BioShock Infinite (PC) Review Part 1: Gameplay (Minor spoilers. Nothing Important)

I think I will split this into a two part review due to it basically being a game of 2 extremes. One being good, and the other being a huge letdown. So I’ll start with the bad news in the battle of Story vs. Gameplay with my look into the gameplay of BioShock Infinite. IF I can stand talking about this game long enough to write Part 2 I will…eventually.

BioShock Inifinite has gotten some of the most glowing reviews for a video game in the last several years. With dozens of perfect scores of 10/10 on Metacritic, not just from fans, but from major video game review sites such as IGN, you have to stop and see what all the fuss is about. I did, and I was not swayed by the game to agree with the review scores. In fact, I was actually quite disappointed with the game as a huge Bioshock fan from the first two games. Both of which I consider to not only be better games, but much more fun, and certainly more fun to replay.

I’m just going to go right into it, but I’m going to completely ignore the story for the time being as to push home the “gaming” aspect, and my disappointment with it. Infiniite has tired and extremely boring gameplay. The worst of the series by far. It is the most basic of the series too, which makes extra playthroughs more tedious than something to try new things with. There isn’t much reason to try new things. Actually…you really can’t try new things because everything feels the same.

The gameplay lends itself to a poor gaming design overall actually. First and foremost, all upgrades in the game are controlled by one resource. Money. Unlike the previous 2 Bioshock games, Infinite uses cash to upgrade everything. This includes gun upgrades, Vigors (the new word for plasmids in Infinite), and all of the healing items. In previous Bioshock games there was a reason this wasn’t the case, and the main reason that the gameplay had much further depth and variety due to you having a limited supply of this rich resource through one game with many more options to use it on. Bear with me here as I explain how something this simple has such a dramatic effect on the overall gameplay.

With only one currency used to purchase upgrades, Infinite takes away some of the best moments in the Bioshock series. Both previous games had you killing for EVE to upgrade your plasmids. How did you do this? In BioShock, you killed the infamous Big Daddies and made the choice to save, or slaughter the Little Sisters. Being the good guy earned you rewards after saving a few of them, while killing them immediately got you a bigger chunk of EVE immediately. Infintie has no EVE. Instead it is called “Salts”, but that is just your MP gauge, and isn’
t collected in any form to upgrade your Vigors.

In BioShock 2 they had a similar, although a bit more detailed and different method to collect EVE. In fact there wee a couple ways you could get more EVE. You still had to go kill off a Big Daddy to get EVE, but your choice here between killing the Little Sister and getting the EVE right then came the more detailed track of saving her. In BS2 you were to carry her around and look for EVE on other dead bodies and have her extract it. While she did this you had to protect her from waves of oncoming enemies. Taking this rote you earned more EVE this time than you did killing her immediately. Then you had to find one of her hidey holes to take her to her escape.. You still had the option to kill her off even at this point as well and get some EVE that way.

On top of the traditional and most prominent method of obtaining EVE in BioShock 2, a new boss enemy was introduced that gave you a bit more at times as well. The Big Sister! Battles with the Big Sisters came after you had saved 2-3 Little Sisters and you would hear a scream to let you know that the quick and powerful Big Sister was coming to take you down for “playing” with her Little Sisters. After that kill you earned more EVE to use to upgrade.

In both those games that EVE was used not only to upgrade your plasmids at machines, but it could by extra items that you could use to boost certain skills. Infinite had what they called “Gears” that also did this, but you just found them lying on the ground. Most of which were utterly useless, or completely limited to very small parts of the game. You could find winter gear from bogner that had more use to you in this world than what the game offers. Bioshock and BS2 had much greater variety and usefulness for these little do-dads.

On top of the EVE as a resource, the previous BioShock games had machines that you had to find and were very rare called “Power to the People…” machines. These machines gave you ONE weapon upgrade per machine and were scattered over the course of the game. BioShock had enough to get every upgrade, but BS2 you weren’t given enough to upgrade everything. THEN you had your cash, which was used to buy ammo, EVE, and health.

This carries over into all aspects of the gameplay in my mind. Including things such as the save points, which are just auto-saves as you enter/leave certain areas. These saves are actually very annoying for the explorer in you. If you spend the time to search out all the BioShock secrets (Why wouldn’t you? That’s a series staple.), and needed to quit immediately you were punished with a loss of a lot of time. Since the game only auto-saved when leaving an area you couldn’t just quit int he middle because you never knew of that exit was ONE WAY. You didn’t know if you could ever get back there. So you had to either quit, replay the entire area, or try to reach a save point before you wanted to.

How does the save system relate to the money thing? Well…not so much the save system itself, but kind of how enemies work and why there is no reason to go back and explore. In the first 2 Bioshock games you had respawning enemies after either a period of time, or after travelling to different areas. Since you had to actually fight for EVE and you couldn’t just farm enemies in these areas for it, but only ammo, health/EVE aids, or money. Farming had few benefits to you other than refilling your ammo and it was still a risk because you could end up worse off than you were before if you tried to do it.

In Infinite, there are only a couple of areas where enemies respawn. People will point this out as saying that they do respawn in Infinite, but it isn’t really a respawn so to say. This is more of another fight in an area you are forced to backtrack through, and as such it isn’t an area you can go back to several times to farm these enemies. You see them because they are on the story path. They don’t want you to break the game by being able to farm enemies due to their moronic upgrade resource system.

Having one currency alone in Infinite has that much impact on the game design ALL BY ITSELF. Since you gain money from containers, enemies, and of course our little friend Elizabeth (Who? Oh yeah…she’s our “friend” in this game who I’l mention sparingly in this portion). Elizabeth tosses you healing items, and sometimes cash in certain circumstances during the game. During battle she could save you, or could totally screw you because she throws you the thing you don’t want. Salts instead of health, which DUH is an easy call isn’t it? Either I die, or I get health. Salts don’t do a thing for me. IT’s not an awful mechanic, and it is put in simply to make Elizabeth feel like a useful battle companion, but overall isn’t all that interesting. With her tossing you money, however you can kind of farm cash at times in this game if you can figure out what makes her toss it to you. Based on my playtime I am pretty sure that if you check the vending machines enough along with a slight bit of time passing by, and maybe checking a few other containers while in an area she will just flip you some extra cash. There was one point where I got her to give me enough in one room to purchase 3 weapon upgrades and a major Vigor upgrade. So much for breaking the game huh?

All that crap makes the game less fun, but mostly it is that lack of fights for the EVE that makes the game worse and less interesting. Infinite does have its big bad monster enemies in some form, but they aren’t nearly as interesting. They come out as scripted battles rather than moving around levels on their own like Big Daddies did. Infinite’s form of Big Daddies are called Handymen and they are completely stupid and have no real point to them in regards to the world, or the game. They are of little interest and not fun to fight. Scripted battles that don’t allow you to set anything up before the fight like you would with an impending Big Daddy fight. They don’t drop anything particularly special other than maybe one of those useless Gears. You only fight a few of them too so it isn’t like they have any real story, or interest behind them.

Man…this is getting long and that’s just stuff about why I think the resources make the game suck. I haven’t even told you yet that you are only allowed to carry 2 guns at one time! The guns have no special abilities. They only use one type of ammo. None of them are high tech, or interesting in the least. Remember using ammo that sets enemies on fire, or freezing enemies, or the Tesla coil on a shotgun to stun an enemy in the previous BS games? Absolutely NONE of that here. There are more weapons, but none of them have special attributes. All upgrades bought in CASH of course. Just traditional junk. So carrying only 2 doesn’t even matter really. Sniper and a shotgun. Sniper and an RPG. Whatever. You need a ranged gun and a big hitter more or less and the rest don’t matter because they don’t do anything special. The weapons are boring beyond belief and their upgrades even more so. No trap guns like those Rivets, or the old RPG that had traps that exploded, or the wires you could shoot with the bow. Nothing. They SUCK.

You ask…what about the Vigors? Surely those are interesting and have gotten better than Plasmids were? You’d be completely wrong. Vigors have upgrades, but they do nothing all that interesting. The array of vigors you can use almost all have the same roles. Crowd control, traps, and one interesting one that possesses some enemies. There may be about 7 vigors but at least 2 groups of 3 perform virtually the same functions. No security bots to control and bring tagging along. Instead of sending bees you can send crows. Nothing fun, or new, but who cares anyways. All you fight are soldiers that are brainwashed.

I can’t fail to mention either that Infinite has discarded the whole camera/video camera research system that the previous 2 games had as well. There is no system at all. Completely gone. None of that boosting your damage, or finding new toys by researching enemies in Infinite. A very bad call I would say, but I would guess that the main reason they did this was because the enemy variety is so poor, and certain enemies are so sparse that you wouldn’t be able to do it anyways. The enemy selection is horrid compared to the first 2.

Ugh…that’s enough about the gameplay. I’ll mention Elizabeth more in the story review part 2 and waht her gameplay is. It doesn’t really fit here anyways. She’s not all that beneficial anyways. There is actually more gameplay stuff I could complain about, but I got the point out I wanted and what the big problem with the gameplay all stemmed from. The one currency system.

Let me just say this…if my score depended entirely on the gameplay for BioShock Infinite this game would get a 5/10 and I’m not kidding. This of course brings some of my love for the first two into it, but even if I didn’t it wouldn’t be any higher than a 6/10. It is tedious, boring, and completely stale. If you play games for the gameplay rather than the story I suspect that Infinite will disappoint you. IF you play for the story mostly it probably is your type of game. Gameplay matters much more to me for video games so the pathetic presentation of gameplay mechanics in this game makes me want to punch myself in the junk.

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