BioShock Infinite review

  • Elizabeth feels like a real person
  • One of the most visually captivating games ever made
  • How the game lives up to or defies your expectations in equal measure
  • NPCs can feel hollow compared to Elizabeth
  • The fact that it ends
  • How racist people were in 1912

Companionship. It’s one of the strongest emotions you can feel in any work of fiction. Your connection with an imaginary character seems real, born organically through a shared experience and the challenges you overcame at each other’s side. It’s the presence of companionship that elevates BioShock Infinite from being a great game to an astounding one, imbuing the exhilarating FPS gameplay with a sense of genuine humanity. Elizabeth is your only friend in the airborne city of Columbia, a twisted vision of a utopia floating in the heavens. And seeing the sights in an unfamiliar city is always more fun with a friend.

The year is 1912. You're Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent with the machismo of Harrison Ford, sent to extract a woman from the dizzying heights of Columbia’s aerial metropolis. As with the previous BioShock games, this fantasy environment is stunning to behold and layered with an incredible ambience. The simple act of walking its cobbled streets and browsing through gift shops turns into a mesmerizing experience, where propaganda posters, eavesdropped conversations, and children’s toys all give you a glimpse into this society’s warped sense of patriotism. Columbia feels like an inhabited world, and your curiosity into its inner workings will be rewarded--and built up--at every turn.

You’ll also find yourself in awe as you explore Columbia. The city is downright beautiful, with striking colors and brightness in some vistas and an ominous duskiness in others. Going from a cheerful, vibrant street fair into less congenial settings (like a church of raven-worshipping cultists who idolize Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth) is surprising in all the right ways, and no two environments feel alike. The pacing of the level design is excellent, never dawdling on any one set piece for too long but giving you just enough time to appreciate their magnificence.

Blended into these gorgeous locations are messages of repugnant bigotry, and the stark contrast between the idyllic cityscape and the prejudice that pervades it tells a story all by itself. Racist caricatures aren’t used for cheap shock value--they help sell the idea that most citizens in Columbia think that skin color dictates status. But Infinite’s narrative stretches far beyond a mere face-off between the forces serving the self-righteous Father Comstock and the freedom fighters of the zealous Vox Populi. The 15-to-18-hour campaign doesn’t limit itself to the ideas of right and wrong, or force you to make dichotomous moral choices; instead, it’s the kind of tale that subverts your expectations time and time again.

Central to this story is Elizabeth, your strong-willed, super-powered ally who dreams of escaping her life in captivity. Through a combination of affecting voicework, convincing facial animations, and brilliant AI, Elizabeth feels like a completely autonomous companion--a friend. Her body language delivers emotion without words; a glimmering smile at Booker when he makes promises, an averted gaze and crossed arms if he breaks them. Elizabeth’s behavior makes you forget she’s a video game character: She’ll explore environments all on her own, humming to herself or beckoning you over to point out something you might’ve missed. When patiently waiting for you to finish surveying a room, her gaze will shift to sights beyond the player, rather than fixating on your head like so many video game NPCs. Once you’ve grown accustomed to Elizabeth’s mannerisms, the vacant stares and limited reactions from lesser characters can make them feel lifeless by comparison--though no worse than any other great game.

Her incorporation into the FPS gameplay is downright ingenious. Too often, companions become a detriment in combat, in constant need of baby-sitting or instructions. But Elizabeth is the polar opposite, able to fend for herself and assist you with her supernatural abilities. You’ll be grateful when she opens inter-dimensional tears in the environment, altering the layout of a level to give you cover or create an enemy-attracting diversion. When you die, it’s Elizabeth who worriedly revives you. It makes the bond between you and Elizabeth feel that much stronger--when she’s happy, you’re happy. When she’s hurt, you’ll want to personally slaughter whoever it was that hurt her.

Elizabeth’s presence also brings the tone firmly into action territory and away from survival horror. Knowing that you won’t have to face your enemies alone will make you feel empowered--quite the switch from the original BioShock’s desolate, chilling atmosphere. Elizabeth is a reliably helpful partner, seeking out the items you need and tossing them to you just in the knick of time during an intense firefight. Her companionship acts as a lifeline instead of a liability, and effortlessly generates thrilling moments during battle.

Picture this: you’re nearing the bottom of a machine gun clip, heart pounding as swarms of Comstock’s goons charge at you. Then you hear Elizabeth shout your name, spin around to catch the ammo she’s thrown, quickly reload, and blast your assailants in the face with hot lead. These moments will overwhelm your adrenal glands, and feel like incidental heroics instead of manufactured, scripted events.

Speaking of adrenal glands, Infinite’s combat will be satisfyingly familiar for BioShock veterans. The gun-in-one-hand, magic-powers-in-the-other formula delivers exciting shootouts one after another, and lets you play to your strengths and approach enemies however you see fit. In place of Plasmids are some imaginative Vigors, which open up even more avenues for combo-based traps, and the gunplay offers a satisfying range of close-quarters firepower and long-range artillery.

But sky-lines, the suspended tracks you can use to ride through levels like a rollercoaster, turn the first-person shooting into a first-person thrillride. It delivers a new FPS experience entirely, where you hold your breath at the apex of a sky-line before screaming down the rail so fast that no bullet can touch you. You won’t have access to sky-line mobility in the lion’s share of the fights--but when you do, it’s an absolute rush.

Incredibly, BioShock Infinite delivers on your years’ worth of expectations, then exceeds them. Regardless of your affinity for the FPS genre, Infinite deserves your attention, and it’s the kind of landmark experience that happens only a few times in a gaming generation. Even after the game is over, Elizabeth--and Columbia--will stay with you.

More Info

Release date: Mar 26 2013 - PS3, Xbox 360, PC (US)
Mar 26 2013 - PS3, Xbox 360, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Shooter
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Irrational Games
Franchise: BioShock
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco, Mild Sexual Themes
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

Massive, beautiful, revolutionary--BioShock Infinite is a remarkable adventure that'll keep you hooked from start to finish... and then from start to finish again.

This game was reviewed on PC.

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  • universaltofu - August 17, 2013 9:16 p.m.

    Love this game, skyhook is where it's at.
  • mbavalo - July 2, 2013 4:54 p.m.

    The visuals and gameplay are amazing and this is a fantastic game! The only thing that I don't like is that it's trying too hard to portray itself as anti-christian, I mean, common, if the guy behind it wanted to get his opinion across, he should have done so in a straight forward manner that does not get annoying with time as I play through the game
  • phoenixwright13 - June 29, 2013 4:14 p.m.

    Personally, I think Charles Milton Porter from Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den was better than Booker DeWitt.
  • labidas - April 13, 2013 8:29 a.m.

    I don't know if any of the "reviewers" read this, but i hope they do. These things you write aren't reviews. They are like short blog-posts where you write down a few thoughts about the game and the general impression. This is not a review!!! I wan't to know how you rate these games... because by the looks of it, you guys just slap scores depending on how you feel once the game ends. And add a few (rather ridiculous) +/- thoughts. PLEASE! Please create a scoring system where you rate each aspect of the game seperately. 1. Sound(fx, music, dialog) 2. graphics(fx, textures, models) 3. story 4. gameplay +(and others) Each of these points should be rated from 1 to 10 based on strict criteria not impressions. (then you take the median and volia - you have score which actually has some use if compared to other games.) Yeah... you can talk about the game what you think were the best parts and so on, but that's more like an overview and shouldn't be taken as a basis while scoring a game. ************************* Bioshock:Infinite It's not a 5/5 game. It has many flaws, none of which were mentioned in this review(?). A 3.5~4/5 at best. Giving a game basically a perfect score means there's nothing to improve. Bioshock... perfect? Really? Give me a break!
  • Bercilak - April 6, 2013 7:52 a.m.

    Everyone, please take a deep breath. Then read this review on Mr. Thomsen is correct.
  • system1988 - April 3, 2013 2:37 p.m.

    I just fiinished the game and I am absolutely stunned. Had to go and read some extra info to tie up things i didnt get while playing the ending scenes. The word "game" is not enough to describe this... absolutely fantastic! Gameplay 10/10 Story 11/10 (yes I typed that right)
  • thing1amc - April 1, 2013 6:17 p.m.

    I actually wasnt as BLOWN AWAY by infinite as much as everybody else. I probably would have been if it wasnt the sequel to two of the best FPS's of this console generation (yes, I like bioshock 1 and 2 more). Also, I'm bummed that Levine made changes to things that simply should have been improved, and I dont like that he seemed to have kind of ignored the great things Bioshock 2 brought to the table. The story works the same way as the first game did, where theres an awesome twist at the end, but the journey getting there is a bit vague and impersonal, and weirdly paced. The curtain is left on until the very end, so I didnt have a clear enough idea of what was going on for most of the story. The vigors were really disappointing in my opinion, and I found I only really used hypnotize. the guns also dont have as much punch. the combat choices are very minute compares to the previous two entries (though the sky rials are awesome). Its kinda sad that the gameplay was a let down in my opinion, because, the characters, ending, and social commentary are flat out innovative.
  • Silvercloak - April 1, 2013 2:40 p.m.

    I'm sorry but this game does NOT deserve the extremely high reviews and acclaim it's got. Yes it's a fun game, but the fact that it has Checkpoint saves takes it down a notch or two in my book. If I knew that beforehand I would've canceled my pre-order and waited for it to be in the bargain bin. I DESPISE Checkpoint saves. We're not in the cartridge gaming era anymore - we should be able to save when and where we please.
  • brickman409 - April 6, 2013 11:07 p.m.

    lol that is a terrible reason to hate a game. I mean yeah check points aren't the best, but they don't really ruin anything.
  • MayorOfAmerica - April 11, 2013 8:06 a.m.

    but brickman, a checkpoint system CLEARLY makes the game much less of an artistic and fun experience and it should reflect that in the score! It like TOTALLY changes the game (sarcasm)
  • MayorOfAmerica - April 11, 2013 8:10 a.m.

    but brickman, a checkpoint system CLEARLY makes the game much less of an artistic and fun experience and it should reflect that in the score! It like TOTALLY changes the game (sarcasm)
  • cmc57901990 - April 7, 2013 8:52 a.m.

    I saw this comment and was so blown away that I literally made a gamesradar account to tell you how stupid you are for basing all your opinions on checkpoint saves.... literally like, every game in the last 10 years uses checkpoints... honestly I can't think of very many games of this generation that use quicksaves and manual saves! But you have a good time trying to have fun with the what.... 4 games out now that don't have checkpoints?
  • haydndavid91 - March 30, 2013 8:04 a.m.

    aaah what an incredible game, and the only game that I've completed and immediately started back up again on the 1999 mode. Superb ending that takes a lot of thought to fully comprehend how brilliantly done it is, and after you've finished the game a lot of the other stuff that happens throughout the game makes perfect sense in a second play through, particularly when you go to get the shock vigor
  • FOZ - March 28, 2013 3:25 p.m.

    How do you manage to make the game last 15-18 hours? I rushed a bit and I need to play it again on my desktop, but I still finished in 8 hours.
  • FreeSnack - April 1, 2013 11:58 a.m.

    Exploration is key to that, and it is completely worth it if you are one that likes to invest for the story, which is probably the strongest aspect of this game
  • FOZ - April 2, 2013 10:17 a.m.

    That would require you to search for every voxophone and play the game at the pace of somebody doing a game show demonstration. The time to beat the game should represent the average player, and everyone I've heard seems to be finishing their first playthrough in 8-10 hours.
  • Asmodean - March 28, 2013 11:51 a.m.

    I'm almost speechless and in awe after finishing this... I not sure what to call it anymore... Work. Calling Infinite just a game is an gross understatement of what it is and I am humbled to have experienced something truly wonderful.
  • CitizenWolfie - March 28, 2013 2:56 a.m.

    I'm only about halfway through it as I'm taking my time to explore every inch of Columbia but I love it so far. So many little touches and details make it for me. Murder of Crows is one of my favourite power-ups ever, the skyline arenas add a lot of depth to shootouts and as for Elizabeth, she's brilliant. As far as AI partners go, she's definitely up near the top (although Elena from Uncharted made me realise that AI partners aren't all terrible first).
  • codystovall - March 27, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    I liked how the ending was done but I really didnt like the final "reveal" of our character and subsequent handling. Also a lot of stuff plays out differently from the trailers shown before, Elizabeth never donned a lincoln head like in th 15 min one, thats not a complaint but If youve been following coverage it felt weird to hear dialogue in a different scene.

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