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Bioshock Infinite Review: A Wondrous Mirror

 
The Bioshock franchise has become one of the leading story-tellers within the current generation of consoles. The finely crafted worlds, settings and characters that Irrational Games have created in the past, have struck a chord with players and each new installment adds its own unique spin on the series.
 
It’s the satire that I love, that is what brings me back to the ‘Bioshock’ franchise every time. The graphics may be beautiful, the characters intriguing, but it’s the opinions and ideals that are woven into every aspect of each game that I love to explore.
 
The Bioshock series is smart, it’s clever and well written. The jokes and characters aren’t one-dimensional or overbearing. Irrational Games are one of the few developers and story-tellers, that I feel refuses to talk down to their audience. In fact, I think they constantly challenge them and find new ways to make players question their ideals more than any other series.
 
Bioshock Infinite is a large story, centered around a simple relationship between Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth. I say simple not as a flaw, but as compliment. The pitfalls of overcomplicated plot-twists and tangents won’t be found in Bioshock: Infinite. There are some mature themes in this game, some that many games and movies are too scared to touch. Though love, adoration and connections are the constant thread. The game allows players to question stances on religion, racism, violence and politics as well. The world of Columbia, like all of the worlds in the Bioshock series, are a reflection of our society. A parallel universe, where certain aspects of American culture are skewed in order to force the player to focus on certain controversial subjects.
 

 
As I mentioned before, Bioshock Infinite involves Booker Dewitt, the lead protagonist in a world set in 1912. Players will assume the role of Booker as he travels to the floating sky-city of Columbia. Players are charged with returning a beautiful character named Elizabeth to New York in order to pay off a debt. There are many aspects of this story that I can’t (well won’t) tell you about. The true art of Bioshock Infinite is the story and I simply will not ruin it for anyone.
 
Bioshock Infinite starts off slowly, the world of Columbia is quite different from the America you may be accustomed with and there are a lot of important characters to meet, and a few themes to establish before you can just start exploring. The world of Columbia was created by, and ruled by, Father Zachary Comstock. In the beginning you will learn how Columbia differs from your own personal beliefs, whether or not you fit in with Columbia depends on your views of racism, dedication, justice and patriotism. It doesn’t take long before you are either fitting in with the society, or are foreshadowing the upcoming friction that will become a problem for Booker.
 
The overall story of Columbia is just the framing device for the story of Elizabeth and Booker. Do not misunderstand me when I say “just the framing-device”, for the story of Columbia was one of my favorite parts of the game. This is a time of unrest in Columbia, with two groups squaring off and boasting their own moral-beliefs and planned structure for the city.
 
[quote_left]What you will find in the game is a story that is so well written, so perfectly concluded, that you will beg your friends to finish it so you can discuss it.[/quote_left]Fans of previous Bioshock games should feel right at home with the basic mechanics of the game. At it’s heart the game is a FPS with a ‘rare-ability factor’ built in to add customization and new gameplay tactics. In this respect there isn’t anything totally new from previous games. You will still unlock abilities using ‘vigors’ to grant you new powers which can be improved over time. What is new is the addition of gear, collectable items that Booker can wear for enhancements and stat-boosting.
 
One of the more marketed additions in the game is the ‘Skyhook’, which is both a weapon and a means to travel in Columbia via the built in skylines. These hooks can be used as weapons or travel, but more likely you will use them as a defensive tactic. They are great for flanking a group of guards quickly and quietly. They also make for a great escape if things start to get out of hand. This game often times has Elizabeth and Booker together, so I thought I touch on her role in the game.
 
Elizabeth plays the role of support, giving you much needed supplies that range from health, ammo or salts to keep your abilities charged. Elizabeth also has her own very unique abilities that will help you on your journey. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll leave it at that. I will say that the AI that controls Elizabeth is very well-crafted. I actually felt weaker when she wasn’t around, which is normally the opposite of how I feel when I have a companion character. The two main leads, Elizabeth and Booker, are wonderfully written and have an terrific story-arch all their own. Their motives, actions and fates are well-written and stayed true to their characters throughout the story.
 
I don’t think Irrational Games crafted an enemy in Bioshock Infinite that will be as iconic as the ‘Big Daddy’, though not for a lack of trying. There are many more characters to battle against in ‘Bioshock: Infinite’ when compared to previous titles, but the same feeling of a ‘Big Sister’ headed your way never came for me.
 
What you will find in the game is a story that is so well written, so perfectly concluded that you will beg your friends to finish it so you can discuss it. Which to me, is the nicest thing I can say to the writers of the game. The writing, the satire, the characters and the love-story of Bioshock Infinite will remain with me long-after I stop playing the game. It’s the finest work released from Irrational Games to date and an achievement that won’t be easily outdone.
 
PC IMPRESSIONS by Tony Hsieh
 
The amazing thing about Bioshock: Infinite for PC is not the fact that the graphics are silky smooth and oh so shiny. I don’t think having a PC game look better than its console counterparts is something to be too impressed with; I mean…it’s to be expected, right? That’s like being surprised by a Ferrari outperforming a Kia. It’s supposed to!
 
No, what blew my socks clean off was the fact that the PC version was so perfectly optimized to run at such a high quality while using such little amounts of my system’s resources. Crysis 3 may brag about “melting your PC,” and games with fancy PhysX or TressFX physics may push your hardware to its limits for better visuals, but give me a brand-new game that’s able to run on max settings with no framerate hiccups on my modest rig? THAT’S what impresses me.
 
The PC version of Bioshock: Infinite has the typical options to play around with that users should come to expect from any modern PC title, but what it also comes with is a fantastic benchmarking tool. This goes beyond your normal in-game benchmark which usually is just a short in-game sequence with a FPS counter ticking away in the corner.
 
Here, you fire up the benchmark utility and are taken to a separate command prompt where you can choose between quality options such as user defined settings, Ultra DX11, very High, Medium, etc. You are then given the option to go with whatever you have set in the game already, or to tweak your settings even further before you jump into a variety of different scenes from the game. Once you’re finish, an Excel file with all the results is sent to your Documents folder with all the info you could ever want, more than two pages worth. Just column after column of numbers, for your obsessive benchmarkers (guilty).
 
To give you an idea of how wonderfully Bioshock: Infinite runs on my computer, here’s my setup:
 
– Intel Core i7 970 3.2 GHz
– GTX 660 SC 2GB (overclocked using EVGA Precision X)
– 18 GB DDR3 RAM
– DX11
– Windows 8
 
And amazingly, here are my results (avg FPS, min FPS, max FPS, scene name):
 
61.97 21.78 198.31 – Welcome Center
76.32 41.96 111.19 – Town Center
69.38 15.9 200.23 – Raffle
101.74 50.24 132.03 – Monument Island
72.87 15.71 200.23 – Overall
 
Throughout my hours of playtime, I’m pretty certain I did not have the framerate drop below 60 even once (I’m one of those obsessive types that always has the FPS counter ticking away at the corner of the screen).
 
Yes, it should not be a shock to anyone; the PC version of Bioshock: Infinite is the definitive version. It looks great, plays great, but it’s in how little effort you need to look and play great that makes it so wonderful.