effort into anything it did. Like songbird. Why is this game acting like this is supposed to be something I care about? Like it’s some unbeatable threat? Why is it acting like it’s death is some big traumatic thing? The whole game is like that, it doesn’t earn anything.”

          The only reason i reacted to songbirds death was Elizabeths reaction, numerous times she explains the juxtaposition of her feelings towards songbird, a form of stockholm syndrome, and she visibly reacts to ‘his’ death creating for me, an emotional connection through Elizabeth.

          “You’re in an airship, ready to escape the floating city, and elizabeth is upset you’re going to new york, not paris (never mind that I already explained to her I was hired by people in new york to come get her, she’s choosing now to act like she’s hearing it for the first time… so she conks me over the head, suddenly”

          Have you never encountered people who hear what they want to hear? Yes Elizabeth was told by Booker that he was there to take her to New York though he noticeably toned down a lot of it with vague promises and he did use Paris to get her to follow him. Then when reality bit she realised she’d been fooled, by herself and Booker, and reacted as her naive view of people was stripped away.

          “(why is there so much repeated dialogue like that in this game?)”

          Because people can miss things while playing a game and there are certain themes the game wants to expound, such as “bring us the girl”, especially as it’s a central theme to the game. If they didn’t repeat it there’d be complaints that it wasn’t clear enough.

          “I wake up and the airship is in the hands of rebels. They kick me out of the airship, luckily at the same part of columbia elizabeth is in, I meet up with her and tell her I made a deal with rebels and she decides to be my buddy again because “me and the airship are her only way out. What. in. the. hell.””

          Well the game does show a Vox zepplin hove into view after Elizabeth whacks you and yes it is a coincidence that you end up in the same part of the city as elizabeth however entertainment is often full of coincidences that test the suspension of disbelief. Her ‘choice’ to partner up with you could be seen to be down to her realising, via being kicked off the vessel she tried to stow away on, that she needs Booker if she’s ever going to escape Columbia and Booker is the only other person she vaguely knows in the entire city making her reliant upon him.

          “This game is utter nonsense.Beginning to end. Why are people fawning all over this thing?”

          Obviously that’s your opinion and you are of course entitled to it. The game becomes a lot clearer on the second playthrough and litlle empahasies here ans there carry different meanings, especially on the part of the Luteces, once you’ve wrapped your head around the ending. The game’s far from perfect but it’s one of the more thoughtful games that have come out in the past few years and many folk disagree with you; as my grandad would say “different horses for different courses”.

        • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

          I didn’t have an emotional connection with Elizabeth because she was awkward and creepy and poorly written. She just seemed as inconsistent as everything else in the game in regards to the songbird. (also you go through all these levels of security to get to her (72 HOUR QUARANTINE PAST THIS POINT), only to just fall through the floor to get in the room, oops we forgot to make the floor sturdy) One minute she’s taking my hand and making me make awkward choking and gun pointing gestures at her head to show how being taken back by song bird is worst than death, the next she’s killing it but wait IT’S SO EMOTIONAL because, uh, well the game says it is with the music and way Elizabeth is acting, so it must be.

          “Have you never encountered people who hear what they want to hear? Yes Elizabeth was told by Booker that he was there to take her to New York though he noticeably toned down a lot of it with vague promises and he did use Paris to get her to follow him. Then when reality bit she realised she’d been fooled, by herself and Booker, and reacted as her naive view of people was stripped away.”

          Man, how hard do you have to try to NOT escape a FLOATING CITY when you have an AIRSHIP. The writers must have realized this as well because they chose now for her Elizabeth to get mad enough about not immediately going to Paris to knock you out and… jump out of the airship? Park it next to the vox populi ship? (who choose to fly the ship over a prison work camp for some reason?) Why didn’t she just, I don’t know, steer it towards Paris?

          “‘(why is there so much repeated dialogue like that in this game?)’
          Because people can miss things while playing a game”

          Uh, like literally the exact same sentences are repeated minutes apart at least six times in the game that I noticed. Nobody needs that kind of repetition. If you do, then this must actually be some special needs development training tool, not a videogame. Or at least design your game where the characters don’t suddenly act like they’re receiving the information for the first time the second time it’s spoken out loud. And how do you miss what the two main protagonists are saying out loud right in front of you anyway? You are PLAYING as Booker, there’s no way to miss what he says.

          “entertainment is often full of coincidences that test the suspension of disbelief. ”

          Everyone says “wow this game really makes you think”, except don’t think about it too hard I guess. A floating city requires suspension of disbelief, I can buy into that. The sheer nonsense and lazy writing behind every character’s motivations and actions and the constant disregarding of everything going on by just jumping into the next alternate reality I can’t buy into. The way every line of dialogue barely makes any sense in context of the game, I can’t buy into. The way the game, instead of coming up with one good idea and doing it right seems to just throw a million ideas the designers had while coming up with the game all half assed together I can’t buy.

          The only way this game makes sense is looking at an early e3 video of the game it looks like this game was entirely redesigned at the last minute.

          • horus_lupercal says:

            “I didn’t have an emotional connection with Elizabeth because she was awkward and creepy and poorly written. She just seemed as inconsistent as everything else in the game in regards to the songbird. (also you go through all these levels of security to get to her (72 HOUR QUARANTINE PAST THIS POINT), only to just fall through the floor to get in the room, oops we forgot to make the floor sturdy) One minute she’s taking my hand and making me make awkward choking and gun pointing gestures at her head to show how being taken back by song bird is worst than death, the next she’s killing it but wait IT’S SO EMOTIONAL because, uh, well the game says it is with the music and way Elizabeth is acting, so it must be.”

            As it happens I agree that falling through the ceiling seemed a bit odd considering all the security in place. In regard to her killing Songbird but being upset by it I saw it as more signs of the juxtaposition in their relationship. She hated ‘him’ enough to prefer death over returning to ‘his’ care yet also felt a bond with him at the same time. Songbird was blocking her escape so she did what she had to do but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t feel remorse at the finality of the act. Yes Elizabeth isn’t a perfect believable person however I don’t think we’lls ee totally believable npcs for a very long while yet if at all.

            “Man, how hard do you have to try to NOT escape a FLOATING CITY when you have an AIRSHIP. The writers must have realized this as well because they chose now for her Elizabeth to get mad enough about not immediately going to Paris to knock you out and… jump out of the airship? Park it next to the vox populi ship? (who choose to fly the ship over a prison work camp for some reason?) Why didn’t she just, I don’t know, steer it towards Paris?”

            I have to ask… how much attention were you paying during the scene and before it? She’s angry that her hopes were dashed and her rescuer was taking her to a place she didn’t want to go to hand her over to people unknown so she took actions into her own hands rather than being passive. While Booker is drifting in and out of consciousness she alters the direction the airship will travel, it’s the first thing she does. Unfortunately for her a Vox airship hoved into view shortly there after as they, and I’m guessing here, spotted the premiere airship of the city and decided to grab it. Not wanting to fall into the hands of the Vox she legged it before they boarded. I can’t answer as to why they flew it over the prison area mind beyond it adding flavour to the story.

            “Uh, like literally the exact same sentences are repeated minutes apart at least six times in the game that I noticed. Nobody needs that kind of repetition. If you do, then this must actually be some special needs development training tool, not a videogame. Or at least design your game where the characters don’t suddenly act like they’re receiving the information for the first time the second time it’s spoken out loud. And how do you miss what the two main protagonists are saying out loud right in front of you anyway? You are PLAYING as Booker, there’s no way to miss what he says.”

            I wasn’t defending it, I was offering an explanation. Also while I’m sure there are several bits where lines are repeated I don’t remember it grating too much. That could just be me and I’ll freely admit i could be wrong there however i would like some examples if you’d be so kind.

            “Everyone says “wow this game really makes you think”, except don’t think about it too hard I guess. A floating city requires suspension of disbelief, I can buy into that. The sheer nonsense and lazy writing behind every character’s motivations and actions and the constant disregarding of everything going on by just jumping into the next alternate reality I can’t buy into. The way every line of dialogue barely makes any sense in context of the game, I can’t buy into. The way the game, instead of coming up with one good idea and doing it right seems to just throw a million ideas the designers had while coming up with the game all half assed together I can’t buy.”

            This is very subjective as I didn’t find the characters motivations lazy or nonsensical nor did I think they disregarded things by jumping into alternate universes which happens twice. once when Chen Lin is dead and once when they realise they can’t get his tools back to him on their own. They’re acts born out of desperation. Neither did I find that every line of dialogue made no sense int he context of the game though many of them have made more sense during the second playthrough. The seeds of the ending are sown from the very begnning so to claim that it’s half-assed is subjective and, in my opinion, very wrong.

            I re-iterate that you’re welcome to your opinion. Just as I’m welcome to disagree with you and point out, using examples, where I think you’re wrong.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            It wasn’t a horrible game, it was just what happens when English majors get involved in game design.

            There were a lot of interesting themes, but turned into a mish-mosh, especially the crude way Elizabeth’s “menarche” is handled where she becomes emotionally bloodied and emerges with decolletage.

            Yes, definitely English majors.

          • noodlecake says:

            You strike me as someone who is very left brained.

      • Strife212 says:

        She still exists, did you watch the post credits scene?

    • noodlecake says:

      I didn’t notice civilians disappearing, or if I did I let it slide to the point that I instantly forgot because I was so in awe all the way through the game. I definitely didn’t get most of it, although now I am tempted to read into the historical references. I just adored the visual style and loved Booker and Elizabeth and their chemistry. It’s the most enjoyable AAA game I’ve played since The Witcher 2, which I rate as my favourite PC game ever. I was totally engrossed. Nothing jarred. Nothing felt annoying or hammy. I even found myself answering Elizabeth out loud when she pointed out lockpicks or threw me a coin, which is something I normally only do ironically.

  5. DickSocrates says:

    Craps, I read all the heavy spoilers because I didn’t know what ‘obv.’ meant.

  6. webwielder says:

    My assorted thoughts on Bioshock Infinite:

    -Elizabeth’s voice actress sounded far too modern to my ears. This constantly took me out of the game.
    -Comstock and his relationship with Elizabeth is extremely underdeveloped given that the characters are central to everything in the game.
    -Fitzroy is also underdeveloped to the point of distraction.
    -The Songbird is really terrible at finding a lunatic with a minigun who leaves dozens of bodies in his wake wherever he goes.
    -On the one hand, Columbia seems to be a theocratic police state, but on the other hand, I walk all over the city, carrying a minigun and looting every trashcan in the place, and nobody even makes note of my presence.
    -Until I cross vaguely defined barriers at which every guard in a 10 mile radius wants to kill me.
    -Zachary Comstock is no Andrew Ryan.
    -Fink is no Fontaine
    -Why do Comstock and Booker have different voices?
    -Elizabeth needs to get a purse and give me the coins she finds in a bundle at the end of each level.
    -The whole stealing mechanic was at best an afterthought.
    -Who would have thought the ability to open portals to another dimension would yield only health packs and conveniently placed hooks?
    -Why doesn’t everyone have vigors like me? I get they just wanted to have plasmids in the game, and didnt want to go through the whole ADAM thing again, but it’s a huge hole in the reality of the world.
    -The skylines were exciting and fun.
    -The fan service at the end was the most memorable moment of the game for me. And that doesn’t reflect well on Infinite.

    The game had incredible environments and intense combat, so I enjoyed it. But I thought there were so many issues with the world building and narrative that I can’t label it a masterpiece. Its problems aren’t worse than most other games, but it needs to do better than it did in order to receive the kind of acclaim it did. Even a small thing like not having Elizabeth playfully boast that she can make easy work of a lockpick right after I’ve rescued her from a torture chamber would have gone a long way.

    • Innovacious says:

      About Elizabeth sounding modern. She has been heavily sheltered most of her life and has access to tears where she can see and hear the future (or at least the future of another timeline). It could be argued that it shaped the way she ended up talking.

      OR

      I am looking too much into this.

      • AngoraFish says:

        For most people, a modern accent is invisible while a put-on Ye Olde English accent is pretentious and detracts from comprehension.

        Furthermore, most modern takes on what 100 year old accents sounded like are complete fantasy… not that 99.999% of the population would recognise an accurate accent if they heard it.

        It also takes a quite extraordinarily good voice actor to pull a proper accent off, and we all know how common good voice acting is in PC gaming.

        • webwielder says:

          Booker, Comstock, Fink, et al, all sounded convincingly of their time without coming off as hokey. Even Fitzroy almost made me not realize she was Ashley Williams from Mass Effect. Elizabeth stuck out like a sore thumb, though.

          Overall, the voices in the Rapture Bioshocks were much better. Frankly Bioshock 2 captured the Bioshock feel much better than Infinite, which is strange, as Levine and Irrational weren’t involved. Being set in Rapture certainly helped, but the atmosphere, writing, and voices were so spot on that it felt like the exact same team made it. Except the Bioshock 2 team knew how to end a game.

          • blackmyron says:

            I just finished replaying Bioshock 2 last night and I have to call shennanigans. The game is patently awful; characters simply vanish, the story doesn’t mesh well with the original one, it provides you with essentially a reusable Songbird at the end with the difference that it effortlessly trashes all your opponents for you, and has a massively anticlimactic ending.
            The irony is that the DLC, Minerva’s Den, is much more in the vein of Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite and about a hundred times more enjoyable than the main game.

    • Lemming says:

      The first gameplay-type trailers we saw of the game seemed to imply that the populace would be the ones taking up arms against you for rifling through things or being recongised as an interloper.

      It seems those things were dropped in the end, perhaps along with more Songbird. (and yeah I did find it weird that it seems to leave you alone for the most part, until Elizabeth opens a tear to a completely random place and it’s there).

      • Ruffian says:

        Speaking of which, where was that scene with Elizabeth hanging and the priest and shit, that they showed in the those scenes and the tv trailer?

    • webwielder says:

      And oh yeah, what in Washington’s name was up with the zombie raising ghost mom? Comes out of nowhere, goes nowhere, completely absurd.

      • Ruffian says:

        If I’m remembering the dev diaries correctly Lady Comstock was originally a regular “Heavy Hitter” called the Siren, that I’m assuming they retooled to be Elizabeth’s Mom and a boss fight.

        • Stretchy_Arms says:

          If you had the subtitles on for the game, you would have noticed after the final Ghostbusters-session with Lady Comstock, she’ll speak with the tag of “Siren.” From what you say, this could be believable.

      • Moonshine Fox says:

        Big-lipped alligator moment?

    • Yuri says:

      Let’s just quote everything from a video we recently watched, yes?

    • Thunderaan says:

      Oh god yes, Elizabeth cheerfully making a quip while picking a lock or throwing me a coin moments after she have had a really dark moment (and there are quite a few of those) was very jarring and honestly hilariously sloppy from Irrational Games.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      -Comstock and his relationship with Elizabeth is extremely underdeveloped given that the characters are central to everything in the game.

      This, definitely.

      -The whole stealing mechanic was at best an afterthought.

      There was stealing?

    • fish99 says:

      “-Fink is no Fontaine”

      Huh? Fontaine was a non entity, a boring cliched gangster, and as soon as Bioshock became about killing Fontaine, the game died.

  7. PopeBob says:

    I must also say that while there were aspects of Elizabeth-as-character which were enthralling, her presence in terms of Elizabeth-as-game-AI did not impress me in the slightest despite the endless hyping Irrational heaped upon their work. I saw nothing in her actions that was revolutionary or particularly impressive. She consistently pathed ahead of me into enemy territory, she consistently engaged in canned animations against walls/benches which were covered in blood and gore, she consistently didn’t bat an eye if I shot a civilian, she sometimes simply stared into a wall as though it were a beautiful view.

    • Triplanetary says:

      I only killed a civilian once (finger slipped…) and she reacted. She said something to the effect of “Oh my god!” but then of course I had to shoot a bunch of police. Any stronger, more believable reaction on her part would have been difficult within the structure of the game as-is, but your complaints are valid.

      Elizabeth really was at her best in her most heavily-scripted moments. In time I came to tolerate this and accept that much of the “radiant” behavior that had been teased had been phased out during development. But frankly, if you’re going to build a game like this that relies on so much scripting, Bioshock Infinite pulls it off far, far better than the latter Call of Duty games. (And yes, I know the complaints about CoD scripting are tired as hell at this point, but they’re also 100% legitimate.)

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    Haven’t played it yet, but it seems there is a quite shocking chasm between the clever narrative bits and the core gameplay, that is the shooting. It just seems so astoundingly backwards desing-wise, since all it takes is to look at some direct competitors within genre (DE:HR and Fallout NV) to see how it is absolutely possible to de-emphasise the combat, replace it with stealth/sabotage/diplomacy or make it optional, all within the confines of modern triple A action gameplay. Also, great idea with the two weapon limit, as a way to make the fighting even less tactical. Sometimes it seems Levine is such a clueless boor.

    • Premium User Badge

      RobF says:

      I don’t think it ever intended to de-emphasise the combat or replace it with anything else. That’s erring into “if only we could talk to the monsters” territory, really.

      It’s not a flawless game by a long shot, it comes for better or for worse with a lot of the problems of the big box videogame, but it is a game that wholly embraces its place as a violent big box shooting game where you shoot things violently and they die and stuff.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        No! It’s 15 minutes of political commentary, then 15 minutes of chainsaw-to-face. 15 minutes of emotional drama, tham 15 minutes of setting people on fire. And worse yet, the clever bits are non-participatory, you only get to do things during the shooting. It’s freaking schizo desing and I’m even sure there is a fancy scientifical term for it somebody came up with. What’s with the ‘talk to the monsters ridicule’? In many great games you can talk to the enemies in order to bluff them, or sneak past wearing a diguise etc, especially here the ‘monsters’ are sane humans here not Cacodemons or sploicers.

        • Lemming says:

          I don’t think Rob was ‘ridiculing’ anyone.

        • Premium User Badge

          RobF says:

          (I’m not Rab, sorry for the confusion)

          It’s not ridicule, it’s a position put forward by Edge a long, long time ago about Doom. It’s short hand pretty much for “if only this game was something it’s not, something different, another game entirely, even!”.

          ( reference: http://www.edge-online.com/review/doom-review/ )

          It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to talk to the monsters but it’s judging a game on what it’s not and what it’s not trying to be rather than whether it succeeds or fails at what it is trying to be.

          Bioshock Infinite is a game about shooting things in the face punctuated with moments of not shooting things in the face. It is not perfect and there is, at times, a massive and harsh disconnect between the two but it’s an interesting attempt at doing something bigger, something grander around the framework of shooting things in the face.

          It’s worth having a gander through this interview for some of where Levine is coming from:

          http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9097228/tom-bissell-interviews-ken-levine-mind-bioshock

          • WrenBoy says:

            Im not Rab

            Mind = Blown

          • Premium User Badge

            RobF says:

            Soz :( I feel like I’ve let everyone down.

          • Michael Fogg says:

            I know about the old Edge article, that’s why I mentioned Cacodemons. I’m not criticizing the game for not being something else, I’m criticizing it for the lack of features that could reasonably be expected, given its RPG lineage, the current trends on the gaming scene and the game’s literary ambitions. As it is, Infinite just doesn’t seem to work that well. It’s like trying to have a discussion about lofty ideas, but only being able to communicate in gunshots.

          • Premium User Badge

            RobF says:

            Right but its cod-RPG heritage, what other games have and do, I think that’s an unfair thing to start levelling at a game that clearly never wants to be anything but a game where you shoot men in the face + some other things happen + ps: videogames, eh?

            It’s not really high art, y’know? It’s a dumb thing but a smart dumb thing. Like a really good pop song.

          • Premium User Badge

            RobF says:

            ALSO in case it’s not clear, I don’t think it’s wrong to want these other things. More kinds of games, more breadth of experiences that aren’t just shoot the mans is totally cool with me.

          • Ruffian says:

            I certainly understand the complaints, but I don’t really think the shooting gets in the way as much as everyone seems to think it does, at least within the context of the game happening in the middle of a revolution in a very unstable society. Isn’t shooting to be expected from something like this? Though I’m sure it wasn’t the reason the shooting was done how it was, but the fact that there seems to be no way for booker to reason through the Columbians being brainwashed to hate him, at least gives a narrative reason for why there’s never any real dialogue between him and them.

        • PopeRatzo says:

          Michael, you are pointing out the elephant in the room that the rest of us are trying to ignore. How do you do political commentary in a game in which you play a man-killing puppet? If there is no agency, then why even tell me that morals exist? It’s like the anti-war subtext in Rambo 3.

          At it’s heart, Bioshock:Infinite is Call of Duty 4 with delusions of grandeur and art direction, written by English majors who took incomplete grades in post-modernism.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      That shocking chasm you’re referring to is also known as ludonarrative dissonance. I have never before had to ask myself so many times in the same game why the player is supposed to be battling enemies. Once the Vox start turning on Booker, it just became a… ahem… ludonarrative clusterfuck. Heck, when the game began to introduce the notion of “tears”, it began to lose whatever shred of narrative consistency it had struggled to maintain.

      Disclaimer: I felt (the original) Bioshock’s story and forward momentum irredeemably crumbled the moment the player wasn’t allowed the choice of not killing Ryan. And I’m well aware of why that particular design choice was made, it’s still massively disappointing.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        I love your disclaimer. Thousand times yes.
        Taking control away in that moment was incredibly cheap. And it wasn’t necessary.

        • napoleon_in_rags says:

          I believe it was necessary. At that point in the story, the player is still firmly under Fontaine’s thumb, and is doing whatever he wants him to. One of the main points of Bioshock’s narrative (as is pointed out the article) is to comment on the idea of ‘choice’ in video games. At least, it was up until that point in the game. The plot is sort of lost afterwards, and Ken Levine has admitted as much in the past.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            Yes, but it wasn’t a necessity. There’s a difference between “obeying” and “being forced to watch” – the realization (that you’re controlled by a trigger word) itself could’ve sufficed to dispel the grasp. And why not ? The point had already been made at that moment. Taking player’s agency away took player’s ‘complicity’ away as well.

          • napoleon_in_rags says:

            Could you elaborate a bit there? I think you’re agreeing with me that it is neccesary in terms of the plot to kill Andrew Ryan. ‘Atlas’ had already said, “Would you koindly go up to Andrew Royans room and kill the bastard.” (I threw in all the extra o’s to make fun of Irish people!(or fake Irish people in this case, I guess)) But what do you mean about ‘obeying vs. being forced to watch?’ Not quite sure I get your point.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            Nice accent, I can hear it as I read :)

            Well, up until that point you weren’t forced to watch from the backseat as your avatar does things (like murder) every time he hears “Would you koindly…”

            You’ve obeyed voluntarily, as a conditioned VIDEOGAME PLAYER, so after that realization I wouldn’t undermine that whole point by turning players into… “passive cutscene audience” giving them the excuse “there’s nothing I can do anyway”.

            I think leaving player free to play (pun not intended) at that moment, with golf club in hands, would be stronger.

          • napoleon_in_rags says:

            Ahhh, now I think I do see your point. You wanted to have a control in the part where you practice your drive with Daddy Ryan. I can see that as a valid criticism, even if it was something so simple as “press R to swing” or so. Yes, that probably would have improved things. But I don’t see it as an ‘irredeemable momentum crumbler’ like you and the fellah above seem to, but these things are a matter of taste, I suppose…

      • Premium User Badge

        RobF says:

        Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. The first 4 hours had me wandering about the ARENA/NOT ARENA and why it was so jarring. Once I realised that it was a shooter first and foremost it all made a lot more sense. Which, obv, doesn’t excuse it when it messes up as a shooter.

        The narrative stuff I felt was nothing that couldn’t have been solved with a tighter, less sprawling play time rather than because it jumped between shooter/not shooter.

      • Convolvulus says:

        I’ve been seeing this argument a lot on forums, and at the risk of sounding like a weirdo, I didn’t go through the game wondering why I kept shooting guys. Booker DeWitt is a murderous fellow who took part in the Wounded Knee and Haymarket massacres. He appears to have lived most of his life without remorse until finally crossing a line that he failed to hop back over in time. Now he’s compelled to repay a debt that his mind won’t even allow him to process.

        I don’t see any narrative inconsistency when an exceedingly violent person operating under a mysterious compulsion decides to shoot first and ask questions never. As for his enemies, the people of Columbia have been conditioned to hate DeWitt (the “False Shepherd”), and Fitzroy isn’t happy that a martyrdom which helped bring about her rise to power has somehow unmartyred itself. Also, riots and bloody revolutions aren’t exactly surgical operations. The Vox Populi attack those who aren’t Vox Populi.

        Now, let’s talk about BioShock: Infinite’s luponarrative dissonance, by which I mean the wolf that features heavily in the game despite not existing there at all. Where’s the wolf, Levine? Don’t tell me a story about a wolf without a wolf in it.

  9. Premium User Badge

    draglikepull says:

    I’m pretty surprised to see Kieron read the narrative as a tale about the individuality of our game experiences. I don’t think it was meant as a commentary on anything. I think Levine constructed a world that didn’t make much sense and was forced to throw together a generally nonsensical series of explanations at the end.

    Similarly, I’ve never agreed with the popular reading of the major plot twist in the original Bioshock. I don’t think that game had anything to say about player agency. I think it was a plot twist meant to shock the player and provide motivation for the story. I’ve always found it strange that so many people read Bioshock as a tale of player agency when virtually the exact same plot reveal (that the main villain has been disguising his voice and using you as a tool to accomplish his own goals) was present in Metal Gear Solid roughly a decade earlier.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      ken levine’s greatest skill is getting a large number of people to believe he’s done something terribly interesting.

    • altum videtur says:

      Yes, just like the constant return to railways and the ‘One Free Man’ moniker for the main character, or the part at the end of Half-Life 2 where for a moment it seems the game will allow you to make a choice of who to work with when you confront Breen is not meant to symbolize anything about ‘player agency’ and ‘freedom’.
      I suppose I cannot argue with that, because what reason would I really have to do so.

    • Matt-R says:

      I’m not really sure, I’d err with the side saying it was a dig at player agency I just find bringing that lack of player ability to change something on the basis of the game being linear as a hilariously bad idea rather than clever and witty, likewise with some of the ending sections of Infinite. You must hand over the baby because you always do so press F and press F again, yay go you king of linearity.

      Ugh. bashing me over the head that my only choice is to play or not play if I don’t want to take part in some contrived thing isn’t interesting, its annoying.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      An infinite number of lighthouses, there’s always a girl, etc, etc.

      What on earth did you think it was on about?

      • Premium User Badge

        draglikepull says:

        I didn’t think it was on about anything other than general sci-fi mumbo that had become necessary to try to provide some sort of explanation for some of the problems the narrative had introduced.

    • ulix says:

      Spoilers for System Shock 2!!!

      Don’t read if you still haven’t played it (you really should).

      “I’ve always found it strange that so many people read Bioshock as a tale of player agency when virtually the exact same plot reveal (that the main villain has been disguising his voice and using you as a tool to accomplish his own goals) was present in Metal Gear Solid roughly a decade earlier.”

      Ken Levine did this exact same Plot twist before as well, in 1999′s System Shock 2 to be exact.

  10. Renato84 says:

    I didn’t read the article, nor any of the above comments. I just logged in to say that I feel bad for myself for not having the time right now to properly dedicate to finishing Bioshock Infinite and, hence, losing the golden weeks after a work of art gets released then devoured and discussed by the amazed public.

    I’ve managed to play the first 30-60 minutes twice, first alone, second with my fiancée. I was jaw-dropped both times. She was too, and she’s not a gamer.

  11. Matt-R says:

    I just didn’t really find Elizabeth all that interesting, there was of course nothing wrong with her and sometimes there were moments of brilliance but all the same I felt the game could have easily been done with Booker not meeting her til the end or nearer it anyway.. and the way that the gameplay just completely sidelines her is a bit strange, though I guess that makes her tolerable not having her be killed randomly and having to start again.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Removing the necessity to protect Elizabeth and the possibility of her dying was absolutely a good design decision. Developers include those kinds of things because they feel like they should, but the vast majority of developers can’t come up with a semi-competent AI for a combat companion. So not even trying was by far a better decision.

      I think Elizabeth’s contributions to the battles (narratively speaking; gameplay-wise her contributions involved giving you a reason to press the F button) would have been highlighted better if she had been absent more. The player would then come to better appreciate the battles in which she is present and can summon the turrets and whatnot. As a consistent gameplay feature, the turret-summoning only remains connected to her, as I said, narratively, and then only because she shouts “Okay!” and does a little animation to bring the turret into existence.

  12. coolman420 says:

    If I had to compare Bioshock Infinite to a movie it would be Looper.

    It’s the same wildly overrated, plothole-ridden, contrived garbage critics are falling over each other to praise in a bizarre mass-delusional fit. Bioshock Infinite boldly tackles such deep philosophical notions as “racism is bad” and “perhaps extremists of all kinds are wrong” and garners praise it like it’s fucking Citizen Kane. I mean I know videogames have abysmal writing but that doesn’t mean you have to praise this mediocre, self-important trash to high heavens.

    Especially when the game itself has awful gameplay. Have you actually tried to play this pile? You fight the same 3 enemies for 8 hours, you can’t carry more than two weapons at a time and it features the most tedious bulletsponge enemies since, well, Bioshock 1. Also, you literally cannot die.

    What makes all this even more hypocritical is that I bet most of the people crying tears of joy over what a masterpiece of Fine Art this game is are the first to shit on games like Call of Duty when it’s essentially the same thing: a short, linear, asset and narrative-driven single player shooter with no replay value.

    There is one mechanic that the game got right though: it rewards you for eating garbage you find in trashcans. So if nothing else, the game knows its audience.

    • Premium User Badge

      draglikepull says:

      “Also, you literally cannot die.”

      I don’t know what this even means. There were a number of times in the game where I ran out of health and had to replay some (usually small) portion of the game.

      • Sander Bos says:

        So you didn’t really die then, if you could go on playing?
        That’s what I love about the commentary on gaming in Far Cry 3, that in-game baddy Vaas gets more and more crazy and frustrated over his inabilty to succesfully kill you despite many attempts (don’t worry Vaas, you have no idea how many times I had to get revived to get to you).

      • Triplanetary says:

        Yeah, I never understood the criticism over the death (or “death”) mechanics in games like Bioshock and Prince of Persia (the one with no subtitle but that isn’t the original, obviously). You can never die in any game ever, which the exception of roguelikes and Steel Battalion. Do you feel like your character’s “death” was cheapened if the game doesn’t punish you enough for it, in terms of making you sit through menus and loading screens? I just don’t know that I care one way or the other.

        • coolman420 says:

          In most games dying means having to replay part of the level. In Prince of Persia if you fuck up a jump and rewind you still have to get the jump right.

          In Bioshock if you die you are immediately revived but all the enemies you have killed are still dead and the ones you were shooting at are still hurt. If you fall off the edge of the flying city you are immediately warped back to where you were standing.

          There is no penalty for dying.

          • JackShandy says:

            Not true. Enemies regain their health, and you lose some money. On hard mode, at least, that money really feels like a punch in the gut.

          • coolman420 says:

            No, they regain a small amount of health not all of it, and you lose what, $60, in a game where you barely ever run out of money. It’s completely inconsequential and that was in Hard mode. Also despite the whole game taking place in a flying city there is no penalty at all, ever, for falling off the edge.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @coolman420
            That’s why this game has 1999 mode.

    • webwielder says:

      +1 for the Looper trashing. I found that movie to be abysmal.

    • duncanthrax says:

      I was just about to write the same – can’t understand the critics here. Except for the art style, this game is mediocre at best.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      This, this, this, even if you have a 420 username. Looper was mediocre at best, for the most part – here’s one clue why: it is not a story about time travel – and Infinite just evoked that same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realised oh, Jesus, here come more faux-profundities dressed up in an artsy genre skin that’s largely superfluous. It’s set in a Republican Heaven that bears little or no resemblance to any real human experience I know, have ever found anyone who knows or have ever read about, its big talking points have neither depth nor emotional resonance, its gameplay offers no meaningful reflection on the story you’re wearily dragging yourself through and offers no significant innovation or advance over the most generic Call of Duty knockoff imagineable.

      A pox on thee, Ken Levine; first for dismissing going back to Rapture (“Hahaha, why would I ever want to do that?”), second for poking fun at it to try and prove how smart you are and third for failing to improve on the sequel that took your original idea places you apparently never even dreamt of. I cried at the end of Bioshock 2, and the clumsy, flailing, half-assed character hackwork and tired pop-philosophy on display here doesn’t even come close. I can’t imagine any reason to go back to Infinite.

      Oh, and

      “There’s been considerable debate around whether Bioshock Infinite’s ending lines up, and while I’ve followed it, I’d immediately decided I didn’t really care.”

      Pretty much says it all.

      …yes, I know what you mean by this really, mister Gillen. Or I think I do. But I’ll take coming off like an ass if it conveys something of how bitterly upset I was by Infinite, ta very much. I wanted golden age SF and dusty, storied Americana: what I got I call trite caricatures, hackneyed, one-dimensional preaching and childish fantasy. Biggest disappointment of the year so far for me, and I’m finding the outpouring of praise over something so… uninspired, so shallow, so half-assed almost physically painful. :-(

      • G_Man_007 says:

        I loved it! :P

        I actually, did, though I can appreciate the vitriol you and others here are putting out about B:I. At it’s basest level, I was annoyed by being constricted to only two weapons, though I could swap them out as needed. I’d often prioritise my loadout, as I’m sure many did.

        I can’t really say I can agree with a lot of what you and others in the thread are saying; I loved B:I, and I loved Looper (especially as I though JGL did well to emulate Willis), but time travel/manipulation is a hard thing to get right in any medium (can there really be a “right” way to do it at all?). I will cite Timeshift and Singularity as examples.

        Timeshift was a pretty woeful game for me, the time manipulation mechanics felt hard to get right, or to put to good use in combat, and the combat and plot was uninteresting anyway, not to mention that the ending was pointless to almost approach Chaser’s “why the fuck did I do all that anyway?” sad offering.

        Singularity allowed you more tactical time bending, though again, in a predetermined fashion not a million miles away from B:I’s “choose your extra-dimensional gift”. It was a title which had seemingly B or C title worth, but which played it’s hand to a near AAA level. It came out of nowhere and offered three obliquely tangential endings which [SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] didn’t do anything to solve the problem you accidently created in the first place.

        If you haven’t played Singularity, then I recommend that you do.

        I personally don’t think that time travel could ever be possible due to the potential of infinite future possibilities through choice (linking there to the Infinite Worlds theory which B:I touches on). But hang on, I’m digressing (and also dog tired – apologies if I ramble); B:I didn’t really involve time travel (though there was some), it was dimension swapping/travel based around the Infinite Worlds theory already mentioned…

        I will submit to a few things:

        1. The sudden disappearance of citizens when the guns start to go off is a little suspect; it would have been nice to see them scurrying around in a blind panic, but they do tend to have buggered off after you’ve been in a building and the fighting has moved outside. Lazy pacing perhaps, but it did little to put me off my stroke.

        2. Elizabeth ceasing to exist; well, I’ll see AngoraFish’s point, call it valid, and raise him a “wasn’t that her choice to make?” (even though it was actually the script writer’s…). I’ll admit that continuing to live with money and power would be more attractive than being reborn into potential squalor and early death, but I’ve thought about what it would be like to be omnipotent, have the power of life and death in your hand (Dr Manhattan if you will), and I didn’t care for it, I suspect she didn’t either.

        3. Webwielder mentions Elizabeth’s voice actress; I couldn’t really tell if there was anything that broke my immersion in her voice, I liked her as a character, as a sprite, and I was quite taken with her. What bugged me was Rosalind Lutece’s voice. I KNEW I’d heard it EXACTLY as it was before – she played Bastila in KotOR, amongst a huuuuuuuuuge amount of other game and cartoon characters. Hearing her voice drove me crazy, not because I hated it, but because I couldn’t rest until I found out where I’d heard it…

        4. Comstock’s relationship with Elizabeth being underdeveloped; wasn’t that all a part of the lead up to the BIG REVEAL? That he was a c***, and stole her, hence the reason for all this? He was technically her father, just not in this dimension.

        5. Booker and Comstock having different voices; again, that would spoil the reveal.

        6. Comstock/Ryan and Fink/Fontaine; I can see the point you’re trying to make webwielder, but I don’t see the correlation. Ryan tried to build a utopia to better Man; Comstock built a fascist racist God bother’s paradise, without the vision of Ryan. The two could not be more dissimilar except for being the antagonist (though Ryan’s not the main antagonist of Bioshock, Fontaine is) of their respective games, and getting pissed off with the world’s governments and buggering off to live in one of the four elements. Fink and Fontaine again, not a huge similarity apart from being business men and ruthless, and trying to usurp the guy who built the place, and here, Fontaine was overt in what he was doing, Fink was a lackey starting to be inspired to take it from Comstock (much like a sith apprentice will try to usurp the master).

        Also, they are different characters from different games, and while B:I is from the same stable, and makes many a nod to Bioshock, for me at least, B:I is not trying to be it’s Grandfather, and so the comparison of characters doesn’t really serve. Though if you prefer Ryan and Fontaine, that’s cool, I’ll never begrudge someone their choice. Unless it’s wrong. :P But in all seriousness, you prefer them, I like both sets of characters as to me, B:I is it’s own thing.

        7. Yes, a purse, I will submit that having the money she finds being given to you at fewer intervals would be something to try, I did however like it when she rustled up more cash than a vault dweller with a Scrounger perk, especially if I has just tried a vending machine and was a little short. I loved the animation of catching that coin.

        8. Opening tears only giving you Health and Hooks (hmm, title for a medical/cenobite periodical methinks); well, no, I got cover and guns as well (the handy kind and the turrety kind), and that was within the scope of combat. She could potentially do more, though she did what she was programmed to give us. I did miss that horsey bit from the demo though. In fact, I missed the entire demo sequence, I would have liked to do that part…

        9. Vigors for all; I think that was ok, that Fireman chap had one, so did the Raven bloke, and One-Eyed Willy had the Shock Jock. Keeping the vigors to baddies of a certain level seemed an ok choice for me. If everyone had them, then it would just be like Rapture, and then everyone would be moaning about that. I liked the tactical constraints of having a vigor-totting enemy suddenly appear and being harder to kill. I suppose I felt like more of a killing machine when in combat against the grunts, and Bucking Broncho FTW!!!

        10. Elizabeth teh Master Theef; yeah, you’ve got a point there. I can’t recall if she said she had escaped before, but surely her leet skills could have been put to use before Booker arrived…

        11. Zombie ghost mum; annoying as fuck to deal with. I think she reinforced the creepy part of that level. I liked the creepy bits (Lady Comstock’s Revival, and the bit with the Boys of Silence). HEY! there’s a point, if you (the Royal you) want to criticise the point or under use of an enemy, what about the Boys of Silence? In the game for three minutes, hardly a mention both in the game and from people in this thread (for the first two pages anyway). I felt they may have been shoe-horned in, or reduced in scope and plot involvement…

        12. Cheers to RobF for the link to the Doom review by Edge. Eye opening and refreshing to read that early in on in gaming that concepts we take for granted in games now were being hinted at nearly 20 years ago. Bet that chap/chapette (I didn’t check) is happy now, assuming they are still around.

        13. I do think that if the game included more choice and perhaps expanded RPG features, perhaps even alternate endings, then it would have been closer to a masterpiece. As it is, I think it’s the best game I’ve played this year, but could have been more. Being able to play more like in Dishonored by not killing anyone if you wished, or the Fallout games where you could talk your way out would have been most welcome. I’d like to have more choice in games where I’m expected to kill guard/feral dogs; would it be too much trouble to sort them out without killing them? I hate that…

        14. Matt-R; I think you’re right about being able to have choice in an action where player agency is taken away, but it doesn’t bother me that much. I approach games pretty much the same way I approach books when it comes to story (except the excellent adventure books of Livingston and Jackson, but I’ll talk about that later). A script writer/author on a game, seeks to tell a story, much in the same way an author of a book does (or even a film script). What I find to be most powerful (and I came to realise this with watching No Country For Old Men), is that the story teller isn’t trying to give you the story ,you want, he or she is telling it how they want it to end (I’m not seeking to teach you all how to suck eggs here, we all know how stories work, I just want to illustrate my point).

        I remember watching NCFOM, and I’d heard about how people hated how it ended. I applauded the Coens for creating a film which gave so much then didn’t give a “Hollywood” ending – it was more a twisted British ending, and being British, I think I could appreciate that. That’s how I roll with reading books. Things may happen which I don’t like, or a to a character which I think is unfair (something like that just occurred in the book I’m reading now in the Song of Ice and Fire saga). I applaud an author who tells it their way, and doesn’t seek to gain likes or approval from the reader. And so it is for me with games and their stories.

        Revelation is a powerful tool on me in storytelling, especially in games, and I loved the (perhaps hackneyed and predictable) reveals in B:I (which I only saw half coming, if that), which reminded me of Braid, and what happened there (I honestly took 20 minutes to contemplate Braid’s ending, probably the greatest gut punch I’ve ever had from a narrative). I enjoyed that here, and it’s a shame I got more satisfaction from B:I than the majority in this thread, but, cest la vie.

        I think what you want more of Matt-R, is something along the lines of choice that you get in the aforementioned Livingston and Jackson Chose-Your-Own-Adventure books, and I agree, I love to be able to choose in a non-linear story environment. But this was linear, and we got the story the author(s) wanted to give us, and I loved it. No real happy ending, and a quick 1-2-3 jab of reveals into the bargain. I did think that the moments where you did choose one action or another would lead to different endings, but they were really false player agency, I mean, did it really matter whether you chose the bird or the cage for Liz? Whether I shot One-Eyed Willy or not (I understand there is a change there, but it’s not a story changer)? Going back to Bioshock and Ryan’s death for a minute, was forcing you down that path really so bad? It made sense to force that narrative on us, to have to actively kill Ryan to progress, though I will say it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had we not. I dare say that he would have been killed by other means, but what more fitting way to be killed than to order your son to kill you in the ruins of your dream? And Jack can’t say “no”. I love choice, but I also like to be led through someone else’s vision. One is an RPG/adventure, the other is action oriented. I think very few people were under any illusion about which one B:I was supposed to be. Much like the Coen brothers, I think it was brave of Levine and his team to play a tight narrative this time, telling the story that way.

        I do think it’s a shame that not more of you liked it, or liked it as much as I did, but not everyone can be pleased. I will finish with this; there were moments of absolute brilliance, such as when you pick up the guitar and Liz sings with you playing, or when you come across her dancing in Battleship Bay. I loved her for that, for displaying a little electronic humanity while I was scrabbling around, eating all the chocolate I could find, trying to find her, and keeping an eye out for the next threat. Like all of you, I do wish there were many, many more moments like that, but I loved what we got.

        I’ll let you into a little truth; I didn’t like the game at first. I didn’t think the first Bioshock was much cop the first time I played it either, I felt that was over hyped, and I felt at first that B:I was going to be the same. But I adored the setting of Bioshock 1, and came to love it more. Bioshock 2 was much better to my mind than the first; better weapons, the camera research was infinitely better this time around, and choosing whether to kill the bosses or not was a nice touch (like what we didn’t get with Ryan, Matt-R, so suppose that increases the validity of your point).

        I felt that B:I wasn’t doing enough to make me think that it wasn’t going to be Bioshock 1 mediocrity all over again; the graphics were superb, the setting wonderful, and the approach to Columbia lovely, but not as impressive as getting to Rapture. After the raffle, the guns going off, and sky-hook being introduced to eye-socket, it was all smiles from there for me. I think we were playing the same game up until that point, because it seemed it wasn’t really going anywhere for me at first. After that, I don’t know what game you were playing. I’d let you play my copy just in case, but, nah! :P

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Thank you for this thread, I can rest my indignation knowing I’m not alone.

    • QualityJeverage says:

      Congrats, you went from “person with a perhaps unpopular (but valid) opinion” to “unhinged obnoxious asshole” in the length of roughly one sentence.

      Please climb off your high horse, and then climb off all the many horses that horse was riding. When you make it down to our level in a year or so, maybe you can try criticism without directly insulting literally every human being who doesn’t see things your way, as though your tastes are the standard against which all others’ should be measured.

      I don’t even know why I’m replying to you, there are thousands like you and I can’t possibly think I’m remotely important enough or loud enough to change anything. I’m just out of patience for shit like this. You didn’t like a game/movie/book/song, cool! Talk about why! What the fuck do you think you’re accomplishing with all the vitriol about people who did like it? I mean, you know, other than feeling super smug about yourself and stifling any relevant discussion by introducing such hostility.

      Just for clarity: I don’t dislike you because you hated Bioshock Infinite. I loved the game but it had problems, and I’m more than happy to discuss them, the dissonance between the violence and subject matter being of particular interest. I’m even happy to discuss the game with someone who disagrees with me about it in every way. That’s totally valid and makes for good conversation.

      No, let me perfectly clear: I dislike you because you are behaving like a massive asshole. People like you are the reason “Never scroll down to the comments section, anywhere” is becoming increasingly sound advice. And that’s a shame.

      • coolman420 says:

        I did articulate why I didn’t like the game, both in terms of gameplay and narrative. I don’t really care if this offends you but if that makes you feel better I am myself offended at the comparisons to fine art this shallow pile of shit is getting.

        • blackmyron says:

          Okay, then let’s do a more reasonable response to you as representing the most common form of criticism – what video game does meet the criteria that you’re putting forth? You namechecked Citizen Kane – did you see that movie? What about that movie makes it brilliant? What video game can compare, or do you believe that video games can’t be art?
          I’ve heard the same nonsense when Bioshock came out – and what it appears to me is a kind of anti-intellectualism, an irritation that video games aspiring to be anything other than a mindless CoD-level of design. I’ve seen where pretentious complicated plot ends in meaningless nonsense – it’s called “Lost”. Bioshock Infinite wasn’t that. Did it have a lot of flaws? Absolutely. But I enjoyed it immensely and found myself engaging in discussions with other friends who had played it about the non-game elements. That, in my mind, marks it as successful in what it attempted to do.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        @QualityJeverage You take shit too personally. I understand the rather strong wording the OP used. Just look at BS:I’s metacritic score.

        The praise is hyped, as anyone who played the game and has some cognizance of other culture beside shooters can testify.

      • napoleon_in_rags says:

        No, no. Resorting to ad hominem is the only way to argue your point on the internet, Jeverage. Look it up.

        …Idiot. See? I had to do it there!

        • coolman420 says:

          Thanks for the well reasoned argument, pissy fanboy #987984.

          • napoleon_in_rags says:

            Funny, I didn’t provide any argument at all. I was just pointing out that you, like so many others on this fair internet, resort to attacking the people who like Bioshock Infinite in order to ‘drive home’ your views on the game. The way I look at it, you’re allowed to not like this game while I enjoy it, and we can both have valid reasons for doing so. You, on the other hand, have already shown you view your own opinion and tastes as inherently superior. Since the people who disagree with you like eating food out of garbage cans, apparently. So, since you haven’t come to the table of argument in a reasonable way, why should I bother?

            EDIT: Oh, and you totally proved my point when you called me a ‘pissy fanboy,’ even though I said nothing to suggest I was angry or even a fan of Bioshock in my comment. So thanks for that.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        I’m even happy to discuss the game with someone who disagrees with me about it in every way.

        I like how you say this, but then don’t actually discuss the game. The commenter made some interesting points, but you seem incapable of engaging with them.

        • QualityJeverage says:

          Incapable? Perhaps, absolutely. But the word I’d use is “unwilling.” I am most definitely unwilling to engage in a discussion about the game with this guy.

          The fact that I disagree with him simply isn’t my point. It’s with the way he’s speaking to (and about) the people who disagree with him. The game in question is really irrelevant to me here.

          Frankly, I’ll be the first to admit my post was ridiculous and largely an overreaction. As was suggested “I take shit too personally” and that is abundantly true. It’s a problem I have, and one I’m not always great at dealing with. This one broke through the defenses and I snapped.

          All that said, I’m not interested in withdrawing anything in particular that I said. But in a better state of mind, I’d likely have let it all roll off my back.

      • PopeBob says:

        I appreciate your horrified reaction to what is most assuredly a daily event for you as a denizen of the interneto-sphere, but please do try to achieve something other than complaint in your comments. For one so intent upon encouraging civil debate, you spent an awful lot of energy to write a comment which boiled down to “You should really stop with the ad homs, bro.”

        For many of us, the game remains flawed and terribly overhyped, the narrative remains spotty and shallow, the gameplay remains hobbled, Elizabeth remains an unimpressive AI construct. If you would like to discuss the particulars of these, feel ever so free.

        If you would like to continue being as self-righteous as those you oppose, also feel free. No skin off my teeth. I merely ask you exert some degree of self-reflection.

        • QualityJeverage says:

          Either you misunderstood me, or I misunderstand you (Both are definitely possible).

          As I mentioned in another reply, Bioshock Infinite really isn’t relevant to me here. I don’t mind that you and the OP dislike it. What motivated me to comment was, as you said, the vicious ad hominem. I’ll be the first to admit (and already have) that I take shit way too personally. If a comment like the OP’s comes across my screen and I’m in the wrong state of mind, it’s all over. Unfortunately, the stars lined up yesterday and I flew off the handle.

          Yes, I stand by the things I said. Yes, I think this kind of elitist outlook (Even the use of the word overrated to an extent) is abhorrent and useless. No, I don’t think I would have written that diatribe had I been calmer and saner.

    • 11temporal says:

      Yep, massively overhyped. Being pretty much immune to hype myself I find it bewildering to watch how profound an effect it can have on others.

      • AlienMind says:

        It starts already by being cliche mediocre because of displaying a little girl in sailor outfit as companion. Oh, that’s sexism, right. Sorry. *continueswatchinganimes*

      • Spakkenkhrist says:

        Long have my kind searched for the one human that is immune to hype, you are the chosen one, accompany me to my planet where an important quest that only YOU can complete awaits. We also hear you are very handsome and manly.

        • 11temporal says:

          You heard correctly.

          Unfortunately with the recent plague of hype my services are very much in demand here on Earth, but if you leave your galactic coordinates below I will be sure to get back to you at the nearest opportunity. In the meantime make sure the quest reward properly reflects the wealth of your kind.

    • Cytrom says:

      You must really hate videogames.

    • Techercizer says:

      Well, radical thought here, maybe some of us see merits in it that you don’t?

      • napoleon_in_rags says:

        No way. His opinion on the game is fact! Deal with it!

    • Ruffian says:

      Valid complaints to be sure. Actually the first time I went through a tear and a revolution was suddenly happening I was thinking roughly the same thing. That it felt like a cop out.
      The freshness (ha!) of the setting, music, and overall art of the thing however, were enough to round out the experience to “pretty dang good, for a shooter” to me, at least. For instance, the moment when you come across a random guitar, which upon interacting with, Booker actually sits and plays while Elizabeth sings, was pretty amazing. As was the little girl wailing away in shanty town. It was the little things, for me, that really set it apart. Of course, though, it could’ve certainly been much better. So it is with everything.

  13. Laurentius says:

    Indeed it’s suprising how often “left leaning” guys are OK with “You can’t make omlette without breaking few eggs”. So in the end of the day Kieron Gillen and Donald Rumsfeld would shake their hands and go to good night sleep.

    EDIT. Ok, now after rephrasing this paragrph, i read it differently and see authors point. I apologize for jumping a gun and seeing things where they were not.

    • altum videtur says:

      Literally every single person ever is okay with ‘breaking a few eggs’ as long as it’s for a cause/ideology they believe in. The amount of eggs broken that any single person is okay with might differ though.

    • dsch says:

      So I’ll show you my way of making egg-free omelettes if you show me yours.

      It’s really sad how people are so blinded by political prejudices that they are unable to see the beauty in the story.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I’ve done an edit on the section to make the point clearer. No, I’m not okay with the Vox’s actions. I’m okay with Bioshock Infinite presenting a left-leaning rebellion in such a fashion.

      (As opposed to some critiques of BSI that have skewered it on that point.)

      • Triplanetary says:

        Yep, that was essentially my feelings about it. I do find the “hurr both sides are equally monstrous” shtick that’s becoming very common in video games to be a lazy cop-out, and I think Bioshock Infinite is mildly guilty of this. But even with the Vox Populi as presented, the whole violent mess is still the fault of Comstock, Fink, and Columbia’s oppressor class generally.

        • altum videtur says:

          I was very much reminded of “the” revolution, that is, the Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia. Red as the identifying colour of the revolutionaries? Well, red has been associated with revolution for a while, but the Bolsheviks were [i]actually[/i] called the ‘Reds’. And the Vox Populi do represent the working class, which is horribly exploited. And it’s not like the Bolsheviks didn’t go around exterminating any aristocrats (and anyone who was accused of supporting the loyalists and their little kids too) like it was going out of fashion. Also, Fitzroy reminded me a bit of Lenin, but I suppose that’s just the general way of representing the charismatic ‘leader’ of a revolution.
          If anything, I expected the whole revolution business to be a lot more full of you witnessing unbelievable atrocities committed by the Vox. The whole thing was kind of tame, all things considered.
          And I have to wonder, if the ‘working class’ (okay, they’re slaves) consisted solely of, say, Irish or maybe Slavic people (so no people of colour were present at all in Columbia, their leader could be, say, actual Lenin, given the time period), would the game have gotten the same backlash for turning the Vox Populi into just another faction of villains?

    • AngoraFish says:

      The problem with expecting the oppressed to be infallible, morally pure and saintly in motivation is that all it does is justify the original oppression.

      If the oppressed are unable to present themselves as entirely without fault then somehow each side becomes “just as bad as each other”.

      No, they are not.

      As a handler, you can’t expect anything other than that the dog you’ve caged, leashed and tortured might eventually lash-out right back at you. This doesn’t evenly slightly make the dog as morally culpable as the handler.

      The analogy doesn’t stand up as Donald Rumsfeld is not a member of the oppressed, he’s pursuing his privileged agenda for first world reasons.

      • Idealist says:

        A dog is not morally culpable for lashing out because a dog is not expected to have moral agency. Slavery would be hard to convincingly argue against if its practice had the power to reduce the souls of those people it was practiced upon into a state no more morally responsible than that of a dog, because that would make it the single most powerful force known to man.

        • AngoraFish says:

          I am happy to accept that the analogy that was used to colorfully reinforce the main argument has flaws, as analogies inevitably do.

          Now please feel free to address the actual argument.

          • Matt-R says:

            If anything i’d be more inclined to say you’re more culpable, if an oppressor uses ideology or religion and violence as the means to do the oppressing then surely as a person who objects to that sort of thing then turning around and using the same tactics which you find so repellant makes you a bit of an odd character does it not?

          • AngoraFish says:

            The oppressed don’t need to have a position on the tactics, just an objection to having to be the ones who are oppressed.

            While virtually all ethical systems acknowledge a right to self defence, and to resist oppression, few if any acknowledge a right to oppress others.

            Only after the inherent power imbalance is overthrown can one sensibly have a conversation about creating a more equal system.

          • Jinnigan says:

            Alas, it’s nothing new for the oppressed to be solemnly told that their entry to Heaven depends on not hating the oppresor; labor is supposed to not hate management and black is not supposed to hate white because hatred is bad. It’s a fine case of double-think. Watch: (1) You do something nasty to me. (2) I hate you. (3) You find it uncomfortable to be hated. (4) You think how nice it would be if I didn’t hate you. (5) You decided I ought not to hate you because hate is bad. (6) Good people don’t hate. (7) Because I hate you I am a bad person. (8) It is not what you did to me that makes me hate you, it is my own bad nature. I – not you – am the cause of my hating you.

        • Jinnigan says:

          Here’s an applicable quote from Mark Twain, discussing the French Terrors: “There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

          • blackmyron says:

            True, but Twain didn’t live long enough to see what happened in the Twentieth Century. Between Stalin’s purges and the Great Leap Forward, the amount of death equal or exceeded the autocratic regimes that preceded them.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Why are you people treating Donald Rumsfeld like some kind of war criminal?

        He only rightfully punished Saddam Hussein for 9/11 atrocities and it’s not his fault that the mobile WMD factories moved from afghanistan, to Iraq and then to Libya – even our good Nobel peace prize winner Obama was forced to go to at least 5 wars to pursue them!

        Gaddafi managed to get rid of them elusive WMDs too before he was rightfully lynched – my money say, those darned WMDs are now hidden somewhere in Syria before they move to Iran!

        • Tagiri says:

          Or North Korea! Don’t forget about North Korea.

        • napoleon_in_rags says:

          I hear Canada’s WMD’s are lovely this time of year…Maybe we can have a war in a place with a decent climate, for a change.

        • AngoraFish says:

          The false allegation that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 has been comprehensively debunked many times over.

          edit: in my defence, unedited version was significantly less obvious in its sarcasm.

          • Ultra Superior says:

            Are you some kind of tinfoil hat truther ?

            Other than that, good work cpt. obv. !

            EDIT: perhaps not so obv. for many :(

          • napoleon_in_rags says:

            To be fair, Ultra, I thought you were an idiot, rather than being sarcastic, until I got to the third paragraph.

          • Ruffian says:

            LMAO. I love you RPS.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Indeed AngoraFish. Good point. Although I agree with the criticism that there seems to exist a current tendency to abuse the idea of both sides being equally bad, that criticism should be tempered.

        Where before we had a complete lack of moral ambiguity (which is a trademark of the human species and thus should be more common in games than not), now we don’t. That is being taken care of in more modern games. Looking exclusively at the grade of moral ambiguity presence in games, I think the criticism is invalid. We need to see it often and we need to see it more.

        But where I think the criticism is valid is in the tendency of games to always explore the concept of moral ambiguity. That’s what gets tiring. We can be presented with it without this becoming necessarily a core element of the narrative. Sure, shows us moral ambiguity, let us even interact with it at a superficial level (like we do in real life), but don’t patronize us. Don’t bring this narrative element again and again and again as a tale of morality. It’s tiring already.

        This is in fact where I disagree with Kieron the most. The game does treat us like a child. Just like many others before it. Not just because of another tale of moral ambiguity. But in fact because, just like the ones before it, the game feels the excruciating and rather frustrating (for a player) need to make everything so damn obvious.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Dropping, completely randomly, an unidentified child about to be murdered in the hands of the leader of the freedom fighters was, at best, a lazy and patronising plot device used for the sole purpose of contriving a superficial impression of moral ambiguity, thereafter justifying the murder of all her followers and more or less anyone else who happened to live in or near the city.

          ‘Moral ambiguity’ this artificial isn’t ambiguous, it’s simply amorality with a thin veneer of pretentiousness.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            There’s no question about that. But it stands to reason that if you are introducing the theme of moral ambiguity as a nuclear aspect of your narrative, you have already stepped into the trap. It’s only going to get worse from there on, because at some point, to make it relevant, you have to overemphasize it to the point of ridicule, or you risk a large part of your audience feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. Something you can’t possibly have on a linear shooter. It’s one of the shortcomings of introducing moral ambiguity as the center of your narrative and why it really doesn’t work on linear games.

            And that’s precisely the fault of BS:I, in my opinion. Not really that it creates a contrived, forced, narrative. It fits the game structure (at least when you are trying to create something that caters to the large audience). The fault of BS:I is that they didn’t even try to make a non linear shooter on the 3rd iteration of the series. And as such we are back again, for the third bloody time, discussing how frustratingly contrived and forced a Bioshock story is being told to us…

  14. dsch says:

    Thanks for this, Kieron. It beautifully addresses all the criticisms of the game (mechanics, politics, probably some other-ics) that I thought were missing the point, and saves me the writing of a response. I might do anyway. But this isn’t about me, it’s about a girl.

    The most marvellous part of the game for me was probably in the basement when Booker plays the guitar and Elizabeth sings. That was the moment when nothing else matters, not the shooting, the revolution, or the jumble of timelines.

    • webwielder says:

      Except that moment isn’t earned at all. There have to be setups for stuff like that, but instead Booker and Elizabeth just start spontaneously jamming as Elizabeth offers an apple to an adorable street urchin (possibly literally the only interaction you have with any of the NPCs in the game). If you weren’t rolling your eyes you have a much higher tolerance for unearned schmaltz than I.

      • QualityJeverage says:

        “No this was factually bad and you’re stupid for liking it and look at me explain why you’re wrong.”

        You sound fun.

        • webwielder says:

          Apologies for engaging in discussion without couching every single phrase in relativistic prevarication!

          • napoleon_in_rags says:

            That’s not at all what he’s asking you to do. You’re acting as if you’re opinion is the correct one, and as if this players feelings about that scene are somehow inferior to yours.

            I personally didn’t like the guitar bit all that much, despite my love for this game.

      • Triplanetary says:

        It’s true, the game was in such a rush to move forward that they had to telegraph a lot of the plight of Columbia’s poor and Elizabeth’s feelings about it to the player, even via things like loading screen commentary. Could have been done better.

    • Ruffian says:

      That’s exactly what I loved about it. That it wasn’t earned. Just a random little snippet demonstrating Booker and Liz’s relationship and Liz’s naivety/caring. The fact that I wasn’t expecting it made it better for me, though I know not why.
      There’s a good chance though that alot of my love for the scene probably mostly just comes from the fact that the musician in me has been waiting for better interactions with random instruments in games, than the usual passing string strum or random phrase.

  15. Casimir's Blake says:

    BS:I has a lot to say. So much so that the gameplay plays a distant second to the tremendously – and unnecessarily – convoluted story. It closes in a satisfactory manner, I suppose, giving you one distinct and unarguable truth about Booker and Comstock. I can understand how some will lap up the story and the many questions it poses.

    But the game sucks. Sorry, but as a shooter it is bare-bones: a two-weapon limit, with rather lame, nerfed weapons that broadly feel similar other than their range and how loud they are. When the player is not rushing around like their arse is on fire, circling obviously-designed combat arenas, the intervening corridors and rooms serve little more than as linear paths to pad out the action with more story and excessive amounts of use-button-pressing to retrieve ammo and money from copy-pasted bins, cupboards, cash registers etc etc.

    The sky rails provide the ONLY variety to the combat. Otherwise there is nothing interesting to do or see, and there is little sense of discovery, only following directions and listening to more exposition.

    System Shock 2 almost never fell foul of this. It left the player to their own devices, forced them to learn the gameworld rules the hard way through exploration and experimentation. It never insulted the intelligence of the player by holding their hand outside of the SKIPPABLE tutorial section. Though the shooting wasn’t Doom-quality, the rest of the game was an exemplary, immersive, creative horror experience. The gameplay shines by plunging the player into the unknown and forcing them to juggle stats, inventory, physical skills and shooting skills. Different enemies pose different risks. Try, fail, try something else, learn, explore. System Shock 2 is just utterly brilliant, satisfying, top-level gaming.

    Bioshock Infinite is a visual wonder, with superb art and sound design. But I never once felt like I was playing an immersive, satisfactory experience. Rather a linear rollercoaster designed to please the console generation, and those with no attention span. I came away confused, irritated, tired of the unsatisfying combat and ridiculous plot holes. It may have some of the best art a game has ever had, but the gameplay in BS:I is creatively bankrupt.

    Edit: I would highly recommend this excellent article over at Techreport, by Cyril Kowaliski, who shares similar feelings about FPSs in general:
    http://techreport.com/blog/24613/modern-shooters-and-the-atrophy-of-fun

    • Triplanetary says:

      The setting of SS2 with the gameplay of Deus Ex HR (only, y’know, refined a bit) would be orgasmic.

    • blackmyron says:

      Okay, this was again something I’ve seen when Bioshock came out. And I don’t get the heaps of praise for System Shock 2.
      I had played it when it came out, and it didn’t stick with me at all, unlike games such as Half-Life or Blade Runner. So, I played it again recently upon it being re-released. I just don’t see it, frankly. The graphics were sub-par even for the time. The scares weren’t there, something that the original Alone in the Dark – with more primitive graphics – was able to provide. And graphics aside, the sameness of the environment was rather tedious.

      • fish99 says:

        Sorry but you can’t go back and judge a game after 14 years. The medium has moved on too much, technology has moved on too much, both hardware and software. You even mentioned graphics, is that fair? If I went back and played Alone in the Dark for the first time you think I’d find it scary when a 16 polygon spider with a 32×32 texture jumped out at me? I would probably burst out laughing.

        For the record SS2s visuals were pretty good for it’s day. Not state-of-the-art, but still very nice looking. If the game was scary though (and obviously opinions will vary on that) it was more due to the incredible (for the time) audio design than the visuals.

        What made SS2 a great piece of game design was how it’s FPS/RPG hybrid nature gave you so many ways of making progress through the game. It also didn’t just let you do everything. If there were 5 facets to character developement, you could only master 1 or 2 and make modest progress in the others. You couldn’t do everything, which of course gave the game replayability but also made your character progression choices feel important. On top of all that, it gave you a good deal of freedom about where to go, within a basic structure of level progression. Also for it’s time it has an unprecedented level of interaction with the world, probably the best UI seen up to that point, and tons of clever systems, like the hacking/repairing/modifying mini-games, the research system and the games consoles you could play minesweeper on.

  16. Vinraith says:

    I haven’t played the game, and don’t really plan to, as high production-value linear shooters aren’t my genre. That said, the critical and popular reactions to games like this are much more interesting IMO than the games themselves. This, for example, reads a great deal like various defenses of nonsensical movies and TV finales, in that the underlying message seem to be “it doesn’t matter that the plot doesn’t make sense, it’s the characters that matter.” This is a common, and very strange, critical notion that I hadn’t seen pop up in a video game discussion previously. It’s not a trend I’m pleased to see spreading.

    • Grayvern says:

      It’s not just a critical notion it’s one many writers share, Rian Johnson uses Willis to tell us this in Looper and it’s not a clearly wrong sentiment.

      It’s a degrees of divergence thing, it’s not whether their are logical inconsistencies or more logical responses to problems it’s whether they are too big or too great in number.

      However people are making too big a deal of the supposed openness and interpretation rather than looking at the intent behind specific scenes within the course of the narrative that quite clearly point to how the endign is meant to be viewed.

      • Vinraith says:

        It’d be useful to have a list of those writers, honestly. Looper was a farcical mess of a film, you can’t generate pathos if every frame of your film screams lazy writing. If a writer can’t be bothered to think through the plot before they put pen to paper, or worse if they honestly think that doesn’t matter, I’d like to be warned in advance so I don’t waste my time with their “work.”

        • Grayvern says:

          I didn’t care for Looper that much either but I don’t like time travel as a story device.

          Claiming that Looper was a mess is far fetched given how it’s biggest problem is that it is a highly archetypal destruction of the self time travel story.

          Me not liking time travel as a plot device is however totally subjective, I like fantasy and magic and time travel can be measured with the same general criteria which is within the bounds of the story are the rules of time travel mostly consistent, this is not however a question of logical paradox; because that comes from thinking of time travel within the context of reality.

          It’s arguable that time travel as a device breaks suspension of disbelief more easily than magic and that is valid but depends on the individual.

          There are people who will nitpick even the smallest plot hole and go out of their way to think of them and deliberately ignore any aspect of a piece of media that isn’t didactically conveyed to them.

          • Triplanetary says:

            There are people who will nitpick even the smallest plot hole and go out of their way to think of them and deliberately ignore any aspect of a piece of media that isn’t didactically conveyed to them.

            I felt like this was the case with about half (maybe more!) of the criticism of Mass Effect 3′s ending. Don’t get me wrong! ME3′s ending had huge problems. But the uproar got so big that a ton of people were jumping on the bandwagon who weren’t necessarily bright enough to be trying to say anything critically interesting about what they had seen, and anytime they thought they saw a plot hole they assumed that their perception, no matter how half-assed, was accurate, simply because it had become accepted wisdom that ME3′s ending has plot holes. (Which it did, just not as many as a lot of people will tell you.)

          • Vinraith says:

            Yes, obviously this problem exists on a spectrum depending on just how willing you are to suspend disbelief and look over problems. There’s certainly an end of that spectrum that is the traditional “angry nerd” paradigm and can’t overlook anything, but I think the critical response to films like Looper occupies the opposite end of that spectrum, where there’s a willingness to overlook glaring problems in the name of… well, I guess that’s what I’m still trying to work out.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      or, even worse, it’s ok if the plot is nonsensical and the characters shallow because the /ideas/ are so interesting.

      it’s as if execution no longer matters– there are so many bonus points handed out for trying.

      • Vinraith says:

        That’s an interesting point, actually. We’ve reached such a low ebb as far as creativity and new ideas in some circles that we’re absolutely desperate for anything that’s even trying to do something new, no matter how sloppy or incomplete the execution. It hadn’t occurred to me to look at it that way, but it does go a long way towards explaining a phenomenon that I’ve found frustrating and impenetrable for some time.

        • Triplanetary says:

          But on the other side of the coin, you have people who dismiss games solely on the basis of not meeting some vague criteria of originality, no matter how well-executed they are. I’ve seen people dismiss Tomb Raider Anniversary for this reason, despite it being a solid, well-built game. But oh no, it’s not a new IP! So what? I’ll take a solid sequel or remake over a shitty game with an “original” story. (This last sentence does not refer to BSI, which while far from perfect is not, in my opinion, shitty. Just making sure that’s clear.)

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          yes. it’s frustrating.

          lately the rallying cry is: “it subverted the _____ trope!!” as if subversion on its own is enough. it can be– when said subversion itself is a herculean feat like, say, the presentation of black family life on american television a few decades ago– but those types of reversals are not often in the purview of video games.

      • JP says:

        This is something I have struggled with CONSTANTLY, Spider, and I now find myself in your camp. I am troubled by the prospect of lavish praise for what are essentially baby steps. Compared to great works in film and literature, B:I is essentially an above-average Doctor Who plot. If the overwhelming critical consensus is, “This is good enough, the shortcomings don’t matter”, then I see that as removing incentive for us to improve in the future.

        We have to be more critical of something with a huge marketing budget… the building sense of inevitability, the promises of a PR machine. We are not looking at Cart Life and Bioshock with the same eyes and that is a huge problem for our medium.

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          absolutely.

          if games want to be taken seriously as an artistic medium, and more than merely a form of low entertainment, then an exacting critical lens must be applied.

    • JackShandy says:

      I do reject the idea that stories need to make sense.

      I had an argument with Richard Cobbett in the comments a while back about plot holes in Grim Fandango. Grim Fandango has talking skeletons that seem to somehow eat, drink, smoke and have sex, and it never explains how any of this happens. In such a universe, does it matter if character A couldn’t have gotten to place B in time? Is that an important or interesting avenue of analysis?

      Likewise, BI is a caricature of 1912 that makes no attempt at realism. Trying to fault it’s logic is like finding plot holes in this picture: http://c590298.r98.cf2.rackcdn.com/XDJ7_073.JPG

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        they need to make a kind of sense. a story has to knit together its own internal logic and not betray it.

        bioshock infinite doesn’t satisfy that basic requirement, in my opinion.

        • JackShandy says:

          They don’t need to make sense, but doing so can add something to the narrative. If you have a choice between making your story logical and making it more interesting, I think you should still choose the second one.

          • PopeBob says:

            It would be sophistry of the most detestable sort to claim Bioshock: Infinite stands alongside works of absurdism in its intent for avoiding internal logic. It does not USE its inconsistencies to say anything aside from “We really couldn’t think of something better here, guys. Sorry.”

            I reject that as a storytelling position. One could add obscenely stupid revelations and turns to any given story in the quest for a more “interesting” end product, but that does nothing but disservice to the narrative. Which, I may as well draw the same parallel as everyone else, is a common effort in shows like Doctor Who. A show which, while popular with a fair number of older people, is produced for people who have barely learnt to read.

          • JackShandy says:

            Spoilers————–
            spoilers————–
            spoilers————–

            The end of Bioshock Infinite provides an interesting image. Whether it stands alongside works of Absurdism, whether it intentionally avoids logic, I don’t know and I won’t try to argue. But I do believe that making logical sense is a completely unnecessary and irrelevant part of that image. It adds nothing to it’s power.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        I think you may have missed the point. When vinraith mentions “the plot doesn’t make sense”, he’s not arguing about smoking skeletons or floating cities in 1932. He’s talking about Internal Consistency.

  17. Cytrom says:

    I wouldn’t have minded a bit more focus on the floating city (with its incredible art design and variety) in the form of some more exploration and more quiet parts in the game, but the story, the action and my own impatience to follow those, pushed columbia into a secondary role in the game… but otherwise infinite is a brilliant, thought provoking game touching on multiple interesting subjects, that keeps your mind going long after beating the game, much more so than the first bioshock game did.

    Elizabeth is a very strong character for a videogame character, and you really miss her when shes not around, and its especially heart breaking to experience her slow breakdown in the end when comstock tries to crush her hopes to turn her into his heir (a chain of events which are luckily erased afterwards).

    The revelations you make throughout your first playthrough as you slowly get to understand (most of) the mystery, changes your perspective so significantly, that despite not having different endings and major game changing choices, the second playthrough will carry very different meanings and feel different, and there are lots of details to be missed in a first playthough.
    Although it’s more linear than the first bioshock, and has even less choice (or more precisely your choices don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.. which makes perfect sense within the story), it doesn’t make it a lesser game at all (the first bioshock’s choices were trivial anyways).

    I didn’t really mind the underdeveloped npcs since they were never meant to be in the focus of either the gameplay or the story, they were mostly just a backdrop. There are also lots of small flawed details, but with a little suspension of disbelief they won’t bother most players.. or at least not to the point to overpower the good parts of the game, which are way more memorable and significant. Basically most of the flaws are like typos in a life changing novel…you will notice them, you may even mention them, but ultimately you really shouldn’t care, hence why it gets so many 10/10s.. besides the paid reviews. The only real flaw of the game is that its a bit condensed, could have been extented it with a few extra hours to spend it on character developement of the side characters and the city.

  18. Atwa says:

    I am actually baffled by the praise Elizabeth gets. I think she is downright a poor character. She is not fleshed out or developed at all really. Most of the game she is just assaulting you with a barrage of coins and ammo. There are a few meaningful dialogues in there, but the one where she basically says she wants Booker to kill her if Songbird gets his hand on her came out of the blue. Furthermore I don’t understand why Booker says he is afraid of her, since she really haven’t done anything in the entire game to make herself a threat to the player.

    I actually think Bioshock Infinite has some good stuff, but generally it is a game that just refused to learn any lessons from Bioshock. This is mainly refering to the gameplay though, as the story makes it so far apart from Bioshock that they could be different IP’s. The constant looting just sucks, there is no inventory, they removed the health/mana potions and added basically refilling ammo with Elizabeth constantly throwing you more. Everything you pick up is either coin or something that heals/restores some mana in the now. The coins could have been removed and instead have been replaced by experience awarded for kills. Just going around salvaging everything isn’t fun or interesting. The choice to remove health and mana potions also makes the player experiment a lot less. Why try out new uses for a Vigor if you just run out of without any good way to restore it except running around salvaging or hoping that Elizabeth will magically conjure one.

    How did we go from having all weapons to two limit? This also goes against experimentation. Why pick up something potentially good when you have something proven good? Who willingly puts themselves in a situation that at worst could make the game boring and at best be a replacement for an already good weapon?

    I also think the voxophones are completely out of place. They were in the original Bioshock (and System Shock) because how isolated you were. It was a way to tell a story where no living people were. In Infinite you are in a fully functioning world that could have told its story in a more interesting way. Though I think the city also fails in feeling alive after the first time you pick up a gun it might as well be abandoned.

    Taking out the hacking I also thought was a mistake. In Bioshock it gave some awesome opportunities to set up traps and really defend your locations. In Infinite Tear replaces them, but they are really novel and doesn’t add much. You simply activate the closest one and keep chugging along with your regular gameplay. I also wanna touch on the lockpicking which is completely pointless. I am not talking about having locked doors but rather that Elizabeth is some master of unlocking adds nothing. Either get a lockpicking minigame or just let me open the damn doors with the click of a button. That last one is minor though but just something I thought about.

    I also forgot, what happened to the choices? Bioshock had three different distinct endings that varied depending on your choices. In Infinite we have completely irrelevant choices that add nothing to the story or change nothing. This is another point that Infinite goes BACKWARDS from its predecessor.

    As for the Tears if we disregard them from a gameplay perspective they do NOTHING with them in terms of story. Why the hell didn’t you ever leave Columbia? You went through Tears but only to the same location in a different timeline. How did they miss the opportunity to set a few levels in completely different locations? The Rapture throwback doesn’t do anything its only a means to kill off Songbird while having a fun little anecdote. For such a HUGE mechanic it is painfully underused in the narrative.

    Now for the story which I think has massive gaping holes in its presentation and storytelling. I think the pacing is completely off. The game is supposed to be a tale of an evolving relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. It can’t fill the time with that so it adds dull sequences of just going out of your way for the fuck of it to fight for the Vox or to find Slate to get his power. Except for a few intervals with dialogue Elizabeth is mostly there throwing all kinds of garbage at your face. Its a HUGE lost opportunity because I never felt anything for Elizabeth. Look at how Walking Dead made us feel towards Clementine and compare that to how you felt for Elizabeth? It doesn’t come close, not even on the same level. That is really my main problem with Bioshock, it should have spent more time on developing a meaningful relationship between Booker and Elizabeth and less on some real misses like Fitzroy which is a completely arbitrary character. That also goes into a complete 180 degree turn by the end of her arc. From freedom fighter to child murderer.

    Then we have the much praised ending. I am honestly surprised that it has spruced up so much discussion. Is it just because of how poor video game stories generally are that people praise it so? First of all the story doesn’t really happen until the last 30 minutes. Before that its just hints of flashbacks and effects of going through Tears. Which is mixed in between filler arcs to make the game longer. I think Infinite completely fails in creating a believable world in the way Rapture did. Which is fine cause its not the focus of the game, the focus is on Elizabeth and Booker. As I have said though I think the game failed on that aspect as well and it tried to bring in stuff as Voxophones to fill in information that the game didn’t regard. The first Bioshock was ALL about Rapture. It was about a city that tore itself apart because of its ideas that is why the audio diaries were needed to explain what the city had been. Infinite should have thrown out the Voxophones and instead put more life into the city. Show us the daily life of the people there, make us barge in and interrupt a family having dinner. Show us MORE of the city, not meaningless exposition.

    I am ranting but the very ending is what is being praised, even if the 7 or so hours before that is ranging from pretty good to barely passable? The ending is also a major cop out. It was clear after what happened in Bioshock that everyone playing Infinite would go into it trying to tear apart who you could trust and what the inevitable twist would be. The answer to that? Make something that is literally impossible to predict. Add all these elements that the writers decide the rules to. Throw in a few timelines that cause the game to become more convoluted and boom you have sparked discussion. If that is all you want then you succeeded. I didn’t like this outcome at all though, literally nothing is certain now. Everything can be changed or tampered with. The revelation that Comstock and Booker is one does nothing to the story as well. Yeah, you have to die just before the credits roll but your motives throughout the game doesn’t change. Far from what Bioshock did when it questioned your entire journey with its twist.

    Bioshock was masterfully crafted, backed up by ideas of already established works. It had a well crafted world with interesting characters, a clear message and outcome. Infinite goes so far off the deep end that not even the people responsible will be able to keep track of it.

    • webwielder says:

      I agree with everything you wrote.

    • GameCat says:

      ” The Rapture throwback doesn’t do anything its only a means to kill off Songbird while having a fun little anecdote. ”
      Nope.
      Rapture is what you got if you somewhat manage to make Columbia didn’t exist at all.
      And if you would somewhat manage to make both didn’t exist at all, there would be another lighthouse, another man (lets say, John Doe) and another city.

      “I never felt anything for Elizabeth. Look at how Walking Dead made us feel towards Clementine and compare that to how you felt for Elizabeth? It doesn’t come close, not even on the same level. ”
      Nope. Although I like Clem as character more than Elizabeth, I would never said that I didn’t cared about her (Elizabeth).

      ” I don’t understand why Booker says he is afraid of her,”
      I think it was more like “I’m afraid that they can hurt you” or something like that, but as English isn’t my first language, uhm, just don’t take it as 100% truth.

      • Atwa says:

        I don’t understand your first argument sorry.

        As for the sentence, its exactly.
        Elizabeth: Booker, are you afraid of god?
        Booker: No, but I am afraid of you.

        • GameCat says:

          There’s always a lighthouse.
          There’s always a man.
          There’s always a city.
          These three are constants.
          In one universe a man is a Comstock and a city is a Columbia.
          But in another a man is an Andrew Ryan and city is a Rapture.
          They can’t exist both in ONE universe.

          • Atwa says:

            Doesn’t that mean that Elizabeth killing Booker at the end is completely pointless? Because even if their existence is erased someone else exactly like them will take their place?

            They should have just gone to Paris :)

          • GameCat says:

            I think this is the biggest flaw of Bioshock Infinite plot.
            If there are infinite iterations of every possible events, killing Booker even in all universes where he exist would just generate more universes where he will live anyway.

            But completly erasing Columbia isn’t pointless from ELizabeth point of view.

        • Ruffian says:

          … I’m pretty sure he was just referring to the power she wields. I think he’s basically saying that he’s seen her do things that he hasn’t even heard of God doing. As well he’s fully aware of and accepts the sins he’s committed to earn God’s scorn, whereas Elizabeth is pretty much a complete wildcard, he doesn’t understand anything about how she does what she does, probably not even that much of why.

          Also, and before anyone says, I do realize how ridiculous it is, but technically, those are two different Fitzroys that you meet in the airship and then in Finkton.

      • blackmyron says:

        I was expecting a throwback to Bioshock – the name of the game, and comments by Levine prior to its release, indicated a stronger connection than the “spiritual successor” one between Bioshock and System Shock series.

    • googoogjoob says:

      This basically sums up how I feel. But: games writers and gamers and basically anyone who talks about games apparently feel wowed by any game that has more than five minutes thrown into the plot and writing, regardless of the actual quality of the end-product. Games aren’t really a young medium anymore, and compared to other mediums of expression (literature, theater, movies, music) they have, so far, lagged very far behind in terms of plot and writing quality. So if you can just get across to the players the IMPRESSION that your game is trying to do something “new” or “different” that hasn’t been done in games before, (regardless of whether any other medium has done it), the players will shower it with praise and cite it as a landmark and a masterpiece, regardless of its failings. (Note: I’m not saying there aren’t any well-written games. There are some great works of Interactive Fiction and visual novels, and also things like PST or Alpha Protocol that have good writing. I just mean that, by and large, video game writing is in a dire state.)

      This sort of got off-topic, but my point is that all the misplaced praise is a result of a set of badly stunted expectations regarding video game narrative and writing.

      • GameCat says:

        I dont’ know, Bioshock Infinite had huge impact on me. I’m still thinking about it.
        I’ve played many games, but I think maybe only 4-5 of them was that impactful.

        I would compare this game to Nolan’s movies. They are still blockbusters with some flaws (let’s send ALL cops to sewers to caught Bane, so they can be ALL trapped down here, hehehehe), but they show that you can make blockbuster that is not THAT stupid.

        Infinite is in the same league. It’s an AAA game which was designed and made within 6 years, there was much money involved in this project. It MUST* be somewhat dumbed down a little to make profits, because masses will not buy ticket for Tarkovsky movie, masses will choose to buy tickets for Avengers or Dark Knight.

        *Yeah, it could be done better, but nothing is perfect. And perfection costs money and time, which sometimes you doesn’t have both.

        TL;DR

        Bioshock Infinite is an AAA blockbuster which is somewhat impactful for many players (count me in) and is much more clever than any of today AAA manshooters and that’s good.

        • Atwa says:

          The ironic thing about that is that Ken Levine wrote the final script in not more than six months. He completely scrapped and started over the project several times. Look at early gameplay footage, Elizabeth has her fingers in all of them. She was actually never intended to be Booker’s daughter from the start. You were supposed to be saving her in the same manner but Songbird had a bigger part. The player would be forced to fight Songbird but this would push Elizabeth away from you since she still had a deep relationship for Songbird. I personally think this sounds much more interesting. As Songbird hardly plays a role in this game, not a single scene with him is controllable.

          Another that might support that is if you look at the previous version of Elizabeth her bust is larger. This was changed when she was turned into Booker’s daughter to stop the player from having any potential romantic feelings towards her.

          This is of course speculation and I wont be the guy that says something that was scrapped would have been better. Its just I am dissatisfied with the finished product and want to find answers when I consider Bioshock and System Shock 2 two of the greatest games ever made.

          • GameCat says:

            It’s a game diesease, I mean parts that was cut out/changed etc.

            Look at alpha versions of Stalker or Resident Evil 1,5 (which was released to public some weeks ago), where Capcom throw out almost completed game and made new one (RE 2) almost from scratch.

            Or Alice: Madness Returns where final game didn’t have levels that was presented in RELEASE trailer.

            Oh God, I hate developers for doing all of this.

          • Triplanetary says:

            Another that might support that is if you look at the previous version of Elizabeth her bust is larger. This was changed when she was turned into Booker’s daughter to stop the player from having any potential romantic feelings towards her.

            TIL that you can only develop romantic feelings for women with a certain minimum breast size…

          • Atwa says:

            That was certainly NOT the point. The point is that the entire relationship was rewritten, before she was NOT your daughter and romantic feelings towards her WOULD be a part of the game. That changed when they made her the players daughter. I don’t have the old manuscript so I certainly cannot take that as an example. I can only take what we have and for that there is this. (http://gaming.justnetwork.eu/files/2012/01/bioshock_infinite_elizabeth.png)

          • Ruffian says:

            I’m sure we all get what you’re saying Triplanetary, but what he’s suggesting is logical enough. Men tend to like big boobs, make a character’s big boobs smaller and they tend become less of a sex symbol. Of course this is a generalization.

    • Cytrom says:

      It’s not really what elizabeth says or does, that makes her really interesting or relatable (except those voxophones where she is talking near the end), its the mystery the game builds around her from the beginning to the end, the way she becomes from a tool to achieve booker’s selfish goal, to become the goal itself, at first only emotionally and then literally as you find out that she is your lost daughter you were meant to get back all along. It also added to her to see how she grew up in that torture / experiment. That one strong conversation between booker and her near the end that “comes from nowhere” is actually based on what just happened in that lab and in all her childhood… its quite understandable that she doesn’t want to become a subject of an experiment again, and its also obvious that she has powers far beyond booker’s capabilities that makes him fear for and of her at the same time.

      The voxophones have far greater significance this time than in bioshock, especially the ones about the origins and experiments of the lutece “twins” as they are a key element to the story of booker and to columbia, and understanding their story is what makes sense of the whole story arc, otherwise the ending scenes are just random events barely explained, because there are no sereies of flashback clearly explaining everything, you had to follow the clues throughout the game. They even explain most of the technology seen in the game, because it seems most of it were borrowed from the future through tears (many technologies were borrowed straight from rapture including the vigors, and the big daddy tech to make things like the handymen and possibly the songbird too)

      Comstock and bookers common origins also have clues throughout the game from the very beginning it wasn’t just a twist for the sake of a twist they came up with halfway in.
      There were also hints all the way, that you are in an an infinite loop where you go through the same events over and over again and your only witnesses who are aware of it are the lutece twins, and the only way to break the chain is if you and elizabeth work together.. she needs her abilities to bend time and space, and you need to realize that you must die before you become comstock to prevent anna / elizabeth to get separated from you.

      • Atwa says:

        For Elizabeth I agree she is an intriguing character, but that doesn’t make the failing of making the player care for her any less apparent. I just think the writing fails outright to make me feel any emotional bond towards her, despite seeing her in torture machines. There is just too little done to make me care for her at all.

        You miss my point about the voxophones. My complaints lie not with the content within but with the method of delivery. (Though I do think with a few exceptions the voxophones are significantly lower quality in terms of writing than in Bioshock and also much much less coherent) They could have used hundreds of more effective ways in telling the exact same thing in Infinite. In System Shock and Bioshock they exist because you are completely alone. Hello, we have a Tear mechanic? Why not show the most important of the contents instead of hiding them in possible to miss audio diaries. It was even one of the biggest complaints people had with the original Bioshock I remember, that audio diaries are a poor way of telling a story. It is certainly true but in Bioshock they are much harder to change than in Infinite.

        I don’t know what your last paragraph are addressing since I didn’t say anything of the contrary. I actually puzzled out that Elizabeth was Bookers daughter a few hours into the game. It was the dialogue where Elizabeth asks if Booker has any family and he says his wife died in childbirth but then cuts the subject off immediately when she asks if he has a kid. The way he delivered that line made me completely think down those tracks. Also you say Booker is stuck in an infinite loop, yeah but that is just barely hinted at if you look for it. Otherwise it can be disregarded pretty easily, the player himself never experience any of that infinity.

        • GameCat says:

          Booker is not aware of other attempts he made before to save Elizabeth. So the player shouldn’t know about it in first playthrough.
          Although the Luteces are hinting this almost all the time. Hence that coinflip or moment where they are giving you a shield.

          And yeah, audiologs aren’t the best devices to tell the story.

          • Atwa says:

            You are correct, which is what I said. The player is not aware, but even when they reveal it its not 100% clear. They don’t hint it that much. Its the coin, how they say the sentences in the canoe and the numbers of the signal when you are about to get launched into Columbia at the start. For this to matter the player should have had a revelation and clear signs of the infinity for it to actually matter. As it is now it really doesn’t matter much, its a neat little thing but its hardly touched upon or talked about much.

  19. flaming_sock says:

    What happened to this site? You used to write about GAMES.

    • Sarissofoi says:

      They just pose as white knights just to get laid.

      • altum videtur says:

        These gay/fag whipped mangina pussy articles sure are irritating, aren’t they.
        (is this how you sarcasm, or am i too tired/socialist to make absurdist extremism funny?)

    • AngoraFish says:

      You’re saying Bioshock isn’t a game, or is there some subtle sarcasm here that everyone is missing?

      • Cytrom says:

        Probably referring to the “zomg, sexism, sexism everywhere!!!” article series before this one.. or I have no idea.

    • Sander Bos says:

      Well, in fairness to the commenters whining about that, they had to get an ex-RPS-writer back to do that…. :-)

  20. googoogjoob says:

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bioshock-sidekick-more-damsel-distress

    I’m surprised that nobody’s mentioned that Levine explicitly says that Elizabeth and Songbird are partially based on an abused ex-girlfriend of his (Levine’s).

  21. Buttless Boy says:

    I’m not sure where I picked up this idea, but before Bioshock Infinite’s marketing campaign took off I could have sworn the consensus on the first game was that it was a mediocre shooter with a great setting. Was I wrong? I remember really liking it when it first came out, but when I tried to replay it a year ago I couldn’t get past the railroading – a game about choice or lack thereof doesn’t allow me to make any choices other than “EAT CHILDREN? Y/N”.

    But now everyone seems to have nothing but fond memories. Or is it more the second game people liked, which I never played?

    Either way, I can’t say I feel much desire to play this, even after reading Kieren’s article. Of course, I’m part of that tiny fraction of gamers who hate Alyx too, so maybe I’m just predisposed to disliking shooters with sidekicks that toe the line between Strong Female Character (TM) and “hey look it’s a pretty girl have feelings at her!”. Which I’m sure is a vast oversimplification of Elizabeth (I hope so anyway), but like I said I haven’t played it, and that’s the impression I got from the previews and trailers.

    • Yuri says:

      Circlejerking.

      1.) Game comes out – BEST EVER!
      2.) Game out for a while – “It has problems, this did it better, this is totally wrong, it’s essentially shit and empty”
      3.) Game sequel came out – “OMG, TOTALLY BETTER THAN THE PREVIOUS ONE!”
      4.) Game sequel out for a while – “The previous one was better and here’s why…”

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        It’s amazing how everyone except game critics seems to realise this cycle.

      • limimi says:

        That’s one part of it, but you’re missing the other part:

        1.) Game comes out to wide acclaim – those who don’t like it hate it.
        2.) Finding others who don’t like it they whip themselves into a frenzy.
        3.) Some of them lament the differences between the new game and its spiritual successors, while others lament the differences between the new game and other media.
        4.) Somehow both camps meld into one – a super camp which decries games like Bioshock and BSI for not being the narrative tour de force that was System Shock 2 (ahahahahahaha)
        5.) All of this is somehow indicative of video game journalism/criticism being fundamentally corrupt and broken, because critics/journos aren’t allowed to have opinions or something.

        • Casimir's Blake says:

          System Shock 2 was not a narrative tour-de-force. It was a gaming tour-de-force. It did not require lengthy exposition at any point to ram down the player’s throat endless details that turn out – inevitably – to be ancillary to the main plot. SS2 is regularly cited as a stand-out game because it is just that: a bloody good game. Does it need a stronger story or plot? No, because what is there is enough. Have you never played Dark Souls? I don’t much enjoy the game, but it achieves excellence in similar ways not least by saying very little to the player other than “you’re here, you need to do this, you will die, good luck”.

          Looking at the amount of “story” plastered all over most AAA / mainstream games these days, it’s obviously done because the “Xbox generation” require constant spoon-feeding. BS:I caters for this, but also proves that most game designers can’t bloody write / write too much / are losing their grip on reality. No, I’m not exaggerating.

          • blackmyron says:

            SS2 doesn’t even come close to something like Infocom’s “Trinity”. Like I said before, as someone who’s played SS2 I really don’t get the cult that’s grown up around it.

          • fish99 says:

            ^ But you admit elsewhere in these comments to only playing SS2 recently.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Bioshock games inexplicably garner praise from journalists and critics, and lukewarm (at best) reactions from players. I think part of it is marketing, not because they throw millions of dollars into ad campaigns, but because Levine presents his games as clever and interesting, and critics feel the need to engage with it on those terms. Maybe they want to demonstrate their knowledge of The Themes, or maybe they just don’t know else to talk about.

      It shouldn’t really be a surprise that when all the pre-release info has been about themes and narrative and character development, that’s what reviews will focus on, rather than the game’s very poor shooter design. I’ve seen some articles since its release discuss the problems it has as a shooter, but actual reviews seemed to ignore that completely.

      As for why the game’s decidedly UNsubtle treatment of its themes gets praised as subtle and clever, and why the gaping plot holes and nonsensical story gets praised as smart and revolutionary … you got me. Low standards or something.

      • JackShandy says:

        “and lukewarm (at best) reactions from players.”

        Simply false. The metacritic user review score for BI is 9.0, with 513 positive reviews.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          We have to decided once and for all if Metacritic is a reputable source or not of information about games and their market. Mentioning Metacritic only when it’s convenient isn’t going to help.

  22. LennyLeonardo says:

    Excellent article, Kron. I agree with more or less everything, and the’musical’ analogy is great – I was having similar thoughts, but couldn’t think of a way to express them (to myself). I think it’s wonderful that a AAA game can be so divisive, too. And also that one with homicidal ghosts and Tesla coils and robot George Washingtons with miniguns can provoke so much discussion about characters and politics and philosophy. I guess games and comics have that in common, if you catch my drift.

  23. Premium User Badge

    barelyhomosapien says:

    I’m quite surprised by the amount of negativity in this comment section. It doesn’t seem fair to say that it’s all “Going against perceived popular opinion is cool”.

    I’d hazard a guess that enjoyment of Infinite hinges on your ability to suspend disbelief. I enjoyed it start to finish and would say it’s one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of playing, and I don’t really get along with FPS’s.

    But I understand some people just need to pick at every hole and cannot enjoy something that doesn’t entirely make sense to them and that’s fine, and some people just straight up won’t like it, and that’s fine too.

    It’d be nice if they didn’t try to force their opinions on others though.

    As an additional note, despite my own left leanings and distaste for Columbia’s society, I too was quite glad to see revolution not being romanticised as an entirely heroic and virtuous endeavour.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      i’d say the ability to enjoy infinite hinges on one’s ability to ignore (or excuse) poorly spun narratives and to be fine with ideas as buzzwords rather than actual explorations of a position.

  24. Haysoos says:

    My god, the more this game gets unwarranted praise, the more i dislike the game (Silly, i know). I feel like people who praise this game’s story and characters as “DA BEST EVAR” have never played a video game outside of the latest AAA shooter.

    It was fun, but it wasn’t this journey into every orifice of the human soul that you people make it out to be.

    And i mean seriously, the actual gameplay of this game was so flippin’ mediocre. It was an insanely linear shooting gallery with optional turret sequences in the form of skyline combat.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    I just finished the game today, here are some thoughts.

    Finally, another original world to play in. In that respect, it reminds me of Bioshock and last years Dishonored. Too many games these days look all the same. Who can tell the difference between a call of duty or battlefield 3 game? You can tell in a second that you’re looking at Columbia.

    Especially during in the first few hours, you could just explore between action scenes. It’s great to just walk around and discover things for yourself. Too bad that this came to the background as the game progressed.

    And then there’s of course Elizabeth which feels like a real, likeable character. For once, you’re not partnered with a bad mouthed partner who throws in a curse in every other sentence.

    Sure, it’s not perfect. The difficulty felt uneven at times, some scenes were way too hard. But I’d rather play an original game like this then have to play sequel number 5.

    • Haysoos says:

      “For once, you’re not partnered with a bad mouthed partner who throws in a curse in every other sentence.”

      Ahh, this is what i mean. For once? There have been HUNDREDS of games where your companions are not US Marines cussing at explosions.

  26. Lagwolf says:

    There are lessons for conservatives/libertarians in this game. A Comstock-alike even popped up at a conference in DC last month.

    • Secundus says:

      yeah bruv the lesson is dont get baptised because you will wake up as old timey preacher hitler

  27. psychobiker67 says:

    Well, I was ABOUT to read this another twenty-something’s overly-deep analysis on Infinite, and then I saw that “absence” was spelled wrong from the beginning:

    “Abscence doesn’t really prove anything to my satisfaction.”

    Well, incorrect spelling and grammar don’t doing anything for mine. Read a book, kid.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      “Well, incorrect spelling and grammar don’t doing anything for mine.”

      every. single. time.

      also, ageism and/or elitism: not cute on anyone.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      After several minute of screaming at his monitor about Keiron’s typographical error, psychobiker67 had an epiphany.

      “Hmm, perhaps I should do something more productive with my time than troll the internet. With my incredible spelling skills and all around massive intellect, I should be solving some real problems. Bettering myself and society. Perhaps I will contribute to an African-based charity,” he thought.

      He had barely typed “Somalian Aid” into Google when a glint, not unlike the loot in Bioshock Infinite, caught his eye. VentureBeat had just published an article called “How BioShock Infinite’s social commentary advances video game storytelling.” Red rage began to fill him like hot sauce in a Taco Bell burrito. His eyes began to twitch, and his mouth was dry as a Rock Paper Shotgun commenter’s tear duct at the end of the game.

      “That son of a bitch! Has he never read a work by Gertrude Stein? Never heard a symphony by Bach? Never seen a painting by Matisse? Doesn’t he know this pile of shit is not art, but merely trash for braindead idiots and pot smokers?”

      Right then, psychobiker67 knew exactly what he had to do — what no one else had the bravery to do. From that moment forward he would send forth his opinions to every message board, every twitter account, every tumblr, every blogspot, and every Disqus-compatible website until all discussions about this vastly-overrated turd were finally silenced.

      When all typos, misspellings, questionable grammar, and misguided analyses have been quashed, then, and only then, can he finally rest.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I’m incredibly old and still have shitty grammar and spelling.

  28. Premium User Badge

    blind_boy_grunt says:

    obv. what this comments section needs is another opinion, i’ve got one, coincidence? or fate?
    Like Kieron i had no problem with the story and or ending. For me it was never about the coherence of the story, maybe i’m just lucky i had no problem to suspend my disbelieve unlike so many others in here. Yes, there are some lazy choices but they never felt out of place for me. Like the shooter section the story section is not revolutionary, they use certain tropes and story beats to get the story where they want it to be. The time traveling is used not as an interesting mechanic in itself but as a mechanic for the story. Maybe because the setting is so mythical, so not grounded, that all questions how time travel would work are just moot because they could come up with any answer they wanted. So they don’t answer it, don’t try to anwer it. It works as it works because it not about that, it’s about the people in the setting, about regret, the path not taken etc.

    Anyway… i liked the twist but i think they should have telegraphed it more, how did comstock get to how he is, are there traces of him in the protagonist and so on.

    Also: thinking back the lighthouse, i’d have kinda liked it if (please don’t stone me)there had been a dark souls like always on drm and if all the other dewitts had been actual other players.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It would be interesting to know though if your satisfaction for an inconsistent story is true for all games, or just a few select ones.

      Note I’m trying to imply you (or Kieron) are being intellectually dishonest, so i need to include this disclaimer: Have you done some self-examination as to whether your acceptance of BS:I internal inconsistencies is instead a product of you liking the game for other reasons?

      • Premium User Badge

        blind_boy_grunt says:

        “Have you done some self-examination as to whether your acceptance of BS:I internal inconsistencies is instead a product of you liking the game for other reasons?”
        isn’t this what the article is about (partially)?

  29. Tuckey says:

    Usual “aaa” on rails b-movie shitefest. Deleted it after an hour.

    • chargen says:

      Ah, money well spent then. “Take my $60, Levine, but you’re not getting an ounce of my praise, which I know is what you truly desire.”

      • napoleon_in_rags says:

        “Now, would you koindly bouy my game, play it for an hour, delete it, and then wroight a one-line bad review about it on a semi-mainstream gaming websoite?”

        Excellent…

    • blackmyron says:

      I would say, then, that you are considered to be the ideal consumer by video game companies.

  30. Knaarfje says:

    I decided I really liked Elizabeth and this game after this scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyPvCHqCO3I

  31. Secundus says:

    i wish there were other pc gaming blogs with decent news coverage cuz this ones dissapeared up its own ass

    • Premium User Badge

      Earl-Grey says:

      I wish so too, more the merrier. However I quite like it up in this ones particularily pleasant posterior.

  32. napoleon_in_rags says:

    I overall loved this game, but one dialogue moment made me laugh out loud at its absurdity:

    Elizabeth: “Maybe stepping through that tear into this other world wasn’t such a good idea.”

    Oh yeah? Was your first clue the guys bleeding uncontrollably from the nose/phasing in and out of reality because they remembered their own deaths which technically didn’t happen anymore?

    • blackmyron says:

      I laughed when Booker and Elizabeth find the weapon machinist’s tools and realize they are essentially unmovable – and Booker admits that they didn’t think it through.
      Sometimes I get a little irritated (while acknowledging as part of game design) when the solution to a problem is “right there”, so I found it amusing.

  33. bigwasps says:

    Wait, Jesus, okay. Let me see. So there’s always a lighthouse, a guy, and a girl? And there’s always shooting crazy guys and magic hand powers and rifling through bins? What? I mean, what does that actually refer to, in the meta sense? In spite of it all: what has this game actually got to do with anything?

    Is it about scripted fiction in games? There’ve been non-linear narrative games for about as long as there’ve been linear scripted-narrative games, so, no, there’s not always a lighthouse and a guy and whatnot. Is it about how the Bioshock games are linear? But that’s not an issue! Don’t make a big game about how Bioshock games are formulaic, this is only the 3rd of the fuckers, just make a Bioshock game that isn’t formulaic! Make something else, make Fallout: New Vegas.

    Or are we talking about stories? There’s always a hero, always a journey? Alright, but then that leaves all the game’s formal limitations with nothing to say for themselves. Why’s it about shooting a thousand men in the face and rifling through bins? Why is EVERYBODY so CRAZY? Why do they fight like splicers despite being on no drugs? Why do they have female cops despite being ultra patriarchal? Fink runs a business, but ALSO runs a deathmatch when you show up? What? Why did I have to fight a ghost three times?

    None of the game has anything to do with the fiction. For a few brief moments it seemed like the idea of American racial exceptionalism might’ve been the trick, that Booker can mow down a thousand people and be loved for it because he is the white American male and that’s how it works, that they were gonna crank that angle up and let the horror speak for itself. But no, it’s multiverses, stupid! All the universes you can imagine, except one where you’re not a regular human being who kills thousand men and still walks among mortals. Oh, but the Luteces did it? They want you shooting everybody? Christ, whatever.

    And Elizabeth is so bloody bloody boring! Another female sidekick so perfectly configured to be likeable, so practically perfect in every way! Raised in solitude and yet inexplicably completely socialised and faultlessly pleasant. All those fancy facial expressions and they still make her SAY that she’s FEELING THINGS all the time. Did nobody play Enslaved? Or Kane & Lynch 2? And it’s all scripting and dialogue and motion capture, and a fucking cutscene where you play the guitar that you could watch on Youtube, with not a single hint of meaningful interaction with her. She temporarily hates you, but here’s the same set of lockpicking quips anyway. Binary Domain did it better. You’re supposed to feel fatherly towards her, but she’s totally invincible! Who cares? She’s a key to open doors. Why not make her vulnerable and apply the same invincibility logic that governs Booker’s respawns to her? At least try something. Don’t set the whole game up so as not to ever make me have to think about anything other than shooting men and then expect me to give a shit about anything other than shooting men.

    Deeply, deeply bizarre game. All that research and imagination, jizzed away. Nothing to say about anything. Isolated moments of profundity, and some beautiful scenes, my God, that chapel at the start, breath-taking; but powerfully, CORROSIVELY stupid when looked at as a whole. Are we really still impressed when games that are totally shit spend some of their exorbitant budgets on making beautifully-scored motion-captured non-interactive excuses for being shit? Why not just make games that AREN’T shit? How’s about that?

    Edit, still thinking: this “it’s cool to be a first-person shooter” idea is appalling. Fuck off, no it’s not. These are actual things that happened, real battles and massacres are referenced, real persisting ideologies that decided and continue to decide the destinies of real people. If you’re gonna handle them then make an actual game about them; if your only objective is to say “Ach, shooters are a good laugh, really, aren’t they?” then make it about shooting hellbeasts and aliens like everybody else, because otherwise you’re pissing on people’s real lives and memories and legacies with your indulgent video game nonsense. Jesus. I’m ashamed of this game, man!

    • napoleon_in_rags says:

      Our opinions on Infinite are well…Infinitely different, (get it?) but I feel debating the merits of the game will get us nowhere, as arguments of that nature tend to do.

      So instead, an inquiry: Why do so many people on this site seem to hold FO:NV in such high regard? I played it, though admittedly didn’t own it, and it honestly felt like an expansion to FO 3, which I was none too fond of in the first place, with a less believable looking landscape and a few added features.

      Note that this isn’t a question made in a sarcastic way at all. You have the right to feel different about both of the games than me, so I won’t try to debase your arguments against Infinite, since they do have some validity.

      • bigwasps says:

        Well, dunno about others, but I bring it up here mainly just as an example of a non-linear game that has supports great stories that don’t break down under the weight of player agency. All of its fiction lines up well with its mechanics, it sets up all the different factions well and characterises them with a lot of nuance, and it’s got a robust set of choices and consequences that cover most of the ways the player could think to intervene.

        • napoleon_in_rags says:

          Huh, interesting. As I said, I didn’t play it enough to really get a feel for some of the things you’re talking about. Bethesda RPG’s in general have sort have grown stale to me, if I’m honest. It’s good if NV does all these things well, but you need to understand that Bioshock is worlds apart from any Fall Out game. It seeks out to tell one story, with the small differences in how the player goes through the world being what separates one playthrough from another. Levine didn’t even want multiple endings in the first one, he has revealed in an interview. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with either method of storytelling. Both have a place in gaming.

    • honuk says:

      You definitely got this one right. Preach it, bro. This game does nothing right in the big picture, and very little right in the small picture.

  34. Universal Quitter says:

    Since comments were disabled on the sexism story, I’m going to go off topic on this page to say bra-fucking-vo. I don’t always agree with people that raise awareness for the various isms that plague the world, as sometimes they view everything through that lens, but I support rps’s goals of equality 100 percent.

    You have my ear and my respect, John Walker. Don’t abuse that.

    Also, do more diaries and playthroughs.

    • chargen says:

      Elizabeth is the greatest companion ever, my oh my.

      Review reads like a comic book writer’s idea of high art. ‘How novel were the concepts? Did the archetypes push just past their expected boundaries? Was the genre well serviced? That’s all then, who cares if the characters were 3 dimensional?’

      But then again, it is a comic book writer’s take, and one on a very silly concept that sounds like it was picked off the floor of the Dr. Who cutting room and tacked onto an earlier concept that was reworked for being too much of a rehash of the first game. The game has the feeling of something that was restarted several times, in story, gameplay, level design.

      edit: supposed to be top level reply

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        So many snobs.

        • JackShandy says:

          Mmm. “Comic book writer”. Nothing on the beginning of that, no clarifications like “Bad comic book writer” – just a offhand rejection of everyone who writes comics.

          • Kieron Gillen says:

            All criticism is autobiography and all that. It’s always fun when someone’s idea of a killer blow only outs their own prejudices.

  35. Demiath says:

    A corrupt and abusive system ferments dissent, and when that’s sufficient to cross into open revolt, what follows isn’t pretty. It’s less “Everyone’s as bad as each other” than “this is another side-effect of a truly broken dystopia”. Bioshock Infinite states that an obscene system that makes no attempt to reform will lead to an equally obscene revolution, and you’re a naïve romantic to think that the walls aren’t going to be painted in blood when it snaps”

    That’s a very generous interpretation, and I don’t think it holds up given how the revolt is being presented in the game. Booker equates Fitzroy with Comstock by explicitly calling out their similarities, and there’s nothing in the story after that which indicates that the player has any reason to question that association.

    Also, a meaningful political critique of Bioshock Infinite’s wishy-washy relativism has nothing to do with whether violence is a depressing but inevitable consequence of Columbia’s institutional sins or not (of course it is!). Rather, the problem with the writing is that one could easily imagine a much more interesting, nuanced and ambiguous portrayal of the Vox Populi leadership without at the same time abandoning the game’s justified moral disapproval of the bloodshed that ensues. Instead, we are expected to believe that the supposedly massive gulf in ideology which separates the rebels (advocating worker’s rights, free assembly, racial equality etc.) from the racist/nationalist Founders doesn’t amount to anything in the end simply because the “system” (whatever that means) has somehow magically turned everyone into little miniature Comstocks. The reality of revolutions (whether we’re talking about the French, American, Eastern European or Arab ones) is much more complex than that, and doesn’t support the immature misantrophy with which government overthrows are presented in games like Red Dead Redemption and Bioshock Infinite.

  36. Crosmando says:

    This shitty Hollywood-movie-posing-as-a-game wasn’t even worth the bandwidth of a 20 minute download from TPB, what’s with all the RPS articles about it? 2K Games paying most of the ads on RPS these days?

    • horus_lupercal says:

      So let’s get this straight. You don’t like the game so other people discussing it means they must be corrupt and on the take?

      What an enlightened fellow you must be.

    • Premium User Badge

      DarkLiberator says:

      Breaking news, Rock Paper Shotgun writes about video games. More at 11.

      • Crosmando says:

        I see a lot of video, I don’t see much game. My Bluray player has a pause and fast-forward button, doesn’t mean every movie is also a game.

    • ulix says:

      What the fuck are you even trying to say? That every linear game isn’t a game? Are we talking linear in terms of story or gameplay?
      In terms of gameplay BS:I was a lot less linear than I expected, with lots of optional exploration and even a few quests, on top of deciding which vigors and weapons to specialize in.

  37. Sander Bos says:

    I have not played or bought this game yet.
    Even though this discussion is mostly about the story, there are also many references to game mechanics. But 194 comments in and neither Kieron or any of the commenters have mentioned save games or checkpoints.
    Does that mean checkpointing is not an issue in this game?
    Because in previous comment sections on BS:I checkpointing was mentioned quite a bit.

    (I hate checkpoints, so it affects my buying decision. I am playing Far Cry 3 at the moment, actually the checkpointing mechanism isn’t even that bad most of the time, but when it falters it’s infuriating. “Yes Dennis, you found a guy for me to kill in some compound, I heard you the first 25 times you told me, now *please* stop calling me.”)

    • JackShandy says:

      It’s a weird mixed bag. The game puts you straight in exactly where you left off when you die, but the checkpoints where it actually saves your progress are very far apart. If you exit and come back you have to restart from the checkpoints, which are about a level.

      • Sander Bos says:

        Okay, so you have to think about whether you have time to complete another segment after an autosave, I can do that.

        Thanks, and also thanks to Innovacious for mentioning this game was for sale on GMG, I just bought it, based on this review and comments (what, it’s not a review?).

    • blackmyron says:

      Checkpoints are a hated attribute for me as well and that did irritate me during the game – there was a few points where I had to either go longer than I planned to get to the next checkpoint, or give up and accept I would be starting over at the last one because I had something else I had to do.
      It’s a minor point, certainly. But when even Bioshock 2 still had a save system, I was puzzled that Infinite went back to the checkpoint system.

  38. Thunderaan says:

    Jesus, the writers on this site gets really really pretentious sometimes.

    The game is decent, but in no way deserving of the ’10/10, game of the year’ accolades it’s getting. The shooting/rpg mechanics are mediocre, but my biggest problem with this text is all the praise the story gets. The story, while above average for video game stories (the 15 minutes of infodumping at the end really pulls it down though), is quite frankly bad in comparison to good storytelling in other forms of media. Gaming will never be taken seriously as long as people go “OMG, this story is so good and it blew my brain SO hard” over stories that are at this level.

    I really liked the setting though, just a shame that it becomes more or less irrelevant 1/4th or so into the game.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Every considered the fact that some of read it just for these “pretentious” moments you are whinging about? If you want facile reviews there are plenty on other sites. RPS specializes in getting into things a bit deeper. Granted sometimes it can go from clever to farcical but thems the risks you take when you analyze video games.

  39. Persus-9 says:

    Thank you, Mr Gillen. That helped. Specifically the analogy with musicals helped because the combat sections were jarring to me before which was add a little bit of discontent to my view on the game which I was finding unpleasant. I feel like I understand it better now which has removed the irritation. I feel like you’ve just picked a piece of grit out of my mind.

  40. GunFox says:

    I do not understand this fawning. The only way I think I could wrap my head around it is if someone had never played system shock 2.

    SHODAN remains the best villain by a long mile. Not Ryan and certainly not the pathetic Comstock.

    System Shock understood the use of audio logs. Virtually none were essential to understanding the story, but they all provided heaps of atmosphere and collectively offered insight to the events that led up to where you were. They also often provided door or chest codes because you were playing a game and, you know, should probably have game mechanics.

    System shock had an inventory. Want to carry one gun and a boatload of ammo? Go for it. Just a bunch of mental hypos? That is cool too. An arsenal or mix of gear? All cool. Infinite spoon feeds you hardware and vigors the entire game like you are a child.

    The gear system of infinite is rife with useless pieces and is generally poorly thought out and explained.

    Hacking was removed. Because you need to fight those hordes of enemies like a good little soldier. Oh and our companion creates rifts in space time to summon friendly turrets that shoot your enemies. What timeline are those even coming from?

    Infinite has an amusing story, though the weakest of the series, but the gameplay is just a complete joke.

  41. Upper Class Twit says:

    I have opinions and I want to express them! LISTEN TO ME! Or don’t, as you will.

    The general consensus seems to be something to the effect of the “the combat’s worth slogging through for the story”. Did anyone else think the combat was really good? Like, not just relative to other Shock games, but properly “good”, as in, far better than Call of Duty and Far Cry, and on par maybe with Halo or Half Life. I guess the gunplay itself felt a bit floaty somehow, but I found the Vigors to be an incredibly varied and fun arsenal to use in conjunction with the guns. I’ve watched people play through the game on youtube, and everyone seems to have a different combination/tactic. Also, on skylines, they’re fantastic. They make the combat feel incredibly mobile, turning what would usually be a static, cover based shooting gallery into a game about running rings around the AI, raining death and then running away just as the enemies start to close in and overwhelm.

    Also, bit of a tangent on System Shock 2: I don’t get the hype. I played through the damn thing, and I thought it was pretty good, and atmospheric, and whatnot, but it was way too easy (this was on hard difficulty). Everyone talks about hiding in terror from the space zombies, and every kill being an incredible victory against an unimaginably hostile environment, and the lack of resources making the combat far more meaningful than anything in the “dumbed-down”, “consolized” Bioshock games. All this was probably only true for the first two or three levels. I remember quite clearly having more than a hundred standard ammunition and an Assault Rifle by the end of Hydroponics, at which point I ran through the levels blasting away anything that moved. Did anyone else experience this? I can’t believe I’m the only one here.

    • Low Life says:

      I liked the combat, but I think it gets a bit stupid at the higher difficulty levels when the enemies just turn into bullet sponges instead of providing a challenge in some other way. But otherwise, my experience of the combat is quite close to your – vigors were actually fun and useful so I’d vary their use a lot, instead of hitting people with shock and shooting them in the face like in the first Bioshock.

    • napoleon_in_rags says:

      I loved the combat, and don’t view it as jarring to the plot as some people who even like the game complain about. They seem to be missing the point here: Dewitt is not a hero. He’s a violent man who has come to Columbia for (imagined) selfish reasons. On top of this, just about everyone in Columbia is batshit crazy and not too hesitant to get violent themselves. So why is it so odd that a few heads roll?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, I loved the combat too. It’s absolute chaos, and a nice challenge on Hard. Except for that stupid ghost.

      Also, I really liked that horror movie musical sting every time someone dies. It’s like “hey, you, what you’re doing is appalling“. I like that.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Yeah I really enjoyed the combat too. As you say, it was still somehow rather floaty (i’m still not quite clear on why or how that happens) but in general I found the mechanics fun and engaging. Far better than the bioshocks.

      my only problem is that, even having read KG’s thoughts, I still really don’t feel that the combat fit in with the rest of that game at all. It’s like two great games that just don’t work together at all.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      Quiet fun. Though I had a few bigger bugbears.

      1. Two weapon system just does not feel like it fits the game. Both for being able to buy ammo and the way the upgrading system works all make me feel like the game was designed to have hammerspace for all weapons.
      2. It’s a lot less fun when there are no hooks or skylines around since they are what bring most of the great flow to the combat. If it were not for the vigors, the on foot sections would have felt like any other shooter.

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      Agree. A lot of people say that the shooting is crap, but I found it to be about the level of Call Of Duty; not particularly skillful, but crisp and fun enough (comparing something to CoD is the highest of praise, obviously). The Vigors and skylines really helped to add a lot of variety to combat that otherwise would have been pretty standard MMS stuff.

      And the enemy design was actually pretty clever in that all the heavy hitters forced you to move away from cover; any fight with a Handyman ended up being a rather kinetic affair of skylining around and taking out smaller enemies, until eventually you could skyline around picking at the big guy (though they were a bit too damage spongy even for that, I feel). Same with the Vigor users and the Iron Patriots; both really punished standing still and encouraged you to hop from cover instead of the standard “pop up, take a shot, wait for health regen” affair.

  42. Synesthesia says:

    Fantastic piece, Kieron. Thanks for it.

    “I’d happily swap a lot of reality in games for much more of Infinite’s poetry.”

    Amen. One of the reasons i loved Dark Souls so much. That world has a poetry of its own.

  43. yuri999 says:

    Am I the only one who found it interesting that even after the huge reveal Elizabeth never called Booker her dad?

    • napoleon_in_rags says:

      Well, by the time she knows, she has become a sort of omniscient being. Things like calling people dad would be sort’ve jarring at that point, to me.

  44. Hahaha says:

    Woot Mr Kieron fucking Gillen ledg

  45. rebochan says:

    I think what you’re describing is better known as “hipsters.” They need to hate the popular thing. Case in point, the other fella that just responded to you.

  46. Nemon says:

    Just finished the game last night, and I’ve spent a few moments reading game sites discussing the ending and what went down. I’m not the kind of gamer that gets all the clues, fine lines and hints scattered all over the place, nor do I have the time to look for everything (kids could wake up any time you know) – so I appreciate RockPaperShotgun and other’s attempts at describing stuff when my own imagination isn’t enough. I felt kinda mass effect threeified after being

    SPOILER SPOILER

    …pushed underwater at the end. Was that it? What about my daughter? I started caring for her, and wanted to take her to Paris. I couldn’t help but thinking that there would have to be multiple universes where this final baptism didn’t take place and Columbia Shitstorm happened nonetheless. Then again, maybe somewhere a certain Paris did get a visit from Dewitt senior and his lovely Elizabeth. That is my hope. This was a game that moved me whenever the scripted Elizabeth sequences took place, the gunfighting got somewhat boring after a while – tedious stuff between the storytelling. But a huge thank you for letting so big parts of the game have non combat civilian areas where you could just look upon the magnificent scenery. Great game overall, but hey… can’t we have happy endings nowadays? Pretty please?

    • rebochan says:

      I think it IS a happy ending depending on how you view the multiverses. The way I say it, Booker only dies on the timelines that he would have been able to become Comstock. That changes the events to create a bunch of universes where he doesn’t become Comstock, has some awareness of the events of the Columbia timeline, shapes up, and becomes a proper father.

      That’s how I see it – the post-credits scene gives me my justification.

      It’s not like Mass Effect that just comes out of nowhere, means nothing, then caps the character you’ve invested five years of your life into in the head because DEEP.

  47. andytt66 says:

    Nemon: Just a thought, but if you haven’t done already, you might want to watch the end-game credits to the end. (Or find ‘em on youtube). I choose to believe it’s a happy ending.

    • Nemon says:

      Yeah, saw that on youtube (I hate credits so I missed that). Anyway, it’s good to have games make emotional impact like that, the medium is maturing at least.

      • andytt66 says:

        Totally agree!

      • rebochan says:

        I actually had your reaction – actually, first it was a raging double deuce, followed by a few minutes of tears.

        Boo I say to the naysayers, the only thing keeping this game from being my personal GoTY is the 70+ hours I keep dumping into Fire Emblem.

  48. maddog2k says:

    Nice analysis. One nitpick – where you say, “A corrupt and abusive system ferments dissent” did you mean foments?

  49. AnonymosaurusRex says:

    BIOSHOCK INFINITE: PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF GODWIN

    - Columbia is Germania, a Nazi utopia on the Moon.
    - Brutally dismember a variety of enemies, including Nazis, Jews, Christians, Slavs, Romani, queer people, straight people, rich people, poor people, democrats, autocrats, conservatives, liberals, and anarchists.
    - Fitzroy is a Jewish rebel who is just as bad as Hitler. Her victorious revolution establishes a banking cabal to steal money from Christians and kill their babies.
    - The Moon Ghetto Uprising is a sideshow to the real story: the magic quantum relationship between Hitler and his daughter.
    - You play as Hitler.

    In all seriousness, this was a good effort from a young medium, and I have nothing but praise for the art and music. But it’s silly for a story about a neo-Confederate theocracy to draw from the French and Russian revolutions, where culturally white Christian “commoners” (led by the Finks, not the Fitzroys) fought culturally white Christian aristocrats. What lots of people drunk off Orwell forget is that he’s observing two groups of leaders separated only by access to formal power. There’s lots of territory to mine here, especially if we saw the anti-Fitzroys within the Vox, but Bioshock Infinite only has an aesthetic interest in oppression and revolution. This game could have been set anywhere.

    Nevertheless, this is a good step forward, and I’m glad I bought this and played it. Hopefully more developers take a cue from Levine and try something exciting like this. I know I’ve been harsh, but Bioshock Infinite does make me optimistic about the medium’s future.

  50. Jason Moyer says:

    One of the things I find amazing is that Irrational made the consequences to the handful of in-game binary choices so subtle that most people don’t seem to realize that those choices have an effect on anything besides the cutscenes that follow them.