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It’s here: “Bioshock Infinite”

The giant is here. Ever since Irrational Games released “Bioshock” in 2007, gamers everywhere have been waiting to see what the company was going to make next. That game has arrived, and it has some big shoes to fill.

“Bioshock Infinite” takes the player back to 1912, putting them in the role of Booker Dewitt, a man deep in gambling debt. With the promise of having his debt wiped away, Booker is sent to the flying city of Columbia to find a girl named Elizabeth and bring her back to New York.

It plays a lot like a first-person shooter. You run and gun your way through the game, fighting off numerous different enemies using a variety of weapons and supernatural powers called Vigors (“Infinite’s” equivalent of the original’s Plasmids). With these Vigors, you can possess enemies, summon flocks of murderous crows, or do a variety of other crazy things.
Combined with the different weapons, the Vigors let you play the game in exactly the way you want. If you want to fight from a distance, you can distract enemies, stun them, or turn them against each other while you pick them off with a sniper rifle. If close combat is more your thing, you can use super speed to get in close and blast enemies away with a shotgun. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with new combinations and immensely satisfying when you find a new, powerful combo. Guns and Vigors can even be upgraded to further customize your play-style.

There are some balance issues, though some combinations are downright broken. Quite early in the game, I found a Vigor called Bucking Bronco, which let me suspend enemies in the air. Soon after, I got an upgrade for it that caused the effect to refresh and jump to new targets every time I killed a suspended enemy. After that, fights became an exercise in knocking enemies into the air and killing them one by one as the resets left them suspended endlessly. There were still some challenges now and then, but most fights were a joke. I found several of these broken combinations during my play-through and have heard about many others.

The balance problems are not helped by the game’s ease. Playing on medium, I probably died less than ten times in the entire game. If you want a challenge, hard difficulty is much more satisfying.

Gameplay issues aside, the thing that any fan of the original “Bioshock” is going to care about is the story, and “Infinite” delivers. The game is about American exceptionalism gone wrong. A self-proclaimed prophet called Comstock built the floating city of Columbia. A haven for the “true American,” the city seems like a utopia, but racism, classism, and xenophobia boil just under the surface. Unlike many other games, these are not issues that “Infinite” shies away from. Instead, the game tackles them head on. It is not afraid to force the player to do things and make decisions that will make them uncomfortable. If anything, the story in “Infinite” thrives on that discomfort. The game wants to leave an emotional impact.

Another thing that is going to leave an impact is Elizabeth, the girl with reality tearing superpowers that the game sends you to find. After rescuing her from her prison, Elizabeth becomes your constant companion and the focal point. She is totally unlike any AI companion in any videogame. She does the standard stuff like helping you out in combat, but it’s the stuff that happens outside of fighting that really makes the difference. When you watch her explore the world around her, smelling a flower, admiring a painting, or mourning over a dead body, Elizabeth seems like a real person. She doesn’t behave like the robotic AI’s tied to your hip in so many other games; her emotions are real. You keep playing “Infinite” because you want to help her solve her problems, because you want to see her happy.

The best thing I can say about “Infinite” is that it sticks with you. The story twists and turns, and by the end, everything you thought you knew about the game has been turned on its head. A day hasn’t gone by since I beat the game that I haven’t thought about it, and I’ll still be thinking about it for a long time to come.

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