Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Physicist Recommends: Bioshock Infinite

I just finished playing Bioshock Infinite. I know my post is a bit late in the grand scheme of reviews, but I was taking my time with it. Bioshock games don't come out that often, so I saw no need to burn through the experience quickly.

And what an experience it was. The world is fascinating, the characters interesting. There is a little bit of an info dump right at the end, but all of it is built up to and it's really just about making sure everyone got it, rather than coming out of nowhere. Pacing is excellent, except for some issues caused by the combat, detailed below. Bioshock games are known for story over gameplay, and this one does not disappoint. This is a game with a set story that you are playing through, though; there is no free choice at all, but you will not find yourself minding very much.

Combat is more or less standard for an FPS, but it is almost an afterthought to the experience; you are here for the story. The game uses Halo conventions for weapons (can only carry two, must switch between them or drop one to get a new weapon) and a Halo shield (recharges by hiding behind cover for a bit), neither of which I am a big fan of. I prefer to carry a huge arsenal, no matter how unrealistic it is. Ammo scarcity is a minor annoyance, since you often find plenty of ammo for weapons you are not carrying. Some of the vigor special abilities are too good (Possession, Murder of Crows, Shock Jockey) while others are nearly useless (Bucking Bronco, Charge, Devil's Kiss) except in specific situations or before you get the more useful ones. The upgrade system for weapons can be limiting too, since you cannot upgrade everything, nor can you always carry weapons you have upgraded to to ammo limitations. The skyline system adds some variety, but is underutilized and a bit awkward.

Enemies are a bit stupid, and there is low variety, a chronic issue in Bioshock games. The mechanic where the same enemies get tougher and tougher to kill as the game progresses for no apparent reason also makes an unfortunate return. While they do not blindly charge you, in many cases it is hard to get them to move. You will often find yourself hiding behind ludicrous cover, spending far too long playing peekaboo with your recharging shield as you slowly whittle down enemy forces that never close on you or move to better firing positions, or alternatively you will find yourself pinned down because you cannot get a shot for the same reason. There is too much use of large numbers to offset AI issues. Several sections require flawless execution to survive, due to enemies being too numerous or too well positioned, which is frustrating, especially since the game uses set autosave points, rather than free save. If you want to finish without ever reviving, it can require extensive retreading.

Much of the threat from enemies comes from a combination of their preset positioning being good, your own lack of ammo/correct weapon, a lack of appropriate cover, and shear numbers. Miniboss enemies are either very threatening due to overpowered abilities (Handymen), or not particularly threatening due to the cover system issues (Iron Patriots). Fewer, more intelligent and more difficult enemies deployed in smaller groups would have been more interesting. There is also no sneaking around; the instant one enemy in an area is alerted, all of them are. Combat can be fun, but sometimes you will find yourself wishing you could skip to the next bit of story, and abusing your infinite resurrections in response (be aware, resurrecting does cost money, which you need for upgrades, and you can run out of continues in 1999 mode).

By far the best game yet in the series, which is already among the best game series period, it gets my highest recommendation. Play this game for the story, even if you need to play it on easy.

Final Scores:
Story: 10/10One of the best stories in any game I have ever played. Anything I say could spoil it, which you absolutely do not want.
Voice Acting and Cinematics: 10/10Perfect pitch on all the characters with major speaking parts. Cinemas are well placed and not obtrusive. Almost everything is rendered in game, so there are no jarring changes in character appearances.
Gameplay: 5/10A passable FPS, it is rather generic, and innovative ideas like the skylines are wasted. Not particularly difficult except due to enemy numbers.
Music: 7/10Game original music is quite good. A large number of songs are recovers of various songs from across the 1900s; there is a nice variety of these and they fit in well.
Replay Value: 3/10The set nature of the story and lack of player choice mean that there is not much point in repeated playthroughs other than to try to beat it at a higher difficulty or to try to spot information you missed the first time
Final Verdict: 9/10
A brilliant story, only slightly hampered by mediocre gameplay. Well worth your time and effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment