The iLL Trio Review: BioShock Infinite

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Every once in awhile comes a game that’s so hyped that we can’t help but have more than one of iLL Gaming’s finest comment on the subject.

This is one of those moments. And the game in question is BioShock Infinite.

Fitting then, that rather than write a completely by the numbers review, that we’ve decided to turn the formula on its’ head. Much like how Infinite’s plot does so.So after many a heated debate, Jedi-level trolling, copious amounts of Red Bull and at least one documented case of a hit-squad being sanctioned on a fellow writer (by me nonetheless), we have our three-headed take of BioShock Infinite.

*At the start of time, there was just the ocean and a lighthouse*

Three men — their trade reviewing games, stepped out of the boat, each markedly distinct from the other but all swimming in the same water. Like a star, shining as a lone beacon in an ocean full of them.

Ansh (A) :  The columnist guy. If snark were a source of energy, he’d be able to power an entire city on sarcasm alone. Probably has the best-honed radar this side of the Pacific. Finished the game on the X360. And, no he doesn’t believe in paying to play online.

Sahil(S): Illgaming’s dic(tator)-in-chief. In spite living in Delhi, manages to call a spade a spade so much so that we suspect that brutally honest is his middle name. Finished the game on the PC because only the master race can be as self-righteous as he is.

Rishi (R): The reviews guy. Almost always falling behind deadlines. Lives off caffeine and rose-tinted memories. So much so that he thought it was a good idea to play Infinite on the PS3. We’re praying for the poor sod.

Their destinies intertwined for a singular purpose — to cast a critical gaze at Irrational’s ultra-hyped and highly-anticipated BioShock Infinite. In an ocean of infinite reviewers, they sailed by defying variables and sticking to their constants to fulfill their vision of a review in true gamer fashion.

And so it began…..

*Almost a week ago*

S: This conversation format is a cool idea. Also, I just received my Steam code.

R: AWWWW YEAH! Should have my PS3 copy and Ansh’s 360 copy by tomorrow as well.

A: Our idea is to have a review that’s nothing but a simple conversation — complete with little debates and wise-cracking one-liners. I think if we can take that as a starting point and maybe add one or two of our own twists, we might have something good on our hands. Hey what’s that?

R: Bro, it’s a tear in the space-time continuum caused by immense hype. If we go in, we may not make it back.

S: This might sound absurd, I’m still not clear on how we’d do this review… but I’m sure that portal to somewhere can tell us.

"Booker, do you fear God?"

“Booker, do you fear God?”

R: Do you fear God?

A: Not really. But I don’t fear you either. I say we cut the chatter and just dive in!

*fast forward to 3 days later*

It was raining 10/10s elsewhere but our lead trio were still hopelessly stuck in a limbo by the distributors….

R: F*ck. We haven’t received our review copies yet.

S: Still downloading additional GBs for high-textures.

A: This future sucks. By the way, any of you like System Shock 2?

R and S: YES!

A: Well if you think about it, Dead Space is like a sequel to it. On a ship, horror, psionic powers et al. It’s interesting to see how different Dead Space and BioShock have evolved from a common origin.

R: IMMA CUT YOU B*TCH!

S: He’s right bro. Calm the eff down.

A: Holy moly! Rishi’s rage has opened another tear in the time space continuum. Maybe to a time where we’ve all finally played the game?

S: I sure hope so. You know, since we’re missing out on that sweet SEO/GAF traffic. Besides, I doubt Infinite could top the awesomeness that was the original BioShock. It was a high-point for first-person shooter genre.

A: Meh. BioShock’s mechanics felt like a dilution of SS2′s design. Could’ve done more justice to the wonderful story and setting. Gameplay wise it was just another corridor shooter. But I’m kinda optimistic about Infinite, so bring it.

R: Oh well, nothing to lose then. Let’s go!

Infinite brings back the series' sociopolitical criticism at its sharpest

Infinite brings back the series’ sociopolitical criticism at its sharpest

*Fast forward to last night*

The entire universe revolved shaping a single decision our heroes’ decisions into million possibilities. R had Red Bull and he was stuck in a universe where he was hyperventilating over not finding a straggler. A was busy battling mosquitoes while occasionally playing the game. Amidst all this, S was too busy salivating at the mighty graphics of the master race PC version.

A: So…I am done from my side. Finished it 24 hours ago and I’m probably done thinking about it (after a sleepless night and multiple mindf*cks). Holy mother of Schrodinger’s cat that game’s story was something!

R: Yeah, Levine did a Kojima. Pretty amazing.

S: BROS DO YOU EVEN TESSELLATE? Console heathens. One really good looking game on the PC. Maxed out, nothing comes close.

A: We’re console peasants. So yeah, we tend to focus on the other aspects a little more. But yeah, it’s scaled pretty well on the X360. Sure, there are low-res textures and occasional pop-ups but the lighting and performance is surprisingly solid on a 7 year old hardware. What about the PS3 version,bro?

R: Pretty similar –a few jaggies, occasional frame drops that managed to chug along in the sub-20s at times. I didn’t do an install so I reckon it would have benefited from one.

S: Technical finesse aside, well, people will say 10/10 for BioShock Infinite only to be politically correct. I mean, it’s not like it’s without its flaws…

R: Yeah, the gameplay is a little better than middling. Combat was rather meh and identifying enemies was a bit irritating. Earlier games worked because it was essentially up close with a few enemies at time.

A: Gameplay isn’t anything revolutionary but it serves its purpose . I think the level design helped Infinite a lot. BioShock was essentially a glorified corridor shooter but the inclusion of Skylines makes Infinite insane with an increased degree of verticality. The shooting is a lot more chaotic than the calculated style of BioShock . Enemy design I’ll agree — BioShock had better variety and there is nothing like Big Daddy in Infinite to induce instant dread.

S: This game is like many of the recent releases, where the prime focus is on the narrative rather than the gameplay. That’s OK really, as far as they can pull of a strong narrative which to their credit they did. But still for me, there is way too much emphasis on narrative. So much so that it feels forced, more like you being smothered by the plot (pillow). Gameplay is MEH. Skylines are fun but never get into the core of combat.

A: That is arguable, but I’ll ignore it for now. Personally, I also found the non-interactivity of NPCs with player a little unsettling at first. Here was a beautifully designed city that felt it was inhabited by folks but it still felt lifeless to me. Over time, I grew over it but I’d chalk that as a negative.

S: Infinite takes itself thematically too seriously and REALLY tries to immerse the player in the world. It works partly – because the narrative is strong and the gameplay isn’t as some of the top shooters. But I guess that’s OK really since the gamers are coming into Infinite expecting it to be a narrative-driven game. But I still miss games which were more exalted in their existence.

R: What really bugged me was how you could not proceed from one area to another without killing every single enemy . So even if you missed a straggler Vox Populi nutjob you would have to seek him out and kill him even if he’s camping in one decrepit corner of the map not giving a sh*t. Happened on more than one occasion. Rather annoying. And yeah Big Daddies were way more menacing than Songbird.

Skylines increase verticality of Infinite's level design and inject more variety into combat

Skylines increase verticality of Infinite’s level design and inject more variety into combat

A: That was an issue that bugged me on multiple occasions too. On some of the larger fields that had Skylines and platforms of different elevations, it became a pain to find them. This issue only occurs when you require Elizabeth to proceed ahead by picking a locked door since she cannot do it while the combat is active.

S: I’m also surprised that everyone has received the game so unanimously. What’s wrong with gamers? Where’s all the hate and negativity?

R: I’m guessing hype. Or being afraid of left out of GTA V’s impending press announcements.

A: Probably. I just think they’re a publisher that commands respect. Allowing Infinite to be as Irrational wanted. Allowing Spec Ops to happen. Completely ignoring Multiplayer mode in Infinite. Doing what no other publisher would do. They’ve got balls.

R: Yeah, I just hope they (and Bethesda) make the transition to next-gen, shrinking markets and all that.

S: So, how do you think it stands up against BioShock? I personally like BS1 more even if it was a little erratic. I didn’t enjoy Infinite in comparison.

A: I found it way more enjoyable than BioShock despite little being changed than Elizabeth – which makes combat easier and more free-flowing, the AI which is more relentless and makes the shooting more chaotic and level design which gives it scope for experimentation. Narrative wise, Infinite is easily the superior one and I think that until Half Life 3 comes it may well be the new high-point in terms of first-person storytelling.

R: I think the original BioShock had a better sense of pacing and atmosphere. Infinite has more variety but it feels spread thin.

S: I guess it’s important to look at Infinite from the perspective of a narrative-driven shooter. HL doesn’t have the greatest shooting mechanics but it still is considered the greatest in the genre. Halflife brings together top-notch platforming, shooting, storytelling, without forcing anything down your spine. It flows naturally, and things ‘just happen’.

A: Indeed I think Infinite does a solid job with the player agency and immersion. It does the “would you kindly” decisions much better than the original BioShock did. Plus, the choices are limited and feel more meaningful in the context of the narrative than it did in BS1 with “Harvest or Rescue” Little Sisters which got old pretty quickly.

R: I think the very fact that you want to explore the world as much as possible instead of trying to complete the given objectives is a sign that Infinite did a swell job with its narrative .

S: How about Columbia? How do you guys think it fares compared to BioShock’s Rapture?

 

Columbia is vibrant and artfully designed but it's subtlety makes it less absorbing than BioShock's Rapture

Columbia is vibrant and artfully designed but its’ affinity to subtlety makes it less absorbing than BioShock’s Rapture

A: I think Rapture was more absorbing with its desolate dark atmosphere. Columbia in contrast grows on you the more you play it . The feeling of sharp contrast on seeing bloodied streets in backdrop of happy posters is a telltale sign of the darkness that brews underneath the superficial utopia that Columbia is.

R: I’d go with Rapture because the atmosphere and narrative let you use your imagination to fill in the gaps of how it was at its peak rather than have everything spelt out to you from the outset. It had a sort of ruined elegance to it versus you ruining the elegance of Columbia making Rapture feel a lot more effective.

*a tear opens up from 2007 — the “Year of the First-Person Shooters”*

S: Look. A tear to 2007 – the year where we had Half Life 2 Episode 2, Halo 3, Crysis, Modern Warfare, BioShock. It seems almost identical to where we stand today — the genre hasn’t really moved much from there has it?

A: I think an occasional Metro, Spec Ops and Portal 2 aside, I’d say you’re pretty much right.

R: Infinite helps that cause. This kind of ambition shows that riveting storytelling, atmosphere and great characters are fully possible in first-person shooters.

S: I’d like to say the music and voice-acting is pretty stellar even for a AAA game.

A: I couldn’t get the “Will the Circle be Unbroken” out of my head for a few days after first hearing it. Sweet tunes.

S: I’m seeing another portal. Should we go in?

A: Why not? Our job here is done.

R: Really? I hope this one takes us to a timeline where it’s OK to have a non-11/10 opinion of BioShock.

S: Surprising, that you’d say that. What with you loving the first two games and all.

A: I guess time really does rot all hope.

R: Dude, stop spoiling it for those who haven’t finished it.

A: …

S: Okay, here we go

*FIN*

*After the credits…..*

Each of our heroes are stranded in a different universe. The portals f*cked up. Blame Elizabeth or GLaDOS for that. Whatever.

R: Where is everyone else?

A: I ask the same. Even if I don’t know what the f*ck the question is.

S: I don’t get this. Is this sh*t scripted?

*from the heavens a voice shouts “You waste enough of our time. Give us the scores which is what the readers all care about and scrolled down so much to look at!” *

R: Aye aye,Prophet.Loved the story to bits, to the point where I want to have its babies. But barring the skylines and Elizabeth, the combat felt lacking. 8.5/10.

A: I loved it. Far more confident than the original BioShock, Infinite is a solid step forward for first-person narration.I’m pushing the average up on this. 9.0/10

S: For me, the game offered me nothing new in gameplay or in the narrative that hasn’t been done before already. I’ll go with  5/10

A and R: …atleast we had a good run this far. Farewell world.

FINAL SCORE (out of 10): 8.5/9.0/5.0

 

5 comments

  1. I guess I finally found a game that’s good enough to fill the ‘game void’ I’ve had for the longest time. The most popular FPShooters these days are all yearly franchises that offer something that feels like an “on rail” experience to me. Glad to see a shooter after a while that really piqued my interest

  2. Though i partly accept the score of S , i believe S underrated the game. that is because , nowadays many companies are publishing sequels that are no different from other games in the series i mean with same setting , world, graphics game play and everything. but thats not false regarding to bioshock infinite. they have created a totally new setting, awesome graphics and story. Even thought the narrative and gameplay feels same as the previous games, they have did their best to not make us feel that way. so my rating will be somewhere around 7.5 to 8.

    P.S My opinion and not opposing any1 :-)

  3. Sahil, By giving 5.0 to a game because it offers nothing “new” in gameplay or narrative, that means almost 90% of the games out there would fall in this category. Of course Infinite has it’s fair share of problems, but the creativity that has gone into this, the setting, world, story, artwork are all brilliant. One of the biggest points why people game is escapism, to be drawn into another world, something which infinite does brilliantly. Every game, story, movie today is a derivation from another work of art. However if this is your yardstick by which you grade, then Skyrim would get a 2/10, because Daggerfall did it. All the FPS’s today would get a 0/10 because you played it all in Doom and Wolf3D.

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