Pros: Jawdropping graphics, authentic feeling environments, great voice acting.
Cons: Ending feels a little dissappointing. Texture pop in and Depth of Field can sometimes be distracting.
There have been some really great games released so far this year which, after many promising previews, leaves a great amount of expectation on Bioshock Infinite to deliver the goods. Irrational Games have done away with the murky depths of Rapture and have instead opted for a more bright and beautiful locale, the sky city of Columbia. You are Booker Dewitt and you are tasked with finding a girl, (Elizabeth) and bringing her back to clear your debts.
Right from start the presentation of Bioshock Infinite instantly smacks you in the face and delivers the fictional authenticity of 1912 Columbia, from the main menus to the musical score. No stone has been left unturned here in trying to make you feel like you are a part of this world that Irrational have created to suck you in to, and it is certainly something they succeed in doing. Graphical options are a plenty, with several presets along with the ability to create a custom preset. You can also bind your own controls, as well as use a control pad which works really well and never feels over or under sensitive. Graphically, despite the odd low resolution texture, the sometimes distracting Depth of Field and a bit of pop in that is the norm for the Unreal Engine, Bioshock Infinite looks outstanding, and never fails to make the bottom of your jaw sore due to the amount of times it has hit the floor. The use of lighting and bloom in Bioshock Infinite is very well handled and the art design, while taking a little time to get used to is very well done and nothing ever really feels out of place. A lot of time has been put into Elizabeth, and it shows. Down from her looks to her voice acting. Gradually as the game goes on she gets battered and worn and it shows, but never overly so. It's always subtle and a very nice touch.
One thing that really sucks you into Bioshock Infinite is the mystery. At first the game seems very political, there are several undertones of racism and slavery but to Irrationals credit these are handled expertly, never feeling offensive, but to drive home the personality of the city of Columbia and it's inhabitants, as well as to drive home further the building of Elizabeth's and Booker's character and personality. However, while there is somewhat a minor focus on it all to start with, there is much more to Columbia that this. Much more meaning behind why you are in Columbia and what your overall goal is and much more to Elizabeth, and Booker, than meets the eye. I really do not want to go too far into this, because to do so would take away your enjoyment of discovering it all for yourself, but to simply put it, it's all done in a classy Bioshock style.
The gameplay itself is very solid. You have a nice variety of weapons and powers (called Vigors) at your disposal, and later you gain access to other abilities and paths thanks to Elizabeth. You can only ever have two Vigors active at any one time, but can switch them out via a power wheel, pausing the action, whenever you choose. The powers in general are nicely varied and in some instances allow for a variety of tactics to be implemented. They never feel overpowered due to having to be recharged via Salt vendors or Salt flasks laying around that you can find so if you over use them you will quickly find yourself relying on your guns instead. Clever use is the key here. Every now and then Elizabeth will toss you extra ammunition, health kits, or Salt, in the midst of battle. It never feels out of place and you find yourself savouring the moment when a Patriot is right on top of you then Elizabeth quickly throws you some Salt so you can use Return to Sender to suck up some rounds fired at you then fling them back at the unlucky Patriot to dispatch it, District 9 style. I found the Skylines to be a little distracting to use but fortunately they were never a massive necessity to master or a big focus of the game either. The world for the most part, is fairly open for exploration. With several secrets to be searched out and found. One word of advice I will give is to search everywhere. You will want the extra coin to purchases skill and weapon upgrades as you explore further.
My only real gripe with Bioshock Infinite is that the ending felt a little anti-climatic. There's no big final boss battle, and what amounts to the final act just becomes wave after wave of enemies without a great variety of choice in how to handle them in comparison to some other scenarios. It feels almost like playing Call of Duty, almost... apart from a one time use ability you are afforded that is unfortunately never really given the chance to use elsewhere. It's probably the only real negative that can be said about the game, though the final, player driven cinematic (no quick time events) does give good closure.
The audio is top work. Especially the voice acting. You really feel the emotion from Elizabeth as you venture further forward on your adventure with her and it actually makes you feel a little lost without her in the few key moments when you have to work alone. The Lutece twins, who pop up regularly on your travels, are done really well too adding an air of mystery without ever really meaning to, in the way that they are presented. The musical score is pretty accurate to the games theme as well and never feels out of place no matter what the scenario.
Bioshocks runs really well, even on average systems. I ran Bioshock Infinite on high with Ultra Textures on a HD6870, with AMD Catalyst 13.2 Drivers, in 1920x1080 resolution. There was some minor stutter as the game was loading in places but during the heavy and frantic action sequences there was not a singe bit of slowdown at all. All while still looking absolutely fantastic! A credit to Irrational Games here.
Overall, and considering we're in April, Bioshock Infinite is looking very likely to be a top contender for game of the year. There isn't really anything bad that can be said about it, despite some really minor distractions graphically, and the anti-climatic finale. It looks great, sounds authentic, runs well and has a great story to go with it.
Graphics: Other than some slight texture pop-in and the slightly distracting Depth of Field, Bioshock Infinite looks fantastic. 9.5/10
Audio: Superb voice acting, authentic musical score and sound effects that never feel out of place. 9.5/10
Gameplay: Really engaging, and a lot of room for variation. Grand finale left me disappointed though. 9/10
Longevity: Exploration of Columbia is encouraged, and there's good length to the game, but there's not really anything different to do once the game is completed. 8/10
Overall: An outstanding title worthy of your attention, whether you're a fan of the genre or not. 9.5/10
Played on: AMD 965 Black Edition @4ghz, 8gb Corsair Vengeance, HD6870 1gb, Acer GD245HQ 24" 1920x1080 Monitor, Sherwood AX4103 Amplifier, Eltax Monitor Speakers.