'Bioshock Infinite' Reviews: Is It Game Of the Year Material?


Apparently lots of people are having tremendous fun with BioShock Infinite, the new steampunk sci-fi FPS from Irrational Games and sequel to the acclaimed BioShock and BioShock 2, but I'm not one of them, because it will be at least a fortnight before my internet is good enough to download it from Steam.

But who cares, right? If you think about it, reading reviews is even better than getting to experience the real thing, because you're letting the critics do the hard work while you sit comfortably on your ass and reap all the benefits! It's like someone is chewing your food for you before you swallow it so you don't get mouth strain, or making out with the girl you have a crush on while you watch from the bleachers so you don't have to swap all that nasty saliva! And they're doing it for free!

And gathering from the overall sentiment so far, the game is a masterpiece you will be glad not to be playing.

The graphics and engine stand out right out of the bat. According to Nick Cowen of The Guardian, "It looks gorgeous, its mechanics are sublime and it's to Irrational's credit that the gameplay wrapped around the narrative is far more satisfying than that of its predecessor" But that's not all there is to it. "BioShock Infinite is similar to its predecessor in that it offers up a layered narrative. Follow the game's story to its eventual end and you'll likely leave satisfied," he continues.

Striking the same notes, Mike Snider writes on The Detroit Free Press: "The new BioShock Infinite is the latest — and perhaps the most ambitious — evidence video games have evolved beyond mindless eye candy." Before going on to say "[BioShock Infinite] has a rich, compelling story exploring political, religious and social issues that resonate today."

Anyone who's read E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime or Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City knows that the 1910s (during which the game is set) were a turbulent period for the U.S., when a slew of different political thoughts were struggling to take the reins, and the developers of BioShock Infinite were aiming for a faithful portrayal in that sense.

"Putting aside the obviously fictional element of an airborne religious community that has seceded from the American union, in many ways BioShock Infinite tries to provide an accurate portrait of the period. In particular, the signs in Columbia are saturated with crude racial and ethnic caricatures. In an early scene a mixed-race couple is threatened with violence by a city-sanctioned mob," writes Chris Sullentrop for the New York Times.

And. even though it depicts the notions of American exceptionalism and nationalism as the poisonous philosophies they were, the game isn't judgmental about those early mistakes from a country whose aspirations to greatness may sometimes stray it from the righteous path it seeks to follow. As Evan Narcisse explains for Kotaku: "BioShock Infinite may not the first game to try to say something about the very nature of the country it was made in — and the people who make it up — but it's certainly amongst the best. Some scenes reminded me of how people who looked like me had an unbelievable array of prejudicial forces from public and private institutions set against them. Yet, even as I played through those moments, I was reminded that America is a big experiment. That experiment in letting people chart their own destinies has sometimes made it so brother fights against brother."

All of that environment serves as backdrop for strong characterization. Referring to a scene where protagonist Booker DeWitt serenades his companion Elizabeth with a guitar, Tom Hoggins of The Telegraph writes: "Brief, touching and saccharine, this moment of levity tells you a great deal about BioShock Infinite. The scene is optional. In fact, you may not venture into that basement at all. So it doesn’t matter. Which is to say, it matters very much. It’s an important beat in Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship, where they share a brief moment of respite in a violent, threatening city, Booker exchanging bullets for strings. One small, incidental yet essential brushstroke on a brilliant canvas of world-building and characterisation that is arguably peerless in this youthful industry."

In the end, the game has something for everybody. Those who are satisfied to push through it for the action scenes, and those who want a little bit more will have their due: "BioShock Infinite is a hell of a lot of fun to play. That really should be the only quality it needs to exhibit. The fact that it holds much more feels like an advancement of an art form. Just remember that nothing in BioShock Infinite is an attempt to be cute. Just let it tell you its story,"concludes Nick Cowen of The Guardian.

So I guess it's pretty safe to understand from those reviews that they are all saying that what they've played is a strong contender for Best Game Since the Big Bang.

Gee, guys, rub it in, will ya?