If you've read this blog for a while, then you already know I'm not much of a gamer. I have below-average skills and little interest in the vast majority of popular games. The few exceptions include titles like Portal and Portal 2 and more kiddie-ish games like Mini Ninjas.
I watched John play BioShock 2 (Infinite is the third in the BioShock series), but my own attempts to play were disastrous at best - albeit funny in retrospect. :)
So what's different about Infinite?
1) It's gorgeous
It's much lighter and more color saturated than the first two BioShocks, with added touches like hummingbirds and candy-colored sunsets. Everything from the clothing to the advertisements to the weaponry is exquisitely detailed, and the longer you take to appreciate it all, the more you're going to enjoy this game.
Oh, and yes, it's also kind of steampunky. BONUS.
2) There's an "easy" mode
Without this I never would have made it through the first time. I'm currently playing again on normal mode, and even with all that experience I'm dying a LOT during the big battles. Again, I'm not great at games in general, and first person shooters in particular, so the fact that I managed to complete the whole game on Easy says that you probably can, too.
Also, even when you do die you regenerate very close by, minus a little money and only partially healed. Your enemies are also partially healed, but not completely, so you don't have to repeat much or - worse - start over at your last checkpoint. That helps ease the frustration a LOT when you die 6 or 8 times in a single fire fight. (Not that I would ever... ok yeah that was last night.)
3) It combines a compelling story with fighting that's actually fun
I've always preferred games that felt more like interactive story books, and in this, Infinite really shines. The surprising part to me was how immersive even the side stories became - the ones told through the "voxophones," taped recordings you discover hidden throughout the game. I was moved to tears by at least two of these stories, and I've never heard voice acting of this caliber in anything.
It should go without saying that the main storyline with Booker & Elizabeth is also beautiful - so rich and complex that you'll be decompressing and deciphering it all long after the ending credits roll.
I never thought I'd say a shooting game was fun, but here again Infinite surprised me. More on that in a minute, though.
- The music
Yes, really, the music. From an old-timey jazzed-up version of "Tainted Love" to a choral hymn of such haunting beauty that you'll find yourself humming it for days, Infinite has a plethora of musical Easter eggs that I'm still uncovering on my third play-through. (Find the guitar and play it. Trust me.)
The music in this scene is some of the most beautiful in the game. Love it.
Ok, let's get to my top FAQs:
- Do you need to have played the first two BioShocks?
No, Infinite stands on its own perfectly well. There's one small nod to the previous games at the end, but even just knowing those games exist will be enough for you to understand what's happening.
- Can someone who's not great at video games manage, or will it be too hard/frustrating?
Again, easy mode is your friend! To give you an idea of my own skill level: I was able to beat Portal 2 but not Psychonauts. I also can't get more than 1/3 of the way through most Rayman and Jak & Daxter type games. So if I can do it, odds are you can, too.
- Is it worth the money?
Alternatively, I've had a few of you mention you can't afford BioShock right now, so this is less an answer and more a suggestion for those of you in the U.S.: Redbox. Find a kiosk at a grocery store or gas station near you, and you can rent Infinite for $2 a day. Rent it on days when you have several hours to play at a time, and if you're mildly obsessive like me, you'll be done in 5 or 6 days! Even if it takes you longer, $20 for 10 days isn't bad at all. Think of it as an installment payment plan!
A word of caution: One thing I haven't addressed anywhere yet is Infinite's level of violence, which has been labeled "excessive," "extreme," and "insanely ridiculous."
Look, I can't handle violence or gore. I just can't. Shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are WAY beyond my tolerance, as are most cop shows with forensics-style gore. So I was surprised to see reviews blasting Infinite for excessive violence.
Now, I'll be straight with you: the very first fight of the game is pretty dang disturbing. A guy gets his face ground in, followed by either an in-your-face, blood-spurting decapitation, or a graphic neck-snap. Up to that point you've been in this perfect, idyllic world, so that first fight is designed to be extra jarring, and it is.
However, I can tell you that if you choose to shoot your enemies - as opposed to running up and smashing them in the face with your spinning hand claw of death - then the rest of the game is dramatically less graphic. It's all about how close you are and which weapons or vigors you use. Some are more graphic than others, so if that bothers you, focus on using sniper rifles or other long-range weapons. Either way, though, know that it never gets any worse than that first fight. (Although a certain cut-scene with a bunch of ravens gets kind of close. You have been warned.)
SPINNING HAND CLAW OF DEATH
To end on a more positive note, I have to share one of my favorite little discoveries in the game so far. This contains a mild spoiler, but I don't believe it's anything vital that the trailers haven't already given away.
Ok, so, during the very first tear you see Elizabeth open, if you look closely (and quickly!) to the right, you'll see a movie theater marquee that reads "Revenge of the Jedi" in French. (Apparently that was the original working title of Return of the Jedi - so this shows the tear opens to an alternate world/time.) A moment later, as you're climbing a nearby stairwell, you hear Booker say, "This job is getting worse all the time," in the exact same inflection Lando Calrissian uses to say, "This deal is getting worse all the time," in Empire Strikes Back. Yep. STAR WARS HOMAGE, baby! (You'll see another movie marquee with the same title in English later on in the game, too, so watch for that!)
Again, there are lots of hidden little treasures like that throughout the game, but I believe that's the only one to reference another geek franchise. That said, you should go play it and see if I'm wrong!
Oh, and if you're a non-gamer looking for more titles to try, here are eight that I recommend.
I hope this review was helpful, guys, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have in the comments, since I'm sure I may have missed something!