Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

April 30, 2013

Let's discuss BioShock Infinite (Part 1).

Before we begin, there are three things I have to say.

1) This is a great game, and I have no problems recommending it.  If you haven’t played, watched, or tried it, do so now.

2) This is not the greatest game ever created -- and if you think that it’s a masterpiece, you might need to start re-evaluating your standards.

3) I accurately predicted the ending for the game -- and said ending very nearly ruined the entire experience for me.

WARNING: I know I say this pretty much every time, but in the name of all that is good and pure (i.e. the average hot dog), DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED THE GAME.  If you have any intention of playing through Infinite for yourself, turn away now.  I mean it.  Seriously.  Go away.  This is not a post for you.

It’s the only way to protect you from SPOILERS like Booker becoming a robot and Elizabeth learning how to moonwalk.

So.  Just how good is this game?

There is absolutely no denying that Infinite does plenty of things well.  Plenty of things.  If reviewers give this game a ten out of ten, or a similarly-high score, I’m more inclined to believe that the game’s more deserving of it than others (and if you’ve been here long, you know which games I’m thinking of).  But I wonder just how much of Infinite’s praise comes from actual merit, and how much of it comes because comparisons to the “competition”.  The game stands tall, but it might look taller thanks to the dwarfs scuttling around its knees. 

Prior to release, I’d been trying to distance myself from reviews and opinions on the game.  I saw the Destructoid review because I read pretty much everything Jim Sterling puts out, but that’s about it.  In the days since, I’ve been mindful of the articles that went up…but I’ve also been wary of them.  I don’t want anyone clouding and shifting my judgment based on their opinions, and I know it’d be very easy.  Since clearing Infinite, Yahtzee, Moviebob, and even The Spoony One have all put up videos giving their thoughts on the particulars (and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting Spoony to tackle the game -- a pleasant surprise, but it arguably makes my post moot).  All of them have brought up some good points in their signature styles, and it’s hard not to be a little swayed by them.  Same goes for others across the net -- Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Brainy Gamer, and Gameological Society all have articles offering different takes.  And again, all of them have brought up legitimate points -- pros and cons all around.  Though I hope you stick around here instead of jumping to a bigger and better ship.

So screw it, let’s go right down the line.  Is Infinite a good game?  Yes.  Is it Game of the Year?  Probably a strong contender, if not a sure winner in some circles.  Is it perfect?  Hell no.  Is it the be-all and end-all of artistic expression?  Not a chance. 

It’s a good game, but if you’re paying attention -- as you should, not just because the series is one that invites thought -- you’ll be able to see the cracks.  And it’s because of those cracks that, while I recognize its goodness, it doesn’t quite hit the mark in terms of my personal preferences.  That is to say, it’s just not quite able to make it into my top ten.  I was willing to consider it at one point, but again, if you pay attention you -- or I, to be more precise -- just can’t quite give it the top honors.

And then there’s the ending.

I have issues with the ending.  Some pretty big issues.  I wouldn’t say it’s bad, or that it’s the worst thing ever, but…well, I have issues.  Things that may be a matter of preference, but I think I have some worthy complaints here and there.  The problem is that for me, that ending was enough to push Infinite even further away from the top ten slot -- and in order to explain why, you have to understand something.

I said that I was able to predict the ending of Infinite, or at least the plot twists therein.  That much is true.  But here’s the thing.  Are you ready?  Brace yourself.

I predicted the ending…but I did so as a joke.

I was just being silly.  You know, just a little banter in my head -- something to put a smile on my face as the game proceeded.  I said these things to myself, and there ARE threads that led me to even make the jokes, but I knew that I was in for something different.  Something better than a joke.  “Nah, that’d never happen,” I told myself, and went on my merry way possessing turrets and raiding trash cans.  “I don’t know what the twist is, but it has to be a lot better than that.  That’d just be stupid.”

Flash forward a few days, and I’m practically wailing at my brother.  “I said it as a joke!  I didn’t actually think it’d come true!”

Funny thing about making a joke that hits a little too close to home.  Once you do something like that, suddenly your perceptions are a little bit skewed.  The idea that you dismissed as stupid is, by nature, stupid -- and seeing it play out before your eyes isn’t enough to change that.  It just makes you think “THAT’S what they went with?!”  And while that was a knee-jerk reaction mere minutes after watching the end credits roll, I’m still more than a little iffy on the ending.

But I’ll get to that.  For now, let’s take things step by step.  Red letters mean complaints; green stands for praise.  Black stands for…er, regular text.

1) So is this all that Ken Levine and company can write?
So stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  A man with a dubious past and plot-relevant marks on (or near) his hands travels to a lighthouse, wherein he discovers a transport that will take him to a largely-hidden yet impossibly-glamorous city in a part of the world people don’t usually put utopias.  Once there, he discovers that said utopia isn’t exactly as it seems, in that it’s been corrupted beyond repair by both the teachings of its fanatic leader and the abuses of power by its people and a few choice psychopaths.  As the utopia’s veneer starts to peel away, the man must harness weapons both mechanical and biological to beat down the madmen that appear before him, learning about the city’s history via inexplicably-scattered audio files and coming to grips with a past and nature that transforms everything he knows.  Also there’s kind of a dumb final fight that doesn’t do the rest of the game justice.

The similarities to the original BioShock are more than coincidental.  There’s some connective tissue that’s revealed at the very end, doing their best to justify the parallels.  But even with that justification in mind, I can’t help but wonder why we had to have a “second verse, same as the first” retread.  Columbia isn’t a one-to-one duplicate of Rapture, obviously, but let’s be real here; the effect is more than a little diminished when you can compare one game to the other so thoroughly.   With that said…

2) Ken Levine and company can do some real writing.
It really is remarkable what you can do if you…oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?  Oh, right.  TRY.

It may be a repeated verse, but who said that BioShock had a bad verse to begin with?  It’s a formula that works, and works well.  Now, we would have problems if this was the eighth game in the franchise instead of the third (or if this was the third city instead of the second), but right now it’s fresh enough to allow comparisons without too much backlash.

I would call the writing in general successful for a number of reasons, many of which I’ll try to highlight over the course of this discussion series.  But the lynchpin of all of that revolves around Columbia.  No matter how much “immersion” a story promises, there’s always going to be a divide between the fantasy and the reality.  A successful story -- for games, especially -- is one that creates an illusion of expansiveness.  One that manages to suck you in, in spite of being masses of polygons separated by a TV screen and well over an arm’s length of space between the game and the player.  One that goes beyond just being a chance to showcase some pretty graphics on a guided tour.

And Infinite is, without a doubt, a guided tour.  But that said…

3) This is a guided tour that I don’t mind going on.
I had a conversation with my brother at one point while playing through the game.  He’s more than aware of my “distaste” for triple-A games, and at one point he noted that I’ve barely touched any of them this generation (I have yet to beat even a single Assassin’s Creed game, and I have no drive to do so as of yet -- especially in light of AC3).  I argued my case; the problem with triple-A games isn’t that they’re opulent.   It’s that they don’t know what to do with that wealth.

Infinite does.  Whereas other games will blow millions to create a world that’s little more than a smelly coat of paint, Infinite actually makes its world a world.  It matters.  It has weight.  Presence.  Context.  You aren’t just getting shuttled from one firefight to the next; nowhere is this more obvious than the pathfinder feature.  Press up on the D-pad, and you’ll bring up an arrow that points you toward the next important location.  The thing is, while that’s an important feature, it only highlights the choices you have.  The arrow may be laid out before you, but it’s extremely easy to ignore it and head in a completely different direction.  You might find some vendors that’ll offer you a hot dog.  Maybe a factory that has workers pounding away on vending machines, with all of them moving in absolutely perfect sync.  Maybe indulge in and awaken your latent OCD tendencies as you search every nook and cranny for power-ups, money, audio logs, and beer.

There is no denying that gamers are being conditioned to explore and marvel in what’s on display here.  Immense strides were made in having countless facets of the game scream “Hey!  HEY!  LOOK AT ME!” no matter where you turn.  It’s more than a little transparent, but again, I would rather look at anything Columbia has to offer -- trash cans and all -- than the bland excesses of a dozen other titles.  (Side note: I find it positively baffling that this game was made with the Unreal Engine, but manages to have color -- and lots of it -- in spite of a hundred titles giving evidence to the contrary.)  You’re given a world to explore, and you can do so at your own pace.  You can learn as much or as little as you like, which is exacerbated by the fact that there’s so much visual information given off.  Learning more about Columbia is possible even with a casual glance.   It’s top-notch work, showboating aside.

4) The harder you think about Columbia, the more the cracks start to show.
I need to start putting this phrase into rotation: conjecture does not equal confirmation.

For as much information as the game gives you -- implicit and explicit -- there are a lot of things that aren’t well-explained, and I’m hard-pressed to think of an excuse why.  One of the biggest points is that there are vending machines everywhere that let Booker buy weapons and upgrades without a second thought (or an ID, for that matter, but at least it’s convenient).   My immediate question throughout the entire game is, “What are these things doing here, besides just making things easier on the player?”

I was willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was for the gain of the Columbians, not just the player.  If the people have had their patriotism hiked up several thousand notches, then one would think that they have “the right to bear arms” drilled into their heads.  More importantly, thanks to the teachings of the leader and so-called prophet Comstock, I would have figured that a world where world domination and manifest destiny were certain god-given rights.  That is, these people may act calm and caring on the outside, but put an outsider in their midst and they’ll all gladly take up arms.

That’s what I thought, at least.  But outside of a few dimwits charging at me head-on, everyone else seemed way too eager to run and hide.  If these people are supposed to be the soldiers Comstock wanted to purify the world, then why do they all act like cowards when it’s time to throw down?  Why don’t they have the instincts to fight back when Booker’s on the move?  What is the point of having these weapons and superpower-granting Vigors lying around if nobody wants to use them besides the authorities -- and even then, they never think about using them to restock?

Come to think of it, there’s a pretty big subplot in the game that revolves around supplying the resistance group (and largely wronged radicals of color) the Vox Populi with weapons -- but why exactly is it so hard for them to get weapons when there are vending machines everywhere?  Granted those dispense more ammo than actual weapons, but there’s still guns and Vigors everywhere.  You’re telling me that they can’t get their gear that simply?  Come to think of it, if Columbia is supposed to be this pure and perfect world -- an analogue to heaven, given its skyward positioning -- why are there black people there in the first place?  Wouldn’t you want to lock them out?  Or are they just around to let the white people feel better about themselves?   Come to think of it, if Comstock’s goal is to blow up anything that doesn’t suit him (i.e. the surface world)…why is his goal to blow up the surface world, exactly?  Just because it doesn’t suit him?  He already has a perfect world via Columbia, so what else does he need?  Yeah, there’s manifest destiny, but what the hell else does he stand to gain?  Come to think of it, how are people even finding out about Columbia?  Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d want to keep a secret?  Come to think of it --

Screw it.  I doubt I found all the audio logs, so I can’t speak for every facet of the story and world-building (and even then it’s probably not for the best…for a number of reasons).  So let’s move onto something else.

5) Sky-Lines?  What?
I have no clue what these are doing in the game besides giving players something cool to ride.

If you haven’t heard, Sky-Lines are supposed to be one of the biggest draws of Infinite.  Columbia is a floating city, and as such needs a transportation system.  Parts of the city will actually disconnect and reconnect with each other on a schedule, and it’s not uncommon to see flying machines that cart barbershop quartets from one building to the next (among other things, such as enemies).  But there are also the Sky-Lines -- parallel bars that people can ride from one area to the next at their leisure via wrist-mounted Pinwheels of Death...which also have magnets built in to let people spring dozens of feet towards one, latch on, and blast off at ninety miles an hour.

So here’s my question.  I can buy being able to gravitate towards one of these rails via magic magnets, but how is it that Booker’s arm can stay attached to his body after such a heavy shock?  More to the point, how is it that his arm doesn’t give out as he rides the rail?  Booker’s weight + gravity’s pull + decreasing strength + momentum =/= being able to ride around infinitely without repercussion -- not to mention the fact that plenty of other people -- Elizabeth included -- are expected to do the same.  What about the elderly?  What about children?  What about the armless?  And don’t even get me started on how Booker can ride one of these rails and fire off a heavy weapon like a chain gun or an RPG; even just using a machine gun should do some damage to him, right?

So gameplay-wise, how does Sky-Line-riding hold up?  Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…it’s…rail-y, I guess?  It controls about as well -- maybe a little better -- than I expected, but they’re used a lot more sparingly than what I would have guessed.  Seriously, most of the action and travel is done on-foot; not to mention that when Booker and Elizabeth need to go somewhere important, they do so via airships and gondolas.  You know, the way everyone should be travelling.  In any case, you end up using the Sky-Lines for a couple of minutes at a time, and usually to get to a bit of higher ground.  Nothing too extensive, to be sure; in fact, the only time I spent a long amount of time on a Sky-Line was because I didn’t know which ledge to jump onto and ended up circling around a rail loop about thirty times.  Side note: why is there even a closed loop if this is ostensibly a transportation system?  Are people just supposed to leap from one rail to another?  What if someone’s a coward?  I know I’d be dropping brown bombs on the surface world if I even had to think about riding a Sky-Line, and the expectation is that people will willingly embrace this highly-unsafe, highly-unnecessary means of travel?

Maybe the civil engineers responsible were drunk.  Either that, or Comstock really friggin’ loved roller coasters.

6) I can’t help but enjoy the combat, no matter what others say.
I’ve heard the complaint that the combat in Infinite is too easy, and to a hefty extent I can agree.  The game can challenge you at points -- particularly when fighting some of the heavier enemies, like Mechanized Patriots or Handymen -- but while you’ll come near death every now and then, and even lose your life, it’s not exactly a frequent occurrence.  The experience is a very stable one; in fact, I’d wager that the only reason I died as much as I did is because I’m terrible at shooters.  That, and I kept trying to use my Vigors when it was…er, ill-advised.

The general strategy of most of your enemies is to rush at you.  I’d say more than half of them will rush at you for a chance to smack you with a melee weapon or tool on-hand, while the rest will step out of cover to take shots at Booker.  They’re rarely successful, since the deck is stacked in your favor; only a few specialized enemies will actually use Vigors, and they’re easily-dispatched once you get your hands on some new powers.  (My personal favorites are Undertow and Return to Sender; the former will let you reel in enemies from afar with a watery tentacle and leave them open to attack, while the latter puts up a shield that absorbs and eventually fires back bullets.) 

I’d say that there are two saving graces to the combat.  First off, this type of gunplay is more my speed -- while there are some concessions made for the modern gamer, like recharging shields, you aren’t just halfheartedly picking away at targets in the distance.  Enemies will try their best to put pressure on you, even if their strategy is awful.  Dispatch them with the myriad abilities on-hand, or risk being swarmed or sniped.  It’s reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank, in that the action is a lot more involving than you’d expect from a 2013 shooter. 

Part of that, I think, is thanks to the second grace: whereas other games will have you cowering behind sandbags or chest-high walls, the areas in Infinite are a bit more varied.  They’re aesthetically varied, but there’s a bit of terrain variation as well; move into the proper position, and you’ll have an advantage.  Take advantage of enemy attack patterns and positions, and you’ll also gain an advantage -- and you’re invited to, considering that you can lay traps with Vigors.

Is Infinite too easy?  Maybe so.  But even if it is, is that a bad thing?  The firefights are over and done if you can use your tools effectively -- and indeed, you’ll want them to be so you can get back to what’s really important.  Columbia lies in wait. 

7) Taste the Pinwheel of Death!  Or not.
If I remember right, the official name of the Pinwheel of Death is the Sky-Hook.  Its usefulness is, by design, supposed to be limited to grabbing onto and letting its users ride Sky-Lines…but that won’t stop Booker from using it a bit more creatively.  That is, to absolutely wreck the shit out of anyone dumb enough to get in range.

Finishing moves and cinematic kills are old hat nowadays, and as I understand it Infinite had to make some concessions in order to make it more appealing to every audience (and what does that say about the industry at large?).  But I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where I’ve ever been so hesitant to use a finishing move -- and this is coming from someone who delighted in Metal Gear Rising’s chop-happy frenzies.  God of War has nothing on this game; if you slice someone apart in this game, you slice them apart.  You drive your Pinwheel into their bodies, and let them tear into a poor, screaming victim.  I’m pretty sure you rip someone’s head off at one point.  I don’t know whether it’s because of the first-person perspective or the fact that you wouldn’t expect such gruesome kills from a stylized, quasi-Pixar aesthetic, but yikesy mikesy is it brutal. 

And you know what?  It’s actually purposeful violence.  It’s making a statement -- if not about games and finisher mechanics in general, then certainly one about what kind of person Booker really is.  Or maybe what kind of person you really are.  Best not to think about it too hard, though.  You might see some violent imagery.

8) Columbia is a scary place -- and this is a scary game.
In the opening hours of Infinite (eighty percent of which were spent pilfering garbage cans), I started to have a certain concern.  Ostensibly, the original game was supposed to be part of the horror subgenre -- if not put there by the developers, then at least by the fans.  Rapture was an unsettling locale, putting pressure on you at virtually every turn.  And looking back, part of that was because of the sheer isolation of it all -- one guy stuck under the sea in a ruined city with genetically-modified madmen, ranting psychopaths, and of course the Big Daddies.  This was before I’d met Elizabeth yet, and for a while I was thinking to myself that if/when she joined up with Booker, it’d start to diminish the effectiveness of the game.

That is no longer a concern. 

There’s a certain expectation going in with this game -- you know it’s only a matter of time before all the carnivals and singing and baptism and general goofiness via old-timey swimsuits is going to come to an end long before the closing hours.  And it does.  (And as a matter of fact, it’s your fault.)  But even before then, Columbia is almost as oppressive as Rapture, if not more.  The original game had you alone and out of your element, facing whatever rusted, decaying horrors came your way; the latest game also has you out of your element, but there’s a pressure to be had when you’re surrounded by people who’ve been brainwashed into thinking of you as the antichrist.  Everyone is your enemy.  Their ideals -- their terrible, malformed ideals -- don’t mesh with your own.  You run the risk of facing off with foes, superpowered, mechanical, or otherwise, everywhere you go.  It’s a supremely hazardous world.  And it’s hazardous well before you start having battles against ghosts and waves of reanimated corpses.    

But I think what’s important to note is that no matter how frightening the enemies you face might be, that’s not necessarily where the greatest horror comes in.  Yes, there’s a lot to be had based on audiovisual data -- a verifiable theme park that celebrates America’s darkest moments -- but again, the implicit trumps the explicit in this case.  Like the first game before it, Infinite is a cautionary tale; I interpret the game as a warning, a colorful view of what happens when people sacrifice their will for ineffectual gains and crumple to societal demands. 

Simply put, the moral of the story is to think for yourself; if you don’t, you’ll bring about horrors within and without.  The people of Columbia take on an isolationist society, and without the flow ideas -- the consideration of possibilities -- they end up becoming the stunted, easily-brainwashed folk that surround Booker.  There’s an argument to be made that the Vox Populi, led by the horrifically-determined Daisy Fitzroy, don’t think for themselves either -- all they see is the goal (FREEDOM!) and will do whatever it takes to succeed and dethrone Comstock.  And of course, just like before, even the player might end up learning this lesson the hard way before the game is done.

And in order to explain why, I’ll have to shift gears.  You knew it was coming, folks, and here it is.

9) Elizabeth.
Again, I can’t help but ask the question of whether or not Elizabeth is good because of her (and the developers’) merits, or because there’s very little in the way of competition.  When you think about it, is Elizabeth really all that amazing?  Is she worthy of the praise and universal acclaim she’s received?  Is she worthy of blooming crushes and fanart?

…Yeah.  Yeah, I think she is.

The immediate deciding factor is that Elizabeth is extremely expressive (most of the time), and the fact that she can be expressive both visually and vocally throws several thousand bonus points in her favor.  It goes without saying that she has a personality -- one that allows for highs and lows, strengths and flaws -- but the mere fact that she’s allowed such a range speaks wonders about Elizabeth as a character and as a creation.  Having her around doesn’t drag the game down, but enhances it; in case the player is too narrow-minded to have a look around Columbia, Elizabeth -- ever the dutiful tour guide -- will draw the particulars to your attention.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but seeing her dance on the boardwalk is one of my favorite moments in the game.

A key thrust of Elizabeth’s arc (and I’m so glad she actually has an arc to begin with) is the typical “sheltered girl with a mysterious power gets taken out of her cage to see the world” -- but of course, it goes a good bit further than that.  For starters, Elizabeth is the innocent lamb, but only to a certain extent; in one instance, she’s bursting into tears over the fact that Booker is taking her to New York instead of Paris like he promised -- but as it turns out, she’s faking her tears.  She actually manages to clock Booker, and tries to go to Paris on her own.  It doesn’t work out for her, but hey, she tried.  She’s no doe-eyed damsel, even if her design suggests as such.  In fact, she’s more than a little rational -- and let Elizabeth stand as an example that just because you show emotion doesn’t mean you show weakness.  When she calls Booker a monster, she’s not just doing it to go through the motions.  She means it.  The game means it.  And on some level, you’re more likely to believe her because she’s so trustworthy.  Because the game puts up a powerful illusion that, yes, Elizabeth is a real person.  

Part of being a real person, in this case, comes down to being able to make mistakes.  Elizabeth may be one of the more noble members of the cast, but she’s not exactly Snow White here.  She has a moral compass that drives her to pursue her dreams, but more importantly do what’s right and what will help others follow their dreams as well.  So when it comes time to save a small boy from a crazed and murderous Daisy Fitzroy, she takes matters into her own hands.

It’s one of the most powerful moments in the game, I’d argue.  Elizabeth’s been handling her role as a sidekick pretty well up to that point, managing to keep her hands clean (though the fact that she’s been helping Booker all this time may make her guilty of wholesale slaughter by association).  But for her to take that step and go for the kill…well, it’s something that not only affects the player, but changes Elizabeth -- and vice versa.  If you’re wondering when or why she goes from long hair to short, there you go.

Elizabeth acts on instinct at that point -- and several others, the Booker-bashing included -- but you could say that she’s justified in a lot of those instances.  She may act innocent (and a little sassy at times), but given experiences in her past and present it’s safe to say that there’s more going on in that head of hers.  One can’t help but wonder if all that violence Booker is exposing her to poisons her mind, especially when one considers that the most exposure she’s had to the outside world is from her books.  As she’s greeted by the world -- and the horrors -- created by her “father” Comstock, the frustration of what she’s supposed to be and for what purpose mounts inside her.  And stuff like that has a habit of manifesting in some less-than-pleasant ways. 

I know that I said that the moral of the story is to “think for yourself”, but I think it’d be best if I made a slight tweak.  I’d say that the moral of the story is “think WISELY for yourself” -- make the right choices in regards to the world around you and the consequences.  Don’t wish for things to be what they aren’t, but rather use your head and your reason to make your lot improve.  Elizabeth at least tries to by way of good intentions, but she ends up coming short…and because of it, everything falls to pieces. 

If you haven’t heard, one of Elizabeth’s greatest abilities -- the reason why she’s so vital to Comstock’s plans and frightening to Booker -- is that she has the ability to open tears, and alter the environment by pulling in items that wouldn’t exist otherwise.  As such, when Booker and Elizabeth need to get weapons to Daisy and the rest of the Vox in exchange for an airship, they find themselves the only ones capable of doing so; the weapons they need, and the man they need, are no longer in that world.  So Elizabeth has to open a tear, and they jump into an alternate version of Columbia to find what they need.  They succeed, of course, and shortly after Elizabeth is excited to find what sort of bold and glamorous new world the duo’s -- and the Vox’s -- actions have wrought.    

My immediate thought at that moment was, “Seriously, Elizabeth?  I mean…seriously?”  And in a way, I still think that it’s engraved in my mind.  Elizabeth should have known better.  Even if she didn’t necessarily know what would have happened -- something that I called as soon as the subplot popped up -- then she should have had enough foresight by way of the books she’s read.  I know she didn’t just read about Paris all day; she had to have had at least some historical context by that point.  She had to know that giving a huge pile of weapons to a determined and regularly-oppressed people was probably not a good idea.

And…actually, I think she did.  I wouldn’t call this a fault in the story, because it is very justifiable.  I say that because A) she’s openly worried about abusing the tears, B) she does it on Booker’s orders, and C) it’s in place as a way to speak to the player -- that recklessly playing around with such forces will lead to ruin.  And lead to ruin it does; if Columbia prior to Booker/Elizabeth’s scampering is a carnival, then Columbia following it is a warzone.  (Or alternatively, a carnival after hours.)  And it’s all your fault.  All because you went with the flow, hoping that everything would work out in the end.  Hoping you’d just get what you wanted, no matter the effect on the world around you.

So basically, Infinite says you’re a terrible person, and you should go sit in a corner for a while.

In any case, the Elizabeth from the start of the game is markedly different from the Elizabeth at the end -- as she should be.  She goes through a lot, and becomes a wiser -- or perhaps darker -- person as a result of her trials.  Booker has a right to be afraid of her, as does the player; by the ending hours, she’s less of a princess to escort and more of her own force for closure.  For vengeance, even.  At that point, and likely hours before hand, it’s not Booker who’s transporting Elizabeth; it’s the other way around.  You may be the one with the guns and Vigors, but any regular jerk can wield those.  Elizabeth can tear the fabric of reality asunder.  Face it.  You’re getting strung along by her…and in all fairness, that’s actually preferable.

But with that in mind, I have to make a statement.

10) This game could have been about Elizabeth.
If you’ve seen some of the posts that popped up before this one, you may have noticed that they were focused on certain concepts rather than certain games.  And you may have noticed that both of them managed to bring up BioShock in some capacity, and with some mention of Elizabeth.

That wasn’t an accident.  That was a lead-in to this post. 

I won’t deny that Infinite is a good game.  I won’t.  But for as long as it exists -- for as long as people keep talking about it -- I’ll never be able to divorce it from the sheer amount of missed opportunity that’s on display here.  Why, why, why, why, WHY wasn’t Elizabeth the lead character? 

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  This is supposed to be a game in the first person -- and as a result, we’d never be able to see Elizabeth and her animations.  You could put it the game in the third person, sure, but then it wouldn’t be BioShock -- plus the intent here is to create a flowing, highly-controllable, highly-intimate mix of gameplay and story.  Cutscenes that wheel the camera around to look at Lizzie McTimeripper would destroy that illusion.  And for that, I don’t really have much of an answer.  I admit that a lot would end up being lost.

But it still pisses me off.  I want to play as Elizabeth.  I want to be her.  I want to live through her experiences rather than Booker’s, because even though he’s the main character we don’t get to see much of his past (barring a few spoileriffic moments I’ll get to later on) -- and even then, the focus is still on Elizabeth.  I know that as a gamer it’s a little strange to say this, but why do I have to act as an impartial observer when there’s a story with untold facets and untapped potential standing no more than a hundred feet away at nearly all times?  THAT’S the perspective I want.

Elizabeth is, in my eyes, radically superior to Booker.  It’s not just a matter of personality, though that helps.  It’s not just a matter of ability, though that helps.  It’s not just a matter of storyline relevance, though that helps.  It’s a matter of Elizabeth being an undeniable success because every element that goes into her elevates her as a character.  She offers something that, if not new, is certainly something gamers don’t see too often…and in spite of that, the most she can be is a sidekick.

 It’s irritating as hell.  But you know what?  I get it.  I get why they did it this way.  It’s a lot more justifiable for Infinite than it is for a lot of other games.  Note the title of this point: This game COULD have been about Elizabeth.  It technically is, all semantics aside; still, the reason that I say something like that is because as much as I like Elizabeth, Booker DeWitt stands his ground as a character.  He’s not just a cipher, at least not entirely; in his own way, he’s as important to the plot as Elizabeth. 

And he may be more important to the story -- themes, continuity, and all -- than she’ll ever be.  But I’ll get into that next time.  Till then, if you haven’t beaten the game yet and are still reading this for some reason, you’d better make damn sure that you do.

There’s an ending to be discussed.  And my oh my, are there things that need to be said. 


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with the ending. I remained on the edge of my seat the whole ride and I posed a theory that I was wrong about. As soon as the final moments of the game played out, I could hear that plot hole ripping open violently.

    I wasn't touched. I wasn't sad. I basically... well... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=45VAelC_QsI#!

    Or if you want the meme version
    What the hell is this %&$#!?

  2. *opens up YouTube link*

    Oh my stars, what on EARTH is Riker wearing in that clip?! It's like he couldn't decide if he wanted to dress up as a samurai or the Prince of Persia! BWHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Ahem. The ending. I thought I'd made my peace with it, but thinking about it now I'm not 100% sure if I am -- especially if there's supposed to be DLC on the way. Just where do you go after that? Back to the beginning? A secret area during the plot? Well, whatever; what's important is that it feels like the ending, while not necessarily bad IMO, still comes off as mostly unnecessary. I'd explain why in more detail, but considering that it took me pretty much an entire post in its own right to hammer out my thoughts, I'd say I'd best hold off for now. Maybe then I'll be able to say something more concrete.

    ...And now I have to go to YouTube to find a video of Riker playing the trombone.

  3. I actually thought this game was good. I'm not really an FPS guy, but I liked. Though I do agree, this game is not as good as it is being hyped up to be.

  4. Same here. Good game -- not the ultimate game, but it's got some real meat to it. Even if it IS an FPS (a real red flag for me), I'm willing to make an exception for BioShock. It's just so worth it.