BioShock Infinite PC Hands-On: Give Me That Old-Time BioShock
More First-Person Shooter Rehash
Then, BioShock: Infinite launches into the killing. Booker snags one of those skyhook devices from the trailers and rams it into a nearby policeman’s face before the man can kill him. Then he melees down a number of other enemies, grabs a pistol, and goes on the run on the hunt for his target: Elizabeth. She’s apparently being held at a place called Monument Park, and Booker has to fight his way there.
It all takes on a very surreal quality. After fighting through a number of police officers, Booker finds officers standing down in order to pray to Comstock as he addresses Booker through a film projection. Comstock’s voice fluctuates strangely, and he has intimate knowledge of Booker; even the scars on Booker’s hand, which form the letters “AD,” are known to the Columbians as the sign of the False Shepherd. Something here just doesn’t add up.
But from a gameplay standpoint, everything we’ve seen in trailers and demos up to this point is absolutely true. Those scenes with Booker leaping from rail to rail, using his skyhook to turn himself into a human rollercoaster with a gun? That’s doable. I’ve done that, in fact, and it’s actually relatively easy. Playing on PC, aiming at one of the rails when you’re close enough highlights it green, and tapping Space throws Booker onto it. The connection is made automatically, and jumping free is just a matter of aiming at either the ground or another rail and hitting Space again. You can control movement with a few other keys, fire your gun from there, and even execute guys by landing on them. And it’s all incredibly easy to do.
Using the rails and Infinite’s other more interesting elements, like its new Vigor powers, are when it’s at its most exciting. Unfortunately, while the world itself and the story, at least in those two hours, are both breathtaking and mysterious, the gameplay is not nearly as new or engaging. Remember how BioShock handled? That’s exactly how Infinite handles. You know — precisely the same way every shooter handles. Not bad, absolutely; not new, definitely. I was disappointed to find the AI of enemy characters never seemed especially intelligent, and that the combat situations felt extremely familiar. Remember fighting both splicers and turrets at the same time? Welcome to the first two hours of BioShock: Infinite.
That said. the gunplay is at least solid and not detrimental to the experience — it’s just that the first-person shooter genre is tired and aging, and we can feel it in every encounter. There’s a mix of different enemies and different weapons, but like BioShock before it, the fun parts come in Infinite when you dispatch your foes in creative ways utilizing your powers and the environment. The Possession skill is particularly fun, because it turns your foes to your cause and ends with the possessed subject committing suicide. It’s a tide-turner, for sure, and highlights the fact that Infinite may well struggle with that ever-present problem of a juggernaut player with super-abilities against a series of far-overmatched peons.
But in the scheme of things, that’s not really what grabbed me: Columbia grabbed me, as did Infinite’s story. After meeting Comstock via video, the same as Andrew Ryan, Booker decided to grab a nearby zeppelin to use for his own devices. Boarding and overtaking the craft was easy, but aboard I found a child praying to Comstock — a child who lit himself on fire a few seconds later at Comstock’s bidding, destroying the airship and causing Booker to leap to safety just moments before certain doom.
The rest of the path to Monument Island was similarly spotted with trouble, but contained its share of huge, awesome moments. There was a rail-borne fight to win, flying police rocket craft to avoid, and many guys to shoot. Finally, Booker reached the Monument and got inside, and it was a short stint of relief. There, I met Elizabeth — whom the Columbians were apparently studying, likely because of her strange and incredible powers to open gates to other dimensions.
Elizabeth has been locked in that tower most of her life, and she’s referred to on signs and documents as “The Specimen.” There’s a giant machine called the Siphon that seems to draw energy out of Elizabeth while she’s in her room, and quarantine procedures are in use for anyone who ventures near her. Finding bodies and audio journals scattered around hints at Elizabeth being more than she appears. When Booker finally gets to her, we also meet Songbird, the huge cyborg creature that serves as Elizabeth’s jailer, and who pursues the pair and tears apart the huge Liberty-like statue in which Elizabeth is held captive.