Bioshock Infinite has been the most recent craze this past week in the gaming world. It does have it’s good points, and the ending is an especially hot topic to talk about. I do feel however that the ending is overshadowing a lot of other aspects of the game. Looking at the game as a whole, I can’t help but feel that people are neglecting major components of the game in favour of remembering (or working out) the ending. I’ll be fair though, and to accompany this article, I’ll create another one listing 5 reasons why the game is good. We’re dealing with the reasons it’s overrated here though.
5) Invincible Elizabeth
This may sound weird, but I’m glad Bioshock Infinite isn’t a game where you have to defend and watch out for Elizabeth constantly. I’m glad you don’t have to make sure her health bar doesn’t deplete. Having said that though, Bioshock Infinite’s way of addressing the issue is pretty lazy. Elizabeth becomes invincible during combat. Nothing can hurt her. She in turn, doesn’t attack anything either. It feels weird, especially when enemies run up to her and I believe they try to shoot her. Failing miserably of course. The fact that she can also scrounge around for ammo, health or salts (not forgetting her ability to open tears) makes her even deadlier. It’s immersion breaking.
4) Bad A.I.
I have to say, the A.I. in the game wasn’t that great. For most of your enemies, they just like to run up to you, even though you have overpowered abilities that can for instance launch them into the air for easy pickings. They still run at you. Very few enemy types offer a different challenge, but even then, in general you have a lot of possibilities from vigor to weapons to tears to use against them. The other point about the A.I. is how you can’t perform anything truly stealthy in the game. The was one section where I was alone in a room with one guard, with some cash and items just staring at me. I decided to get rid of the guard with a melee attack so as not to attract anyone, but the moment I did, all the guards in that complex stormed that room. It felt like freedom to play was being taken away from me. Elizabeth also suffers from mental lapses at times where she happily runs towards doors and opens them, inviting ambushes on you when you’re not ready.
3) Certain Story Elements
A lot has been said about the ending of Bioshock Infinite. For the most part, I’m fine with the ending even if I think it allowed the writers to pull anything they wanted to out of a hat. My problems with the story come from other moments. The political/religious/racist agenda all felt mediocre in the way they were handled. It was very black and white in terms of presentation and left no real room for in-depth thinking. No more is this more obvious than in the case of Daisy Fitzroy. It also doesn’t help that the beginning of the game is very heavy handed in pushing its propaganda in your face. It’s like the citizens of Columbia and Columbia itself have nothing else to do aside from sit and praise their leader. No glimpse into its economy. No glimpse into any real form of leisure. No glimpse into its education system. What felt like a great city to explore became a chore. It recycled through the propaganda at every turn. It doesn’t help that you don’t really get to sit down and talk with or properly meet a lot of the important people in the game. Most of your knowledge about them comes from audio files. It was also weird that Vigor had no real story element to it, especially since not many people wielded Vigor powers. Oh, and Songbird was very underwhelming.
2) Death Is Inconsequential
Enough about the story, back to the gameplay. A major negative against the gameplay is the point where death doesn’t really have consequences in the game. I understand that this is most likely due to story reasons (although the last battle doesn’t cater to that restriction), but it felt cheap. You needn’t really plan out attacks much or strategise much given that you’d be returned to battle with health and ammo about where you left off. It’s weird, since not many games utilise death like that (I know Bioshock had vita chambers, but even that had more restrictions), but at the same time it meant you could do whatever you wanted really. Oh, and falling from Columbia into the depths below was even worse. A very jarring transition occurs from when you fall to your doom to suddenly standing back on the ledge you were just on. Weird.
1) Tepid Gameplay
This is just an accumulation of some of the other points mentioned earlier, like bad A.I. and inconsequential death. Even touching back on the bad A.I. point again, some enemies would run repeatedly right into the path of a tesla coil, for the hell of it it seemed. Electrocuting themselves while you stood and watched. The gameplay really was the weakest part of the game. They just didn’t allow you much fun with what it had. The vigors were pretty powerful, negating a need to change your setup as any particular one was pretty good against a lot of foes. There was however the issue of not allowing you many uses of vigor at the beginning of the game, making you resort to using weapons 70% of the time in the early stages. Thankfully that got better as the game progressed, but that doesn’t make up for the earlier restriction that made combat as generic as any other FPS. Speaking of weapons, the fact that you can only carry 2 was disappointing too, as was the fact that you could carry ammo for other weapons you didn’t have while neglecting ammo for your own weapons because it was full. That was pointless. The weapons didn’t really feel that good either, as generic as most FPS games without the fluidity, impact and realism you get from games like Far Cry 3. It was kind of funny seeing you run with a heavy machine gun just as easily as you could with any other weapon. I will say that riding on sky-lines was good fun, although using it as a strategy in battles only happened a handful of times to be anything really exciting. The overall gameplay was merely serviceable. A game with this much rave should be doing better, or at least be called out for it.
There you have it. A long rant about Bioshock Infinite with room to spare for other points too. I’ll leave it there though. Look forward to another post featuring the positives from the game! I said I’d give the game a balanced look, and so I will.