Also on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Unlike the other two games in the Bioshock trilogy, I went into Bioshock Infinite with a pretty good idea of what to expect. Whereas I?d barely played the first Bioshock before its arrival on the Switch, and the second one not at all, I have fond memories of playing Bioshock Infinite way back when it first came out on the PS3 in 2013. Admittedly, seven years is a long time, so I was as curious to see whether the game lived up to my memories as I was to see how it performed on the Switch.
Not-too-surprisingly, Bioshock Infinite succeeds on both counts: it?s every bit as good as I remember, and it runs perfectly well too.
The latter, actually, is a bit of a surprise. While the first two Bioshocks looked fantastic and ran fairly well on the Switch, they also had the advantage of taking place in the dark, underwater city of Rapture. Bioshock Infinite, by contrast, takes place mostly outdoors, in the bright, shiny, floating city of Columbia. There?s less opportunity to hide weaknesses behind dark corners here — yet, remarkably, the game still looks stunning.
Of course, it helps that Bioshock Infinite is driven by such a strong artistic vision. Much like the first two games were given a distinctive character by their Art Deco environments, Bioshock Infinite feels like it?s of a specific time and place thanks to its reliance on the Beaux_Arts movement. Despite being fantastical, the world of Columbia nonetheless feels lived-in, and that stems from the way it builds on American architecture circa the late 1800s/early 1900s.
To be sure, a big part of the lived-in feeling also comes from the game?s ideological underpinnings. Again, Bioshock Infinite differs from the first two Bioshocks, but just as the original Bioshock was built around a critique of Randian objectivism, this one strongly captures the specific kind of American exceptionalism that drove the United States at the end of the Gilded Age. That means there?s a heavy dose of religion coupled with racism, but also the conflicting desires of being separate from the world while also spreading the American Way. It makes for a fascinating setting — and, interestingly, one that seems relevant to the world in 2020 in a way that the game?s creators probably didn?t envision when they first made the game nearly a decade ago.
Of course, fantastic graphics and intriguing ideological underpinnings wouldn?t mean a thing if the gameplay was awful, but thankfully Bioshock Infinite delivers on that front as well. Exploring Columbia is incredibly fun thanks to the game?s addition of the Sky-hook, which allows you to travel at a high speed across some pretty crazy distances via the skyrail — and which also doubles as a weapon if you feel like getting up close and personal with enemies, rather than using either a gun or Vigors. And if you?d rather not see the blood spurting all around you, you can also possess machine gun turrets, fling firebombs, and send crows to peck your enemies to death (making it a murder by murder of crows).
To round everything out, you?ve also got a great story filled with excellent characters. Even though the game came out seven years ago, I don?t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but I will say that the game is greatly improved by the fact that the characters here have real personalities. Booker Dewitt makes for a riveting main character, while Elizabeth Comstock is how the Little Sisters in previous games would have been if they?d been given a little more of a personality — and, of course, Columbia itself is like a living, breathing entity that defines the game, even if it?s just the setting. You can?t really separate it out, nor would you want to.
Even if it?s the first Bioshock that still stands out as a milestone in gaming, for me the real high of the series is Bioshock Infinite. Just about everything in the game is perfectly done, and despite the fact it came out seven years ago, it feels as fresh and interesting as it did then. Taken together with the other two games in the series, there?s a pretty good argument to be made that Bioshock: The Collection is one of the must-play games on the Switch (and whatever other system you have).
Take-Two Interactive provided us with a Bioshock Infinite Switch code for review purposes.