Mountains out of molehills
BioShock Infinite is a triumph. Let’s make that clear right off the bat. It’s a fantastic game held aloft by creative storytelling, breezy combat, and one of the most exhilarating worlds in gaming. Seemingly everyone agrees BioShock Infinite is a gem, but it’s not flawless.
What follows is an investigation into the not-so-perfect pieces of Irrational Games’ latest hit. Not because we have it out for Booker’s adventure, mind you, but because in a game as solid as this, the tiny flaws are easier to notice. So we put the game under our microscopes, and with tongues firmly implanted in our cheeks, we give you our tiniest big complaints about BioShock Infinite…
This goes without saying, but SPOILERS follow if you haven’t beaten the game…
Songbird: The coolest boss you never fight
In the hype leading up to BioShock Infinite’s release, we were led to believe Songbird was one of Columbia’s biggest baddies, if not the toughest guy around. Imagine our pouty faces when the most exciting encounter with Songbird involved scrambling down a set of stairs while a measly elevator did most of the fighting. From that point forward, Columbia’s mighty bodyguard was little more than a winged plot device that swept in from time to time to send us crashing into our next location.
Come to think of it, the whole Songbird defence system was a pretty lame idea to begin with. Not only was Songbird incapable of handling interior spaces, but the dude didn’t know how to finish a job. He had us helpless and cornered a number of times, but always turned tail to return to wherever big dumb machines go to sulk. We get that Songbird has to be summoned, but you’d think Comstock would’ve bothered putting one of those flute statues on every street corner. Even when we made Songbird our own personal hitman, he wasn’t all that responsive. Oh? You have to recharge for a minute after flying into a blimp? No, no, you take a rest, you’ve earned it.
Vigors barely belong in Columbia
In BioShock I and II, plasmids were ingrained in Rapture’s culture. They were sold on every corner, and nearly every resident had a tale of plasmid addiction or abuse. It also made sense to wield plasmids in Rapture, because they were as intertwined with Andrew Ryan’s world as mutant slugs and creepy girls. In Columbia? Not so much.
Don’t get us wrong; playing with vigors is a trip. We were just the only ones enjoying them. Despite being readily available at the local carnival and mass produced at Fink’s factory, it seemed Columbia’s populace either didn’t know how to buy them or could care less that they even existed. Here was a city where superpowers and salts were just lying around, and even Columbian’s most well-to-do citizens were still lighting fires with matches. True, vigors were relatively new to Columbia, and yes, there’s a throwaway line at the end that barely justifies their existence (different universe, same elements, blah, blah, blah), but they still feel out of place. Really, why would the Vox Populi go through all the trouble of securing guns if they could just nab a Devil’s Kiss from a local carny?
Time travel is really confusing
Adding multiple universes and time travel to any story tends to muddy the narrative waters. In the case of BioShock Infinite, it also left us wondering what we actually accomplished (if anything at all). On one hand, we got our revenge on a Comstock after stepping through a few tears, but we’re not convinced he was our Comstock after all was said and done. He looked like our Comstock, but he also lorded over a universe where Booker already existed as a Vox Populi martyr. For all we know, the Comstock from our original universe watched Booker and Elizabeth venture into the Good Time Club and never come back. Did that Comstock get away scot-free?
Then there’s the baptism. We get it: Future Elizabeth told past Booker how to control Songbird, thus breaking the loop of failure and allowing the duo to survive long enough to drown Booker before he could make his fated baptismal decision. That’s great, but if every choice spawns an infinite number of realities, then Booker choosing to let his Elizabeth(s) dunk him under water was a monumental turning point in and of itself. The moment Elizabeth hinted at her plan, a trillion other realities were created–some where Booker fled like a sissy, some where he survived the drowning, and maybe some where Booker drowned Elizabeth instead. So is it really that big of a deal if just one of the infinite Bookers died before becoming a madman or a drunk? Ugh. Our heads hurt. In short: with infinite numbers of outcomes, heroes, and villains, we’re not sure we made a lick of difference.
The air up there
Cloud heights range anywhere from 500 ft to 30,000 ft. Judging by the duration of Booker’s rocket ascent, we’re guessing his altitude upon landing on Columbia’s steps was somewhere in the middle. We’ll say 15,000 ft, to be safe. As anyone who’s taken a rocket to extreme altitudes such as this can attest, one does not simply step out from a pressurized cabin and breath in the cool, elevated air. In fact, without any form of acclimatization, one usually loses their breakfast and/or ability to function real quick.
We won’t even get in to the science of living high above the clouds on buildings that bob up and down at unsettling speeds. That’s a topic reserved for people more scientifically minded than us. Suffice to say, humans can live in some pretty harsh altitudes and conditions, but it usually takes time to get used to such climates. One theory is that Booker’s initial baptism into Columbia was a scientific process meant to adjust his lungs to Columbia’s air. But what about his initial visit to the Welcome Center? Booker should have been painting those pretty walls with his lunch and desperately scrounging for an antacid.
Columbians are boring
Columbia is one of the most intensely imaginative game environments we’ve experienced this generation. Too bad the majority of its residents are as shallow as an oil puddle. Walking the streets of Columbia was like taking part in an interactive theme park ride where robotic avatars spouted the same lines, sold the same hotdogs, and cleaned the same glass for an eternity. We’re pretty sure when we were gone, everyone shut off until the next Booker came strolling around the corner.
We’re not saying every NPC needed Mass Effect levels of dialogue, but a little more humanity would have been nice. Send us on a fetch quest, give us an arbitrary trivia contest, sell us black market vigors…just do something besides stand there and read your one line. And then, maybe we’re missing the point? Maybe Comstock killed off the real Columbians long ago, and what’s left are Fink-made automatons that exist to lull The False Prophet into a false sense of security? Nah.
Today's forecast: Light drizzle and falling bodies
We can’t remember how many Vox Populi and Founder henchmen we shoved off Columbia’s rails, but if we had to take a guess, we’d say… oh… more than enough to get noticed by the world below. We’ll accept that somehow an impossibly complex floating city was funded and built within a couple years, or that somehow it has the infrastructure to manufacture everything down to coffee beans and cigarettes. What we can’t wrap our heads around the idea Columbia has remained undiscovered for so long. Booker tells us the world below forgot about Columbia long ago, but we’d think falling bodies and spillage from Battleship Bay’s artificial beach would tip earthbound authorities to its presence eventually.
Elizabeth can create windows to get rid of bees, tear portals into the streets of Paris, and summon Tornadoes to rip apart whole buildings. When Booker needs her most, however, the best she can muster is a few freight hooks, finite supplies, and the odd robo-sidekick? Way to come through in a pinch, lady.
And another thing, what’s with all the interdimensional freight hooks? Can we just play in that world instead? And another, another thing. Why is it tears only let us hear voices, and not actually see the people they belong to? And another, another, another, thing… Ah, nevermind; the tears were actually pretty cool.
1999 Mode is misleading
When Irrational Games announced a 1999 mode, we were intrigued. Most of us lived through the era of Napster and mushroom cuts, so the idea of reliving those bygone days in one of our favorite series made BioShock Infinite an even greater must have (a ‘must, must have’ if you will). Sadly, 1999 mode missed its potential, unless we misunderstood the intention, but that can’t be it, right?
Look, if you’re going to advertise a 1999 Mode, then you better be ready to deliver. Not once did we hear ragtime Eminem or an acappella version of Livin’ la Vida Loca. Where were the posters for The Columbian Witch Project? Where were the trailers for Star Wars: The Siren Menace? At the very least, we expected to find Fink upgrading his automatons for Y2K. Alas, the “1999” in 1999 Mode was noticeably absent, and it left us feeling blue (dah bah dee dah bah die).
Who eats a whole cake?!
Meet Booker DeWitt: Dashing hero, swashbuckling adventurer, and human garbage disposal. Throughout BioShock Infinite, Booker consumes the equivalent of a farmers market. And while we can understand snacking on apples, chocolate bars, and the occasional pineapple, gobbling down an entire honking cake is where we draw the line.
Even if DeWitt carried an unknown vigor that allowed him to unhinge his jaw and swallow a whole honest-to-goodness cake in less than a second, that’s still 2500 calories in one sitting–more than the recommended daily caloric intake. That’s a sugar coma at the very worst or a really long nap at the very least. And DeWitt never offers Elizabeth a single slice. Not only does our honorable “hero” flirt with early onset diabetes, but he also denies sweets to a lady who hasn’t had so much as a donut since escaping Monument Island. We can forgive some of DeWitt’s character flaws, but this one takes the… you know.
Dimwit and Duke: Worst. Arcade. Ever.
Strolling into the First Lady Airship’s Amusement Center was an exciting moment. The place was packed with arcade games, and we were eager to plunder the virtual depths of Dimwit and Duke’s video game library. With our Silver Eagle in hand, we saddled up to the first cabinet we could find, plugged in our coin and waited for the minigame goodness to swallow the next few hours of our lives.
Hold up. What’s this? An robotic puppet show? Hmm. Maybe the next one will…. nope. How about these other games? Nope, nope, and about 25 more times nope. Not only were Dimwit and Duke’s games the furthest thing from games, but there were only three different versions throughout the whole place. What was once a prime opportunity for diversions quickly turned into Columbia’s lamest arcade. What’s more, judging by the zero line-ups for any of them, we’re guessing Columbians were just as uninterested as we were. Way to let us down, Dimwit.
Press X to be second guessed
BioShock Infinite trusts us enough to swap weapons on the fly, eat food from dead bodies, and open tears without a second thought, but when it comes to opening doors, that’s when the game decides to question our actions? Listen, we don’t go up to walls and press buttons for the hell of it. Odds are good that if we’re jamming on the action button near a door that clearly takes us to the next location, we’ve made a conscious decision to leave. We’re not checking the door for sturdiness. We’re not inspecting the handle for craftsmanship. We’re ready to exit our current location, and we don’t want to be second guessed.
Press X to leave area? How about ‘Press the Power Button to stop being treated like an idiot child’. Guh!
Remember that important exchange you and Elizabeth were having? The one where she was questioning your moral compass, and both of you were coming to grips with the horrors that lie beneath Columbia’s oh-so-perfect facade? Well, none of that matters, because, “Hey! There’s a lock over there and I’m totally awesome at picking locks! Yaaaaay!”
Everyone is prone to mood swings, but Booker and Elizabeth had a habit of killing the tension every time they spotted a shiny lock. Elizabeth’s response to lockpicking hovered between “inappropriately eager” and “uncharacteristically cocky” no matter how she was feeling the moment before. There was no “I’m mad as hell, but I’ll still pick this lock” or “I can’t believe you skyhooked that dude’s face, but I’ll unlock this in quiet terror”. Instead, whenever Booker pointed out a lock, Elizabeth was all too eager to show off her master unlocking skills. Granted, we’re glad she found a hobby in that tower of hers, but would it have killed her to read the situation a little better?
Get a load of THESE apples!
Can someone tell us what these are? Are they pear blankets? Melon paper? Did we miss the voxophone that explained Columbia’s chief product was baskets of fruit stickers? Maybe this is an allegory for how Columbia’s pristine appearance fails to hold up under scrutiny. Or maybe Irrational Games’ outsourced their fruit rendering to an intern. Either way, coming across these 2D consumables RUINED the game.
Alright, maybe that’s not totally true. Or even a little true. If we’re being honest, we’re running out of things to complain about. In our defense, those do look pretty lame, right? No? Okay, we’re done.
We nitpick because we love
So those are our smallest-yet-most-important gripes about BioShock Infinite, but at the end of the day, they don’t really change the quality of the game. Still, if you have any other small complaints you want to share, feel free to join us in making mountains out of molehills in the comments.
Want more? See how much we really loved this BioShock sequel in our BioShock Infinite review, listen in on the whole story with out BioShock Infinite voxophone locations guide, or max out your skills with our BioShock Infinite infusion locations guide.
By Matt Bradford
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