We all know that a man chooses and a slave obeys; but what do his choices say about him? How do they affect those around him? Do they even matter, or is it all set in stone? These are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself as you play through Bioshock Infinite, the sequel (at least in spirit) to Bioshock. This first-person shooter has pretty much everything – a long and captivating single-player campaign, amazing settings, tons of action, relatable characters and great visuals. It also dares to tackle some very serious issues like racism, nationalism and social inequality without ever feeling heavy-handed. This is a journey to a world you won’t soon forget, and will wish to revisit again and again once the initial shock subsides.

It starts with a lighthouse and a man called Booker DeWitt. Booker is an ex-Pinkerton agent turned private detective who was sent by an unknown client to find and retrieve a mysterious girl. Well, there aren’t a lot of places a girl can hide in a rundown lighthouse, so that should be a fairly easy task to accomplish, right? Wrong. The lighthouse is just a gateway to the marvelous flying city of Columbia – a miracle of science and, as some would believe, of faith. When Booker first lands in Columbia, everything seems so peaceful and serene, almost like heaven on (or above) earth. But as in many good stories, things are not what they appear to be. Booker quickly finds himself fighting for his life against two opposing factions, uncovering dark secrets about the city and his own history, and confronting the self-proclaimed prophet and leader of Columbia – Father Comstock.

Bioshock Infinite review

The story starts out with a pretty simple goal – find the girl, but that turns out to be only the beginning of a much larger and more complicated narrative. It’s hard not to spoil the game when discussing it, so let’s just say Bioshock Infinite has one of the best plotlines in video games in recent years and offers a long and immersive campaign that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it. Everything Booker does and everyone he meets along the way comes together to create a living, breathing world that stands on its own but also feels like a part of a much greater whole.

And what a world it is. From the first line of dialog spoken on a small fishing dingy in the middle of the ocean to a jam session down in a dingy basement, it is clear Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful and mesmerizing game. The floating city is a diverse environment of architectural beauty and human ugliness, both presented to the player in such the right way for the city to feel like a real (and not so pleasant) place. The people who live there also feel like actual people with actual problems and world views. Each conversation you happen to hear is full of great dialog delivered by great voice actors.

“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt” is a sentence you’ll hear quite a lot throughout the game. This girl turns out to be Elizabeth – a young, educated woman who’s been isolated in a huge ivory tower (it’s more of a statue, but “tower” sounds more appropriate). At first, Elizabeth seems like a helpless bookish girl who just wants to see the world, and may even burst into song like your average Disney princess. However, the more time Booker spends with her, and the more you learn about her and her mysterious powers – the more important she becomes, both to the player and to the narrative. Although Booker is the protagonist, Elizabeth is the heart of the game, and the driving force behind most of its key moments. She is lovable, relatable and most of all – human; her relationships with Booker, Comstock and Songbird – her giant robotic birdlike guardian – keep the player completely immersed in the game, up until the very end (and what an end it is).

Bioshock Infinite review

If Elizabeth is Bioshock Infinite’s heart, then the city of Columbia is the body; a body that evolves as the story progresses. The American dream façade of the first few areas slowly changes into an ugly den of racism, bigotry and hate, as the Booker delves deeper into the bowels of the city. Every nook and cranny is filled with evidence of life and of the rich history of the city. Even when venturing away from the main path, Booker encounters all sorts of wonderful (and often horrible) sights. Soon you won’t be searching around the level for just ammo or health items, but trying and find every piece of information there is about this amazing place and the people who live there. Audio logs called Voxophones give insight into what lies beyond the wall of propaganda, and also serve to explain some of the more bizarre aspects of the game’s story.

Of course, Bioshock Infinite isn’t all about exploring and sightseeing; there’s also the action-packed, frantic combat. I say frantic because every combat situation requires Booker to constantly move and adapt new tactics. Thanks to an impressive arsenal of both weapons and vigors (Infinite’s version of the plasmids from the original Bioshock), and the challenging cast of enemies, the combat always feels fresh and exciting. Trying out new vigors on new enemies is always fun, and finding the right combination that works best for you is a real joy. Do you stick to your guns (literally) and just blast away with the powerful shotgun or sniper rifle, or do you mix it up by unleashing a murder of vicious crows on your enemies and then blowing them apart with a well-aimed fireball? The choice is entirely yours, and the constant variation in combat situations ensures you’ll rarely make the same one.

Bioshock Infinite review

Adding to all this excitement are the skyline railways interwoven into the Columbian, well, skyline. These allow Booker to quickly zoom around the entire battleground, reach high vantage points or surprise his enemies with a powerful strike from above. Of course, some enemies can use them as well – to flank, give chase or retreat to a safer location. There’s this one huge mechanical foe that can even electrify the skylines, turning them to a temporary hazard. They also add a layer of tactical thinking, letting Booker approach each combat scenario from a different angle (sometimes literally). Retreating to the relative safety of the sky and gaining a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield can give you a chance to catch your breath and to better utilize Elizabeth’s special abilities.

You see, Elizabeth can sense tears in space and time, and even use them to summon various objects that can help Booker. It can be something for him to take cover behind, a box of med kits, a friendly turret and other useful items. The best thing about this power is that it never feels weird or out of place – they fit into the story and setting so naturally you won’t even blink when a mechanical George Washington appears from thin air to fight by your side. When not defying the basic laws of physics, Elizabeth always has some extra ammo, money and health whenever Booker needs them. So there’s no need to worry; Bioshock Infinite isn’t just a long escort mission.

Bioshock Infinite review

Bioshock Infinite is an amazing single-player experience that nobody can afford to miss out on. The thought-provoking and emotional story is matched by an incredible setting that’s fun to explore and learn more about. The combat is fast-paced and diverse, and offers exciting ways to take on your enemies; to boot, it all just looks and sounds wonderful. Whether you’re a fan of the original Bioshock or someone completely new to the franchise, Bioshock Infinite will make you wish your time in Columbia never ends so you could travel the skies with Elizabeth forever.

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