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Review – Bioshock Infinite

02 April on Blogs, Reviews  

There is no lack of criticism towards the pasteurization of Hollywood's production: each time movies become indistinguishable from each other, following a tighter set of rules to ensure success due to skyrocketing budgets. Games have started to suffer from that: Halo 4, the first in the series to be entirely created by a new team after Bungie's sale seems to crawl towards the standards set by Call of Duty. So you can imagine my surprise when one of the year's most anticipated and expensive games seems to go in the opposite direction.

Elizabeth acompanha o jogador, ajudando e cativando durante a aventura

Columbia astonishes with its amazing visuals, similar to the production of Disney rides

Bioshock Infinite is the newest brainchild of Ken Levine, creator of titles such as Thief, System Shock 2 and its spiritual successor, the original Bioshock. But Infinite is not just a sequel cashing on the brand: several elements are curiously different from the submarine adventure. Players now control a very specific character, with a name, spoken dialogue and a past. Booker DeWitt is a former Pinkerton detective and a veteran from the Wounded Knee massacre. He is tasked with rescuing a girl to wipe his debt... and that's the basic premise, which takes him to the seemingly idyllic floating city of Columbia... and the start of an epic journey with many unexpected turns.

Elizabeth acompanha o jogador, andando a fina linha de ajudar e cativar

Elizabeth is the player's partner, treading the fine line between helping and captivating

The game's appeal rests exactly on that - we are so complacent towards the true and tried formula of recent games that it can be quite jarring to see some of the tricks being employed in Infinite. The first time Call of Duty blew an atomic bomb in our face in an helicopter was truly shocking. But when the sequel recreates a similar scene from the helmet of an astronaut, the moment was expertly put together... but merely more of the same. What is impressive about Bioshock Infinite is that these moments not only escape traditional gamemaking formulas to surprise us... but also because it deals with controversial themes that are deeply ingrained in the politically incorrect setting of 1912. Racial segregation, xenophobia, criticism towards unionized labor - it is all tied to the worship of the Founding Fathers in an acerbic anachronistic criticism of our society. The criticism itself may not be the most subtle or better structure, but deserves a standing ovation for dealing with topics that will make us think - not to mention displease a lot of potential customers. The beauty is in making a game that does not try to please everyone they can.

Steampunk ganha um novo significado em 1912 - espere para ouvir o impacto na trilha sonora

Steampunk get a new meaning in 1912 - just to wait until you listen to the soundtrack

It is by no means hard to criticize Bioshock Infinite. The game has several glaring technical and artistic issues, its plot borrows some of the controversial tactics employed in Lost. Elements from trailers from the last two years are completely absent or have been modified. Analyzed separately, these are disappointing traits - but within the body of work, they prove much less troublesome than one might think. Just like the first sequence in Bioshock, with the plane crash, the arrival at the lighthouse and the first steps in Rapture, DeWitt's journey is better experienced than played as a challenge of reflexes. But that does not make him a Metal Gear Solid with long cutscenes, on the contrary. Even when you are forced to make decisions that seem to not affect more than some aesthetic detail, Infinite's storytelling ensures that the emotional weight of what you've done carries quite a weight. It is almost ironic that the industry has been chasing the Holy Grail of Player Choice for the last decade in titles like Black & White, Fable and Mass Effect... only to have a game in which these do not directly impact gameplay having a much deeper connection and poetry to it.

One should not play or avoid playing Bioshock Infinite due to its many production flaws and qualities - and there certainly are plenty of both. But both fans of good games and good storytelling owe it to themselves to experience Bioshock Infinite because it is one of the most provoking games in recent history, proving that it is possible to create authoral games in this medium that is currently being accused of creative bankruptcy.

P.S.:Right after the game was unveiled with the Handyman and floating roses prerendered trailer, I imposed myself an embargo to avoid spoilers. Having finished the game, I saw the 15 minute gameplay video from E3 2011 (link here). Imagine how surprised I was to find out a game completely unlike the final product. I researched this and found out the game was greatly retooled one year ago, being completely disassembled and reassembled - and the plot was completely rewritten six months before launch, and that's not counting a substantial change in the ending in January. It is amazing that, despite a small slip in the pacing between the second and third acts (which indirectly creates a very interesting narrative effect), it would be hard to imagine that the story was altered at all from the original vision. This not only confirms Irrational's mastery of the medium, but proves that this kind of creative gambit can pay off - Portal 2 also had its plot greatly revised during production. Two of the most creative and lauded videogame stories are the product of a lot of revision and fine-tuning.

Tech sheet
Bioshock Infinite
Plataforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.

Comments

  1. Frank says:

    Okay, I’m sorry. I haven’t played Bioshock 1 or 2, but didn’t they kinda play out UNDER water and not in the sky?!This looks like a boodly sequel to Bulletstorm!VN:F [1.9.17_1161](from 0 votes)

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