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BioShock Infinite: What the critics are saying
 BioShock Infinite : What the critics are saying
March 25, 2013 | By Danny Cowan

This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Irrational Games' narrative-driven first-person shooter BioShock Infinite, which reviewers describe as "an amazing experience from beginning to end." BioShock Infinite currently earns a score of 95 out of 100 at

Game Informer's Joe Juba scores BioShock Infinite at 10 out of 10. "In BioShock Infinite, players must be comfortable with the concept of parallel realities," he notes. "What appears to be a peaceful street could be a war-torn battleground in a different version of the world. A person can be alive in one place, dead in another. Male here, female there -- or never even born at all."

Juba continues: "No matter how many parallel realities I ponder, I cannot imagine one in which BioShock Infinite is not among the best games I've played."

Juba finds that BioShock Infinite's floating-city setting is one of its greatest strengths. "Dealing with themes like religion, racism, and xenophobia, Columbia is a richer and more nuanced setting than even Rapture, and the unveiling of the city's culture is masterfully executed," he praises. "Whether you're looking at a piece of propaganda, listening to an audio log, or participating in a horrifying raffle, almost everything you encounter contributes to your understanding of the floating world."

The player's AI-controlled partner character is another highlight. "Elizabeth is with Booker for most of the events that follow, and she is among the best AI companions I've ever had," Juba recalls. "You don't ever need to worry about protecting her, which prevents the experience from feeling like an escort quest. Not only does Elizabeth stay out of harm's way, she actively helps Booker by finding ammo and health, making her a valuable ally in gunfights.

"She can also open doors to alternate realities called 'tears,' bringing objects like rocket launchers, automatons, and cover in from other worlds. She can use this ability as often as you want, but can only maintain one object at a time. This means you have a lot of options in any given encounter, but you can still adapt your approach and try new strategies."

"Replicating the achievements of the original BioShock is a challenging goal (as 2K Marin's sequel demonstrated), but series creator Irrational Games returns with a fresh vision and redefines what the BioShock name means," Juba writes. "Infinite is more than a new setting, story, and characters; those elements are seamlessly integrated with complex themes, a mysterious plot, and entertaining combat to create an amazing experience from beginning to end."

Xav de Matos at Joystiq gives BioShock Infinite 5 out of 5 stars. "BioShock Infinite weaves a complicated and intricate plot around ever-changing variables," he notes. "Though it touches on topics revolving around racism, religion, rebellion and revenge, these themes take a backseat to BioShock Infinite's primary topic: Love. Whether it be a society in love with its own patented brand of American Exceptionalism, a leader in love with his own self-appointed immortal image, or a pair of people that come together to care for one another, BioShock Infinite is a love story. And it's an easy story to fall in love with."

"Unlike the undersea city of Rapture -- the setting of Irrational's critical and commercial smash BioShock -- Columbia is a living world," de Matos continues. "Players won't draw blood from enemies for quite some time when they arrive in Columbia, a world established and ruled by a figure known as Father Zachary Comstock. Rather, DeWitt and the player are introduced to the technology and ideals that power the city as they move across its interlocking sections; and as gorgeous as the world of Columbia is, it's a horribly grotesque place."

Players can expect to see new twists on familiar mechanics. "BioShock Infinite's core gameplay mimics that of Irrational's previous effort: a first-person shooter with a magical component," de Matos explains. "The 'magic' in Infinite is composed of collectible vigors, potent elixirs that grant DeWitt special powers, like the ability to electrocute enemies or lob fireballs. [...] Where things begin to diverge for Infinite versus the original BioShock is in collectible gear, which can be mixed and matched to grant special buffs, like headgear that allows DeWitt to leach health for successfully performing brutal melee execution kills with his skyline hook."

De Matos also praises the implementation of the player's partner character, Elizabeth. "Beyond scavenging, Elizabeth can also modify the properties of the battlefield by playing with pre-determined 'tears' -- splits in the fabric of time she has the ability to open," de Matos writes. "The tears add to the mystery, sometimes appearing with music from the wrong decade spilling out of them, raising immediate questions as to the true nature of the phenomenon, Columbia's place in history and even Elizabeth herself."

"While the end of 2013 will be filled with talk about a new generation of video games, BioShock Infinite's narrative will stand out as an achievement, helping put a cap on a generation that propelled narrative as a focus for the industry," de Matos says. "Undoubtedly the finest game crafted by Irrational Games, BioShock Infinite is one of the best told stories of this generation. It simply cannot be missed."

Edge Magazine rates BioShock Infinite at 9 out of 10. "BioShock Infinite is a lavish, spectacular game," Edge assures. "That Infinite can handle the collision between its philosophical concerns and its dead-end thrills without seeming hopelessly crass or overly portentous testifies to its often touching script, excellent pacing and the kind of unparalleled world building that shows you all of this coexisting cohesively in a golden city in the sky."

"It's not so clever as to entirely exonerate itself from accusations of retreading old ground," Edge's writer warns. "Infinite's power-granting Vigors don't feel as well woven into Columbia as Rapture's Plasmids, for instance, while the gun- and ammo-dispensing vending machines are more nakedly player-servicing without an objectivist libertarian utopia to provide thematic support. [...] DeWitt's journey through the city, meanwhile, takes familiar form. He still travels from one themed, self-contained locale to the next -- from piers to factories to poor districts -- just not by bathysphere."

Edge notes concern with Infinite's comparative lack of environmental storytelling. "Infinite's non-action moments allow a more complex story to be told," Edge writes. "Much of this is through scripted conversations and set-pieces that occasionally go as far as to break your control, but the rest through clues left for you to puzzle over."

Edge continues: "In a sense, this means the skilful environmental storytelling showcased in the original game -- where you would piece together the story of a location by poking around what was left of it -- has been downplayed. But in return for this sacrifice, Infinite enables you to see an accelerated version of the collapse that happened before we docked in Rapture. Columbia provides less horror and is less powerfully evocative than a watery tomb, but to an extent you might not expect, it's a place you get to see change."

Edge also praises BioShock Infinite's combat encounters, despite some weak elements. "Many of its guns still feel weedy, outperformed by the Vigors and their various explosive, telekinetic and elementally damaging effects, and many of its tougher enemies still tend towards being overly damage absorbent," Edge warns. "But as the game's plot ramps up and its arenas open out, you're encouraged to think more tactically about 3D space. There's none of the preplanned, player-instigated combat against powerful foes that makes Big Daddy encounters so distinct, but there's a focus on moment-to-moment improvisation in its place."

"Infinite is an artfully constructed game with a meticulously well-drawn world," Edge concludes. "The tale it tells is gripping, if confused by the end, and it's hard not to care for Elizabeth. She alone would make this a worthy follow-up to 2007's hit, which provided a similarly smart, thrilling adventure, but one that kept its principle actors distant.

"BioShock Infinite is a sequel, in short -- more so than BioShock 2. Irrational has made a game in thematic dialogue with its predecessor, with the same interests but different tastes, and one that expands mechanically and technically on what came before. And it's given us a city in the sky that reflects upon the one beneath the waves."

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