Reflection is good. It’s nice to look back on was has been and, remember the great achievements of times gone past. I’d like to think that’s why Game of the Year awards are so popular, not just so we can screech at each other about supposedly wrong opinions – something that’s sadly all to common in the world of video games. We’ve admittedly left our Top Ten Games of 2013 list a little later than most but, we did so that we might better experience all of last years big titles, in the hopes we don’t leave any great experiences unrepresented. 2013 was a fantastic year that saw some truly staggering games hit as the last generation systems gave way to the next. Our eighth position goes to Irrational Games intriguing Bioshock Infinite.
Bioshock Infinite – Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Walk out in front of an audience of gamers today, call the the original Bioshock a masterpiece and, you’d probably be greeted with a thunderous round of applause. But walk out on that same stage, call Bioshock Infinite a masterpiece and, that room will sharply fragment. Half the audience would jump their feet preparing to mob the stage and, the other half would leap to your defense, physically holding back their irate brethren. Okay, that might be that extreme but, Bioshock Infinite is certainly a divisive game and, whilst it’s not in the same class as the original I still found it to be an exceptional title.
Unlike so many sequels Infinite bravely disposed many aspects of it’s predecessors winning formula. The intriguing fallen utopian city under the sea Rapture was discarded for a new setting – the almost heavenly metropolis in sky Columbia. Rapture was a city without gods or kings – only men, a place where there should be no discrimination, where each person is judged on their achievements, where they can have what they want provided they can earn it. Of course we all know by now Andrew Ryan’s dream was quickly decimated by the logistics of a civilization inhabited by egotistical maniacs and, where the lack of morality allowed for travesties to take place daily. The flying city of Columbia offers a polar opposite.
A city inhabited by a population totally devout to their leader Father Comstock, Columbia is devoid of the horrors that plagued Rapture – a gameplay element that’s sorely missed, traded in for more action. On the outside Columbia is an idyllic slice of the American dream, everything is pristine, people are incredibly friendly; each bound to each other by their commonly held beliefs. Underneath though it’s rotten to the core, racism is rife – as depicted in one early harrowing sequence that casts the player in an uncomfortable starring role. The whole city is single mindedly obsessed with the prophesied destruction of the surface world, “the sodom below”, when the the world will be re-made in it’s glorious image. Intelligent religious observations are commonplace in almost cultish atmosphere of the city.
Amongst this madness players are cast in the role of Booker DeWitt, a private detective tasked with saving a girl named Elizabeth and, bringing her to the safety of the surface world. In doing so Booker will “wipe away the debt”. Effectively this is the tale of a disillusioned man protecting a naive young woman from the peculiar horror of what seems like the worlds biggest cult. Their relationship is fantastically written and, wonderfully performed, it’s a joy to watch them progress from strangers to close partners as they work together to defeat their foes. And it all works up to a spine tingling wonderful conclusion. Simply exploring the city with them is what makes Columbia worth visiting.
Infinite’s most prolific problems though lie within it’s by the numbers bland combat. Super power imbuing tonics add some much needed flavour but, even their flare can only impress for so long. Enemy variety isn’t great and, the handymen or, Big Daddy replacements, feel utterly forced; not matching the tone of the otherwise marvelous experience.
Like the original before it Bioshock Infinite owes its success to it’s captivating setting. The heavenly city of Columbia is a joy to explore, slow walks around it’s idyllic cobblestone streets soaking in the peaceful atmosphere stand out as the games best moments. Once again Irrational Games puts forward an interesting philosophy and, explores its intricate depths in way that is totally captivating. It may be bogged down by bland combat and, a story between man and young girl that has been sadly bested by The Last of Us but, Columbia is a place you really must visit.