Monday, April 8, 2013

Everybody wants to rule the world

After countless debates in the industry concerning whether or not video games can be considered art, Bioshock: Infinite has come along to silence them. An accomplishment in story telling and the crafting of a world so imaginative in terms of originality and intrigue, it should rest proudly amongst any collection of games (along with the original Bioshock) as the ending to a series of pointless arguments. Not many games can be considered as such, but this one can hold its head up high and know it’s definitively so.
A rather grand departure from Rapture, Columbia is beautiful, sunny and filled with racist albeit, happy people. Rapture was a special place too but it was a deserted wasteland at the bottom of the sea, littered with as many ideals as bodies. A complete shift in atmosphere, Infinite trades dark, lonely and claustrophobic for an effulgent and spacious place with a creepy sense of community. The micro-interactions you encounter with the hundreds of lively people walking around and chatting about Columbia are mind blowing when recalling the hours spent alone in the corridors of Andrew Ryan’s sunken utopia.
There’s a moment for everyone with a pulse. Maybe it’s when the wind pushes a lonely beach umbrella across the sand or even one as obvious as when the doors open, exposing a sprawling and floating city landscape. Regardless of how or when, it will come and when it does, it will devastate you. After all, Columbia is lighter than air.
A man with a debt is barely a man at all. Desperate for the opportunity to escape his burden, Booker Dewitt takes a less than favorable job, his deal: “Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt”. Before he knows it, he’s on a boat in the middle of the ocean. A lighthouse stands cloaked in solace, a storm rages above. The darken clouds scream and weep at his arrival. Atop a chair awaits, whisking him above the angry effervescence to the gleam of perfect blue skies and sunshine.
A somber yet delightful patter of keys roll over, a tune of emptiness plays as he floats down upon the city of Columbia, a place that itself is made of more empty spaces than concrete or brick. A burgh gliding all around the world, a shining example of American exceptionalism, powered by the word and will of demagogue Zachary Hale Comstock.  His title of “Prophet” is a dangerous one, every time his visions come true his following grows in size and belief. Subsequently, they perceive Comstock’s prejudice as yet another prophecy.
As Jeremiah Fink tells us in relation to all this “prophecy business”, belief is a commodity. It’s apparent just how popular a product it is to the people of Columbia when it’s plastered on every wall, hanging from every ledge and shouted from the voice of every citizen standing at street’s corner. Comstock knows he won’t be around forever the same way he knows belief isn’t cheap, so he’s planting seeds that will influence them to follow another. “The seed of the Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame, the mountains of man.”
Elizabeth like any Disney princess is beautiful, clever and highly capable. Years spent locked away from a city that desperately needed her haven’t been wasted. She prides herself on knowing a great bit from all she’s read. Among those piles of books and the heaps of knowledge she ascertained, she’s read enough about lock picking to pick any door in Columbia. Coupled with her ability to create tears into reality, which allow Booker to select a tactical option on the battlefield, whether it be an automated turret or a weapon or a med kit, she is an incendiary addition to your already stunning arsenal.
As for your arsenal, it’s very punchy. Every vigor is colorful and brimming with power.  Every weapon is finely tuned and accurate, all while delivering that explosive punch.  The weapons aren’t overly original, mostly following the familiar tropes of shotgun, rifle, machine gun and RPG, but it was clear the intention was that originality be left to the vigors. The guns are the constants and the vigors are the variables. Coupling variables can be awfully fun, whether it be the lifting powers of bucking bronco and devil’s kiss exploding them mid-air or activating return to sender’s shield and going to town against some founders with undertow, blasting them off many ledges or knocking them down with the sole intent of purchasing more time to re-activate your shield, the combat is pure and fun though hardly the selling point of Bioshock: Infinite.

Anyone who came expecting a revolution to First Person shooters will be greatly disappointed and while grinding against sky-rails, firing upon deserving enemies can be seen as revolutionary, the true revolution of Bioshock: Infinite is it’s story. Nothing here feels like game filler, if you lose a character or the figurative ground you were standing on crumbles, it feels earned. The only derailment that occurs is whenever Booker detaches from a sky-rail, hanging over his destination.
Stunning visuals, an excellent cast of characters and an intensely arresting concept are the recipe for most great pieces of art and Infinite is no different. Not every video game is art, the same way not every movie or book is; the only difference is that in this medium, the occurrence of art is a lot less common. Which makes Infinite a welcome sight. Floating just out of the reach of perfection, Bioshock: Infinite tells a grand and masterful tale with greater consistency than the original. Columbia may seem far away to most but to any true gamer, a charter will always remain a permanent fixture inside their heart.