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Opinion: BioShock Infinite is Groundbreaking, But Not Perfect

Though I've had a few days to sit down and digest BioShock Infinite, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the game. Yes, it's a technical triumph: a testament to how far we've come as an industry in its ability to craft an experience, a tangible world. Despite being completely disgusted with the universe, I've never more wanted to explore a fantasy world than the confines of the beautiful and dystopic city-in-the-sky of Columbia. It's an absolutely fascinating setting: a United States gone wrong, if you will. Columbia is the U.S. had America's reverence for its founding fathers and nationalism had been elevated by mixing with religious zeal.

Maybe I found the world so captivating simply because, as an American, it hits pretty close to home. Columbia is a startlingly on point lambast of the U.S.'s sometimes misplaced patriotism in its history, especially because often what's written down in history textbooks is a whitewashed (pun intended) version of the events.  

But for Infinite's technical strength, it's also a glaring indicator about the weakness of videogame storytelling. When I look at Infinite, I see that the medium is still in its infancy when it comes to delivering narratives. No, I don't think that Infinite's story is weak. It's really rather the fact that I have to qualify Infinite with having one of the best stories I've ever experienced in a videogame. While I was kept on my toes the whole time (kudos to Irrational Games for that) and the ending revealed unforeseen complexities, the entire ordeal was something that I'd already been seen before. It's difficult to describe the finale without revealing any suspense-ruining spoilers, so I'll just leave it at that. I thought it became so overly-complicated that plot holes were bound to happen.

In any case, while BioShock Infinite's story may become remembered as a classic of this gaming generation, when upheld against other mediums, it proves to be nothing special because it's a story that's already been told before. That's not to demean its status as a groundbreaking videogame. After all, this is necessary ground to tread and has been tread before by literature, television, and movies. It's a growing pain for the industry, and it's necessary for BioShock Infinite to tell its story, groundbreaking or not, simply so that there is a precedent for other videogames to emulate and grow upon.

So yes, I enjoyed BioShock Infinite as a videogame. Its game mechanics were sound, and it's probably the most technically impressive game I've played in recent memory. Its story was well-paced and constructed, so that, despite the long-list of games that are competing for my attention in my Steam account, I played through it within a matter of days. Even then, while I recognize that it deserves the heaping 9's, 10's, and accolades that are being showered upon it by critics, I still take it all with a grain of salt. 

  • dormantreign
    I think i'm the only critic that gave the game a 8.3 for the same reasons you wrote about. I still stand by that rating. If the writer is interested search my review on youtube, my channel is likeanddislikes.
    Reply
  • ibjeepr
    Well, find me a story that hasn't been told...thus mentioning it in that context in this opinion piece seems rather pointless. It's a compelling and well told story and done so in a manner and in a medium I've not seen. As a matter of fact, I'll say it is an original story even if the concept is typical sci-fi.
    I'd give it a solid 9 out of 10.
    I did find other, more real issues.
    I opened a cabinet and became locked in place, had to quite and resume.
    The vigors, while adding variety to the combat were neat but rather unnecessary, I rarely used them, and why would every person you come across not be using them since they seemed so openly available?
    Limiting you to two weapons didn't add any realism or strategy in my opinion and there for was just unnecessarily limiting.
    The race issue in the game, while probably an attempt at period accuracy didn't really seem to be a relevant part of the story and just seamed force to the forefront for no real reason.
    Reply
  • A Bad Day
    *Recalls watching some of my classmates dicussing plans of buying the newest CoD, at the full price of $60, or the "special editions"*

    -Meanwhile in Activision:

    "Dude. We earned like $1 billion in 15 days and got a bunch of high ratings. Why change the formula?"
    Reply
  • edogawa
    Opinions and ratings are highly subjective, but this game in my opinion is a 9.0- 9.5 range. There are a few minor things in the game that could have had improvement too.

    I am not one to criticize an author or their article, but...

    You spent most of the time saying how amazing this game was, then you had second thoughts of it deserving the 9s or 10's because it had one of the best story lines out of video games you've ever experience? Most of the article felt a complaint hidden in regurgitated praise.

    As I said though opinions are subjective.
    Reply
  • Kafkar
    The game deserves maybe 4 out of 10 for the "music". The only songs played were oldies and couple of pop culture references. Where is combat music?? A continuous rhythm throughout the game!
    And the biggest strength is the plot! Even with some holes, it is better than 99% of games out there. Still, I would call the game no more than 8 out of 10.
    Reply
  • AzureFlash
    You spend the entire article talking about the story and just brush off every other aspect as secondary. Aren't you weighing story a bit too much for a video game? What about gameplay, depth of content, controls, difficulty balance, art, music, voice acting?

    Any review that focuses on only one aspect of a game is garbage. Case in point: all the reviews gushing about Dear Esther's visuals and story when there is literally NOTHING ELSE. Maybe you should go play that instead, Catherine?
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  • ibn gozzy
    First off, I have not played the game....yet. It is true that most of which you write is praise for the game backed up with several examples. However, I think that your negative criticism is solely based on being "not original". As ibjeepr points out, it is difficult to find a unique story. I think that it is an achievement in itself to make such a great story-telling of a tale that already has been told. To me, that still seems meritus. Anyway, downloading it now..........
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  • belardo
    Is the PC version as DRM to hell as the previous BioShocks? I never played BioShock because of SecuROM7 and whatnot that EA loves shoving up our computer's butt.
    Reply
  • 3lackdeath
    ^^NO
    Reply
  • tipoo
    I did find the gunplay a bit simple, the big guys were the only challenge and that became a match of run away, turn, keep shooting until dead. I didn't realize how close I was to the end of the game and ended up not spending any of my money (well apart from some ammo and health kits, no major upgrades though) and yet still it was very easy to get through. I also barely found any vigors,I just had 2 or 3 while there are I think 20 somewhere in the game. With all 20 I imagine it would be a cakewalk. The final battle I failed a few times but once I realized that there is no consequence for you dying I won pretty easily by not worrying about health, plus Elizabeth would usually throw a health thing when you got too low.

    It was also kind of funny because during the parts she's mad at you, she'd say something like "I dont' trust you Mr Dewitt" in a grumpy tone, and then the next second you'd need a lock picked and she'd be all "SURE THING MR DEWITT I'D LOVE TO".

    There was also a bit of the back-and-forthing that people hate in games towards the middle, but the story never got boring for me.

    But all that doesn't really bother me, because I played Infinite for the incrediballs story and the wonderful expressive characters as you said. I really did care about Elizabeth and Booker by the end and was satisfied at the bittersweet resolution. What makes me sad is that people dismiss games as a storytelling mechanism, but this story would easily rival Hollywood movies or many books. It comes together in a very satisfying way at the end, it was as satisfying as Bioshock 1 with even more mind bending-ness.
    Reply