Bioshock Infinite Impressions: Day 1

I am hoping things get better than this.

Granted, I do not consider myself “in the game” quite yet; given how prominently Elizabeth displayed, I’m guessing everything up to her will still be considered tutorial. Of that tutorial though, some things are becoming more and more clear to me:

1) Fantastic visuals have the opposite effect on me.

The visuals, objectively, look awesome. The visuals are also immensely distracting. When I am trying to shoot a guy with a pistol, seeing a particularly well-done cumulus cloud in the background adds nothing positive to that gameplay experience. I had the same issue with Battlefield 3 in the beginning – it was difficult to “see” enemies amidst the Ultra-High settings – so this is something likely to get better over time, e.g. when I start tuning out the visuals.

Just gotta ignore all of this.

Just gotta ignore all of this.

Incidentally, I never had this problem with Borderlands 2, and I think that is because the moments of cel-shaded beauty are more spaced out, and act as breaks inbetween more functional battlefield back-drops. I don’t want ugly games, of course, just games where you are not overloaded with visuals at time when precision and quick reflexes are called for.

2) Thus far, the theme isn’t all that compelling.

In the original Bioshock, the theme was taking Libertarianism to its extreme conclusion – a gaming subject matter particular novel for its time. Bioshock 2 introduced the opposite, showcasing the nefarious side of Collectivism. While it is still early yet, Bioshock Infinite’s theme of religious extremism slash Isolationism slash historical fetishism is… somewhat rote in comparison.

Bigoted religious cults in videogames are right up there with zombies, Nazis, and demons when it comes to stereotypical bad guys. This might be the first time we have seen such (intentional) overt racist imagery in a game, but I feel like I can already plot the rest of the story from here. There is still plenty room for surprises… yet Bioshock Infinite is going to have to surprise me, lest its thematic message be no different than the one you have seen dozens of times in the 32-bit era, or watching Glenn Beck for more than ten minutes.

Also… aside from some nice clouds and sunsets, so far the underwater motif of the original Bioshocks feels worlds better than open sky of Infinite. There was implicit danger at all times in the ocean, along with a sort of fantastic plausibility; underwater buildings are more impractical/expensive versus impossible. Conversely, in Infinite, sometimes it is not especially noticeable that you are in the air at all. Just look at that screenshot up there again.

3) Console Port

The very first sign a game is a console port is when it is Checkpoint-based. My dismay at discovering there was no Quick-Save was both immediate and visceral. Technically Borderlands 2 is also Checkpoint-based, but the difference is that A) those Checkpoints are a known quantity (you know where they are), and B) you can still save at any time when you Exit the game.

Ugh, really?

Ugh, really?

I am going to trooper on, of course, and perhaps it is a little unfair of me to expect brilliance from Minute 1. But given that I broke my Day 1 Embargo for Bioshock Infinite, I am a little bit weary of Buyer’s Remorse. I mean, I passed on Far Cry 3 for $30 for god’s sake!

Here is to hoping that I get blown away in the game proper, instead of musing as to whether I might have more fun playing Recettear like I was two days ago.

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Posted on March 28, 2013, in Commentary, Impressions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hmm, how interesting. I bought BI last night because the reviews were too good to ignore, and I’m having a very different experience. I have never taken so many screenshots of a FPS before I think! The.. initial turning point (to be vague) came as a surprise, and the game has been very thought-provoking for me so far. I’ve also spent a lot of time with my jaw dropped at the scenery.

    Totally agree about the checkpoints, though. They’re too far apart, in my opinion. I’m one of those players that explores every nook, but I had to move on to a new area faster than I wanted to last night just to trigger a checkpoint so I could go to bed.

    • I have no issue with the game being beautiful per se. At one point though, while hiding behind a trash can, I started admiring the wall textures and then started taking damage from an enemy that circled around me. I’d rather have a pretty game over an ugly one, but the designers can’t ask me to both admire the scenery and shoot the bad guys simultaneously.

  2. I love the graphics too, although I hope they will be more variety after cotton candy land – if there actually is an ‘after’. another very strong suit so far is the dialogue, I keep listening to NPC conversations on the street. the interactions between Elizabeth and Booker are smooth, peppered with some humor but not too much.

    What proves challenging to me is the sheer amount of details and stuff to look at and investigate; I am not going full out on completionism but browsing most things on the way – and there are a ton! it isn’t distracting exactly but time-consuming, I almost wish I could explore everything in peace in a second, non-combat run or something. the constant scanning and looting for money is what I could definitely do without…it just seems so oldschool RPG.

    The story and theme, as in fascism and zealotry, aren’t exactly news or shocking, I have to agree there. I am only few hours in though and there’s obviously much to come in terms of the main character’s past and role in all this.

    all that said, it’s been an immensely fun ride so far and I am definitely impressed overall. already a must-play in my books.