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  1. solid-alchemist

    BioShock Infinite Review

    BioShock Infinite (PS3) Developed by Irrational Games Published by 2K Games Released March 26, 2013 Review Written April 12, 2014 Originally Posted on The Time Heist Blog For years I had been closely eyeing this title since its 2010 reveal from Irrational Games. As a fan of the original BioShock and its sequel, I anticipated an amazing rollercoaster that would possibly trump the original BioShock. With Irrational Games and Ken Levine regaining the creative reigns for BioShock Infinite, will this title bring the same magic displayed in the city of Rapture or should the floating city of Columbia just drift into oblivion like a meandering balloon? In short, yes BioShock Infinite captures similar values from the original BioShock but in itself is an entirely different experience. Although my timing for finally getting around to this game is fairly horrible in light of the recent news of Irrational Games being shutdown and dispersed, I“m glad I finally took the time to experience what I had been fawning over for years. BioShock Infinite is a great game in my opinion and in the twenty-three hours it took me to complete the campaign I enjoyed it to its entirety. Though the game can be completed in less than fifteen hours, I spent many moments gazing about the environments or searching for secrets strewn within the levels out of habit. As opposed to the dark beauty that was Rapture, the floating city of Columbia explodes with wonderfully bright colored hues. The floating city just looks so clean and vivid. BioShock Infinite utilizes a range of bright color schemes throughout each of the levels, and similar to the original Bioshock the structured tonality matches the transpiring situations. To add to this, the talking NPC“s and soft musical tones make this floating isle feel realistic, like I“m watching an adventure film about a lively civilization in the sky. Though with beauty comes an underlying horror as I would find myself witnessing screen tearing during certain climactic parts of the game. At first it was distracting but it completely disappears from annoyance as its appearances were minimal. Story-wise, in BioShock Infinite you take on the role of Booker DeWitt who has been tasked with finding a girl named Elizabeth to erase all of his gambling debts in the year 1912. Very much different from BioShock“s Jack, Booker actually has dialogue and interacts with the locals of Columbia. Not being a muted puppet controlled by the player, Booker has personality. Elizabeth also has a great personality and easily meshes with Booker creating an entertaining ride to the viewers. I“m Commander False Shepard, and this is my favorite tattoo on my body. BioShock Infinite dabbles in previously viewed ideals of choice but mixing it with American history, quantum physics, and ideals of destiny. More of a science fictional action-adventure than its horror focused predecessors, BioShock Infinite“s story resembles that of a Hollywood blockbuster. I found myself glued to my seat enjoying what developments were thrown at me and often anticipated what twists and turns were to come. Even though the ending left my head spinning and required me to replay the campaign a second time to grasp what was unfolded, I thoroughly enjoyed the story within BioShock Infinite. The gameplay is what ties the story and the visuals all together, and the BioShock formula still hasn“t really changed since the previous games. I“m not complaining though as I enjoyed the numerous shootouts throughout the game and believe the style worked with how the story flowed. I“ve heard a few mention they didn“t feel that the firefights didn“t fit within the game, but I believe it fit perfectly with Columbia“s very own Civil War brewing. These firefights were made more interesting when a robotic replica of an American Founding Father walks towards you with a gatling gun. There“s nothing like that surprise factor that leaves you open for attack as you try to configure what the hell is actually going on, and I“m talking about you robotic Abe Lincoln. Whoa! The Be Sharps reunited to perform their hit, “Baby On Boardâ€. As the gameplay formula hasn“t changed, the controls are still as smooth as the previous BioShocks. The only differing mechanics are the skylines and having Elizabeth tagging along. The skylines act as a fancy transition between locals while mixing in strategic combat. I often found myself riding the lines to investigate possible secret areas or to get a quick jump on unsuspecting enemies. The other change was having a sidekick along for the long journey. I actually feared a little that the game would end up being one long escort mission with Elizabeth constantly getting in the way or getting killed. This isn“t the case as Elizabeth can“t be injured by enemies and will actually hide during firefights. She even plays the role of helper throughout each area by throwing items your way that she“s found. Set in the same way that Ellie was mechanically just Joel“s shadow in The Last of Us, Elizabeth is there for the fight but doesn“t interfere with the flow of it. Although the game is damn near perfect in my book I still longed for one feature that was available in the first BioShock, hacking minigames. For some strange reason I loved the hacking minigames in the previous installments, and in BioShock Infinite they are missing. All of the locks are either opened via a keycode or through Elizabeth“s amazing lock picking skills that could quite possibly put Jill “The Master of Lock Picking†Valentine to shame. Although it was missing from the game, it is quite possible Irrational Games deemed it unnecessary or something that would ruin the current flow of the adventure. HIGH FIVE!!!!!!!! In conclusion, even though Bioshock Infinite strays away from the former“s horror focused design, the science fictional action is a welcome sight. The cast of characters all play a prominent role and will be easily remembered in days past. Easily noted, the Lutice twins and their banter similar to that of a 1940“s comedic duo will always come to mind when looking back at what could be the final BioShock game. So in turn, if you enjoyed the previous BioShock games or enjoy FPS games that have an interesting story to follow, then BioShock Infinite is definitely a game you should buy. So wipe away the debt, bring them the girl… Review Written by Solid-Alchemist If you enjoyed this review and would like to check out some other opinion pieces, come on over to The Time Heist. Any critique's or recommendations are welcome!
  2. If you haven't read it yet, I'd highly suggest checking out Polygon's article, "The final years of Irrational Games, according to those who were there." Basically, it goes into the culture that existed behind-the-scenes, descriptions of what it was like to work with Levine (both good and bad), their final days, and the ultimate demise of the whole developer. It also explains why Bioshock Infinite took something like 5 years to develop. Really interesting stuff, especially if you like long-form articles. http://www.polygon.com/2014/3/6/5474722/why-did-irrational-close-bioshock-infinite
  3. For years now it seems that the debate over whether games are art has never quite died down. Many have situated themselves on both sides of the argument and formulated reasons why they do or do not qualify games as art. When it comes right down to it, the argument is not integral to keeping video games relevant in the future, but may aid in making them a more respected medium. If you had to ask me, I“d say all video games qualify as art, although many certainly were never vying for the distinction in the first place. Now, though, we seem to be more than happy to christen titles as beaming examples of undeniable art. But first, let's think about what developers of the 70s, 80s, and even 90s may have felt about their work. It“s doubtful those designing characters with highly restrictive constraints on Atari 2600 were envisioning their work as artful. The duck/dragon featured in the game Adventure has since gained stature as an iconic design but it“s not likely to find itself in rigid art museums anytime soon. Of course, even those times are changing as The Smithsonian ran their Art of Video Games exhibit. It“s a sign that at least some of the work of game artists is finally getting some recognition outside the immediate fandom. Before Bioshock Infinite was even out, we could tell that Irrational Games was pushing for a very distinct art style. Of course, the Bioshock series initially launched with very attractive, though sometimes disturbing, design. This time around they appeared to be pushing the limits even further to create a fantastical world within the clouds full of Americana and a bright color palette. The game seemed shocking in comparison to most other games of this generation which have often not pushed any boundaries when it comes to design. Playing the beginning hours of Bioshock Infinite is a one of a kind gaming experience. Before it descends into the requisite shooting moments, you are able to take in Columbia as a city that appears to be living. Through a passageway with yonic imagery, Booker is reborn through his baptism and enters a strange new world. Everything is bright, white, and shining. As you explore, the world quickly opens itself up to show the mechanical, moving city. And since the day is a day of celebration, you get to see sights of a barbershop quartet, parade floats and balloons, and a carnival complete with games. Staring up at the Father Comstock state in the middle of town square, the bright blue sky frames it perfectly and sends a powerful message about this man. It“s pretty hard to deny that all of these sights are worthy of recognition. They most certainly showcase the developer“s artistic capabilities as well as skill in regards to mise en scene. Mise en scene encompasses art direction, cinematography, and design to create a more powerful unifying theme for the work. In the case of Bioshock Infinite, the world is definitely presented to further other aspects of itself. You cannot separate Infinite from Columbia as the design is integral to everything else. Although I agree that Bioshock Infnite should be classified as art, it is odd to me that this is the game which many are crowding around to bring back a resurgence in the games as art argument. Those who have never studied art of any medium are still not impervious to art, which is probably why they feel artistically awakened by looking upon this specific game. But shouldn“t those heralds of the games as art movement be raising many games into their ranks? Why does it only seem certain games are likely to be defended as art? Art is not just an interpretation of beauty. Paintings, statues, music, books, movies, and more are not always attractive to look upon. Nor do they all have stylish interpretations of the world, or easily discernible meanings. The world of art is vast and ranges from aesthetic beauty to abject horror and beyond. And yet, it seems that we are usually apt to cling to visually beautiful games such as Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, and now Bioshock Infinite as proof of games“ art merit. They are certainly artistic, but that is not the one and only hallmark of art. This is probably easy to recognize, but still seems ignored. We who believe games qualify as art against other mediums should discuss a great variety of games, not just those who have an irrefutable visual beauty. Ugly games can be just as much art as anything else, especially if their underlying theme is in any way important. Old games or new games can be art even if they are lacking in pretty colors or heady narratives. Art can be applied with the definition of mimesis (representation, or mimicry of something), but that is not the only way art is expressed. In regards to Bisohock Infinite, we are shown a broken world with a beautiful veneer. So too, should we be excited about games with attractive visuals with underlying worthwhile or important themes. Often, technical skill is assumed necessary for the value of art, but not always. By that affect, we can include games that are lacking in high polygon counts or “good” visual design to be included. Some of the strongest messages can be gleaned through those who are not schooled artisans. Of course, artists who have refined their skills can also use them to create an artistic whole very worthy of merit. Bioshock Infinite seems to fall more on this side of the scale, but should not blind us to all the other games out there. Art can be problematic, grimy, and uncomfortable. It can be small or large, multifaceted, explored in a variety of ways, and appraised very differently by multiple people. At its best, art reveals things about ourselves, emotions, and society. Art, both the expression of and intake of it, are necessary for humans. That“s why we have always drawn as well as tell stories. It is inherent in human nature to express oneself and have that expression experienced by others. So art certainly classifies Bioshock Infinite, but we must not forget games without the multi million dollar budgets and highly skilled designers as well. Any game has the capacity to be art - you just have to be willing to expand your perspectives on art.
  4. Note: This editorial discusses aspects of Bioshock Infinite that include spoilers. Bioshock Infinite is a game about a man, city, and a lighthouse. As the game says, there always is. It is also about racism and revolution. Racism is a very heavy theme in the game and one which appears integral to the overall narrative. Columbia stands as a beautiful dystopia which weds success with slavery. As modern viewers, we recognize this from the moment a character refers to a woman as the “prettiest white girl” and see what comes a second later. Can a game with its eye squarely on racism actually become racist itself though? I think so, and that is the most striking problem with the title considering it is otherwise a sound technical and visual achievement. In Infinite, Columbia seems like it should be a marvelous place. It“s Heaven, or the closest thing to it according to a worshiper at the start. This city in the clouds is clean (disregarding food and coins everywhere), bright, and a shining beacon of odd scientific and religious harmony. Washington and other important men of America are practically deified, as is the religious figure of Father Comstock. Everyone appears happy, except of course for the slaves stuck serving the White populous. Derogatory phrases are slung freely at any and all non-White races. Stereotypical visual depictions which have probably never been seen by some are plastered on propaganda posters as well as within the Hall of Heroes. Irrational Games does not appear to have held back their vision at all, despite the uncomfortable depictions of racism. This is actually a very brave thing for a game to try and take on, and that is an amicable thing for a studio to attempt. As the story progresses, you first feel that the African and other races deserve to rise up, but then, they become just as evil as Comstock. Alternate realities or not, this is a point where the game disturbingly takes on its own racist storytelling motives. The Vox Populi are a group so named because the Latin translates to “voice of the people”. These are the poor and working class people of Columbia who intend to rise up. The group is comprised primarily of minority individuals and is led by Daisy Fitzroy, who is strongly opposed the inequality she sees. She appears extremely intelligent and passionate, although you don“t get to see much of her before venturing through the first tear. Afterwards, she is still an incredibly strong individual but is now leading the Vox to do far more than protest. They have brought terror and death to Colombia“s citizens and continue to storm their way toward victory. Yes, rebellions and uprisings have a history of being violent. When tensions and stakes are so high, it seems to be the inevitable outcome many times. However, the game seems to push very heavily on the idea that both sides are equally detestable. Booker muses that Comstock and Fitzroy are the same, just spelled differently. But why is this the immediate assumption? Comstock was perpetuating inequality on a vast scale, as well as racist ideologies. Even with the Vox killing many innocent people in their aims, it is hard to come up with reasons that they are not warranted in their anger. It seems that the way Irrational “solved” equalizing the two groups was by having the Vox become a highly stereotypical and obviously evil group. They are seen at times with red paint smeared across their face. The mark of a revolution, sure, but it also starts the racist correlation that African people are wild, or tribe-like. If that“s too much a stretch, then simply look at what Fitzroy does later. She has the opponents of her heads skinned as a sign of success. If that doesn“t say “tribal” then I hardly know what does. Similarly, Fitzroy is later seen holding young White child with a gun in her hand. What purpose does this serve, honestly? Because it was too hard to equate Comstock“s evils to the oppressed people having a valid need to rise up, they were treated with cartoonishly evil and hurtful depictions. None of this even touches on the outfits of the Vox Populi, which in combat can include red masks with devil horns. There appears to have been some desperate need within development to make the two groups equivalent, but there is no need for that to be the case. Elizabeth thinks on the Vox and states their uprising would be “just like Les Mis”. That tale of the French June Rebellion paints the poor as desperate but also as people we should feel compassion for. Although initially players have compassion for the mistreated populous in Columbia, they are told by the game they should not anymore. After all, they have had their uprising and gone completely off the deep end into moustache twirling villain territory. I don“t feel there was any need for the story to have gone in that direction. Why were they unable to simply show the rebellion as going too far without the ridiculous characterizations? Beyond this forced equivalence of the Comstock and Fitzroy groups, we are shown Booker as the martyr for the Vox Populi rebellion. There is a trend in media to portray Black and other minority groups as unable to advocate or create change for themselves. Instead, many times historical or fictional events have portrayed white people as saviors to these groups. Yes, there are times that so called “majority voices” are important in enacting change, but showing it in this manner only serves to perpetuate racist ideals. Fitzroy appears as a wholly competent woman and yet uses a white man as the hallmark of the revolution she put her life into. Booker may or may not be deserving of this attribution but it is not the way to present racial uprisings to an audience who probably has paid little attention to them. Bioshock Infinite is a game with two layers of racism. The first is explicit and purposefully honed for the narrative. The other half, however, is submerged. Those who have any knowledge of racism in America will still be able to see it clearly, though. This is shocking as you would think any company taking on the task of a narrative infused with racism would be acutely aware of many facets of racism. Instead, they bring it into the game itself unintentionally to frame important game events. We as players are meant to recognize that Comstock having a city full of slaves is bad, but why then is a group filled with minorities allowed to be portrayed unflinchingly as ridiculous, cruel, and monstrous enemies? These are questions only Irrational Games can answer, and it“s unlikely they ever will.
  5. Bioshock Infinite is coming out soon and with that impending launch comes announcement of figures. If you're a collector of figures then this is probably worth looking into, although fans of replica gaming weaponry may also be interested. The first series includes only two characters, but they both come from toy manufacturer NECA. You might remember them from the Portal gun replicas they made a while back. The two characters modeled in plastic first are Elizabeth and a Boys of Silence figure. Both have around 20 points of articulation and and look pretty good in the promo photos. Elizabeth is 6.5" tall while The Boys of Silence is a bit taller at 7". Both cost $20 although you can grab the both of them for $35. If figures aren't quite your thing then NECA also revealed a replica. Unlike the figures, this will only be available in limited quantities and appears to be to scale with the in-game version. By pulling the trigger, the gear begins to turn and spin the hook end for added effect. Expect that to cost a fair bit more than the figures whenever a price is announced.
  6. You might have heard about the recent controversy over the reveal of Bioshock Infinite's official cover art. Fans weren't happy with the stereotypical "guy with a big ol' gun", claiming that sort of thing isn't what Bioshock is all about. While Irrational Games won't be changing the official cover, they've taken note of your concerns and are offering the chance for you to vote on a reversible cover design. There are six different covers to choose from. Right now, design #4 is in the lead, while design #1 is dead last with only 5% of the votes. And if you want even more designs to choose from, then Irrational Games will be offering "a whole mess of MORE alternate covers" that will be available to download and print. Which alternate cover design is your favorite?
  7. Bioshock Infinite may have its release date pushed back to February 2013, but that will not stop Irrational Games from dropping a bit of news from Columbia just before the holidays. Bioshock“s Creative Director, Ken Levine, confirmed via twitter that the upcoming AAA title will not include a multiplayer mode, confirming the rumor from earlier this year. Irrational Games briefly discussed Bioshock Infinite multiplayer modes in 2010, but the studio quickly nixed a few modes because they simply did not live up to the company“s standards. The removal of the multiplayer modes will undoubtedly polarize the franchise“s fans. Although most fans will be celebrating the fact that the developer“s focus will remain on the single player campaign, players who genuinely enjoyed Bioshock 2“s multiplayer action may feel a bit differently. What is your stance regarding the complete removal of multiplayer? Is this a good move for Irrational Games?
  8. Bioshock Infinite is already one of the most anticipated games for next year, with many already looking beyond the stock of games available this holiday season. 2K Games announced that Bioshock Infinite will receive the special edition treatment. The Premium Edition will cost approximately $79.99 and include several different items in hopes of satiating even the most eclectic collector. Bioshock Infinite Premium Edition includes a miniature “Art of Bioshock Infinite” book published by Dark Horse Books. This edition will offer an exclusive 25mm Handyman resign figure designed for Plaid Hat Games' soon-to-be-released board game, Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia. Bioshock Infinite also took a cue from Bioshock 2 and will recreate a piece of in-game propaganda on a piece of heavy stock paper. The final physical piece of swag is a key-chain replica of the promotional “Murder of Crows” bottles. This edition will also include a few digital items like a copy of the original sound track and three exclusive gear power-ups. These power-ups will give the player a chance to knockdown enemies if melee attacking while sprinting (Bull Rush), grant a bounty for audio logs (Extra! Extra!) and kill possessed enemies like suicide bombers (Betrayer). Xbox 360 players will also receive exclusive Booker and Elizabeth costumes while Playstation 3 owners will simply receive custom themes for Bioshock Infinite. Willing to shell out almost twice as much? The “Ultimate Songbird Edition” is currently priced at $149.99 and will contain all of the previously mentioned content from the Collector's Edition. That extra $70 will get Ultimate Songbird Edition buyers a 9.75” limited edition statue designed by an Irrational Games' concept artist. According to 2K Games the unique packaging will allow the owner to display the statue without ever breaking the seal. Which edition appeals to you the most?