Bioshock Infinite PS3 review & gameplay video – lofty ambitions take flight in a true modern classic

 

The opening of Bioshock Infinite is as beautiful as any game introduction you’ll see. But, like so many things in Irrational’s spectacular series, its true significance only becomes clear in the wake of the game’s staggering conclusion. Sandwiched between these two remarkable examples of art and narrative design is a thrilling ride packed with the series’ signature storytelling, eccentric characters and locations that will live long in the memory.

Nothing has been lost in dredging Bioshock up from the bottom of the ocean and firing it up above the clouds, and in many senses – the freeform nature of the combat, in particular – a whole lot has been gained. And although this instalment may not have the same impact on the industry as the original, when judged on its own merits it absolutely deserves to.

When reflecting on the brilliance of a game like this, it’s difficult to know which element is most responsible – the truth being that the lead role changes hands from scene to scene. That said, in the early hours of proceedings there’s no denying it’s the city that’s the star. And how could it not be? It’s a phalanx of floating islands atop which lies a gleaming civilisation built to embody American exceptionalism.

As you, Booker DeWitt, set foot upon Columbia in 1912 after being shot into the sky from a lighthouse below (always with the lighthouses), the contrasts with Rapture could not be clearer. Instead of an abandoned city containing only the haunting echo of the civilisation that inhabited it, here we have a setting that’s still alive and thriving. And the extent to which that feeling of life is conveyed has few equals in all of gaming.

Citizens mill around and chat, to you and to one another, espousing dialogue that immediately provides you with a sense of place – the city’s ideals, morals and mood conveyed in a manner that is clearly deliberate yet feels totally natural. Such is the love put into the scripting that it’s possible to lose yourself simply wandering the streets and eavesdropping as the world carries
on around you.

The nature of this unique floating world is also made clear in the details of the environment itself. Given that you arrive during a citywide fair commemorating Columbia’s foundation, some are overt: banners proclaiming the city’s greatness, the triumph of its achievements and its superiority over the land-locked world, for example.

Others require you to take an interest: the 80-odd Voxophones (think the previous games’ Audio Diaries) scattered around fill in huge chunks of backstory, fleshing out the cast of characters and how they fit together, and then there are the Kinetoscopes, which display a few seconds of grainy, black-and-white footage of significant moments in the city’s history.

There are others, too, that can almost go unnoticed: the scrawled note tacked to a wall, or the shotgun strapped to the underside of a cashier’s desk in case of an emergency. Looming over all of this is the bearded figure of Father Zachary Comstock, Columbia’s founder and great prophet, and the man leading them to a existence far superior to that of “the Sodom below” (prepare to hear this phrase a lot during your adventure). Much like Rapture’s founder Andrew Ryan, he remains a mysterious figure throughout much of the game, communicating mostly via disembodied voice and the sending of men to kill you.

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