Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BioShock Infinite: Impressions

I've put 2 hours into BioShock Infinite (360 version), and impressions are vexing.

Here's why.

This is a fantastic, imaginative, beautifully realized world. It's stunning, and there are certain obvious influences (The Prisoner, for one) that are simply brilliant. I don't use the word "breathtaking" very often, but this world is breathtaking.

It's exhilarating to walk through the world. It's dynamic, it's vibrant, and it is so full of life. It's the greatest world ever created for an adventure game.

If only it was an adventure game.

After experiencing this beautiful, wonderful world at length, I suddenly had to start shooting. That's when I discovered that the greatest gameworld ever created for an adventure game was being used in a bog-standard, utterly unimaginative first person shooter.

After being entirely immersed and utterly engrossed in the deeply beautiful world, I began shooting everyone in site, searching their corpses for cotton candy and pineapples. And ammo. In this fully-realized world, I'm hunting through garbage cans for food, and no one seems to notice. I'm running and gunning and it is unbelievably, unbearably empty.

Here's an example of the fracture. In the 360 version, whenever there's on-screen information (presented as an overlay, not in the world), you get it in a font and style that is totally dissimilar to the world. Achievements pop up at the stupidest times, always dragging you out of the atmosphere, and there's no way to turn them off.

It's lousy, because everything else is so great. This incredible, unforgettable world was built, and then someone said, "We have to make an FPS, because we can't sell 5 million copies of an Adventure game." Or 5 million copies of an RPG, for that matter.

Actually, there is one nuanced, wonderful design touch not related to the gameworld. When you want help figuring out where you need to go, you can push up on the D-pad, and a subtly glowing arrow points you in the proper direction. It's not a lengthy arrow, it's not intrusive, it doesn't last for long, and it never pops up when you don't want it to. It's an elegant, excellent bit of design, and I've seen nothing else like it in the interface or the gameplay so far.

I'm still playing, and I plan on continuing, because the world is just so fantastic. But this world makes me want to be Robert Ripley, not Rambo.

If only I had the choice. What a shame.

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