Wot I Think – BioShock: Infinite

BioShock: Infinite is a new first-person shooter from Irrational, creators of BioShock, System Shock 2 and SWAT 4. It’s set on a flying city in 1912, where racism and religious fundamentalism dictate society. You’re up there, wielding guns and magic, to bring someone the girl and wipe away the debt. Here’s what I thought, spoiler-free.

The thing about fantastical fiction is that you’re completely at the mercy of the author. You’re paying for them to share the contents of their head with you, and in any setting not bound by the rules of our Earthly existence, they can do and justify whatever they want. The right buzzwords, pseudoscience and space-magic, and anything can be achieved, any discrepancy simply waved away.

That’s something the consumer of such tales must be prepared for, and will so often feel let down by, but conversely the author has to deal with the fact that the offerings of their own imagination may not possibly be able to satisfy someone who’s become invested in the tale they began. That must be a bitter pill to swallow: how can they possibly meet such an undefined expectation? I doubt that someone who took issue with the ending of Battlestar Galactica or how Stephen Moffatt often papers over Dr Who’s many plot holes with the loosest possible interpretation of temporal causality knew quite what it was they wanted to hear and see instead – they only knew what wasn’t it.

Right now, still trying to absorb the giddying clusterbomb of condensed exposition, subtle emotional clout, incredible spectacle and get-out-of-narrative-jail-free cards which hits in the final minutes of BioShock: Infinite, I just don’t know how people are going to take it. I don’t quite know how I feel about it, either: some aspects work very well and demand further analysis and retrospection, a thoughtful piecing together of what led up to it and dawning realisation of how everything connects; others are frustratingly the result of deus ex machinas and quasi-magical convenience. I can’t imagine there won’t be shouting. Then again, the shouting is arguably as component a part of a BioShock game as is the success. I think, though, that BioShock: Infinite might be a victim of its storyline to some degree: though more complete than BioShock’s, and far more fleshed out than Dishonored’s, it’s in the way of the game, this fantastical movie plot and its rollercoaster spectacle arguably transforming the mechanics of combat and exploration into something just to be got through in the hungry pursuit of Finding Out What Happens.

That wasn’t the case with the original BioShock, where the narrative, its twists and its statements almost arrived as a surprise part-way through a strange, only-in-videogames world we’d primarily plunged into because of that tantalising underwater setting and its curious denizens. The backlash that hit after the last hours of the game didn’t live up to the powerful twist beforehand seemed to be a surprise even to game director Ken Levine, who initially claimed that most players didn’t care about story and that was why the game ended a little incoherently. With Infinite, he seems to have changed his mind – story is all here, a finely-crafted web which spans from the very first second of the game to its very last, with strands reaching out to the many audio diary-based vignettes to the sides. I went into this game expecting a mystery from minute one, and craving answers to it, and that’s a very different state of affairs to Rapture’s initial tale, where the sense of mystery was initially built from atmosphere rather than brazenly teased exposition.

Here too, the mystery is corporeal, all contained within the alternately fragile and powerful form of sometime damsel-in-distress Elizabeth. Who and what is she, what can her reality-bending powers do and why can they do it? What does the floating city of Columbia want with her, and who sent you, as guilt-wracked private investigator Booker DeWitt, to retrieve her for them? What’s with that thimble on her finger? Why does she get a new haircut part-way through? She is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, occasionally wearing a low-cut dress. I notice Ken Levine occasionally shows Twitter-frustration at how many story spoilers fans ask for, but frankly he’s only got himself to blame for making Elizabeth so evidently intrigue incarnate. Like watching a movie whose poster bears a quote from some rent-an-endorsement reviewer screaming “look out for the killer twist!”, here you go into the game actively searching for narrative duplicity.

Elizabeth is a highly likeable, compelling, well-performed and human character despite being the game’s primary mouthpiece for exposition, and I did find myself sincerely missing her during those times when, for various reasons, she took a hiatus from her role as AI-controlled sidekick. She deftly avoids many of the irritations we’ve come to expect from such NPCs – no escort missions, no getting in the way or stuck on scenery, no robotic repetitions. The game’s animators have done great work with her, bringing her to life in ways both overt and subtle, though oddly some of the facial expressions she pulls make her look like someone’s been mucking with her eyes in Garry’s Mod.

That aside, she can certainly be hailed as one of the game’s greatest successes and perhaps the best FPS companion character since Alyx Vance. At the same time, she just might be Infinite’s greatest shortcoming. She, and the halo of mystery she wears, stands in the way of Infinite’s other main non-player character – the City of Columbia. Despite being an ever-present and visually remarkable – stunning, even – backdrop, its airborne nature and the society it holds is given shorter thrift, because Elizabeth and the quest for answers she represents steals so much focus.

For much of the game, I held in check my worries about why civilians were so few in number, why they’d suddenly disappear entirely, why so many of them share the same faces, why we’re given little sense of where they live, why we see or hear almost nothing of how the practicalities of living in the clouds work. So evident it was it that something strange was going on, that there was far more here than met even a far more credulous eye, that I couldn’t rule out the whole city being some character’s flight of fancy, or an elaborate hoax. But Columbia is, it transpires, very much a real place, at least as far as the game’s fiction is concerned. In terms of being a real, or at least convincing, place in a more external sense, it’s no more so than Rapture was. This is despite its still being a functioning society as the game begins, as opposed to Rapture’s post-collapse ruination-in-progress.

There are alternately wonderful and chilling scenes of this society in action, before the bubbling anger caused by the open racism its leaders mandate inevitably boils over into civil conflict. From the family funfair (very cleverly holding an optional tutorial) shortly after the game begins, to the Victorian beach-in-the-sky a few hours later, to the racially-segregated toilets and the distressingly servile attitudes its subjugated black population are ordered to demonstrate to their white ‘masters’, and to a harrowing visit to the poverty, fear and resentment Columbia’s underclass lives in, we definitely get the greatest hits of the both idealised and oppressive America the leaders of the real-world Confederacy hoped to create if they won their Civil War. I’m just not sure we get the detail, at least outside an abundance of wry, careful details in the scenery and those convenient audio diaries wherein characters both encountered and never seen share their thoughts, secrets and outrages.

The choice to include civilians who cannot be interacted with in any way, aside from occasional opportunities to murder them for no reason and without real consequence, does wind up dragging us on a visit to the uncanny valley. There they stand, doing their little routines, paying little or usually no attention to the man with the enormous gun and the hand surrounded by magical crows who’s jumping up and down on things and rummaging through the bins for coins.

Perhaps it’s a statement on how the far reaches of the upper class treat anyone who isn’t like them as too far beneath them to warrant even recognition. But I think it’s just because they’re glassy-eyed automatons sharing a surprisingly small handful of faces and voices – very much at odds with the luxuriousness shown in the rest of the game’s art – and who are conveniently made to vanish immediately and without trace as soon as the game decides it’s time for the shooty-bang-bang. And that is the truth at the heart of BioShock: Infinite: whatever it’s trying to say, whatever else it hopes to be, it ultimately speaks in the language of guns. I’d anticipated and accepted that long before going in and so was never going to complain that a first-person shooter was a first-person shooter, but I did feel frustrated that these hints of the game being something more don’t bear out.

Infinite offers long moments of observation when you can’t shoot, and shorter moments of navigation when you can choose not to shoot. Even if you do choose not to, guards will often spring into action anyway if you get too close, at which point most of the civilians pull a Batman-style disappearing act and you’re forced to fight. Columbia’s social tale, meanwhile, happens around you, regardless of you, as you wander through it, flitting between superhuman combat and hands-off sightseeing.

There are extensive scenes of society, yes, and engrossing ones at that – but they are only scenes to be seen, glass cases in a sprawling museum, and they are all too easily and all too often replaced by sudden ghost towns haunted only by men (and women) who scream blood and fury as they aim their guns at you. Enemies are Splicers without the masks, essentially – and sometimes with them, in one of many, deliberate examples of resonance with BioShock. With just a few scripted exceptions, a convincingly human policeman, soldier or guerilla rebel you will not find here: they are bellowing monsters, without the excuse of backfired genetic experimentation.

Between this and the casting of lead antagonist, Columbia’s self-deified ruler Zachary Comstock, as an out-and-out villain (unless your sympathies lie with racists and/or people who imprison their children, at least), there’s a little less nuance to this society than I’d hoped for. Rebel faction the Vox Populi, determined to free the city from its racist shackles, don’t wind up faring much better despite their cause being an infinitely more sympathetic one than Comstock’s prejudice-led despotism. It continues BioShock’s tradition of trying (not always successfully, of course) to avoid moral black and white, but at the same time there is something odd about making people with an overwhelmingly correct grievance as monstrous as those they oppose. It’s balance, yes, but almost artificially so.

I fear being guilty of an If Only You Could Talk To The Monsters moment here, but the degree to which the city’s non-military inhabitants are phantoms and its military ones psychotics is consistently distracting. I absolutely appreciate Infinite for striving to add life and depth to its battle arenas, and without a doubt there’s much there to burn itself into the memory and emotions in ways that other shooters don’t even begin to, but there’s a real frustration in being teased with a city that appears to offer interaction only to prove simply a spectacular veneer.

Let’s talk about that spectacle though. Infinite is a game ruled by artists at least as much as it is by its writers. It’s the ultimate answer to the question of whether art or technology is the most important part of creating a visually excellent game – Crysis 3 might have far more going on under the hood, but its uninspired paintjob makes it seem so dull compared to Infinite’s vaguely Pixar-esque fusion of the photoreal and the colourfully unreal. Much of its magic is conjured by backdrops and other disguised static elements, smoke and mirrors are often employed to make what are ultimately enclosed spaces feel like dramatically larger, open ones, and close inspection of textures will cause grumpiness for some, but to me it didn’t matter what trickery the conjurer behind the curtain employed. Put together, and clad in all that lovely soft lighting, this Oz is a truly beautiful one to behold.

Some of the scenes it offers are outright majestic, catnip for any game photographer, and even had me nodding appreciatively at my screen, convinced they were the finest sights it had ever held. Characters are perhaps the sacrifice made to achieve these superb environments: as well as their non-interactive nature, I’d encounter oddities such as a group of three chatting women all bearing exactly the same face. It all adds to that nagging sense this isn’t a real place. But the architecture is magnificent even if the population isn’t.

Areas which aren’t, if drawn on a map, anything much more than a collection of corridors and plazas with a few offshoots and loops, are here bounded by towering buildings and open skies, and an almost overwhelming barrage of visual flavour that helps to flesh out Comstock’s creed and the exaggerated 1912 aesthetic. While a certain commonality of art style, especially in terms of characters, and the use of another pre-digital era means it certainly reminded me of Rapture, the preponderance of brass and wood, stone and sunlight and the judicious use of vibrant red gives it a very different feel. If anything, it can all be a little too much at once, with wonderful elements risking being overlooked because the eye’s trying to take in so many things simultaneously.

What’s odd is how often I almost forgot that Columbia was a city in the sky. Yes, huge roaring engines, balloons and the regular, sudden appearances of the horizon at the end of a street meant the proof of the city’s improbable nature was ever-present, but strangely I felt no sense of the vertigo I got from, say, those initial outdoor forays in Half-Life, I saw surprisingly few scenarios where either an enemy or myself was hurled into the great beyond, and I experienced little that made the way this floating metropolis’ function feel different than, say, Dishonored’s Dunwall or Thief’s City. There are the Skyrails, but I’ll talk about those, and combat in general, shortly. There’s something to be said for the comparatively buttoned-down nature of Rapture, where pipes, glass, gloom and water kept things kept things stylistically contained, all cleaving closely to that one single idea of being underwater – here, the airborne concept is almost drowned out by the barrage of spectacular architecture and colour.

The same might be true of Infinite’s enemies – there’s so much going on, both ornate and strange, that even a 10-foot robot George Washington or a guy with two huge trumpets for a head somehow doesn’t stand out as much as he should. By contrast, that first encounter with a Big Daddy, amidst the solitude, the silence and the murk of Andrew Ryan’s mouldering utopia, was an instantly arresting one which deftly established that character as iconic. I’m not sure Infinite can generate such enduring figures – Elizabeth maybe, but its monsters perhaps seem a little contrived, too look-at-me in their oddness. It’s also less clear what role they serve in Columbia – where Big Daddy was a janitor with a tragic backstory as well as a fearsome fighter, Infinite’s odder foes are largely teleported-in freakshows there purely to present heightened challenge. Even then, the significantly more open spaces mean they can’t manage the sheer terror of being trapped in a claustrophobic corridor with an enraged Daddy. In fairness though, this is a game which shoots for spectacle rather than scares, so it’s unfair to judge it by BioShock’s more horror-inclined yardstick.

What is a far less ambiguously excellent achievement is Infinite’s level design. This is a broadly linear game, in terms of events and the sequence you encounter Columbia’s various areas in, but there’s so damn much packed into its areas. They are timesinks in the best possible way. The relatively small number of loading screens is as much to do, I think, with not an inch of virtual space being wasted as it is the actual size of the maps, and what I suspect from very occasional juddering is some degree of background streaming.

Multi-tier buildings, multi-tier roads and the skyrails which oddly infrequently thread over the rooftops make these maps into generous lasagne-layers of exploration and action. That I spent so much time rooting through trashcans for coins and ammo, or breaking into offices in search of audio diaries and secret health/mana/shield upgrade-potions, is because so much of that sort of thing abounded thanks to the wealth of digital real estate on offer, and not purely because I’m a packrat and kleptomaniac.

There’s a particular level about three quarters of the way in, and coming off the back of a few no doubt carefully-sequenced smaller, more indoor-centric maps, that’s so wonderfully enormous it’s almost exhausting to traverse. It can be roamed out of order too, raided for secrets and supporting cast backstory before being revisited later in the narrative’s more fixed progression, by which point it’s been repopulated with new foes and a sort of roaming bossfight.

Combat, then. Infinite is a game with two brains – one the virtual tourism of this lavish setting and the ever-present, ever-teasing narrative, and the other the loud, explosive and highly violent action. It alternates between these rapidly, as and when it feels like it, and in a way that can often feel disjointed or even like the non-sequitur events of dream logic, but the fighting is thrilling, highly customisable stuff. Oddly, it reminds me more of the original Doom than the tense, slightly clumsy back-against-the-wall skirmishes of BioShock or even the ratatatat man-popping of a Call of Duty. These large, multi-level spaces, the amped-up colours, the preponderance of explosions which could level a house, the veritable armies of freaks and fanatics you face: it’s much more cartoon absurdity than it is macho fantasy. That said, the gore of melee kill moves and the fire-based Vigor is pretty extreme stuff, of the sort you wouldn’t find in cinema outside of the most malevolent grindhouse flicks.

The gun in one hand, magic power – here named ‘Vigors’ in the other system is extremely similar to Bioshock 2’s, though the sense of impact and destruction is amped up to almost Itchy & Scratchy levels even though enemies take an FPS-standard amount of battering before they fall over. There’s an odd lack of distinction many of the weapons and even some of the Vigors – while there are getting on for a dozen guns, there isn’t much to distinguish between them on a level beyond long range, short range and rapid-fire explosions. Granted, the waters were muddied in my review copy by the Industrial Revolution DLC throwing even more variations on the few themes in there, but even so the bulk of the arsenal comes off like general purpose killing tools rather than distinctive, specialist devices.

I always hung onto the sniper rifle, partly because I prefer to pick enemies off from a distance and partly because, once upgraded via the in-game vending machines, it can basically operate like a shotgun too, but other than that I didn’t much care about which other weapon I carried. I suspect the strange homogeneity between weapons is a response to grumbles about the wrench being so overpowered in the first BioShock – here, everything is overpowered. This is reflected in the enemies, who gradually start donning helmets and armour which require a little more precision or a lot more pummelling to take out.

As for the Vigors, they too are faintly absurd in the level of devastation their animations imply, even if the reality of their damage output isn’t quite so devastating. The pure damage powers – fire, electricity, crow swarm – seemed a bit much of muchness, but my suspicion is they’ll be more individually useful at harder difficulty, or the 1999 mode unlocked upon completion (or with a cheat code), where the odds against you are higher and you’ll need to make much more use of the flammable oil slicks and pools of water scattered about, or kite enemies over careful networks of ‘traps’, Vigors’ in-situ, mine-like alt-fires.

My Vigors of choice were Possession, initially able to temporarily convert turrets and robotic defenders to my side, and then humans once upgraded, and Charge, which hurls me and my Skyhook into the nearest enemy at high speed and high damage. In combination, I felt that much more in charge of what were often very busy battlefields – some mind-controlled guy keeping one side of this pocket war pinned down for me while I hurtled fatally around the other. There’s none of the hacking minigames of the earlier BioShocks here, so Possession was an instant effect, in keeping with the general frantic pace of combat. I suppose I miss the slightly more tactical, slower-paced fights of Rapture a little, but for all-out, adrenalised spectacle Infinite knows exactly what it’s doing. It feels so flexible too: bodies to be managed and mangled in a manner of your choosing, approaching the conflict from multiple angles of attack in what are often sizeable, open battle arenas and very rarely corridors with pop-up monsters.

Two new elements make this stuff even more flexible – Elizabeth, and the Skyrails which loop over the top of some areas. The plot hinges around Elizabeth’s ability to access alternate realities, and in combat this plays out as summoning up cover, turrets or ammo and health drops into places where before there was nothing. It can feel a little too restrictive – impossible not to hunger for a game where you could essentially assemble the ad-hoc battlefield of your bloody dreams – but it’s a welcome and suprisingly natural addition. Like the Vigors, it’s about flexible fights and maintaining high-action at all times.

Being able to summon up a pile of health kits in a particular spot, for instance, makes a big difference from rummaging desperately through crates while bullets fly and your HP meter blips ominously. Elizabeth also lobs any health or mana (‘Salts’) she finds at you unbidden as she skips between cover, and the attempt to make her believably alive is bolstered by small touches such as her apologising if she’s not found anything in a while. As I said earlier, I missed her when she wasn’t there, both as a combat aid and as convincing companion through an unsettling world.

As for the Skyrails, though their purpose in navigation is strictly an A-B one, with a few optional stop-offs to pick up audio logs and other secrets, in combat they essentially add a revolving Z-axis. Height is so rarely used in modern shooters, a sad side-effect of their usually being made with sluggish gamepad sticks in mind, but Infinite finds a high-speed compromise. You can shoot from the skyrails, you can drop onto enemies from on-high for insta-kill melee attacks, you can get to high-up cover or out-of-the-way ammo caches, or you can just zoom around frantically while Possessed foes and summoned turrets clean up the mess for you. Unless there’s a Handyman around, Infinite’s rarely-seen Big Daddy analogue.

They’re the game’s fiercest foe (there’s no direct conflict with the more terrifying, more mysterious Songbird I’m afraid) despite cartoonishly yelling about how unhappy they are to have been made into Frankenstein’s monster, and as well as being able to soak up all the bullets in the world they can also electrify Skyrails, forcing you to get off them unless you fancy becoming a kebab in a waistcoat and spats. There are surprisingly few Skyrails or Handymen in the game, it generally preferring ground-based combat against traditional human foes, but the upside of this is that they’re a real pleasure/terror when they appear rather than becoming routine.

In any case, like everything else in the game they’re increasingly sidelined by the plot. The compellingly dark race issues, civil war and discomfiting politics of Columbia rather fades away in the latter half of the game, as a more overt vein of fantastical science fiction and cutscene-based super-event takes hold. Obviously I can’t say much, but the reality-shifting stuff escalates in ways both intriguing and narratively convenient, while the supporting cast almost evaporate in favour of the plot’s singleminded obsession with Elizabeth.

While there are a handful of decisions to be made earlier in the game, these are really only about salving your own conscience or indulging your own bloodlust – the plot tells itself regardless. Player agency is heightened in terms of the fighting, but in terms of the storytelling you’re a mere witness to fixed events, and that does feel at odds with the BioShock series and its heritage.

It’s not for me to judge the denouement – as I say, there’s something deeply peculiar about offering a verdict on the consciously fantastical offerings of another human being’s imagination – but I will say that involves 15 minutes in which you can only walk, the game’s most stunning environments by far and a reveal that initially made me feel hoodwinked but later had me thinking back at length on the 15 or so hours which led up to it, how carefully it had all been arranged and also how meaningless the game’s entire events could potentially be interpreted as being in light. But it had me thinking, speculating and deciphering, and I value that enormously. I guess, personally, I’d have preferred more sustained world-building and less mysticism-tinged science fiction, but the wikis and armchair theorists are going to go nuts chasing all the permutations and interpretations which spin out of what happens and what’s implied.

By the standards of mainstream first-person shooters, I’m not sure what there is to rival BioShock: Infinite. It’s a true giant among story-based games which revolve around targeting reticules, and I’m going to have an exceptionally hard time getting much out of one of those grimly photoreal, tiresomely macho-posturing gun-worlds after the soaring colours, explosive combat and impossible structures of Columbia. By the standards of BioShock, and by the standards of what Infinite teases but doesn’t quite deliver because it’s so caught up in telling its fantastical, reality-distorting tale, I’m not quite so agog. Despite being first encountered on the other end of a civil apocalypse, Rapture was a place first and foremost, but despite its initial hours of compelling social politics and religion-led villainy, Columbia winds up feeling more like a construct to house an elaborate sci-fi auto-mythology.

While the links between BioShock and BioShock: Infinite are thematic rather than narrative, this game makes no bones about the fact that both revolve around a man, his city, and how it all went wrong – indeed, it winds up lionising this concept, this self-made archetype arguably at the ultimate expense of tackling the darkness in Columbia specifically. Elizabeth is fine company indeed, but the burning desire to find answers to her riddle incarnate both disrupts and railroads our journey through BioShock’s remarkable worlds of skyscraping ambition and ocean-deep folly. I much preferred the smaller stories of unseen Columbians’ tragedy and ambition, told richly in background detail and audiologs, but perhaps left a little disconnected from the main game.

Infinite’s a triumph in terms of fantasy-architecture spectacle and bringing superb flexibility to the modern rollercoaster shooter, but in other respects it’s a small step down from the player agency and even the singular aesthetic of BioShock. Not that it necessarily needs to, as it is most certainly a high-aiming game in its own right rather than mere offspring, but I’m not convinced it will live quite as long in our collective memory as did/does its parent. It sure does make me want to use superlatives like ‘majestic’, ‘lavish’ and ‘spectacular’ over and over again, though.

BioShock Infinite is released later today.


  1. Kaen says:

    I am excited.

    • Deathmaster says:

      And still in time to *ahem*, pre-order.

      • Bhazor says:

        Anyone still wanting to preorder can get it for £20 (£30 but with £9 worth of store credit) from Gamersgate complete with the original Bioshock, a copy of the new Xcom and a free copy of Spec Ops the line.

        For £20 its almost worth it for Xcom and Spec Ops alone.
        link to gamersgate.co.uk

        • JustAPigeon says:

          Hm. There’s an almost identical deal on GMG for £24: link to greenmangaming.com


          • realkruste says:

            Thanks a lot. Almost paid 50 € on Steam B-)

          • nrvsNRG says:

            anyone else having problems getting GMG to accept payment for this deal?Ive tried twice now.
            i think this happened once before with them, might be because its a popular deal maybe?

          • JustAPigeon says:


            Just bought it through GMG, worked fine for me.

          • fish99 says:

            That’d be a very good deal if I didn’t already own all those games :(

            Btw Get Games also have the same deal.

          • Fledthescene says:

            Careful. Green man Gaming still has a few of the less intelligent banks that view it as online gambling (The last hour I spent in a horrible call center maze trying to get a permanent hold off of my account can attest to that)

          • shehzadjaa says:

            before I looked at the bank draft of $4428, I have faith …that…my neighbour was like they say realie making money in their spare time on their laptop.. there mums best friend has been doing this for less than eleven months and resantly cleared the dept on their condo and purchased a gorgeous Ford Mustang. we looked here link to wow81.com

        • Vorphalack says:

          Sucks to find out about this sort of thing the same week you cave in and buy X-COM -.- Still, if i’d gotten Infinite with X-COM attached I doubt i’d have been paying Infinite much. Urge to play turn based strategy too stronk.

        • roryok says:

          I’ve gone old school and embraced buying stuff in physical form. I think I’m having a mid life crisis or something.

      • rxonarex says:

        uptil I saw the bank draft which said $8619, I did not believe that my friends brother woz like they say actually erning money in there spare time on-line.. there sisters neighbour has done this for under fourteen months and by now paid the dept on their villa and purchased a gorgeous Mitsubishi Evo. this is where I went… link to Fly38.COm

      • roryok says:

        idea: create a URL blacklist for commenters. block comments if they use a blacklisted url. Like maybe Fly38.com. Just an idea

        • kalirion says:

          Huh, all these spams get through, but my comment linking to an unmentioned game bundle in the bargain bucket thread has been “awaiting moderation” for 2 days now. Me thinks they should take a closer look at their filters.

          • LionsPhil says:

            As far as I know, “awaiting moderation” effectively means “deleted”, since RPS have no moderators.

          • subedii says:

            If you include 2-3 links in your post (I forget which), it gets auto-blocked.

            Which is freaking annoying when you spend a lot of time writing up something.

        • Shuck says:

          Usually they use URL-shorteners, presumably to prevent exactly that sort of response.

  2. KikiJiki says:

    Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but it all sounds a bit CoDShock. Is that the case or does Infinite do a better job of making the player feel like they’re actually doing stuff than Call of Duty?

    • InternetBatman says:

      From the review: Oddly, it reminds me more of the original Doom than the tense, slightly clumsy back-against-the-wall skirmishes of BioShock or even the ratatatat man-popping of a Call of Duty.

      • KikiJiki says:

        Yes, in the section describing how combat plays.

        • InternetBatman says:

          The fact that CoD was explicitly mentioned was probably important. Yes it’s a corridor shooter, but he never once complains about having agency taken away.

          • KikiJiki says:

            From the review: but in other respects it’s a step down from the player agency and even the singular aesthetic of BioShock.

          • JackShandy says:

            Well, define what you mean by COD. The obvious assumption is that you’re talking about it’s specific style of combat, which the review refutes. Are you actually using it to mean “Game that doesn’t let you alter the storyline”?

            I disagree with alec when he says that being “a mere witness to fixed events” is “at odds with the BioShock series and its heritage.” System shock never let you change the story, and the most Bioshock ever did was let you choose which ending cutscene you wanted.

          • KikiJiki says:

            @JackShandy It’s a question of where Infinite sits in the spectrum of CoD: You don’t get to play the game, just watch and shoot things, to total freedom.

            Bioshock was pretty decent at letting you feel like you were in control, given that the area routes were pretty open, the areas themselves involved some backtracking etc and the lack of player agency in points was rather cleverly concealed by “Would you kindly”.

            I’m just trying to work out whether my experience with this game would be fun or boring. Right now I think I’ll wait for the price to drop before checking it out.

          • Quickpull says:

            I don’t think he was referring to combat with that statement. In the context he seems to be talking about exploring and discovering the city and its story. He describes that narrative as being more on rails than Bioshock. The description of the combat however, compares it favorable with corridor manshooters.

          • JackShandy says:

            Well, PC Gamer’s review says:

            “I keep wanting to say that it’s ‘directed’ brilliantly, the elements fit together so well. But that’s not the right word, because the other thing it does well is keeping you in control. There are no cutscenes, no switching to third person, no agency-limiting tropes like mounted gun sections… Maintaining that respect for the player, even when you need to tell a character-driven story, is a rare and wonderful thing.”

          • subedii says:

            I was listening to the PC Gamer podcast some months ago, after they’d had a lengthy look at it. Basically the gist of it was that:

            Well First off, linearity, in itself isn’t bad. Half-Life 2 is a linear game, they made sure to mention HL2 specifically in relation to this. Because the thing about HL2 is that unlike most other linear games, it doesn’t feel as if it’s railroading you. When it’s working properly you don’t feel as if you’re being deliberately limited by the game and its design, you feel as if you’re naturally progressing in the directions that the game is heading.

            That’s the key difference between good design and bad design in linear games, and most linear games are, well, poorly designed that you feel stifled and limited. I didn’t feel that way in HL2, so if Infinite achieves the same effect, then that’s a good thing. It’s just a different design to the Hub based levels of Bioshock / Bioshock 2.

  3. Gurrah says:

    I received my copy today, can’t play it because it hasn’t been activated yet. FFS. This bullshit again.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Bullshit how? The fact that it doesn’t come out until tomorrow isn’t exactly a secret.

      • Gurrah says:

        No, it’s no secret, but it’s bullshit nonetheless. I’m reading reviews, I have the physical copy here, in my hands, which I paid for and I can’t play it.

        • Whelp says:

          I agree that it’s bullshit. Welcome to the future ;P

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            It’s definitely not bullshit. Judging from the shape and colour, I would have to guess it’s either bear shit or wolf shit.

          • BrotherCabbage says:

            Bullshit, it’s clearly dingo scat!

          • scatterlogical says:

            It’s not dingo scat. It doesn’t taste of stolen baby.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      At least there are no oceans affecting this release. RPS’s campaign must be making a difference at last

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Though if there were he might be able to proxy his way into the future

  4. gschmidl says:

    Is there a reason for black people existing in Columbia in the first place, except to provide a narrative? “We need someone to do the work we’d never do” is good enough, just curious.

    • AndrewC says:

      Black people need a reason to exist? I think I am confused by your opinion – could you please expound on it?

      • Feldgrau says:

        I’m sure what he means is that it’s odd to see them in a flying city that prides itself on white racial purity.

      • aldo_14 says:

        I think the question is basically if it is explained why any black person would chose to get on and (essentially be imprisoned to) work in such an explicitly racist society.

        (there’s of course lots of good explanations, ranging from coercion to a descent into extremism, etc, I think the questions is centred whether any such explanation is given)

        EDIT; er, see above. :)

        • Hoaxfish says:

          Comstockholm Syndrome

        • gschmidl says:

          This is exactly it — apologies for any imprecision.

          • El_Emmental says:

            I think you should edit your first comment, it’s quite confusing for people not aware of the Bioshock Infinite world (even if other commenters explained it already).

      • Snargelfargen says:

        I think he’s asking whether they have any agency or if they are just there to play the role of victims. Fair question, wouldn’t know how to answer it until I play the game.

        That said, not including black people in a game about confederates set in 1912 would be very strange indeed.

        Edit: Gosh, rps is full of answers. This should be interesting.

      • Bakuraptor says:

        I assume he’s asking why, in a controlled and paternalistic society that’s apparently very racist, there’s a surviving underclass of black people – a story-related question, not a racist remark. It’s a fair point, really – if you’re a relatively all-powerful oppressive leader of a floating city you’d assume you’d be pretty good at managing its population in appropriately discriminatory ways.

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Hear hear! When I finally get around to founding the sovereign city-state of Smingletopia I assure you I shall set rigorous standards, and not allow the pitiable unbearded to sully its cobblestones. They shall be turned away at the gate with a stern “No, sir.”

          Women shall be exempted from this requirement, but children shall not.

          A team of gentlemen of unimpeachable moral fibre shall be called upon to verify the gender of anyone claiming the female beard waiver. They shall, in the presence of a chaperone, carefully examine the applicant’s ankles for feminine bone structure. Bracing cold showers are to be provided for the gentlemen to allow them to maintain the necessary professionalism.

          • LionsPhil says:

            …and not allow the pitiable unbearded to sully its cobblestones. They shall be turned away at the gate with a stern “No, sir.”

            Truly, a progressive utopia.

        • Lacero says:

          Gravity doesn’t discriminate, but the floor does!

          *pushes button*

          (a reckless disregard for floors)

      • Grape says:

        Black people need a reason to exist? I think I am confused by your opinion – could you please expound on it?

        I refuse to believe that you do not understand what he meant, AndrewC. Was this an attempt at trolling from your end?

        Because I will not believe that you could possibly interpret the question as a racist remark when it is so overtly and obviously an actual question about the game’s lore. You can not possibly be that stupid. No-one can.

        • Valvarexart says:

          Careful now, you’ll wake the Walker.

        • AndrewC says:

          Guess I must be that stupid, pumpkin.

        • nrvsNRG says:

          Trolling, or he hasnt read anything about the game, didnt read any of the review, and has jumped straight onto comments and picked on a question that would probably look a bit strange if it wasnt for the fact it was on a gaming website, (and decided to concentrate on the first 8 words and ignore the rest of the sentence).

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          You didn’t have to touch it, y’know

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Well, they’re confederates, so….

      Probably slaves.

    • ikbenbeter says:

      I think that in a society where the white are regarded superior and supreme, letting them do the nasty, dangerous back end jobs as well as the serving jobs would be considered insulting them. I think it is not that he wants the black people on the boat, it’s just that he needs someone to do the dirty* jobs, and white people are considered to good to do those jobs.

  5. InternetBatman says:

    I wonder if they will make a sequel that will sort some of the problems out. I didn’t like Bioshock 2 as much as the first, but it successfully expanded the concept of rapture. It sounds like that is what this game needs.

  6. Anthile says:

    Wait, so is the 1999 mode available from the start or is it really just a new game plus?

    • Low Life says:

      It’s available from the start if you know the code, which I imagine is told when you finish the game. They’ve said it’s a well-known “oldschool code”, and something starting with a K and ending in onami would be my guess.

      edit: And my guess isn’t a random stab at it, but based on a direct quote from a guy at Irrational. “I’ll just say it: we’re talking about doing the Konami Code. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.”
      link to g4tv.com

      • RedViv says:


        • Low Life says:

          Nope, Ken Levine explicitly stated it’s not that on Twitter.

          • RedViv says:

            Aww. :(

          • Low Life says:

            No worries, you can probably still enter it in the first combination lock you spot.

          • Jackablade says:

            Mr Levine did, now that I think about it, reply in the affirmative when someone asked whether the Konami Code did anything in the game. Seems like as good a guess as any that it could activate the 1999 Mode.

      • nld says:

        Also a possibility – some string starting with ID. I guess, Doom was mentioned for a reason.

        • Bhazor says:

          “I’d like to play in 1999 mode please. If thats Ok with you.

          Thanks a lot
          Your pal

          (Kiss, hug, kiss)”

      • PoulWrist says:

        How do you do up, up, down,down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start on PC?

    • Bhazor says:

      My heart sings at the return of cheat codes.

      I’ll definitely look up the code for my first playthrough.

      • Kobest says:

        Same here. Not sure if I have to time to play it through twice, so starting with the 1999 mode would be great! :)

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Please nostalgise with any further C64 / Amiga codes you can remember. Also people who owned lesser formats **raises nose and slaps ST / Spectrum owners with glove**

  7. Juan Carlo says:

    I didn’t like Bioshock as much as other people did, but the art direction in this just looks SO AWESOME that it could get terrible reviews and I’d still want to play it. And I don’t mean graphics, just art direction.

    (and as a side note, I think graphics have progressed to the point now that games need to start being honored not only for art direction, as a distinct category from graphics, but also, perhaps, costume design. Most games still suck at that, but there are a few exceptions. As much as I don’t really like Assassin’s Creed as games, for example, they do have really brilliant costume design….so much so that it’s kind of fun just to run around and gawk at what people are wearing).

  8. AngoraFish says:

    Preordered entirely due to my crush on Elizabeth.

  9. welverin says:

    Clearly all of the same faced people are CLONES!

    • Runty McTall says:

      Or triplets (etc).

      Maybe being so high up has led the people there to be exposed to more cosmic radiation and this messes with zygote development or something, causing more multiple births.

      I’m guessing if it were covered in the lore Alec wouldn’t addressed it, though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      Or the products of incest or other factors related to a significantly small gene pool.

    • sinister agent says:

      Or the player character is a big racist who can’t tell white people apart.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      It’s the imposition of an arbitrary standard of “beauty” combined with the means to achieve said “beauty” for a trivial cost. If all it cost to look like $MALE_HEART-THROB was a bag of Worcester sauce Wheat Crunchies, you can be sure there would be a lot of people who look like $MALE_HEART-THROB.

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        Funny enough this would make complete sense for Bioshock (if everyone wasn’t wearing masks) since it was explicitly stated people used Adam for surgery, dunno if thats the case here.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I dunno, those Wheat Crunchies ARE pretty delicious. It’d be a tough decision.

  10. DickSocrates says:

    Yay for FPS shooty bits. You cannot tell a good story without FPS shooty bits. Just look at Shakespeare and Dickens. Worthless.

  11. Pobblepop says:

    Audio diaries….. *sigh* Why must they always fall-back on these to tell a story? They have become as much a cliche as the super-soldat and the room-with-the-big-spinning-thing (is there one of those in this game I wonder?).

    • Lambchops says:

      Big spinny thing?

      Fan? Washing mashine? Tumble drier? Ice dancer who has let themselves go?

    • Teovald says:

      It must be something like this :
      diaries are a good way to flesh out the game’s world. But only 0.3 % of the players read them. Why not make audio diaries for our reading-challenged players ? Yay for illiteracy !

      • horus_lupercal says:

        I don’t think it’s down to illiteracy. My guess is that the game designers reckon that the requirement to stop and read every snippet of story you come across can take you out of the game whereas audio diaries don’t and they can convey so much more than the written word with background noises and the inflection of the person recording the audio diary.

        Think of the torture audio diary from Bioshock 1 in the fisheries or Dianes diary right near the beginning of the game when Atlas’ rebels attack the new years eve party. I don’t think they’d have anything like the same impact in the written form.

        of course it’s all down to personal taste and you disagree which i respect. This time…. ;-)

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      It’s not a *shock game without audio diaries, just like it’s not a Half-Life game without a big spinny thing.

      • pilouuuu says:

        We can have both! I’m glad developers are finally taking serious care of story and characters.
        But I also think that games have the advantage over movies in that you’re able to visit places and check them (hopefully) at your own pace. So those places can and should tell a story too, if you bother to investigate.

        I think that Bioshock Infinite marks a new moment in gaming where we can get a decent story and characters that possibly may rival those in other media, but at the same time it keeps you in charge and lets you play the game, and gameplay is also fun. From now on I expect developers to fine tune games, so they can be an artistic expression, but also a exciting interactive experience which can be enjoyed through gameplay. That or we can get a next gen with the same games and better graphics. Whatever the case I’m always be expecting the best and most unique experience from Irrational.

    • El_Emmental says:

      Well, if you try to convey the story through the gameplay, and give it a value/importance (by rewarding a good knowledge of the story, and punishing/challenging the player who didn’t paid attention), you’ll end up with an enormous share of your audience left frustrated and angry at the game.

      I know plenty of kids who dis the Zelda games for forcing them to interact with NPC and spam the “next” button to skip the dialog, then say how that Zelda is a badly designed game because they have to watch a walkthrough to know which temple/place they have to go.

      Sure, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be text/audio diaries, and we would experience the story in the gameplay.

      Sadly, this is not the 90s, nor the early 00s, we’re in 2013 and the cover art for the retail Bioshock Infinite is a modelling guy in a vest, holding a sawed-off-like shotgun (lupara), with a burning USA flag. Seriously.

      It could have been the Songbird, overarching (half menacingly, half protectively) Elizabeth, who’s currently using her power to reveal/activate something in the alternate universe/time nearby, and the floating city in the background, with an impressive landscape of clouds and sun (like you can only see when flying a plane above the clouds-barrier. You know, describing what the game is about.

      But no. We’re in 2013. Alpha male, guns and pyrotechnics.

      (nb: I know they planned to provide alternate box cover art (flippable cover art) ; dunno if they got around doing it though)

  12. Moni says:

    Requires “peering eyes” tag?

  13. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Perhaps a world that could have worked much better had this been an open world game… I certainly can understand (and will probably have the exact same feeling) the frustration of being a passive spectator to the city and its inhabitants, unable to interact beyond my guns.

    That said, This review did inspire me to get the game. I’m a sucker for majestic sceneries and I’m afraid that alone will make me ignore the shortcomings of an FPS that doesn’t want to be anything more than an FPS.

    One correction: “There’s something to be said for the comparatively buttoned-down nature of Rapture, where pipes, glass, gloom and water kept things kept things stylistically contained”.

    • pilouuuu says:

      I’m pretty sure all those limitations are thanks to this lovely generation of consoles… I think we can expect much more greatness for the next Bioshock. Maybe a city in space and more detailed open environments as well as citizen with more personality? At least I think things have improved since the crazy splicers which attacked you on sight!

  14. bill says:

    This is out already??? God, i’m so out of touch these days.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I pair it with the “Isn’t that out already?” that comes with months of hype.

      Similar to “isn’t that guy dead?” when you see a celebrity who hasn’t done anything in a while.

  15. Christian says:

    Thanks for another great (p)review, this is a thing where RPS really excels, esp. a great job of giving a good impression of the game while avoiding spoilers (I didn’t read anything detailed about this game so far because if I play it I want to know so little as possible about it..but I did want to know from a trusted source how it is).

    As there’s no mention of it: no bugs or crashes or anything we’ve come to expect from AAA-titles on release? That would be a refreshing change, people being able to play on day one without a frantic day-one patch..good news I’d say :)

  16. Shantara says:

    When I read/watched an initial announcement of Bioshick Infinite, my first thought was “Damn, it’s so cool! If only they made a proper RPG in this setting without limiting themselves by FPS gameplay.” After reading this review, I am even more sure about it.

    • Enkinan says:

      I’m right there with you. Here’s to hoping they do System Shock 3 (or a spiritual successor) after this and getting back to the more open-ended FPS experience.

      • pilouuuu says:

        Hopefully the next Bioshock will be set in a city in space (where else could they go?) and it will me more open, so you can visit the locations as you wish and it will also incorporate more RPG elements

        It will show more about the people who live in the city and they will react better to your presence and have more personality and they won’t share their faces.

        I’m pretty sure all the shortcomings of this game are due to an aging generation of consoles, so by the next game that won’t be a problem anymore.

        Considering how successful this game is going to be we can surely expect even more awesome experiences coming from Mr. Levine’s imagination,

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          “where else could they go?”
          A clay/tent city in the desert? The Russian tundra in mid winter? A Dutch polder in the north sea? The only limit is your imagination.

  17. Morlock says:

    The fact that Adam can spend paragraphs on writing why Infinite’s high concept doesn’t seem to work well makes this game interesting for me, whether it succeeds or not. There are not many AAA titles that even attempt to do what Infinite is trying.

    Looking forward to playing the game.

    • Lambchops says:

      Small point, but it’s Alec, Credit where credit is due and all that!

    • basilisk says:

      That’s precisely why I compromised on my promise never to preorder triple-A games in this case: I was (and still am) sure that even if Infinite is a massive failure, it will be an interesting failure.

      That, and the preorder offer is pretty damn good.

  18. Lambchops says:

    “The gun in one hand, magic power – here named ‘Vigors’ in the other system is extremely similar to Bioshock 2′s”

    Bonus comment thread side topic. What’s the best use of this system you’ve seen in games so far? Mine has to be Clive Barker’s Undying, with it’s exploding skulls and it’s “why don’t you just kill yourself, it’ll save me the bother” gesturing. Might be coloured by the fact it’s the first game I remember which used that system (I’m sure it wasn’t the actual first, any suggestions fact fans?). Really like that style of combat, nicely mixes more traditional FPS shooting with more fantastical abilities to liven things up.

  19. PopeBob says:

    Without being specific or spoilery, I have to say that I found the ending sequence an effective wrapping-up of Booker’s character arc of redemption seeking. The entire game transforms into something personal to Booker, ending on a very close and somewhat uncomfortable note. There is, perhaps, one plot hole that stands glaring when the wibbly-wobbly is truly mulled over, but most won’t reach that point of thought and will simply dismiss the entire thing out of hand.

  20. Alex says:

    Good, very detailed WIT! This sounds and looks very special. However, there’s one part of the review that appears, as a not-yet-player, to be a bit of a spoiler?


    I wish you didn’t mention that you never fight the Songbird. From the small number of trailers I watched, it looked like a formidable foe/ force of nature, and I wish I didn’t know beforehand that you never fight it. But perhaps I’m misinterpreting your statement! (Fighting it “directly”)

    • horus_lupercal says:

      aye I thought the same. when I read that sentence my heart fell a little.

      it’s still not gonna stop me enjoying the game tomorrow on my day off mind :-D (the missus would have words if i stay up all night playing it)

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      That’s not really a spoiler, that’s an anti-spoiler. It lets you have that disappointment up front and get it over with, rather than having whatever feelings you have at the end of the game spoiled by the same disappointment.

  21. bill says:

    Can anyone comment on how it runs on older hardware? My laptop managed Bioshock ok, but I’m not sure it’ll handle much more.

    I’m not averse to turning down detail (as sad as it seems in a game as lovely looking as this).

    • MarkB says:

      On a similar note, my graphics card falls below the minimum by a fair bit, but my processor is much better than the recommended requirements. Am I doomed?

      • Keirley says:

        I had the exact same problem – graphics card below the line and processor a bit above. But the game seems to be really well optimised for older hardware, and where Far Cry 3 occasionally crested heights of 20fps Bioshock: Infinite runs without issue on Very Low, which still looks pretty decent.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      The xbox this was developed for hasn’t changed, so if you ran the first game fine, this will likely be just as peachy. You may have to turn the resolution and the bells and whistles added for the PC port, but the game’s core is still made for decade old firmware.

  22. Strabo says:

    People sharing faces is usually a console-disease: It helps saving texture memory. I hope something we will see the last of with the next generation of consoles.

  23. moocow says:

    I feel like some of the negative comparisons to Bioshock 1 might be unfairly pitching a nostalgia-tinted ideal against the freshly played reality of Infinite.

    Also, really what I want is a Rock Paper Shotcast discussing the game. OPTIMISM.

  24. Totally heterosexual says:

    The part about the ending worried me, the part about the story kept me reading and the part about the combat sold it to me.


    • Totally heterosexual says:

      Also, I might have missed it, but roughly how long is the game?

      • tobecooper says:

        It seems it took Alec around 15 hours and 15 minutes, so I would say the game is max 20hrs long.

        • Totally heterosexual says:

          That sounds nice. And then there is the 1999 mode for spicing up other playthroughs.


  25. Alas Away says:

    Damn it Alec. You bummed me out. Please make a “wishful thinking” version of reviews for games I really look forward to, as these sort of games do not come as often as I hope.

  26. sinister agent says:

    “15 minutes in which you can only walk”

    Ugh. Why do so many developers crowbar sections from Sim Cameraman into their games? It’s highly tedious. Get to the point and make it a cut scene so I can at least put the kettle on and relax instead of sitting there holding “forwards” like a lummox.

    Nice to see a game with dark themes that knows what colours are, though. Yo artists! You can do drama without making everything brown and grey, you know.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Half Life does that – best game evar!!!111
      Other games do that – what a crap…

      • sinister agent says:

        Actually that was one of my main complaints about Half-Life 2, but whatever.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Sorry then. Guess you’re that 1% that doesn’t praise HL2 as a messiah and points it flaws in other games without seeing them in it (like those 99%).

    • po says:

      15 minutes of walking around talking to Elizabeth.

      It makes a huge difference.

  27. kwyjibo says:

    I’ve got too many other games still to finish before I start on this one. Going to wait the DLC out and pick up a GOTY edition later in the year.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Good luck waiting and avoiding spoilers!!!

      • HadToLogin says:

        Well, after all those years I still know nothing about Bioshock 1 (beside that you can kill little girls and it have ending that is close to Mass Effect 3 – but it doesn’t matter in Bio, because it’s not EA game) nor about Bioshock (beside being Big Daddy). So, it looks like it’s kinda easy. Or those games just weren’t popular.

        • kwyjibo says:

          Not got around to Mass Effect 3 either. But it’s more because I’m annoyed that I have ME and ME2 on Steam, and ME3 isn’t there. Hopefully – now that all the DLCs have been released – EA will put out a ME3 Complete edition on Steam.

          I think it’s unlikely though, EA’s original beef was that they wanted to sell DLCs on their own store – but it now looks like they want to push Origin as a real competitor.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Same situation, have to play Bioshock 1 (and 2) and the Mass Effect series.

          However I disagree regarding the comparison between Bioshock and Mass Effect ending (even if we both haven’t experienced them).

          From what I gathered/heard/read, Bioshock is more about its environment and the characters fitting in that environment, while with Mass Effect it’s more about the universe/story and the characters going through that story.

          Even if the Bioshock ending sucks, the environment is still impressive and good – they don’t ruin it by having half the rest of the game turning it into a grey-brown western-urban & middle-east environment making no sense.

          Meanwhile, Mass Effect can easily be ruined by suddenly making some elements/characters (and their stories) of the storyline meaningless or not fitting with everything that happened before.

          Random example: group A is never going to surrender and will always fight group B for what they did before during the Event Z, even if it means they’ll all die and it’s hopeless.
          Ending: but they’ll ultimately find out violence and war is not the answer after they accidently kill a poor civilian girl carrying flowers, and they all decide to forgive about the Event Z, and build a peaceful nation together. The two war lords of each group, with skulls on their armor and blood on their machetes, hug each other and smile. Zoom-out to reveal the happy end scene.

          But group C, who was in the shadows, come in and kill everyone. The End. Drama !

          nb: I haven’t played a single minute of the Mass Effect series, I only know it’s about space, various alien races and there’s dialog (some allowing you to tenderly hug a member of your crew).

        • Lemming says:

          There’s nothing wrong with Bioshock’s ending. It’s certainly not comparable to the clusterfuck of ME3’s. Besides, one’s a shooter with big ideas, the other is an RPG.

          Would you kindly just play it?

      • kwyjibo says:

        No one really gives a fuck about spoilers, they pretend they do, but it doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the experience at all.

        • kwyjibo says:

          Heck, some great games telegraph their ending straight from the outset. When you saw Breen’s face beaming down from propaganda screens, and saw the Citadel for the first time – you knew that’s where everything was going to end.

          • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            Yeah, but I’d have been pretty pissed if, before playing it, someone had told me that Half-Life 2 ended without answering any of the questions that it raised.

        • Muzman says:

          If it’s any good spoilers generally matter.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            Dunno. I’m in the minority here, but I often spoil stories for myself on purpose so I can focus on what’s happening now rather than obsessing over what’s going to happen.

            I’m just not interested in narratives that rely on mysteries or plot twists to work, but I get that some people really like that tension and uncertainty.

            To each their own, and all that.

        • Urthman says:

          How would you even know if someone cares about spoilers or is “just pretending to”? What an ignorant statement.

        • KenTWOu says:

          Obviously, you’re so cool, man! I have BioShock:Ifinite ending just for you. You can watch it! It doesn’t impact the enjoyment of your experience at all.

  28. wodin says:

    Hmmm…I’ve seen reviews on here as negative as this and all the comments are not buying..thought so..rubbish etc etc. As they are game people expected would be rubbish. Yet this has what I read as a so so review infact everything in the review was always heading to a negative and yet everyone is still excited.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Yeah same here. This review pretty much hammered in the final nail in the not interested coffin. I guess I was looking for a different type of game. I need a bit more than great visual design and interesting ideas with flawed execution. Mechanically this game sounds shallow, old and tired. I’d be bored of what I was doing and only doing it for the story.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Aye lad, not my idea of gaming neeps and tatties either.

        Bioshock 1&2 were mundane shite, pretty shite but still stinking excrement!

  29. squareking says:

    Honestly, the only thing I know about this game is boobs. Well, ok, I read some preview stuff and looked over this review, but I’m still left with my initial impression, which was *shrug*.

    Just wanted to share.

  30. devland says:

    I’m just gonna leave this here: link to imgur.com

  31. Bobtree says:

    Elizabeth’s giant head is grotesque.

  32. Brun says:

    there is something odd about making people with an overwhelmingly correct grievance as monstrous as those they oppose

    At the risk of getting a little too philosophical:

    A group’s monstrosity is not defined by the correctness of its grievances but by the way in which it chooses to pursue redress. There are plenty of examples in history of people who are morally “in the right” taking things too far and becoming monsters themselves. I haven’t played the game yet (nor will I for quite a while) but casting both sides as monsters doesn’t strike me as terribly odd.

    I never really got into BioShock – perhaps it’s because I came late to the party (I didn’t try the original until last year), and by the time I did many of its original ideas and concepts had found their way into subsequent games. When I played through it nothing about it felt terribly compelling. I’ll probably wait on this one.

    • Triplanetary says:

      I dunno, I like moral shades of grey as much as the next guy, but this whole “both sides are equally monstrous” shtick that’s becoming so common these days (witness Skyrim) is not the way to do it. It’s just as lazy and simplistic as “these guys are good, these guys are evil,” and I’d prefer the latter since I’d at least be able to sympathize with somebody.

      • Strangerator says:

        Both sides should be simpathetic if viewed from certain perspectives, and a successful storyteller can show the player/viewer both perspectives. However this game appears to offer a choice between assholes and racist assholes.

        Also, why does an advanced civilzation that has magic and flying cities even NEED slavery? Are clouds the new cotton? I’m guessing the game offers up some silly excuse, or perhaps just sticks to the common misconception that slavery was due to racism. “We white gentlemen hate these black folk, so let’s enslave them.” At least, I hope that’s not the understanding of history reflected here.

        • Triplanetary says:

          It’s true that racism was initially used to justify slavery, rather than vice versa, but once those attitudes are embedded in a society, they often express themselves in ways that don’t make any rational or economic sense.

      • rebochan says:

        Ohhh, you mean like Dragon Age II’s stupid mages and templars storyline. Or any BioWare game where they crow about exploring “moral grey areas” but in reality just make everyone assholes while claiming they’re showing both sides of a story as valid.

        …yea. I am a bit raw with BioWare this days :P

    • Consumatopia says:

      What Alec wrote was odd–there were a lot of people with overwhelmingly correct grievances against Nicholas II or Louis XVI.

      But the real problem here is that we’re talking about a society modeled on the American Confederacy. The Confederacy’s claim to power was that those people couldn’t be trusted with power (or any freedom at all). By portraying enemies of the Confederacy as equally monstrous, one comes dangerously close to agreeing with them. As a matter of historical record, it’s absurd to say that the Union or the slaves were as monstrous as the Confederates–but it’s a particular absurdity that was promoted for a long time in some American textbooks.

      • Strangerator says:

        So in your enlightened view, the entirety of the Confederacy were monsters? Really? The argument was over whether or not black Americans should be counted as people. That only seems monstrous to you now because the issue has long been settled.

        Compare it to abortion. I’d argue that fetuses are humans with rights, and likely many people here find that silly. Now imagine a world 100 years later where we’ve had a war and pro-lifers win. Society as a whole would collectively look back at “those evil people who killed babies.” Option 2, your side wins. 100 years later society collectively looks back and says, “can you believe how much they oppressed women back then, trying to prevent choice?” When you have a war about something you produce a unilateral decision about the issue that then becomes the new standard.

        Going back to north vs south, the south viewed the end of slavery as basically having their way of life removed. In their view, slavery wasn’t wrong because that’s how it was always done. There are many people who still believe in things because that’s how they’ve been done forever. These people aren’t monsters, they’re people. I’d argue that pro-choice people are wrong, but not monsters. Even if I find someone’s rationale for their beliefs to be somewhat self-serving, I do not proclaim them to be monsters.

        EDIT: I guess I should throw in something about WWII Germany. Yes, there were some human monsters, but not the whole of Germany. Most of them were people in total denial of what was really going on. I guess the take home message is, history has a few true monsters, but the majority of their power comes from followers who are merely cowards (not monsters).

        • Consumatopia says:

          So in your enlightened view, the entirety of the Confederacy were monsters? Really?

          No, not really. That’s not what I said at all. Added up, the Confederacy was monstrous, even if not every citizen of the Confederacy was a monster.

          The argument was over whether or not black Americans should be counted as people.

          The 3/5ths compromise was a compromise, not a statement of ideology. Indeed, under the pro-slave position, slaves would have counted as full people. Slavery was not about the definition of people, but over whether it was okay to keep some people as slaves. They did not deny that slaves were people, they claimed that they were inferior people.

          That only seems monstrous to you now because the issue has long been settled.

          The issue has been settled not because the victors write the history books (especially given the influence of the Texas State Board of Education on American textbooks) but because racists made falsifiable claims that were falsified. They predicted that if blacks had freedom or power that American civilization would regress or collapse. This did not happen. (And that’s why I’m deeply suspicious of a narrative in which the Confederacy lives in some form but the opposition is just as evil or dangerous–that plays into racist propaganda.)

          More often than not people back political assertions with predictions of what will happen in the future if their preferred regime is or is not implemented. So if people are honest, most political assertions should be falsifiable. Perhaps more extreme positions on the definition of personhood (such as one including day-old human zygotes but not including any great apes or cetaceans) are an exception to this, but I suspect that even these should be resolvable as we gain more insight into the nature of intelligence and consciousness.

          Going back to north vs south, the south viewed the end of slavery as basically having their way of life removed. In their view, slavery wasn’t wrong because that’s how it was always done.

          Their way of life was evil. Their views were wrong (“X is not wrong because it was always done that way” is not a valid argument) and they would have known they were wrong if they were honest. Many of them admitted that they knew it was wrong even as they kept slaves all their lives (e.g. Thomas Jefferson). It was not like abortion in which there is a sincere disagreement, it was more like American dependence on Saudi oil–people of both parties admitting that it’s wrong but not having the guts to do anything about it. They obviously knew that Africans were people who could feel pain and understand language (otherwise how can you beat them for disobeying your words?), they never denied that they were people. This wasn’t even like the Holocaust in which a German could pretend they didn’t know. Everyone knew what slavery was.

    • steviesteveo says:


      What he isn’t saying is why the other side is equally monstrous.

      The original rebellion — from what you see of it — is actually alright. It’s definitely not the bad side. You make them bad through a number of changes to the universe, which you do with the intention of helping them, and by the end of your changes they’re holding kids at gunpoint. The moral is for the player to be careful what they wish for.

      I understand he’s really limited in what he can say while being spoiler free and this is a huge point of the game’s story.

  33. wearedevo says:

    Cannot WAIT to play this once it reaches the acceptable price point of $4.99!!

    • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

      You, sir, are a scrooge. There is much fun and awe to be had in this game. For a nice stay in Columbia, I am willing to pay up to and including $14.92.

  34. Laurentius says:

    It seems like the right word to describe this game would be “bombastic”.

  35. Strangerator says:

    Looking forward to watching a let’s play of this game. Lately that’s my preferred method of experiencing AAA games. There are plenty of games I have on backlog that are meant to be played instead of experienced, and they are usually a lot cheaper.

  36. Mario Figueiredo says:

    EDIT: Hmm… Was replying to a post that was meanwhile deleted. Feel free to delete this…

    To be fair, Alec had quite a few criticisms. Knowing how much praise it is receiving from the press in general, you can’t fault him for wanting to put these thoughts across in the best possible way.

    On the other hand I always felt strange how people feel all flustered after a certain length of text. You don’t read books? You never studied in school? You don’t read a Wikipedia article? You never played Baldur’s Gate? You don’t read newspapers? You don’t read medication instructions? You never read a contract? You never wrote an essay?

    • Strangerator says:

      I get what you are saying, and I think the problem is one of pacing. Today’s games, especially AAA, are all at a breakneck pace. The idea of having someone stop and thoughtfully read something after they have torn someone apart with a torrent of crows is just incongruous. Imagine the mindstate of reading a novel and then imagine if on page 15 there was a loud, fast-paced, minigame that required fast-twitch reflexes. Then pages 16-30 were normal. So I guess incongruity of pacing would be the answer. Audio logs allow the character to not even stop at all, but rather listen as they continue progressing.

      I’d love to see a AAA game that catered to a bit slower-paced entertainment, then you could actually have some pause and read moments. But that’s not what the masses want. Give them blood and spectacles, and the people will adore you! Er, something like that anyway. It is funny that the Bioshock series has become a sort of literary bastion in gaming, and those people who like to think about what they are doing in games struggle so mightily to find meaning in something like this.

      • pilouuuu says:

        I don’t see why we can’t have both.

        In bad movies like Transformers 2 it’s all about action and bad humour. Good movies like Empire Strikes Back has great action scenes like Hoth battle, more meditative and slow-paced scenes like in Dagobah and climatic battle like Darth Vader Vs. Luke.

        I think Bioshock games are a step in the right direction and I’m pretty excited that the gameplay is similar to Doom. Hopefully games in the future will get even better stories and acting, but they won’t sacrifice good gameplay for QTE and cut-scenes.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Nah. I wrote in a different context. :)
        I was replying to someone who complained about Alec’s long review, calling it a wall of text.

  37. MeatMan says:

    I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ and ‘very well done, sir’ to Alec. This is why I almost always only read reviews at RPS. They’re very thorough and informative and are not tarnished with a score at the end.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Not that I am likely to play it any time soon and find out but I hope that the review isn’t advertising budget related as most AAA’ers are………

      • Alec Meer says:

        Oh good, That Guy’s here.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          I read your review to see if it had deviated(in a good way) from 1&2 as they weren’t my bag. It appears it hasn’t so I won’t be paying cash money for it anytime soon (75%off on Steam time).

          However are you disputing the sway that large advertising budgets have on the critique of games in the media?

          I started recently being an avid reader of PRS due to being initially impressed by its impartiality. Am I convinced that it is indeed above the call of corporate cash? Well its early days but the signs are promising! (only you know if editorial pressure is applied)

          • Lemming says:

            “Am I convinced that it is indeed above the call of corporate cash? Well its early days but the signs are promising!

            Are you an investor? If not, I’d leave the ego at the door, dear chap. They aren’t going to beg for your readership.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            Send me the portfolio then, as to invest you need the ‘actual’.

            I’m pissed, it is true……………

        • Jackablade says:

          You didn’t do a very good job with your shilling, Alec, what with all of those well reasoned criticisms and such.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            They sugar coat pills for a reason you know. Just because there is no metric at the end doesn’t mean this isn’t a glowing review ‘in my interpretation’. Like I say I’m not inclined to test any time soon as it DID give me enough information to decide it’s not one for me!

            However, interestingly enough the subsequent post to this has found a major concern that was widely publicised from the previous games that has not been mentioned!

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          “Oh good, That Guy’s here,” hissed Alec Meer through a mouth full of platinum teeth, his mustache still wet with Chateau Lafleur. “Now, to get my check!”

          The screech of tires was merely an echo in Kensington Palace Gardens as Alec put his foot to the floor of his Bentley and sped off to 2K headquarters.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            For some reason you made me think of this

          • Vandelay says:

            Thank you, that really made me chuckle.

            I actually thought there was a lot of disappointment in this review. At the very least, I think Alec is wanting a little more time to mull this one over before giving his final declaration on it.

            As another commentator said though, the fact that you can spend so much time in a review questioning the successes of the games political and social debate already puts it a step above the competition. Very tempted to put in a last minute pre-order.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            Onanism, moi? GERRIN!!

  38. alilsneaky says:

    Did you guys know that this game still has the exact same issue with the controls as bioshock 1-2 ? That awful broken mouse acceleration that cannot be turned off and annoyed tons of people to no end the first two games around?

    No? Of course you didn’t, reviews wouldn’t bother warning you about this.
    Gaemz junnalism: leaving the nasty surprises for after you buy the game since 2001

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      How are you playing it already?

    • darkChozo says:

      It’s been a while, but wasn’t that mostly an issue with the first one? I seem to recall that the second one was much better in that regard (as well as being a better port in general).

    • Strabo says:

      Mouse Acceleration can be turned off. It was the first thing I did after changing the FoV.

    • fish99 says:

      Assuming that’s true it’s not a big surprise after they tried and failed twice to fix the mouse acceleration in Bioshock, and apparently Bioshock 2 had it as well. Irrational write the 360 version of these games, then the aussie subsidiary, who think everyone on PC plays their shooters with a gamepad, make the PC version, which is effectively a port.

      If what you say is true, it’s sad this situation hasn’t improved.

      The mad thing is – getting linear input from a mouse is easier than applying an acceleration curve, but instead I’m guessing they choose to program the mouse to input into the accelerated gamepad function, rather than spend the time to put in some separate linear mouse code.

  39. Enkinan says:

    Great write up Alec, RPS rocks.

  40. Lemming says:

    re: Bid daddy vs Infinite monsters being ‘iconic’

    I’d say the Songbird could go toe-to-toe with the BD in terms of being iconic and arresting, rather than the more common encounters.

  41. Josh W says:

    Stick with the prod Alec, you’re a detective.

  42. Baal_Sagoth says:

    Excellent WIT! That was a very enjoyable read. Due to being neck-deep into a few other games and some wariness concerning the DLC/ season pass nonsense I’ll probably wait a bit with my actual purchase but the game does sound very fascinating even for someone who wasn’t all that thrilled about Bioshock.
    A significant story focus on Elizabeth sounds very good, even though I understand the criticism, since she’s one of the main reasons Infinite caught my attention. I’m still a bit worried about the potentially shallow gameplay – the part that really didn’t please me in Bioshock at all. We’ll see.

  43. Uncompetative says:

    Quick question:

    Do all the enemies run straight at you, like in every FPS franchise apart from Halo?

    • fish99 says:

      In Doom 3 they hid behind boxes.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Far Cry 1: Sneak up behind you in a bush and insert rifle barrel up your ass, screaming HOW D’YA LIKE THOSE APPLES. Or shoot you from cover over a mile away. I loved that game.

        • fish99 says:

          Yeah Far Cry 1 had ambitious AI. It didn’t always work mind you, I remember watching several enemies in a row walk off a high cliff to their death, but they sure didn’t run towards you in a straight line. They’d work as a group, try to flush you out, use cover etc.

          I still think Far Cry 1 and the original Crysis are the best pure shooters we’ve seen (there are better games which have involved shooting, like Stalker and System Shock 2, but they’re more hybrids than pure shooters).

    • LionsPhil says:


      Try playing some FPSes on computers. There was this one called Half-Life you might want to check out.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Oh Phil, what a snobbish posh snarkle.

        Yeah, go check half life, half century old golden calf, courtesy of the much worshipped pantheon of the underachieving gamesellers called Vhalfe.

    • kud13 says:

      I’m guessing you never tried S.T.A.L.K.E.R.?

  44. The Sombrero Kid says:

    This feels pedantic but i feel it’s important to point out that 2K Boston renamed Irrational is not the same Irrational that made System Shock 2 & SWAT 4.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Some important employees have left over the years, like Robert Fermier and Jonathon Chey, but it is still the same company. They were briefly called 2K Boston, before everyone came to their senses and never spoke of that decision again.

  45. 11temporal says:

    What’s wrong with her faaaaaace?

    • Riggaboo says:

      Ha! And to think I haven’t revisited Plinkett’s masterful deconstruction of that most famous of movie franchises.

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fish my vintage Han Solo action figure out of the “chicken” bone filled popcorn bucket that has held him prisoner better than any frozen carbonate ever could and reconcile my absence from redlettermedia immediately.

  46. fish99 says:

    Question : is it only me that reads RPS WIT articles from the bottom up?

    Obviously I don’t read them backwards, but I work my way up one paragraph at a time. I think it’s because they’re pretty long, so I read the last paragraph to see if the game is worth my time, then if the answer isn’t quite there, I read the paragraph before, and so on until I’ve reached a conclusion (which is usually about half way). It’s also because typically the first half of reviews is background info I already know, and scene setting stuff which ultimately won’t affect my purchase decision. Basically it’s a way of getting the required info out of the article with the least effort.

    • tobecooper says:

      Hah, I do that too sometimes! Precisely for the reasons you mention.

      But I quite like the writing of RPS’ Hivemind even if they’re just informing me about stuff I already know, so by the end I’m usually back at the top.

    • valz says:

      I do that with every review I read in any publication for the same reasons you describe. If I want to know particulars, I go further up. RPS does better than any other publication to combat that by actually talking about interesting details (not always) and by being pleasantly humorous (almost always.)

  47. Heliocentric says:

    1 question. In Bioshock 1 you often just “left big daddies alone”, same with bio 2. This uneasy truce and the fringes of things like enraging splicers to attack him or making a big daddy set of an alarm.

    Does infinite carry any of this?

  48. orshick says:

    Excellent write up! Provides a thoughtful analysis on a level that most video game journalism does not seem concerned with.

  49. Leonard H. Martin says:

    Questions, questions, questions… so many questions. Well, actually two:

    1) Is there a lot of hackable equipment utilising the super hi-tech Pipe Mania security system?

    2) Does the camera make a return? As the self appointed David Bailey of Rapture, I need to know! (Seriously: I spent about 6 days taking photos of just about everything).

  50. fish99 says:

    ***spoilers about Bioshock 1 ***

    The powerful twist in Bioshock was sadly the point at which the game died. Andrew Ryan was the only interesting character, and with him dead (and why would he make you kill him just to prove that you were brainwashed?) and Atlas revealed as the boring stereotypical villain Fontaine, there was nothing left to drive the game forwards. Also the whole ‘would you kindly’ thing was meaningless in a game which didn’t give you any choice but to do what Atlas said.

    It was also the same plot twist they used in System Shock 2 which made it feel cheap, and if you analyze the story it didn’t make sense. Why would Fontaine send you out of Rapture to come back in a plane crash which you caused and had 1/1000 chance of surviving? The excuse the game used was that the security systems wouldn’t attack you, but they did, all the time. The game also had the most laughably inappropriate and jarring end boss.

    I’m not hating on the game, it was very good for the most part, but it didn’t deserve 96% when System Shock 2 did more things and mostly did them better.

    • Leonard H. Martin says:

      I have a suspicion that Ken Levine is something of a trickster and the whole point of Bioshock was to see how many journos he could hoodwink into believing a mediocre shooting game had some sort of gravitas or meaning it simply did not possess.

      I mentioned in a previous comment the hacking thing. As far as I’m concerned that was the actual “game” in Bioshock, the bit that was fun to play and kept me exploring. Photography, too, was a hell of a lot more fun in the game than the actual shooting.

      By the looks of this and other reviews I’ve read, he’s at it again. Despite all the gushing, flowery praise Infinite is getting not one review has said “this game is fun because of a, b or c”; instead we get a whole bunch of cruft about how worthy… I’m sorry… WORTHY! it is.

      I guess the Emperor is happy with his new tailor :)

      • Sassenach says:

        Next thing you know people will be talking about ‘the power of games as a medium’.

        • Leonard H. Martin says:

          Half-baked, certainly. Medium? Nah, that’s how I like my steak.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Despite all the gushing, flowery praise Infinite is getting not one review has said “this game is fun because of a, b or c”

        This is why I find the vast majority of positive reviews utterly useless. At least when reviewers are down on a game, they’ll usually give you specific points that describe exactly why they didn’t like it.

      • Kobest says:

        Exactly. My suspicions about Infinite rose when some of the trailers had the “from the creators of Bioshock* *the highest rated game according to Metacritic” line. This is really your selling point? I remember playing Bioshock 1 then two years later, System Shock 2, and my God, I thought “how could they get away with the former? Did everyone forget about System Shock 2?”

        Not to mention, the news are already saying that Infinite has the chance to become the highest rated game on Metacritic…

        Don’t get me wrong, I got Infinite, and I am going to enjoy it. I’m sure it’s a great AAA game, a good spectacle, but that’s it. But recently I finished playing a very underrated game called Tron 2.0, and I have a feeling that I’m going to have less fun and investment in this new Shock game than in that one.

    • 11temporal says:

      Yep, at that point I lost all interest and didn’t even finish the game.

    • Irria says:

      Personally, I just wish that Ken would stop with the M. Night Shyamalan bullshit and just tell a coherent story for once. Infinite feels like the ending contains a twist for no other reason than to have a twist (and full of plot-holes at that).

    • valz says:

      The only thing Bioshock did better than System Shock 2 (that I can think of) is encourage me to care about characters. I didn’t care about any characters in System Shock 2, despite it being better at _some_ of the storytelling elements.

      • fish99 says:

        To be fair it’s probably a long time since you played SS2, but if you listened to all the audio logs and read the e-mails it did have some interesting characters to get attached to. Mainly Delacroix (the same actress voiced Tenenbaum in Bioshock IIRC), but also Captain Diego, and Rebecca and Tommy, plus Shodan was a fairly interesting villain in terms of not having regular human motives.

        • valz says:

          Incorrect. I remember the game very well. It did a better job of character development than most games _before_ it, but Bioshock 2 is still far, far better at storytelling and character development. (System Shock 2 is a better game overall.)

      • Stupoider says:

        It was pretty ham handed at trying to make you care about characters. Any moment you were supposed to feel a sense of empathy they’d wheel out the world’s smallest violin (literally) and have it snivel in the background.

        • valz says:

          Since you said “it” instead of “they,” I assume you’re talking about System Shock 2 instead of the Bioshock series?