Bioshock Infinite. Released in 2013

I’ve played a lot of games in my time. Many of them I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, making me giddy with joy, and eliciting gasps of both wonder and amazement at their masterful integration of cutting edge technology,technical skill and visionary storytelling. But out of all of those games, only one can I say I truly loved.

Bioshock Infinite. Released in 2013, it wasn’t the best game I’ve ever played, nor was it the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. But for some reason, it just stuck with me – from the moment I first installed the game until today – like no other game has.

I’ve played the original Bioshock, one of the modern classics, yet it hasn’t stuck with me the way this one has. I liked it… a lot and I know that many feel like the original was the superior game, yada yada,but I don’t know, maybe it’s because I played this one first, but I just like this game more than the original.

From that first ‘Hallelujah’ you know you’re in for something special.
Image: http://www.haywiremag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Infinite12.jpeg

So why do I love it so much? For me, my love affair with Bioshock all starts with the setting. From that very first ‘Hallelujah’ you hear that signals your arrival to the floating city, Columbia is able to fool you into believing that it is a real, or at least a plausibly real place.Everything in the design of the city lends itself so perfectly to what the developers were trying to project Columbia to be – an ideal early 20th century American utopia – that if I asked you to imagine a steampunk turn of the 20th century American city, I bet you’d imagine the streets of Columbia (or at least something close to it). While the design of the city (beaux arts?) certainly helps in making Columbia a believable place, there are also the smaller details that make Columbia feel like a living, breathing city.The sounds of the radio spilling from a store, the endless chatter and gossips of the people, the parades and the quartets – all of these little details help shroud you in the sights and sounds of an actual city helping create the illusion that you’re playing in one. All of these together helps make the floating city a dynamic and believable city and not just some area generated by the computer purely so that you can run around in it killing people and destroying stuff. As I’ve said before, it feels like an actual living,breathing city.

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There were several moments during my first play through that I was tempted to temporarily quit my mission and just explore the map. Several times I was stopped from my urgent world-saving mission by a singing quartet that just happened to catch my attention. I would just stand there listening to them singing, sometimes for the length of one song, sometimes for many. And it wouldn’t take me out of my immersion of the game, on the contrary, it only deepened it.

It’s the small details that make Columbia special.
Image: Bioshock Wiki

God only knows how many times I stopped to a quartet singing the Beach Boys (pun intended). The music in this game is just phenomenal. My personal favorite? ‘Can the Circle Be Unbroken’. Both the choral and the acoustic versions of this song in the game are just purely haunting. I keep coming back to it even after all these years with the magic of YouTube. The same goes with many of the other songs from the game; the renditions from the game are just absolutely beautiful.

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With that, I go to the biggest reason why I love the game –the characters. From other people’s reviews of this game that I’ve read, it’s obvious that one of this game’s strengths are its characters. The developers really did a great job in building the characters. The interactions between the two protagonists help build rapport between the player and Elizabeth, helping me, the player, to become invested not only in the plight of Booker, but of Elizabeth’s as well, making me sympathetic to her cause and all the more heartbroken by her evolution from a naïve, idealistic and innocent child at the start of the game to the hardened, pragmatic and cynical lady we meet at the end of it.

The developers were so able to invest us in the relationship between the two protagonists that they are able to create heart breaking moments such as this in the DLC. (Fair Warning: Spoilers)

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If this didn’t make you even a little bit sad, then damn it there’s something wrong with you. The quiet reflection we hear from Elizabeth as she is riding down the elevator on a suicide mission on how she misses Booker just shows how much their relationship has grown throughout the original game and the way it tugs at our heartstrings shows how much our own relationship with Elizabeth has grown throughout the original game. In my opinion, making the player become this invested in a secondary protagonist is much harder than making them invested in the story of the character they are playing.

Admittedly, after replaying the game, I can see why some people have qualms about the gameplay. The direct approach Infinite takes to its gunfights can seem simple and repetitive especially compared to other shooters like Far Cry which gives the players more options on how to accomplish the mission. But this doesn’t take anything away from the game for me. While there are games that are able to mix a riveting storyline with amazing gameplay, the way that Infinite approaches its own gameplay is already sufficient for my enjoyment. Heck, I still re-play the game more often than I should. What can I say, you love what you love.

My most recent run was a couple of months ago after I got the ‘Burial at Sea” DLCs. Seeing the story come full circle was bittersweet. While it was (SPOILERS) cool to see it connect to the first game in a way that might’ve seemed unexpected when Infinite was first released, it was still quite sad to see the way that Elizabeth’s story ended. Deep down, some part of me still wants to imagine some reality in the game’s canon where she and Booker just ran away to Paris, never looking back and forgetting the whole debacle in Columbia.

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Now that would’ve been one hell of an ending to an epic story.

From Paris, With Love — Elizabeth
Image: Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/Bioshock/comments/1i3b2v/escape_to_paris/)

What is the one game you absolutely love? Share it with us in the comments below.