BioShock: Infinite finally hit shelves on March 26 after five years under the knife at Irrational Games, and for many has proved every bit as good as Ken Levine and his team promised. Reviews have been almost universally glowing – including our own dissection of the first-person shooter here – and as for that ending, well, need we say more? At the risk of spoiling it for those who have yet to sample the euphoric delights of Columbia, we better not.
While I myself didn’t review BioShock: Infinite, I have played and completed the game, and absolutely adored every second of it. In my eyes, Irrational has created a breath-taking experience that is both thought-provoking and aesthetically dazzling, all the while maintaining the nuts and bolts of an extremely solid, pulse-pounding shooter. Oh, and then there’s Elizabeth; a Disney-esque princess who is possibly one of the most endearing characters ever conceived for a videogame.
Having said that, BioShock: Infinite could have been something even more special. There are areas that seem underdeveloped, and ideas that were sadly left on the cutting room floor that oozed a degree of ambition that is conspicuously lacking in the final (admittedly polished) product.
Here’s 3 things that could have made BioShock: Infinite even more amazing.
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1) Dynamic, large-scale environments
Cast your mind back to the 2010 and 2011 gameplay footage of BioShock: Infinite, and it will become abundantly clear that the scale of Columbia was far greater than what we ended up with. Early on, Irrational really trumpeted the new game engine, which allowed for real-time shifts in the environment and weather. This wasn’t limited to the odd downpour or exploding barrel; we’re talking massive bell towers crumbling in front of your eyes, with pieces of the structure falling right at Booker’s feet. Furthermore, areas seemed far larger in terms of scale. Take the battle with crazed politician Saltonstall; a figure cut from the final game who had you jumping about on lengthy sky-rail sections in a prolonged battle as he lobbed canon fire at you from afar. Buildings collapsed, debris rained down and the sensation of speed and wonder as you took to the sky-rail falling countless feet was a palpable thing. This level of dynamism would have really given a shot in the arm to the final Columbia’s comparatively streamlined encounters.
2) Give Elizabeth’s powers consequences
Yet another concept that ended up on the cutting room floor was the fact using Elizabeth’s reality-tearing powers had consequences. Rather than being readily available at the press of a button whenever a tear appeared, it was originally conceived that Liz would tire of too many uses. Eventually, her nose would bleed, and she’d be rendered physically exhausted. Sure, using tears in the final game is great fun, and it adds a fresh dynamic to combat and ensures you are constantly thinking of new strategies. However, if you were forced to limit the number of times you could use them in a battle, then it would make your decisions all the more meaningful. Do you rely on them or save them for later? Can you risk the downtime during a heated battle? Instead of feeling like a free meal ticket on top of an already devastating arsenal, Elizabeth’s powers would feel more like a genuine responsibility to be treated with care, which would surely help shape Liz as a character too – after all, wouldn’t you feel bad looking into those wide-eyes if you have exhausted her powers once too often? I know I would.
3) Columbia needs Rapture’s personality and memorable characters
Andrew Ryan’s iconic underwater metropolis was a character in its own right in the original BioShock. The crumbling dystopia oozes atmosphere, with stories emanating from every bloodied corpse, every dilapidated living quarters you come across. Though fictional, it is conveyed in such a convincing way that you believe it could very well have existed. Columbia, for all its resonating beauty, feels somewhat lacking by comparison. A chance to explore more of the city, discover its origins, and how the lives of its everyday citizens have been affected by recent events would have been most welcome. Elsewhere, the story behind the Vox and the Founders is never really fleshed out, unlike the uprising in the original BioShock between Ryan and Frank Fontaine’s goons. The second things start getting interesting - when Booker is introduced to Daisy for example – it all quickly dissipates after Elizabeth opens a tear into an alternate reality, where the civil unrest has already erupted. Sure, there’s havoc in the streets and you can see the result of the Vox’s impact on the city, but it feels underdeveloped. In addition, its characters – bar Comstock, Booker and Liz – are nowhere near as compelling as the likes of Fontaine or Sander Cohen from the original game. Fink and Daisy do get some time in the spotlight, mainly through Voxaphones, but overall their contribution left me wanting more. For an Irrational concoction, Fink in particular treads precariously on the edge of being a caricature of your typical money-grabbing aristocrat hell bent on working his subordinates into the ground. Let’s hope the DLC fleshes out these characters some more.
What aspects of BioShock: Infinite left you wanting more, if any? Let us know in the comments section below.