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Gaming Review

'BioShock Infinite' review (PS3): Soars to stunning new heights

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Released on Sunday, Mar 24 2013

BioShock Infinite

© 2K Games


Release Date: March 26 (worldwide)
Platforms available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: First-person shooter

One of this year's most anticipated releases, BioShock Infinite shifts the action away from the murky depths of Rapture and into the floating city of Columbia, which, despite its colourful exterior, houses just as many dark secrets and sinister intentions as its underwater counterpart.

Suffering multiple delays and more than one revamp, including the removal of a supposed online mode, the development process has had its fair share of ups and downs.

Fortunately, however, that hasn't stopped Irrational Games from creating another spectacular story-driven adventure.

BioShock Infinite follows the journey of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent who has been forced into a mission to retrieve a young lady named Elizabeth from Columbia and deliver her to his debtors.

Images of BioShock Infinite, releasing in March on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

© 2K Games

Columbia in all of its splendour



What Booker fails to realise, however, is that Elizabeth is no ordinary girl. Dubbed the "lamb" of Columbia, Elizabeth has been foretold to bring about the destruction of the city's enemies by the prophet Comstock, who has also foreseen the arrival of DeWitt.

The game's characters are wonderfully realised, none more so than Elizabeth herself. Everything from her voice acting to her movements have been meticulously crafted by the development team at Irrational Games, and it's this care and attention that really shines through.

While games often have a difficult time making players care about the characters, especially when they're not in your control, BioShock Infinite has no such problems.
    Columbia appears to be a floating paradise, packed with stately manors, monuments to American heroes, shopping districts, museums and even the world's first floating seaside resort.
Elizabeth is strong yet vulnerable, innocent but worldly - thanks to a well-stocked library as company for most of her life - and above all, driven to do the right thing. It makes her extremely likeable, which ensures players care about her plight.

Also, though largely a companion throughout, not once does Elizabeth get in Booker's way, or in any way impede him during the game's challenging campaign.

It's quite the opposite, in fact. She'll throw Booker health and ammo during battles, all the while conjuring weapons and cover, meaning that during times when she's not present, players will miss her on both a personal and practical level.

Images of BioShock Infinite, releasing in March on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

© 2K Games

Comstock's presence is everywhere in 'BioShock Infinite'



DeWitt's cloudy morals and the prophet's god-like presence also contribute to the game's excellent sense of character, but it's the city of Columbia itself that makes Infinite another memorable entry in the BioShock series.

Taking the franchise in such a radical new direction was a risky move on Irrational's part, but it's a gamble that really pays off.

While the claustrophobic confines of Rapture were as terrifying as they were beautiful, Columbia offers more of a traditionally pleasing aesthetic, albeit one with its own wealth of problems.

Bathed in the warm glow of sunshine, Columbia appears to be a floating paradise, packed with stately manors, monuments to American heroes, shopping districts, museums and even the world's first floating seaside resort.

Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you see the dark side of Columbia, driven by industry and populated by an overworked and underpaid populace who live in Victorian-esque slums.

Either way, it's absolutely stunning, despite the odd visual glitch and stuttering frame rate.


Even with so much diversity, the city of Columbia feels very organic, and whether palace or slum, nothing seems out of place.

It makes exploring a joy, and speaking from experience, sequences that should take minutes stretch on for so much longer because you find yourself searching every back alley and open building for secrets.

A combination of voice recordings, short films and conversations with Elizabeth flesh out the city even more, resulting in an environment that at the very least matches the splendour of Rapture, if not surpasses it.

These same techniques, as well as fuzzy flashbacks also form the narrative, which is another area in which BioShock Infinite excels.

While themes such as nationalism, religion and rebellion offer frequent and uneasy talking points, it's the relationship between Elizabeth, DeWitt and Comstock that provides the real depth, and it's a relationship fraught with a suitable number of twists and turns.

'Bioshock Infinite' screenshot

© 2K Games

Elizabeth's relationship with Booker is a highlight



Indeed, one moment involving Elizabeth later on in the game literally caused goosebumps, while the ending is both powerful and shocking, and something I personally look forward to discussing with people when the game is released.

Beyond the story, players will spend most of the time fighting off Comstock's soldiers or armed rebels. Despite improving on its predecessors in almost every way, the combat is probably the weakest area of the game, purely because it doesn't feel as unique or innovative as other areas.

The gunplay is satisfying and provides a real challenge, though sometimes gun battles are introduced a little too frequently and without any puzzles to break up the play.

Fortunately, the addition of Vigour powers - which enable Booker to unleash a torrent of crows and flames, among other things, combined with zip lines and environmental obstacles provided by Elizabeth, adds depth by providing alternative strategical options.

Images of BioShock Infinite, releasing in March on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

© 2K Games

Skylines offer new ways to tackle enemies



The Vigour powers will feel a little on the familiar side to those who have played other BioShock games, however, although the option to use them as traps gives them a new edge.

The ability to use Booker's hook to battle from the skyline is much more innovative, and succeeds in ramping up the pace and intensity of battles.

Also, while we missed the Big Daddies, BioShock Infinite introduces a new breed of formidable enemies, although the better ones feel slightly under-utilised.
    While it was a risk to move away from the depths of Rapture and into the clouds of Columbia, Irrational Games has once again crafted a dazzling new world, which succeeds in taking the franchise to stunning new heights.
The Songbird - an imposing, mechanical bird that dominates the skies - is an awesome new foe, but appears too infrequently, while battles against the creepy Handymen only occur a handful of times.

It's a shame, because while it's hard to imagine them ever becoming as iconic as the Big Daddies, they're never really given the same chance to shine.

Despite their lack of presence, however, Irrational has once again managed to do the impossible and create sympathetic monsters - which is especially true of the Songbird - despite the fact that they're trying to kill you.

'Bioshock Infinite' screenshot

© 2K Games

A candlelit hallway.



The 12-hour campaign is one that feels wholesome. Despite being compelled to explore, we only discovered two thirds of the voice recordings and managed only a couple of optional missions, so there's plenty to discover off the beaten path. There is also more content on the way through a season pass.

So despite a few rather minor complaints here and there, nothing can take away from how wonderfully written and beautifully acted BioShock Infinite is. It's surely a new high for gaming storytelling and characterisation.

While it was a risk to move away from the depths of Rapture and into the clouds of Columbia, Irrational Games has once again crafted a dazzling new world, which succeeds in taking the franchise to stunning new heights.

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