What You Won’t Like
The nonplayer characters
Irrational Games did a superb job crafting Infinite’s world. That’s why it’s so noticeable when certain things don’t work — like the citizens of Columbia.
The interactivity between DeWitt and the people of the city is so minimal that I thought the story would reveal they’re all really robots or under a spell. It’s very bizarre.
You’re exploring this incredibly detailed world, but every time you go to interact with a character that isn’t Elizabeth, everything falls apart.
Take the first few hours of Infinite: I spent my time stealing everything. Right in front of people. No one noticed or said anything. At a certain point, a pop-up notice will inform you that shop owners will now notice if you steal from them, but stealing is one the only interactions possible with many of the characters. At an ice cream parlor, I could steal something from the register or silently stare at the proprietor.
Speaking of silently staring, Infinite has a ton of that. For as expressive as Elizabeth is, the repeating character models for NPCs and their tendency to barely acknowledge your existence is distracting at the very least. It bothered me all the way up to the end, long after I had any interaction with a non-confrontational NPC.
What is worse is that for all of Infinite’s attempts to deal with racism and class warfare, I never got a sense of how that affected the characters.
Inifinite does an excellent job conveying the racism through the billboards or through the environment, but the actual population never felt like anything more than furniture. They make Columbia looked lived in but it doesn’t feel lived in.
I’d hesitate to even call the NPCs one-dimensional characters. It’s incredibly distracting and slightly lessens the impact the story and themes would otherwise have.
I’m going to talk about the ending in this section a little bit. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but you may just want to skip to the conclusion.
Infinite’s ending is interesting. I don’t hate it, but I do have some questions. Questions the ending shouldn’t have left me with.
The first half of the resolution is actually a high-level twist on the whole BioSchock concept. I like that. It ties together some things about the BioShock universe in a very upfront and interesting way. It explains a lot of things that, as gamers, we are used to ignoring because we know that the developers didn’t ever consider them.
Irrational did consider them and provided a satisfying explanation.
The second half of the ending goes off the rails for me. It uses paradoxes and fails to explain how one of the characters turned out like he did. Either the ending is lacking some important information or I’m just too dumb to fill in the holes.
Either way, it didn’t work for me.
BioShock Infinite is a great game.
The combat is fun. The pacing is excellent. The world is fleshed out and filled with interesting things to discover. While portions of the story’s ending disappointed me, I don’t feel cheated because it was such an enjoyable ride.
Infinite’s biggest issue is that the stiff nonplayer characters really dampen the impact of the social themes. Irrational worked so hard building this world filled with terrible racial imagery, but it’s difficult to feel the effects of that when I can’t relate to the mechanical mannequins that populate Columbia.
It’s actually a minor complaint, but it’s very noticeable in a product that is otherwise so exquisitely put together.
It’s also beautiful set to high on my Nvidia GT 650M.
You should play BioShock Infinite. It shows what a top-tier developer can accomplish with a massive budget and a five-year production cycle. That way of doing things is on the way out, so it’s nice to get this reminder of just how impressive a big-budget game can be.
BioShock Infinite will come out for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on March 26. 2K Games provided GamesBeat with a downloadable PC version of BioShock Infinite for the purpose of this review.