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01 March 2014 @ 10:59 pm
Game Review: Bioshock Infinite  
tl;dr: It should have been a point-and-click adventure game starring Elizabeth. Also, I now know why everyone was going on about ludonarrative dissonance last year.

So, I wasn't the biggest fan of Bioshock. It was...okay, but the whole time I was basically thinking, "This is like System Shock II but not as good." And that's basically the impression I carry to this day. The only reason I bought Bioshock Infinite was because it was $9.99, and having beaten it now I think I was robbed.

One word: mediocre.

It wasn't actively bad or anything, it just wasn't very inspiring. None of the weapons were interesting and there wasn't much reason to switch between them other than to use AoE weapons for lots of enemies and single-target weapons for single enemies. My strategy was basically to use a weapon until I got the achievement for using it and then throw it away and try out a new one. Then when I was done with that, I grabbed the rifle and the volley gun and just stuck with them for the rest of the game. It worked out fine.

The vigors weren't great either. I used them all once to try them out and then just spammed Murder of Crows nonstop and used Lightning on anything that was immune to Murder of Crows. Since Murder of Crows stuns people in a crowd and it's easy to buy the upgrade to turn bodies into "crow traps" that set off another Murder of Crows when anyone walks over them, it was the best vigor for 95% of all situations. If you can tell me how that trap thing works, please do, because I'm running around on a floating city drinking drinks that let me break the laws of physics, but those crow traps were the moment I said, "Hold on son."

There was no sense of danger the entire time, because if you ever die you're instantly revived. Oh no, the enemy is slightly healed and you lose 1% of your money. That doesn't even rise to the level of mild annoyance--it was literally meaningless. There was no time where I wanted to buy something but dying meant I didn't have enough money to do so, and no time where the enemies getting healed made the slightest bit of difference. Sometimes it was even advantageous, since dying and coming back gave me more power for the vigors, and if I had no salts left but died then I could come back, launch off a Murder of Crows, and typically end up better off than I would have otherwise been.

It's also kind of silly because you come back no matter how you die:

Also, now it's a regenerating shield cover shooter, which, eh, okay, but also there's no manual save just checkpoints what the fuck is wrong with you Irrational? I probably lost about an hour or so due to having to quit after a checkpoint or in wasted time for having to backtrack from where I was to a checkpoint throughout the course of the game, which is just inexcusable in 20-fucking-13. It wouldn't be so bad except that Bioshock had save points, so it's a pure regression. If I were giving this a star rating, it'd lose one star just for how incredibly annoying that was.

Finally, it seems like this was originally going to be a different kind of game and then everything was cut down into a linear shooter. It's not quite as bad as this image, because you can backtrack occasionally and the cutscenes typically don't take control away from you, but it does have that kind of separation. You wander around and interact with townies (in the first ~30 minutes) or Elizabeth (in the rest of the game) for a bit, then you shoot people, then you cycle back to interaction, repeat. The game may as well flash up big STORY and MANSHOOT signs to indicate the divide. A lot of the criticisms of LA Noire in this video could apply equally as well to Bioshock Infinite, which is why I said it should have been a point-and-click adventure--the gunplay is mediocre, all the interesting parts are when you're talking to Elizabeth, so why not play Elizabeth and then all your conversations would be interesting and you wouldn't have to stop for the KILL ALL THE MANZ sections.

And then I learn that for the second DLC, that's basically what they're doing. Sigh.

First of all, let's talk about the ending and the justification for everything.
[Hidden for your convenience]

See, here's the thing. Confusion is not profound. The fact that a plot is incomprehensible doesn't automatically mean it's deep and deserving of further analysis. Sometimes it's just stupid.

What about the worlds where Comstock wasn't a racist dick? What about the worlds where Elizabeth had a happy childhood? What about preventing all that by, say, going back and paying off Booker's debt for him so he never has to give up Anna? Hell, if you have to kill people, you could always shoot the preacher. Or Lutece and prevent dimensional travel from being invented in the first place. Or Anna if you're a FPS protagonistterrible person.

Except, well, the grandfather paradox. Obviously if dimensional travel is never invented, then no one can travel between dimensions...which means no one can actually stop Lutece from inventing it, but at that point it is invented, which means someone can go back and stop her... *scannersheadexplode.jpg*

The same problem happens with the ending as it stands. So in order to stop Comstock, DeWitt needs to die before he takes a new name, right? But if he dies, then then there's no impetus for anyone to go back and stop him. Also, if he dies, doesn't he not have a daughter, which means it's impossible for anyone to go back and stop him, which means he never dies, which...

Also, all this is meaningless because it implies there's some kind central universe of which all others are merely shadows. Which is a legitimate interpretation, but isn't the one the game takes. Or if it is, it means the plot makes even less sense than it already does.

On the other hand, "there are many worlds but some things never change" is a more interesting criticism of ludonarrative dissonance in games than Would You Kindly was in Bioshock, so I'll give it that.

Although, I went and read the plot synopsis for the Burial at Sea DLC and apparently: [Spoiler (click to open)]Elizabeth becomes some kind of dimension-hopping assassin who's planning on tracking down and killing every single incarnation of Comstock, thus proving that 1) Comstock still exists in other worlds 2) Elizabeth is also a horrible person (see also "FPS protagonist") and 3) the entire basis for the plot of Bioshock Infinite is a bunch of first-year philosophy student bullshit. What a surprise.

I will give it one word of praise, though: the plot meant we got to hear this, so it's not all bad. And if it were a point-and-click adventure game, there'd be more reasons to include those songs, so score another point in the "adventure" column.

I'm not going to argue that you can't use blatant racism in media that portrays the past, because as cartoonishly evil as the white people in Bioshock Infinite often seemed, things really were that cartoonishly evil sometimes. And I have to admit, I did like how it portrayed Columbia as a kind of utopic pre-Depression America but where there was all kinds of classism and racism lurking behind a curtain.

Literally, behind a curtain.

The problems come in when the racism is 1) just background for the protagonists struggles as the White Man Dealing With His Guilt and 2) ends up being undermined by a sophomoric "they're all, like, the same, maaaaan" attitude towards the underdogs rising up against their oppressors. I mean, I get it, they're aiming for the October Revolution, hence all the red everywhere and the prisoners being shot in the face, but it also buys into the stereotype basically every oppressive society ever has about the people they're oppressing. Oh, we can't take our boot off their necks, see, because if we ever do, they'll jump up and bite us in the throat. They're like animals, you know. You need to keep a hand on the whip. And then in Bioshock Infinite, that's exactly what happens. I literally said:
Ah, this is where I stop shooting white people and start shooting black people.
and the only reason that's not totally accurate is because I was shooting Irish people too.

There's more here, and rather than rehash all of that, I will link to it and give them the credit.

Yeah, I Didn't Like It
So I keep saying that it should have been an adventure game, but what if that's not groggy enough. What if it were a text adventure! Would that have been better? Well, I'll let you go to that link, which has some other commentary on the game that I agree with. For example:

Yeah, it's pretty much like that.
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Bioshock Infinite - God Only Knows