Friday, 19 April 2013

Bioshock Infinite. God only knows.

Bioshock Infinite.
God only knows.
An analysis by Padraig Daly

Overview
Bioshock infinite is the 3rd and easily the most controversial installment in the Bioshock franchise.
The game is set in 1912, which lends itself easily to much more of a steam-punk style as opposed the dark and gritty, diesel-punk style of Bioshock 1 and 2. The city environment and therefore the tone and mood of the game is very different from earlier installments, along with other factors, as we will see.
You play as the disgraced Pinkerton agent Booker De Witt, who has been fired from the Agency for his drinking and gambling problems’ influence on his work. After racking up a large debt, he is given a chance to wipe away this debt by travelling to Columbia to find a young woman on behalf of his creditors.
Next, the scene sees you taking a boat to a light house on top of which you find a pod that launches you up through the clouds. As the clouds part you get your first glimpse of Columbia. And my god, the view is breathtaking and utterly spectacular.
The lighting and post processing at the start of the game gives a real feel for the Dust Bowl period in America, with golden rays and volumetric lighting adding hazy warmth but as the game progresses the mood and tone of the light change to a blue-tinged and darker feel.
While keeping the core mechanics from the previous two games, the earlier Plasmid item classes have been replaced with Vigors that work the same way as before, i.e., triggered by the left mouse. The right mouse button is for weapons, of course, of which you can carry two, swapping them out as you come across upgrades. This mechanic really makes you think about how you’re going to play through the game .

Hardware
I played it on PC with the ‘Ultra’ setting, running at 1920 x 1200, which, from the example of the console ports, was the best way of playing it. There are reports of the PS3 and Xbox versions having much lower texture resolution and dropping frame rate. [1]


Code
I’m not sure what to say about the code of the game, apart from the A.I of Elizabeth, the main protagonist’s companion, which is executed very well, and not once did it seem like a escort mission. She never gets in the way, nor does she take up all your health pick-ups or ammo. In full-on combat, she even goes and finds pick-ups and gives them to you. However, it’s not all perfect, for example she will talk over the Voxophone’s recordings, making you lose out on some of the back story. She also has a habit of disappearing behind your back and reappearing on the other side of you. But apart from those flaws her A.I is very good.

The enemy A.I on the other hand wasn’t so good. On more than one occasion I had fire-men kill themselves as they throw their exploding fire balls at walls the player is taking cover behind. I also saw enemies falling off the edge of the world as they tried to jump from floating barges to the world platforms. But over all it really isn’t that bad, I feel like I’m just nit picking at this point.
Functionality
The aesthetics of the HUDs has a definite steampunk feel, with large cogs and clockwork mechanics. By holding down the Q button you can bring up a menu for choosing between the 8 vigors you get throughout the game, which I can only assume is a throwback from the console version. As a PC player I’m more used to the number keys to change between.

Game play
As Bioshock is a first person shooter that is very dependant on story it has most of the standard aspects that you would expect to find in a first person shooter. Where Bioshock differs from the norm is with the Vigor mechanic, which brings a new element to play. It is also, and welcomely, more open world then most . I found myself thinking the story would be more suited to a role player game, to the point that the intense combat kept distracting me from the beautiful and deep story. Certainly not standard first person shooter fare there.

Meaning
From the outset of the game, you are being bombarded by religious themes, racism and nationalism. As the story progresses you will find a lot of racism in Columbia against the dark of skin and the Irish. I found myself getting quite angry, which really goes to show you the power of the story telling here.
Without giving too much of the story away, later on in the game the message changes: no matter what side you are on, violence is violence, and in war, no side will ever be completely just.

Referentiality
There is a lot of Culture reference in mostly in the form of music. You will find a barber shop quartet singing the Beach Boys’ ‘God only knows, and even ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper being played on pipe organ on the board walk of Battleship Bay. You will also find ‘Shiny Happy People by R.E.M being covered by an old-timey band. Although those songs are contemporary they don’t come across as out of place and fit in quite well.

Socio-Culture
The story element of the game is so strong that it’s one of those rare games you don’t mind watching someone else on a play through. Even though the latest installment has removed the multi player option from the game, it really isn’t missed. The sense of community comes from being able to enjoy the story together and not in the competitive nature of death match or even team death match so it’s not really missed.



[1] (Charles Onyett. (2014). BioShock Infinite: The PC Version Difference. Available: http://ie.ign.com/articles/2013/01/15/bioshock-infinite-the-pc-version-difference. Last accessed 06 April 2013. )

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