1021st played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2013
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games

It’s weird. I always assumed that I’d try to make the final game a bit of an event. Organize a playthrough with some people, do at least some of it in their presence. Instead, however, quarantine has given me the chance to speed through the list, with at least some of my restored commuting time going towards it, while also not having to plan for weekends with friends or having to worry about other engagements. It was partially the reason I could manage to switch to posting more often.

But here we are. This post is going up 11 years, to the day (though perhaps not time) after we covered our first game, Pong. Our goal was to play the final game in the book as the final game for this blog, after trying to make sure that (and succeeding at) playing every other game in a spot that didn’t match their book position. If you start at game 2, you might as well stay away from that order forever. In the first edition, that would have been Alien Zombie Death, but for all its perceived flaws, Bioshock Infinite feels like a more appropriate end.

There will be a bigger post going up soon after this one, but for now I’m looking forward to diving back into the world of Bioshock. Both the first and second game were an amazing experience that I can go back to now the blog is done, but the third’s introduction is already showing me something new with a lot of living humans. I don’t know how that will link to the lived in but deserted corridors of the previous games, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

First-Person Shooter

I think the first-person shooter is the first where I became aware of a new genre coming into existence, as well as the first time where we got a clear technological leap forward in what games could do. Wolfenstein fakes its 3D, but led to Doom doing it all well in a more drab environment. Duke Nukem 3D created a 3D feeling engine, where through tricks paths could cross and connect, and a level really became a world rather than a collection of rooms and corridors. Then Quake made everything 3D and we got a world where that became the standard. Until that point, it felt rare, while after that this became the standard, whether it was first or third person. The free movement in 3D was amazing.

Personally, I loved the aesthetic and feel of Unreal, although that’s not something you get in the Unreal Tournament series, but as someone who’s now old enough that feeling of wonder with 3D that still hasn’t gone anyway. It’s surprising easy to follow the development of the genre after that – whether it’s the immersive sim route System Shock 2 is set on or the story telling in the Half-Life series, it feels lovely to be able to track the development even in my own memory. I’m not amazing at this game and the multiplayer aspect of these games will never grab me, but I enjoyed some of the better games in the genre… including today’s series of games.

Our Thoughts

Let’s start with the obvious: Bioshock Infinite is a gorgeous game. While that goes for the graphics – as the most recent game on the list and obviously a triple-A title, that is to be expected – it also goes for the set up. The first chunk of the game takes place on Columbia, a massive flying city that has its buildings join and separate as they move around. It’s a great visual effect, it paints a decadent and interesting world and works to change the world on a gameplay level. There are times where the theme park attraction behind it becomes obvious – both when you are flying hanging from rails, but also when the buildings are bopping up and down, following a predefined dark ride route when they’re meant to be flying around. Most of these only really stand out when you’re looking for them (and I got curious how it would have worked) and overall the illusion is great, of this big open world where any jump would have you fall a long time until you splat on the ground.

The world is also a lot more alive. Where previous Bioshock games take place in a mostly deserted world, with plenty of enemies but very few NPCs not aggressive to you and none just living their lives, in Bioshock Infinite you start off in a peaceful city that you just walk around. You have no weapons or any other aggressive abilities and the game changes that when the story kicks off and starts addressing its concerns. When enemies come in, you still go between that and quieter times where there aren’t as many enemies around and you’re trying to hide in the crowd as you learn more about what’s going on and follow the plot. It’s a nice feeling, making for a great contrast to set the game apart from its predecessors. Even though that changes, it sets its tone incredibly well and makes the enemy-heavy, deserted streets you encounter even more powerful.

This is helped by Elizabeth, the companion who joins you with her own powers, but also is able to provide you with a lot of context and banter. It, too, helps fill the world in a really nice way, and while there is plenty of contextual storytelling (Elizabeth knows this world about as well as you do). That doesn’t continually last, but it helps a lot to build more into the world.

The shooting is good, as you’d expect, and the various vigour powers work especially well. By this point I obviously had a bunch of DLC goodies to start off with, which gave me an early power boost that’s always welcome, but the game doesn’t necessarily expect you to be so powerful (it just helps). It all feels good to play, with decent navigational help that’s optional and I felt I didn’t need to rely on most of the time, and plenty of corners to search and find things in.

The story is tough to deal with. Columbia was launched in 1893 and most of the people you see in those early sections are set as being from the southern US and venerate a lot of heroes from the Confederacy. They favour John Wilkes Boothe over Lincoln and have some clearly racist cults that match the ones we have in the world, and their religion is all set around the US founding fathers. The story so far is about religious fervour, nationalism and racism, and the shooting part of the storyline started for me because I didn’t want to stone an interracial couple, which is forbidden. There are a lot of uncomfortable sites in here, where you as a hero are as ambiguous as anyone, but mostly you do get to feel good about taking out the bad guys and occasionally being helped by what seem to be people trying to do better. The conflict becomes quite obvious here, but for me it worked.

Final Thoughts

I know that Bioshock Infinite isn’t rated as highly by everyone compared to the others in the series, especially in retrospect, but it really worked for me. The game looked lovely and had a creativity in how it was put together that older games wouldn’t have been able to pull off with the resources they had. The world building is amazing, to a level you rarely see, and it was fun just getting through these areas, exploring them and interacting with everything that’s there. In finishing this game and seeing what’s out there, I’m genuinely excited about playing new games, seeing what else has been developed and what other games will be out there. What a great way to finish this list!