One of the most criminally underrepresented crossover genres in the videogame market is the FPS/RPG. Combining the first person action gameplay of a typical shooter, with a strong focus on adaptation, narrative, theme and characters; this is usually an example of where two opposing concepts can add what is best from each other to create something new. Earlier examples of these include Deus Ex and System Shock, but in recent years the only major contender was System Shock spiritual successor, Bioshock; which arrived to mass appeal in 2007. But what does Infinite bring that ties it to such a gaming landmark, when it shares no setting, plot or characters from the previous installment? What makes it a “Bioshock” game, despite this?
Bioshock: Infinite takes place in 1912, in an alternate world of America, in which some years prior, a magnificent city holding the principles of American Exceptionalism was launched into the air as a floating utopia named Columbia. The player controls Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent sent to retrieve a specific girl from the city in order to pay off some gambling debts. From there, I really can’t say much more, because Infinite has a story that has been experienced, reading about it on Wikipedia fails to grasp the perfect way in which events are added to or emphasized by gameplay being present, and which is the perfect way for a videogame to display story. The game should also be played to the end at least once, don’t let a section make you stop playing; please just get the end, I beg you. You’ll have discussion material and thought-food for weeks.
Columbia blends historical issues from that time period with all too relevant modern concerns; without becoming too heavy-handed in either. The upper veneer of perfection that Columbia tries to portray is all too quickly (and brutally in one scene) shattered when the apparent nature of the class struggles and inherent racial issues are shown to the player; and much of the game is spent working between the forces of the rulers of Columbia and the masses, known as the Vox Populi. Not only would these be historically plausible, they are applicable to the Occupy movements and such today; without being too blatant. Infinite certainly doesn’t shy away from showing history as it was which can be appreciated. The setting of Columbia is also beautifully constructed, whether it is in the utopian Eden-like top, or the downtrodden squalid bottom.
Gameplay is similar to Bioshock, where combat is moved between weaponry and magical powers (known here as “Vigors”), with a great variety of upgrade choices and combinations possible for a personal touch. Movement is aided by the claw-grip, a device that allows for melee attacks but also for jumping and sliding around on the rails that connect Columbia. Combat is usually swift, exciting and intuitive. The player is also aided by Elizabeth, their female companion, who is not only fun to listen to, but is capable and assistive in fights, as opposed to so many other escort mission games. She holds the unique ability to locate “tears” in space, which can allow one specific object or area to be brought forward in combat; be it an ammo case or a remote turret, etc.
Infinite is narratively clearly the inheritor of the Bioshock franchise, and after playing it for a while, no one would be able to say it isn’t a true Bioshock game. The twists and turns will keep you addicted until you reach the end; and the end itself will give you such thoughts and you’ll want to play it again to see what you missed the first time and can now appreciate in hindsight. Filled with small touches, Infinite is a labour of love, and a possible contender for Game of the Year, so make sure to check back with us in December to see how it held up.