BioShock Infinite

The Gilded Cage

BioShock Infinite is an instance of an artist being constrained by his masterpiece.

By John Teti • March 26, 2013

By and large, Tokyo Disneyland is the same as Disneyland. The monorail makes the same stops, and the animatronic pirates pillage the same faux-Caribbean. The unapologetic cut-and-paste approach makes sense when you’re building a theme park on the other side of the world. It’s less appealing as the basis for a video game sequel, which is what makes BioShock Infinite so vexing. It brings players to a wonderful new place, teases them with new ideas, and then takes them on much the same ride as BioShock did six years ago. It’s a small world after all.

When it was released in 2007, BioShock was a revelation. Written by Ken Levine, (who directed Infinite but was not associated with the 2010 cash-in BioShock 2) the first-person shooter interrogated the philosophy of Ayn Rand by putting an objectivist tyrant at the heart of an underwater dystopia. You were left to sift through the wreckage. The subaquatic city of Rapture had style to spare. It was an elaborate work of Art Deco architecture, and the experience was tied together with thrilling guns-plus-superpowers combat. The confident execution of daring subject matter made BioShock an icon of modern game design. Very few major-studio games since then have left such a strong artistic mark, and BioShock Infinite—despite flashes of excellence—doesn’t measure up.

BioShock Infinite

The new quest takes place in 1912 in the airborne city of Columbia. Levine sets up the drama by drawing on real-life tensions of that era and the present day. A self-proclaimed Christian prophet, Zachary Comstock, rules the people here with an ultra-conservative policy of racial purity. Comstock is opposed by a populist insurgency that bears the self-serving mantle of Vox Populi—they’re the Occupy Wall Street to his Tea Party. As the Comstock Vs. Vox bout tears Columbia apart, you step into the middle of it, playing as former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt. You have no stake in the fight; you’ve been hired to rescue Comstock’s daughter, Elizabeth, and return with her to terra firma.

You accomplish this by shooting very many people with your guns and your magic hands. Columbia is littered with “Vigors”—tonics that give you the ability to, say, engulf a foe in a swarm of angry crows or fire electricity through the air. If that sounds like the injectable “plasmids” from BioShock, that’s because it’s the same thing. The specific powers and the overall flow of combat are much the same as they were six years ago, too. Okay, BioShock had swarms of bees instead of crows. BioShock Infinite—now with less stinging, more pecking!

Most of the new ideas in Infinite are represented by Elizabeth. She starts out as the damsel locked in the castle tower, but that’s just a crafty feint by Levine. You spring her, and she accompanies you for most of the game, but don’t worry. As an on-screen dialog box hastens to note, Elizabeth can take care of herself. (It seems that buxom sidekicks in shooters have come a long way since GoldenEye 007, whose Russian bombshell/lobotomy patient loved to stroll into crossfire.)

Elizabeth helps you out by scrounging for goodies in the countless hidey-holes of Columbia—yes, repetitious scavenging is still a BioShock staple—and she always has a knack for timely finds. If you’re running low on ammo in the heat of battle, for instance, Elizabeth often unearths a fresh clip. The Comstock heiress’ knack for wish fulfillment is a central theme of the game. She’s not just an expert scavenger; she has the ability to merge portions of alternate universes into our own, which I think you’ll agree is a pretty swell trick.

BioShock Infinite

Elizabeth’s reality-bending talent is the foundation for Infinite’s most compelling thematic thread, which questions the underpinning of existence. She refers to her ability as “a sort of wish fulfillment,” and whenever she opens another convenient tear in the dimensional fabric, it calls into question the line between perception and truth. Infinite suggests that we live more in the former than anyone would care to admit—and that the rules of reality can be bent by a truly liberated will.

These heavy philosophical questions take shape in the dialogue of Infinite’s best characters, a ghostly brother-sister pair who appear throughout your quest and have chipper arguments over Cheshire Cat-style riddles. They’re the quantum-reality Bickersons, and I wanted more of them, which probably means that there’s just enough of them.

Infinite never quite brings the multiple-reality philosophizing to a head. In the closing hours of the game, Elizabeth’s story takes a few delightful turns—Levine knows how to pull off a killer plot twist, especially toward the end—but it also gets tangled in a mess of psychobabble and filial angst. That’s still better than the political threads of the plot. Infinite becomes bored with those about halfway through. Levine sets up a conflict between American exceptionalism and rabble-rousing populism, but he punts by casting practically every prominent figure in Columbian politics as an irredeemable asshole. Comstock is an asshole because he’s a megalomaniacal eugenicist—something of an open-and-shut case right there—and the Vox leader is an asshole because she’s more concerned with the narrative of her triumph than the welfare of her citizens.

The takeaway is that anyone who seeks power is a scoundrel, a moral steeped in the easy cynicism of false equivalence. (I expect this sort of Nihilism Lite from Rockstar Games, but not from Levine.) The intellectual dodge of calling everyone a loser excuses Infinite from having a meaningful political point of view. The game’s politics hide behind its metaphysics—if everything is just a matter of perspective, why bother holding any ideals? If you believe in something, then in the immortal words of The Dude, “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

BioShock Infinite

While Infinite’s treatment of fin-de-siècle America may be ideologically thin, its embrace of the period’s aesthetics is deep and convincing. Columbia is inspired in part by the “White City” of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. BioShock Infinite may be as close as any of us ever come to walking those grounds, which is not to say that it’s slavishly faithful to its namesake. The place is a weaponized city of airborne terror, after all. The style is Beaux Arts by way of steampunk, with flourishes like a Skyline that whisks its passengers around the upper reaches of the glittering town—all you have to do is grab on.

Whatever the merits of its component parts, BioShock Infinite has a larger problem of coherence. The game takes a preexisting structure, with surprisingly little modification, and grafts a new set of ideas onto it. The surgery is expert, but the seams still show.

The guns-and-magic combat that proves so gripping in BioShock’s Rapture is not such a perfect fit in Columbia. The submarine claustrophobia of Rapture makes for short sight lines that limit the effectiveness of your superpowers. Yes, you can fire bolts of lightning from your hands, but that does nothing for the son of a bitch hiding around the corner—or creeping across the ceiling behind your back. In the wide-open spaces of Columbia, however, battles often prove anticlimactic, as you can pick off enemies from a great distance. So even if the grump with the rocket launcher is a hundred yards away as the crow flies, the crows will indeed fly there, and then they will peck him into submission.

BioShock Infinite

Other parts of the BioShock carryover simply don’t make sense. It’s all well and good that the plasmids of the old game have been rechristened as Vigors for Infinite, but in the BioShock, plasmid abuse was an integral part of Rapture’s downfall. More to the point, plasmids made sense in the culture of Rapture, where self-worship was the norm, and man’s freedom to improve his lot was sacrosanct.

Where do Vigors fit into Columbia? I don’t know, and neither does Infinite. There are advertisements for Vigors all over the city, and you can find bottles of the stuff lying around, but very few Columbians use them. In a society that espouses racial purity, you’d think Vigors would be more of an issue. After all, they can turn a person into a demigod regardless of race. But this never comes up. If anything, Comstock appears to tacitly embrace the sale of Vigors. There’s a difference between plot holes, which are excusable, and a disregard for internal logic. Vigors belong to the latter category.

The most discordant moment in my playthrough of Infinite came at the end of a harrowing scene between Elizabeth and the one mother figure in her life. In the scene, Elizabeth learns a devastating fact about her past—I won’t get into specifics because it comes late in the story. But after the scene ended, Elizabeth instantly reverted to scavenger mode. “Here, I found this!” she said with a smile, and she flipped me a coin that added $20 to my bankroll. It was the equivalent of a close friend learning they had terminal cancer and then, in the same breath, reminding you that tonight is half-off margaritas night at Chili’s.

Dissonant moments like these can actually improve a game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where the myth-making is fragmentary and the creators embrace the lunacy of a messy world. But in the more tightly constructed drama of BioShock Infinite, such a disconnect from fictional reality is a killer. Strange turns like Elizabeth’s sudden mood swing require more than the suspension of disbelief. They demand the suspension of belief—belief that Elizabeth ought to be taken seriously, that she has a soul which persists from one moment to the next. I want to believe. And too often, Infinite makes it hard to do so, because the pieces of the puzzle don’t align.

BioShock Infinite

There’s a Godfather Part III problem here. Infinite is a fine work, even extraordinary in some respects; it’s primarily a disappointment in light of its pedigree. As far as games where you shoot at people are concerned, Infinite is among the best games where you shoot at people (even if the last couple hours devolve into a tiresome slaughter parade—“Here’s even MORE bad guys all at once!”). But the present-day studio system is built, both in terms of its creative methods and its talent pool, to produce high-quality shooters. They’ve become banal, to the point that admiring BioShock Infinite because of its merit as a shooter feels like praising your dog for licking his balls. It may be entertaining, but it’s hardly worthy of applause.

All of Levine’s BioShock villains have a common flaw: They hold tight to their supposedly perfect visions of the world even when actual events diverge from the ones listed in the recipe. In BioShock Infinite, Levine exhibits a bit of that myopia himself. I’m not saying that he’s a monster, not remotely. By all accounts he’s a very smart guy, and he’s impressed me as a thoughtful artist when I’ve had the chance to meet him. It’s just that there is a touch of the ideologue in Infinite. It treats the rules, flow, and structure of BioShock as if they form a perfect vessel—a framework into which any ideas can poured. (And the original game was itself an extension of ideas Levine tried out in System Shock 2, a sort of proto-BioShock.) Levine seems blind to the moments in which BioShock’s bones are a poor fit for Infinite. Likewise, he doesn’t account for the discordance that results from a piecemeal approach to game creation.

Then again, maybe the better parallel is Elizabeth, the wunderkind who escapes her tower but who remains imprisoned by the crushing demands of her gift. Artists can be tied to their masterpieces, and although he enjoyed creative freedom on this project, Levine’s bond to BioShock is understandably strong. I wonder, will the next sequel be conceived as its own independent, harmonious whole? Or is BioShock fated to be a series of sparkling Disneylands, ad infinitum?

BioShock Infinite
Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: M

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425 Responses to “The Gilded Cage”

  1. PaganPoet says:

    All of Levine’s BioShock villains have a common flaw: They hold tight to their supposedly perfect visions of the world even when actual events diverge from the ones listed in the recipe.

    Is that necessarily different from how many people act in real life? When their long-held beliefs and ideas of how the world works begin to crumble, it seems many would rather be dragged down with them kicking and screaming rather than accept and admit that they were wrong.

    I would liken the experience to the supposedly imminent end of the “righteous Right” in American politics, if 1) it wasn’t so incredibly obvious coming from me and 2) it wasn’t also incredibly hopeful and, dare I say, naive.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I think the big difference between Levine & reality is Levine’s societies exist in a vacuum. By design, they don’t interact with the outside world and thus remain ideologically “pure” until the story dictate that it’s time for them to collapse. With the possible exception of North Korea, no nation in reality functions without any form of information exchange.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Well, it’s hard to make a comparison, but I understand your point. You’d be surprised at how much information can be controlled, though, even in this day and age. My office mate is a former refugee from Burma (or Myanmar if you prefer that name) who lived there under the military junta. She’s from a small hills tribe (called the Karen tribe) that literally lived in huts in the jungle near the border with Thailand. What little exposure she did have to media, she remembers it all being about how happy and wonderful everything in Burma was (which we of course know, was quite the opposite). I’m not sure why I’m talking about this instead of Bioshock Infinite, but it relates to the idea of an isolated and dystopian society.

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          There’s a lot of stuff of this nature on Stalin. A modern cult of personality can indeed be wholly fabricated, with shocking success

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         Except Columbia relies on immigrant labor to make it function, so there is a constant influx of people from “outside” to bring in new ideas.  Not so much in North Korea.  However, we see much of the same going on in the US as we do in Columbia, with regards to our immigrant labor force and their effects on “traditional” American ideology.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Good point. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that Levine’s societies don’t face the complications of existence on a world stage. Rapture and Columbia are nearly unreachable by a foreign power, and are thus free to pursue their own agendas without interference or judgment.

        • Michael Wolf says:

          There is an exception in Levine’s worlds in that they are not just insulated but truely isolated. The outside world doesn’t have an opinion of the attrocities going on in Columbia because as Dewitt keeps pointing out he was wholey ignorant of what Columbia was about because of his casual day-to-day distractions.

      • JesusontheDashboard says:

        … Isn’t this the point of BioShock? It’s a series about maniacs isolating themselves in a world that shares their extreme ideological views. It’s not MEANT to resemble anything that exists in the world. The political/social philosophy of the game exists in its hypotheticals. It’s about asking “what would happen if followers of [insert X political/religious/ideological movement] actually were able to change the world to fit their vision?” It’s one thing to criticize this game for a lack of internal logic. But it’s another to disagree with the entire artistic premise of the game – which is largely the same as the artistic premise of the original. To argue that it’s a flaw of Columbia or Rapture that they are not like the real world is to part ways with the very conceptual foundation of the series.

        I adore Infinite, and would say that it met or exceeded all of my very high expectations for it. That said, I’m on my second playthough now (at Hall of Heroes) and the many significant flaws of the game are much more visible on the second playthrough when you’re not constantly in awe of how marvelous it all is anymore. I agree with many of the criticisms you make – about how Vigors don’t fit this game thematically and feel crammed in, about how the successful implementation of the gunplay isn’t really worthy of praise, etc. You point to the final couple of hours as a tiresome slaughterfest, and I agree – I’m not at all looking forward to playing through that part again. But I’m absolutely thrilled to experience the amazing ending again.I think

        Infinite is a game with many noticeable flaws. But I think that what’s great about it allows it to absolutely transcend those flaws. As Jim Sterling put it, this is a game with a perfect beginning, an engaging middle, and a perfect ending. But there’s no questioning that there are certain segments of the middle (the Finkton docks, the Bull House…) that seem like they’ll be a slog to get through again.

    • caspiancomic says:

       This idea of villains gripping their demonstrably untrue visions of the world like a child’s security blanket was one of the only problems I had with the story in Ni No Kuni. (Mild spoilers follow.) The White Witch, the tacked-on feeling antagonist and titular final boss of the game is motivated by the standard “this world is imperfect and must be destroyed so that we can build a new, better world in its place” brand of JRPG villain nihilism, despite the fact that the world is a perfectly lovely vision of absolute utopia in which there is no poverty, no disease, no war, and no unhappiness anywhere. She already felt vestigial to the plot after the conclusion of the much more satisfying Shadar arc, and her completely nonsensical motivation just made her that much more irritating.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Yeah, this is one tired plot point and cliche that really put me off JRPGs for a long time. See also: the main character will always be protected from true death and harm by the power of love and friendship!

        Part of the reason I love Persona 3’s ending so much is it took that cliche, and reversed the roles. The MC’s love and friendship cause him to be the protector, not the protected.

        • Sleverin says:

           This is why I loved The Tower of Druaga anime.  The opening episode just throws all the tropes under the bus.  My favorite was “One day I’m going to get married…” and then the character gets killed, causing fake alarm by the other characters.  “How could you do that he was going to be a baker!” “wait…when did he say that…”  Or the ever classic, “I am your father!” coming from the main villain.  Total win.

      • George_Liquor says:

        The delusional villain is a tired trope to be sure, but I still find it more interesting than the villain who’s only evil for evil’s sake.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Add to that the villain who will constantly and with great dependability harm his own goal just to be evil and you have the menagerie complete.

          Neutral Power Player: “Ah, Mister Villain. We have decided to send you 30,000 fresh troops to do with as you please. Your plan has convinced us. By the way, would you mind petting my puppy?”
          Villain: “Ah, hiss, curses, curses. I obviously hate puppies because I am evil. I shall break its neck.”
          Villain: “So, when do I get my troops?”
          Neutral Power Player: “Get out.”

          Dumb, dumb, dumb and yet fairly omnipresent. All that’s missing is the tophat and the mustache-twirling and in some instances we even get that.

        • Michael Wolf says:

          I’m not a writer that deserves to be read but analytically you’re right. When it comes to super-villains, the guys who aren’t just being evil for a paycheck, you get the Handpuppet-of-evil villain everyone hates, the Super-Jingoist that always seems like social criticsm and the Villain that is hurting people because they’re disconnected from reality. How cheated would we feel if we had a villain that was just misunderstood or who it turns out was right and the player is actually the badguy. Really Comstock is about as good as it gets short of better execution.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

         I’d say the aesthetic standard for most contemporary media pretty much defines villains as those who maintain their world view to the detriment of all others, despite any and all reasonable outside divergence. It’s been a long time since entertainment has indulged in a villain who was a hand-wringing diabolical perpetuating evil for the sake of being evil.
         But, despite bearing a whiff of ignorant High School righteousness, I’m also of a mind that most people seeking power are kind of assholes who do have to have that cognitive dissonance in place to pursue it.
         Shah Pahlavi was a dick, but his overthrow in ’78 certainly didn’t enact anything positive.  And now, Syria.  Al-Assad is a fucker and a villain, but that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic arming the rebellion.  Necessary, perhaps, but not without future consequences.
         Arming the Afghanis against the Russians had some pretty shitty consequences.  All of America’s attempts at placing despots in South America nations opposite brutal Guerilla militias.
         Any time you function under a strict oppositional binary, there’s rarely fertile ground for softer and more humanistic philosophies to prosper.  

      • Moonside_Malcontent says:

        But to play Mani Mani Statue’s advocate, I think when we talk about the unintended consequences of the fall of tyrants we mustn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  I’m no fan of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, but they are a damn sight better in a lot of ways than Ben Ali was.  Or, to bring this back to Bioshock (and games generally), I can embrace Tannenbaum as “the good” even while seeing her flaws for what they clearly are.  I often feel more vindicated in “pick a side” style games by picking a side that is flawed but still better than a brutal alternative than by trying to win it all at once.  Fallout: New Vegas is a good example.  I got a lot more out of the ending where (spoilers) I sided with the NCR against the Legion than when I took the independent ending.  For all their expansionist, jingoistic, corrupt ways, they were a republic and when it’s fascists versus liberal democrats I know which side I’m on.  Vox Populi, Vox Dei!

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          Your advocacy is suspect, coming as it is from the horned Oscar statuette that brings evil into the world.
             But yes, I do agree that there are greater and lesser evils and the sad truth of our convoluted and contradictory species means deposing a terrible leader is worth aiding a not-great-but much-less-terrible-uprising.
             But the historical cycle of oppressed to oppressor is common enough that I think it’s fair to be wary.
             And that said, as far as Infinite is concerned, I’m the type of gamer who enjoys games for their frequent moral simplicity.  More so than in any other media I consume because games allow me to claim a moral high-ground I rarely have the opportunity to in the real world.
             So I can understand an argument disappointed in the zero-sum asshole-ism outlined in the review.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I think Andrew Ryan, of the first Bioshock, has some texture beyond a simple ideologue. At the very least, he has character beyond that.

      Granted, his idealism contributed to his flaws and to the downfall of Rapture, but I recall the audio logs indicating times when he compromised his own morals in misguided service to his city. After all, to save his Randian utopia, he defined contraband goods and introduced tyranny as a result of paranoia. Heck, the little sisters are essentially slaves in a self-described libertarian world.

      The “would you kindly” scene could also be taken as his last stand on his ideals: if he cannot trust in the individuality of the player character (“A Man Chooses”) in spite of circumstances (“A Slave Obeys”) he might prefer death. This is, of course, after all of the worst goes down in Rapture and he has broken his own ideals.

      In short, I think Ryan saw evidence that his ideals were flawed after he founded Rapture, but believed if he could save the city itself he would be redeemed in spite of his actions. Eventually, his compromises led him to believe he was a hypocrite and set up his final ultimatum.

      Fontaine, in comparison, doesn’t have much of a character arc, implied or not, but is almost a necessary evil to demonstrate the flaws of Rapture. He’s closer to the “evil for evil” model of villainy, but I think it works well enough as a foil to Ryan. That aside, though, I can see why people would find Fontaine as the final boss underwhelming. I haven’t played the game in years, but if I recall it was more a matter of execution than setup.

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        Also, I decided to separate this point out from the rest since it is a spoiler, albeit implied:

        I think the fact that the player character is Andrew Ryan’s illegitimate son is important to the way Ryan acts during the cutscene where the player character kills him. While he may be a libertarian, I doubt that he wouldn’t be disappointed if his own son didn’t share his own ideals. Sort of, “If I can’t convince my own son of this, then I have failed more profoundly than I can bear.”

      • Merve says:

        “Evil for evil”: That’s pretty much my exact problem with Fontaine. As a villain, he flushes all of BioShock’s nuance down the toilet. “You want me to kill this corrupt, evil asshole? Don’t mind if I do!”

        • The_Helmaroc_King says:

          Fontaine definitely doesn’t have the same appeal as Ryan as an antagonist. He’s almost necessary in terms of plot, as he represents forces that could and would undermine Ryan’s ideals, but when he takes Ryan’s role in the story it doesn’t have the same emotional stakes even though he’s trying to kill you. Given the genre and the setting, “trying to kill you” is the baseline for about 90% of the NPCs.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        I think Teti’s right on this one. Bioshock’s whole thing was elegant because essentially Ryan ran his dogmatic state and played by its ironclad virtues, and Fontaine’s complete victory over him was the result of Fontaine’s contempt for those virtues and his willingness to exploit them. Even as Fontaine forced out competitors and laid the groundwork for the plasmid addiction epidemic that destroyed the city, Ryan did nothing, because he was proud. By the time he compromised himself, it was too late, and he didn’t even have his integrity left.

        • GaryX says:

          I think it’s both though because Ryan does try to change. Where Bioshock either gets muddled or interesting–depending on how you want to look at it–is that it almost appears that Ryan’s concessions and compromises actually accelerate the downfall of Rapture.

        • The_Helmaroc_King says:

          @KidvanDanzig:disqus, I think your description is a bit more succinct than mine on the fall of Rapture. I guess I took the original comment on the characters’ common flaws as more of a criticism of the games than it was intended.

          I like the idea of Ryan as a tragic figure. He creates Rapture to realize his ideals, but that fails and forces him to compromise to save his city; at that point, even success would be a failure for him.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Yeah, Bioshock should have ended with Ryan. The events after his death played out like an extended, unnecessary epilogue.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Social movements are cyclical in nature. If anybody tells you the religious right is gone for good, they’re a pundit and you shouldn’t listen to them.

      Also funniest thing of the ’08 election for me was the polling indicating that the electoral makeup of the economics-oriented Tea Party and the morality-oriented Christian Right are essentially the same. The rhetoric changed with the times, and it’ll change again when it’s time.

    • Captain Internet says:

      When their long-held beliefs and ideas of how the world works begin to crumble, it seems many would rather be dragged down with them kicking and screaming rather than accept and admit that they were wrong.

      Well- if Inherit The Wind and the Left Behind books have taught us anything, it’s that if you’re sure of your facts then it’s more noble to kick and scream than to just knuckle under. Clarence Darrow, Nicolaus Copernicus, Martin Luther King, Bob Geldof, Anne Coulter, Paul Ryan, Tom Cruise- all people who had the courage to stand up to the establishment and speak the truth. Heroes, all of them.

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         However, a lot of those people were wrong.  Sure, they mighta stood up for what they believed in, but when what you believe is demonstrably incorrect, why the fuck are you not considering new evidence?

    • Watching people being dragged down by their ideology can also be a tragedy. I’d like to see this theme explored more from the perspective of a protagonist rather than a villain.

      Some people embrace fiscally conservative policies (e.g. objectivism, laissez-faire, etc.) not because they are heartless robots, but because it sounds right to them. They believe that if people acted out of enlightened self-interest, and without some paternalistic overload, that it would lead, if not to utopia, then to the best world possible. Then their whole world crumbles around them as they see the terrible havoc that greed wreaks upon their ideals. (Whether capitalist or socialist, the fundamental flaw with almost all ideal economic models is their inability to manage greed.) 

      The difference between a hero and a villain in this scenario is that a villain compromises their morals in a misguided attempt to force their ideology to be true. The hero, however, refuses to compromise their morals. They must either accept that their ideology is flawed, or else be consumed by it (like Rorschach in Watchmen).

      • GaryX says:

        I’ve never viewed Ryan as anything other than a tragic character. He’s somewhat of a villainous overlord in the game, but the backstory and final confrontation make him much more the former for me. 

        Though I suppose that’s more that the Ryan we mostly never encounter is a tragic character, but by the time he’s talking to the player, he’s become a villain.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

           I agree. Ryan was, I believe at worst, a well-intentioned extremist. I disagree almost entirely with his views, but he did all that he did solely for the sake of others. He wanted a world free from red-tape, where the people who have talent are free to create their visions without being held back, which is a noble endeavor, but it just didn’t, and couldn’t, work out.

          He wanted to save the world from the problems he felt were the most threatening. He just couldn’t.

        • PaganPoet says:

          True, but even if you look at all the real-world evil dictators and leaders in history, isn’t the problem that they let some type of ideal metanarrative blind them to the fact that real, human atrocities were being carried out under them?

          In the context of Bioshock, is Ryan’s philosophy to allow JS Steinman carte blanche to practice his occupation/art more important than the fact that the man was clearly insane and was disfiguring innocent people?

      • Jason Morley says:

        Just to point out, Rorschach was supposed to be an example of what not to be: That to be uncompromising is not a noble virtue, but the sign of a deranged and damaged mind. 

        Not saying it’s what you meant, but it’s important to remember: We aren’t supposed to admire Rorschach for his refusal to compromise, we’re supposed to pity him for it.

        The same can be said of Andrew Ryan, only we must also pity him because it took being pushed too far past the point of no return to compromise, that by the time he started to act against his ideals it was already too late . The actions he had to take against those ideals were as far gone as Rapture was.

        I think that’s what the “moral” behind BioShock was intended as, or at least what I interpreted it as: You have to compromise, because it’s impossible for human society live fully by it’s ideals. 

        The more you try and push and maintain for that one vision, the worse evils you’ll have to commit (often taking you further from those ideals in the first place).

      • Asinus says:

        ” I’d like to see this theme explored more from the perspective of a protagonist rather than a villain.” 

        Would Coriolanus count?

      • Evan Perriello says:

        I always thought part of the point of the Bioshock games was the tragic fall and that, in a sense, the ideologies did work, but only to a point. I mean, after all, Columbia and Rapture are both objectively amazing, phenomenal achievements–the capabilities of human beings have been stretched well past what they would be otherwise because of the strengths inherent in the rival ideologies (in Ryan’s world, it’s the limitless freedom without consideration for morality, and in Comstock’s, it’s the cultish nationalist uniformity of purpose).

        I think by making the player marvel at the world (and who doesn’t marvel?) and the potential of it, the developers are making us somewhat complicit–we share, to some point, in Ryan and Comstock’s ideologies. Am I the only one who wanted, to some degree, to live in a pre-fall Rapture or a non-racist/cultish Columbia just because they were so pretty?

        The difference in the games is the point of insertion. In Rapture, we can only see what the city must have been like by the ruins that are left. In Columbia, we see it at its zenith, and we witness (and spark) its downfall.

        It’s worth pointing out too that the ideologue who won’t abandon his idea is not limited to games–any compelling narrative relies on someone having a set character or set of ideals and then putting them into a situation where that is challenged. Some characters change to fit the situation, and others double-down on their existing ways of viewing the world even as their worlds are crumbling around them. It’s as common a trope in Ancient Greek Drama or Shakespeare as it is in games. And it’s also a common theme in almost all real attempts at building utopias in history–which work to a point, but then collapse.

        If Levine is the type to double down, I’m entirely okay with playing right through the point of collapse. I’ve loved his games since System Shock 2, and even if they have their flaws, they’re still leagues ahead of most of the games that get made in terms of storytelling and atmosphere. I’m happy inhabiting his beautiful, flawed worlds.

    • Matthew Ramada says:

      When he says “flaw,” I don’t think he means flaws in character design, but rather flaws in character traits, i.e. that the characters are well constructed but share a common moral deficit, (one which is indeed probably common among *most* people in real life, if only evident commonly in those with power as they have the means to enforce their failed beliefs even when faced with evidence which contradicts them.)

  2. Chum Joely says:

    I left my computer on at work so that I can log in and try to reserve a copy of this at the game library the SECOND it becomes available (they’ve been advertising that they’ll have it starting tomorrow). If I miss it, though, I probably won’t be able to get hold of a copy for like 2 months.

    I haven’t actually got round to playing either of the first two yet, but I gather that’s not strictly necessary… But in general, is it safe to say that the first one is better than the second? The second one was “outsourced” to some other developer, wasn’t it?

    • Merve says:

      I’ll be a rebel and say that the second is better than the first. It removes all the mechanical clunkiness that plagued its predecessor, and the story is far more comprehensible to boot. In fact, the problems that Teti seems to have had with Infinite are similar to the problems I had with the original’s narrative and aesthetic.

      I should probably qualify that. I think BioShock 1 and 2 work better together as a unified narrative that relates the pitfalls of blind adherence to an ideology than as separate stories about the perils of objectivism and collectivism, respectively.

      • George_Liquor says:

        I never played the second Bioshock, but if its gameplay managed to rise above the first’s mantra of zap, boomstick & repeat it has to be a better game.

        • Merve says:

          It’s more like zap, boomstick & DRILL YOU TO DEATH YOU PIECE OF SHIT. It eventually gets repetitive, but it’s quite satisfying.

      • You’re a great guy Merve but all of your opinions are wrong.

        Bioshock 2 better than Bioshock 1?  Preposterous.  That’s like saying Episode 1: Phantom Menace is superior to Empire Strikes Back.  Nerd Heresy! 

        • PaganPoet says:

          At the risk of inciting one of @Merve2:disqus ‘s uncontrollable ragefits, I saw him on The AVClub reading Bob’s Burgers to filth. I was beside myself. I poured myself a tumbler of scotch and thought long and hard about my life’s decisions that night.

        • Merve says:

          When I finally get around to watching Star Wars, I can be disappointed with the prequel trilogy just like everyone else!

          @PaganPoet:disqus: I saw one episode of Bob’s Burgers a long time ago. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it. But if you thought that was controversial, you should have seen how Steam Chat exploded the first time I admitted that I loathed Children of Men.

          Wait…did I actually type that? Shit.

          Mind you, I’m currently marathoning The Big Bang Theory, so feel free to question my taste in, well, everything.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          @Merve2:disqus: I don’t remember the chat exploding. Maybe conflagrate a bit, but not explode.

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: Fine, it combusted moderately, like a controlled forest fire started for the purpose of burning away the dry underbrush. :P

        • stuartsaysstop says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus I’m only now reading this comments section since I just finished Infinite yesterday, but I just want to note what joy it brings me to see someone on a games website employing the phrase “read for filth”. Gives me the warm fuzzies.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Oh, man.  Bioshock 2‘s narrative bothered me to no end.
           It came across like a completely gormless production with no deeper thought than tackling the opposite extremism of the first.
           Just because the first held a strong stance doesn’t mean the second has to go in the opposite direction simply for an unearned sense of parity.
           Plus both the protagonist and Lamb felt… poorly implemented into the back story.    

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          Bioshock 2’s biggest problem is that, unlike its marvelous predecessor, it didn’t show, all it did was tell. The first 15 minutes of that game are so dire.

        • Merve says:

          I guess I see it this way: BioShock tried something interesting and failed. BioShock 2 tried something safe and succeeded. I admired the former and enjoyed the latter.

      • Alkaron says:

        Bioshock 2 was better from a gameplay perspective, but from a story perspective, it was pretty obviously a cash-in. Teti’s review above castigates Infinite for lapses in storytelling logic, and the same could be said for Bioshock 2.

        Bioshock 1 had its flaws, both from a gameplay and a thematic standpoint, but I still find it endlessly thought-provoking. When I criticize it, my complaints tend to arise out of frustration that it doesn’t fully live up to its incredible potential. Warts and all, it’s still far more mature and intelligent than the faux-philosophizing of stuff like Halo.

        • Nick says:

           I’d say Bioshock 2 started out a lot slower, but I still enjoyed the story it eventually built up to.

          I found the end of 2 with the trip through Persephone, all of the diaries found there fleshing out all of the hanging questions and adding great amounts of background, and especially the excellent take on how the little sister’s see the world of rapture to be an excellent finish compared to 1.

           In 1, the short video after Fontaine far exceeded the actual fight.

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

        The other children are right to laugh at you, Merve.

        I mean, I dig Bioshock 2, but I found the first one better simply as it establishes the framework of the setting and the story and, on a going-in-blind, first-time-playthrough has enough mindfucks and twists to keep things interesting.

  3. BillyNerdass says:

    I was really hoping that this wouldn’t just be the same game grafted into a new setting. Because the setting seems wonderful and who doesn’t love airships. But I didn’t play BioShock until it came out on PS3. So, like, a year plus after the original release, which was enough time for it to essentially ruin itself with it’s own pedigree for me. 

  4. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Jesus, John Teti; Godfather III? I hope you had a long talk with your family and spiritual council before you got on the red phone and called whoever else at Gameological holds the twin key to unlock the analogy vault holding that one.
    But I shall keep that in mind as I go upstairs and apply a few ‘vigors’ in preparation for the experience. Magical elixirs are always consistent with my internal logic.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Hahaha, I feel that in this case maybe a reference to Portal 2 would have been more accurate. That is to say, The Godfather Part III is not only worse that its predecessors, it is also in many ways a bad film, while Portal 2 is a good game that is simply not as good as the first entry in that series.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Portal 2 may not have the original’s novelty, but I think it’s every bit as good a game. 

        • PaganPoet says:

          I agree with you. I actually think it’s better.

          It just wasn’t quite as striking as the original, because we all sort of knew what to expect.

        • GaryX says:

          Some of us might even argue that the first is a pretty clever idea well executed, but the second is a superior game all around.

        • neodocT says:

           Portal 2’s single player story is every bit as good as the first one, though, being longer, it is not as condensed into one perfect experience.

          But the multiplayer mode was one of my all time greatest gaming experiences, so I’d put Portal 2 a bit ahead than the first game, even.

      • Merve says:

        I’m with you, @caspiancomic:disqus. I prefer the sinister, twisted script of the original Portal to the overtly comic stylings of its sequel.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

           I can’t, and really don’t see the need, to compare Portal 1 and 2. Saying one is better than the other just feels so arbitrary. Both were extremely linear, but that’s fine, because the roller coaster you’re on is well written, genuinely funny and creepy at the same time, and the mechanics just feel “right.”

          Much in the same way, I don’t think I’ll mind it if Bioshock Infinite, which has JUST finished downloading on Steam, is just Bioshock 1 with a new theme and a shiny coat of paint because even if I disagree with the game’s point, or find it a little simplistic, I’m sure it will at least be painted in an interesting way that will give me something to talk about while looking at some scenic images.

          And throw fire at people. That’s good, too.

      • Colliewest says:

        For me, GlaDOS is brilliant in both games. Cave Johnson could have gone either way but J.K. Simmons did an amazing job. Steven Merchant as Wheatley however irritated the fuck out of me, which was my main problem with Portal 2. That and your big win from the first game being totally nullified. Never liked that from a sequel.

  5. rvb1023 says:

    That is disappointing to hear that [i]Infinite[/i] does not come across as a cohesive whole like it’s predecessor, but I am hoping the gameplay and protagonists make up for it. Maybe the city takes a backseat in this one to make room for Booker and Elizabeth.

    Regardless, will be playing this come Wednesday, since Amazon apparently did not give release date shipping to people with Collector’s Editions.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Plus, you get to play a Pinkerton.  A PINKERTON!
         That means every time you get knocked off some New Gothic balustrade by an ultra-nationalist cyborg with a portrait of Old Tippecanoe copper-etched onto his codpiece, you can think as you fall to your death:
         “I survived the Homestead Strike for this?  I hope I land on Andrew Carnegie’s fat fucking head.” 

      • PaganPoet says:

        I had no idea you held Pinkertons in such high esteem. Does “Un Bel Di Vedremo” play in your head whenever you gaze wistfully out of a window?

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

             I hold anything in high esteem that Al Swearengen cusses about.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          The Pinkertons were pretty damn awesome before they turned into a strikebreaking service. Allen Pinkerton himself was as bad ass as they come.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      I think it’s quite cohesive, it just has an entirely different focus. There’s a little bit less of all the peripheral stuff from Bioshock, the ambient storytelling and all that, because it’s all about Elizabeth. And I think in that sense it works.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I don’t know that there’s necessarily LESS of the peripheral stuff. Because there are people in several of the zones you get to (before you open fire), you can listen in on conversations (beyond the audio recordings) and there’s a wide variety of slogans, propaganda, interactive cabinets (and kinetoscopes) that provide and enhance the ambient experience. 

        I’m with you on the rest, though: Each of the areas feels distinct from the others, and the world itself feels cohesive, especially with Elizabeth at your side to talk with you about it (nice to not have silent protagonists).  The gameplay is a step up from the previous two entries (wider variety of ways to kill/maneuver, although I found only five or six useful gear items to wear), and as a consequence the FPS elements are actually my favorite part of the game. They, and the back-and-forth between our heroes is what carries the game, especially when the story gets a little nutty/distracted. 

    • neodocT says:

      I’ve played about two hours of the game last night. Though it’s not as dark and mysterious as Rapture, Columbia is amazingly beautiful and interesting. And it’s nice to see the city at its height, and not only after its been destroyed by Splicers.

      Also, there are people in the street singing anachronistic renditions of the Beach Boys. Which is awesome, as it must be.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        If only all old-timey gramaphones would play “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

    • JoshJ says:

       Yeah. My only question is this: will this one be a series of 3-4 enemy, on-heartbeat spawns per room/hallway like the last one? I saw that in the Dead Space too. Kills any tension and put me off both games. I finished Bioshock just to see how it panned out. I didn’t with Dead Space because I’ve played DOOM and know how it ends.

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         Nah… at least, not so far.  The combat seems fairly organic.  Like, entering a building filled with as-yet-unsuspecting hostiles, they walk around in the halls, hang out in rooms, talk to each other, whatever… and once you start shooting, the only time you get bad guys behind you is if you moved past a door to a room that you failed to secure properly.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        There are a few sequences with infinitely spawning enemies (makes sense in context; they don’t just appear out of thin air), and that’s annoying, but as @The_Juggernaut_Bitch:disqus says, everything else makes sense. I did not have problems with the combat in this game, save for a few sequences where I was short on ammo and wished I’d upgraded differently.

        • JoshJ says:

           Thanks guys! Just figured out how to check back on disqus. Stupid thing won’t let me login on multiple profiles and I think my AV club disqus might be borked. Oh well.

          Anyway, that mechanic pulled me right out of both games. Depressing when you know exactly how every combat will play out with enemies spawning at exactly the same points relative to you every time.

    • Philip Scheidemann says:

      It does do that – more so than its predecessors.

  6. Teti, are there any AAA games you actually like?

    • George_Liquor says:

      Okey Doke.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

      Well, not being prepared for this existential crisis is really your own fault.  Its a AAA game from a major studio, its a sequel, and everyone else was falling all over themselves to worship it before they had even played it.  It was pretty easy to guess GS wouldn’t like it.  Which is too bad.  I want GS to have some credibility, but they are *so* likely to hate big name games that I can’t pay a lot of attention to their opinion regarding major titles anymore.

      • Logoboros says:

        So, you’re going to dismiss GS reviews because of some hypothetical bias you’re proposing, instead of actually looking at the *reasons* given in the reviews for that opinion and understanding how various GS reviewers are applying their criteria.

      • John Teti says:

        You know what? I worked hard to produce a thoughtful and heartfelt assessment of this game. It struck me as an important work, and I felt an obligation to push myself harder and give the readership the best criticism I could muster. I searched my soul and fleshed out my thoughts, played devil’s advocate with myself. I scribbled in my notebook for the better part of a week. And then I laid down the product of those thoughts to the best of my abilities. Do you need to agree with it? Of course not. Can you find fault with it and pick it apart? Be my guest; I love thoughtful dissent. (For selfish reasons—it makes me smarter.) But the ground rules around here are that we respect each other as participants in an honest discourse.
        Your comment is so demonstrably false, anti-intellectual, and altogether vile that I have any number of four-letter words just itching to burst off my fingertips like so much BioShock lightning. I think I’m going to succeed in restraining myself, but let me say this. This dismissal you’ve so blithely laid down embodies the worst of games discourse. Your comment right here is the reason that we can’t have nice things. It’s the reason that every time a critic expresses doubt about a game with a nine-figure marketing budget, s/he has to worry about being labeled a troll—and while you may not have used that word, that’s what you were doing. I hope you won’t insult my intelligence by trying to deny it.

        If you really find a mixed review of BioShock Infinite to be a detriment to the site’s “credibility,” then I invite you to go read something else. I’m at a point in my career where I’m done trying to please people like you, because I realize what folly it was to have tried in the first place.

        The ability to disagree without dismissing is one of the fundamental tenets of the site. It’s the zeroth law, so to speak. You’ve been hanging around here long enough to have picked that up; the fact that you apparently haven’t is your own failing, not ours. Go ahead and hate what I have to say if it upsets you, but don’t you dare waltz in here and accuse my colleagues and me of intellectual dishonesty. That’s not the kind of place this ought to be, and frankly, that’s not the place any games site ought to be.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

          Yeah you got me.  Visiting this site on a daily basis for the last 8 months and commenting when I felt like I had something to add was all a big set-up to trash your Bioshock Infinite review.

          I’m sorry that you are so worried about being labelled a troll.  That’s
          not what I was doing, as I hope I can explain.  I’m not asking for you
          to give everything glowing reviews. 

          Credibility is the ability to be believed as a reliable expert on a topic.  Lacking credibility can be due to being dishonest, being wrong, or being unbalanced.  I don’t think you or anyone else here is dishonest.  I think a lot of the specifics you point out in your reviews are on the money.  But I do think the site is unbalanced.  I think you are too easy on small titles and too hard on big ones.  I’m not saying you are doing it out of spite or dishonesty or in any way on purpose, but it does make me less likely to take your view seriously.  It doesn’t mean I don’t read it or think about it, but time and time again once I’ve played a game GS has reviewed for myself, I’ve found the criticisms to be accurate but overblown.  That’s a pattern that makes me wary to take your word on things.  That’s my accusing you of lacking credibility yes, but its not an accusation of dishonesty, just of a lack of balance.

          I am truly shocked that you are so upset by my comment that you seem to be basically showing me the door.  I think I am entitled to give my opinion, and I think my long-term status here should have at least earned me a chance to explain myself rather than assuming the worst possible interpretation of my comments.  Every other aspect of this site besides the AAA reviews is something I have been unabashedly enthusiastic about. 

          Was my use of the word “credbility” vague enough to imply dishonesty when I didn’t mean it?  Maybe so.  I’m not a professional writer.  But the nature of relationships is that sometimes people aren’t clear and the other person gives them a chance to clarify if they’ve said something that seem egregious.  I don’t expect you to do that for every teenage brat who comes trying to get a rise out of people.  But I’m about as loyal a ready as anyone on this site. 

          Do you really think I just decided one night that I hate this site after all?  Could I have been more nuanced in my expression of what my gripe was?  Probably.  I’m sure I’m not being all that clear right now, even though I’m trying as hard as I can.  My point here is just that if the base of this site is disagreeing without dismissing, that should also include giving people a chance to explain themselves before flying off the handle at them.  But I’ve tried to do that now and if you still think I’m so egregious that my continued presence if offensive, just let me know.

        • Chum Joely says:

          (In my best “color commentary” voice)

          Y’know, @Effigy_Power:disqus , as Gameological commenters and chatters, we talk a lot about “nuking people from orbit”, but I think this is one case where the phrase really does apply.

        • Chum Joely says:

          More seriously: I’m not a big fan of this kind of comment either, which is common in different variations across gaming sites (but of course @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus ‘s thoughts on the matter are more nuanced than the original comment, as seen in his reply just above me).

          But John, your reply kind of seems more like you’re replying to an entire internet phenomenon than to the particular comment at hand.

          In conclusion: Whoa there, Hitler; whoa.

        • JohnnyLongtorso says:

          I don’t get the whole “John is biased against AAA games” thing, since most AAA titles *are* at least somewhat overrated due to marketing hype and Internet/critical groupthink. I do think the site tilts a little too far towards overanalyzing things, especially because games don’t always have a deep, hidden meaning to them, they just exist for entertainment. It might be because GS is trying to establish itself as a serious alternative to most of the gaming press, which is fine, but it also leads to inexplicable blowups like this one. It doesn’t help that the community here feels kind of small and insular to me — I always feel like I’m not part of the in-group when I comment here. Or maybe I just don’t have anything meaningful to add.

        • Ignacy_K says:

          Teti’s histrionic tuquoque troll defense probably isn’t his finest hour. 

          MSN4’s reaction was not the most eloquent, but the review was pretty predictable. Gameplay dismissed as “ball licking,” a genuine intellectual achievement — by gaming standards — dismissed as “complacency,” vague political objections, &c., amount to something like paint-by-numbers contrarianism. Not quite trolling, but still. 

          Teti’s oddly perfervid reaction seems like a “doth protest too much” moment.

        • SamPlays says:

          @JohnTeti:disqus I’m not sure you can get away with saying that “the ability to disagree without dismissing is one of the fundamental tenets of the site” when you are simultaneously dismissing @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus . As a writer and critic, you’re entitled to defend your opinions but your reply borders on incivility. As a reasonable adult, you can’t justify your response by saying, “He did it first!” The offending comment, which is not all that offensive, makes a relatively accurate observation (i.e., GS is tougher on AAA games). Personally, I think this perception stems partially from the lack of a grading system. For example, your and Keza MacDonald’s (IGN) reviews for Tomb Raider are pretty consistent, bordering on note-for-note in terms of pros and cons. But her review is required to arbitrarily assign a number. GS reviews are also driven by a philosophy that accounts for the aesthetic qualities of games. Many of the GS reviews tend to focus on story, characters, themes and other aspects that characterize the emotional and intellectual qualities of art. Technical aspects of games (graphics, game play mechanics, sound, etc.) are often not the main point of many GS reviews but are selling points for many AAA titles. Furthermore, GS has created a reputation for celebrating independent games, which could create a perception that you and the other writers/editors are “too good” for mainstream games. I think GS gives a fair shot to all types of games (you need to start reviewing old and new board games, please) but focusing on indie games (or anything labeled as “indie”) brings along all of the social baggage. What’s more problematic is that a GS representative is taking the time and energy to publicly castigate a site member for expressing his opinion. It seems out of character for you and it’s a not a standard of conduct that suits the Gameological Society. (Seriously, if you were one of my employees, I would expect you to apologize to Mercenary).

        • Fluka says:


          I’m 99% sure that the word “credibility” is the word that caused John to go nuclear on you above.  Which is too bad – I personally think your comments in the past have been quite cogent, and I’d be sorry to see you leave.  The word “credibility” does carry a ton of baggage from other review sites, however.  Commenters complaining that games journalists are all paid off by the industry when they give good scores – but then turning around and accusing reviewers of being “not objective” or, yes, saying that they’ve “lost all credibility” when they give a game a less than glowing score (the famous Uncharted 3 debacle back on the AV Club).  This kind of lose-lose rhetoric really has poisoned discourse in much of the Gaming Internet.

          Your followup comment is a lot more thoughtful than that, though, and to a certain extent I’m in agreement with you.  I don’t really come to Gameological to get a definitive assessment of a game’s artistic merit.  They definitely do tend to focus on the flaws in AAA games a lot more, while lionizing indie games.  Particularly in Teti’s reviews, there’s a very distinctive editorial and artistic stance.

          And you know what?  That’s okay.  I’ve got plenty of places online I can go to get a “good or not good” appraisal.  I really appreciate Gameological because it often raises questions and starts conversations that are different from the party line on the rest of the internet.  In the midst of the monumental amounts of hype accompanying this game, it’s good to actually see someone question, for instance, whether the gameplay actually complements the setting and themes of the game, or restricts it.  Some of the best comments on the site in the past (which have shown up in the Friday Best-Of lists) have been well-argued disagreements with John, or Drew, or someone else’s conclusions.  

          Basically, I’d rather this site have interesting if flawed critiques than strive for some abstract ideal of objectivity.

        • Fluka says:

          (Sad remnants of a disqus failure here. Ignore. *Cuts to stock video of dog licking its balls.*)

        • PaganPoet says:

          @Fluka:disqus Your inability to take a hard-line stance opinion is frustrating and maddening. You’re terrible and I don’t care much for you at all.

          And you know what? That’s okay. Part of the perks of being a mature, grown-up is, outside of work and other obligations of course, we really do have the ability to pick and choose the personalities and characteristics we surround ourselves with.

          EDIT: Gah! Your edit ruined this post!

        • Fluka says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus It’s cool – all that stuff just went back into the previous post, where it belonged!  I am still going to assume that your “like” was entirely for the naughty dog, however.

          Disqus: you know what? It’s not okay.

        • John Teti says:

          @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus Thanks very much for your response. It’s because you are a longtime member of the community that I took your words seriously rather than ignoring them as the words of a random crank. And what I read was someone saying that my opinion—which I worked hard to develop for your benefit—was essentially preordained, and that I ought not to be taken seriously because of that. Reading it again in the light of morning, that still strikes me as an awfully shitty thing to say, and I’m dubious of the notion that I was supposed to respond by saying, “Please, tell me more.” I’m not made of stone. Yes, I got very angry, because you ignored the entire substance of my review and casually dismissed the core of what I do.

          That said, I’m no longer angry, and I also recognize that even good friends sometimes piss each other off with moments of ineloquence. What HAS changed in the light of morning is that my affection for the readers, including you, has returned to the fore. So let me apologize and extend a hand of friendship. I’m sorry for hurting you, and I offer you my warmest internet hug.

        • SamPlays says:

          @JohnnyLongtorso:disqus Interesting that you would comment about the GS community coming across as insular. There are a lot of regulars who comment on the site and it seems like there’s a handful that have garnered some fans (not pointing fingers). It doesn’t help that a smaller handful have taken themselves to producing Gameological fan memorabilia (again, not pointing fingers). In my experience with posting comments, people rarely reply back, which is fine. But the lack of interaction from most people makes any actual discussion difficult – in my opinion, most of the interaction seems limited to a fraction of the GS community on display in the comments sections. All of these factors work to create the perception of a “pre-existing” group. Of course, when you look at user stats, there’s a limited group that spends A LOT of time on Gameological. I visit regularly and comment casually – since the the site launched, I’ve amassed an astounding 151 comments. Compare that to other members who have logged upwards of 1500-2000 comments on this site alone, not to mention hundreds or thousands more over at the Av Club. That a lot of time invested on this site and I guess group dynamics take care of the rest (i.e., online exposure is a form of contact, more of which leads to perceived homogeneity of the group – basically, if you’re not in then you’re out). The end result, I suspect, is that many people who visit the site read the comment sections and feel like an outsider peering in. Do I wish, this community was more inclusive? Of course, but I’ve learned to adjust my expectations about having discussions here or anywhere online. I enjoy chiming in about things of interest, throwing out the random provocation/ribald joke, etc. and I hold no pretense that my comments are insightful or worthy of attention. But I’ve learned over my years that it’s not worth trying to wedge yourself into a perceived “cool” group when you have to work excessively hard at it. Enjoy the site for what it is, not what you want it to be. 

        • George_Liquor says:

          Maybe a rage dump at 3 AM isn’t very wise, but if I were Chief Editor of a publication like this, and I had the intellectual integrity of my entire writing staff called into question, my hams would get a little steamed, too.

          Steamed hams!

        • John Teti says:

          @George_Liquor:disqus Well, I’m on the west coast this week attending the Game Developers Conference, so it was actually an ill-advised rage dump at midnight. Totally different.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

          John.  I really don’t mean to be a jerk, but what you just told me is that you stand by everything you said but you are sorry you were angry about it.  I’m not looking to prolong this but I don’t want to hear “I think you’re a jerk and don’t belong here, but I’m sorry I actually said it out loud,” which is kind of what that sounded like to me.  I’ve tried to explain myself but frankly you are kind of coming off with a “We can all have opinions, but they can’t make me look bad” attitude.  You’re not perfect and your site isn’t perfect and if your response to someone criticizing you is going to be to go nuclear and then offer a pseudo-apology, maybe you need to rethink being in the public eye.  I *was* hurt before because I like it here, now I’m angry because I feel my intelligence is being insulted and your honesty *is* being strained with your “I’m sorry that you made me angry by being so shitty.”

        • Fluka says:

          @SamPlays:disqus Aaah, please keep posting!  Speaking as a “regular,” this place gets boring when it’s all the same folks over and over again! 

          @JohnTeti:disqus Are we going to get a post on GDC at all?  The talks there always sound really interesting…

        • SamPlays says:

          @Fluka:disqus With all sincerity, I promise to keep up my casual ways. 

          *Goes for a high five but predictably misses the mark*

        • mobvok says:

          edit- If Mercenary’s edited, so can I! I’ll let it be.

        • George_Liquor says:

          @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus Really? In what way can “It was pretty easy to guess GS wouldn’t like it.  Which is too bad.  I want GS to have some credibility, but they are *so* likely to hate big name games that I can’t pay a lot of attention to their opinion regarding major titles anymore.” not be interpreted as an attack on the site’s intellectual honesty? In what way does that not read as an out-of-hand dismissal of Teti’s entire position based on your own prejudices about GS?

          Edit: I ain’t editing shit!

        • John Teti says:

          @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus I saw your deleted reply, and I understand how you feel. Let me be clear that my apology is heartfelt so there’s no ambiguity. I don’t think you’re a jerk. I read your follow-up, and I take you at your word when you say that your original remark did not eloquently state your intent, and that I misinterpreted it. I was reacting in anger to one comment and wrongly extended that to a broader indictment of you. That was shitty, and I regret it. In the light of day, I’ve been reminded that you’re a friend. What I was getting at with my apology was that while I believe your original comment was unfair, I also have realized that it was a fleeting remark—my mistake was to not treat it as such and to demean your dignity. In my eyes, it was a moment between friends that can pass, because the lasting truth is that you are a kind, thoughtful member of the community. That’s what I’m trying to acknowledge and to take away from this.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           @JohnTeti:disqus I appreciate that, especially in light that my deleted reply was over the line.  As I asked you to give me the benefit of the doubt, I should have given you the same.  I apologize for that.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re cool.

          To @George_Liquor:disqus @mobvok:disqus everyone else, Yes there are definitely more things that I could explain better and more conversation that could spawn from this.  The emotions already involved in this thread though make it most beneficial for me to just leave it be.  I know that can be a frustrating answer (if the roles were reversed it would frustrate me) but the last 12 hours have shown that whatever it was I saying, I was doing a piss poor job saying it.  I get the feeling I would have made my point more clearly if I had used cave drawings and tetris blocks.  So its probably not worth trying to salvage anything from this mess and instead just move on to other things.

        • GaryX says:

          Have you guys seen these video games?

          They’re pretty cool. 
          Cool stuff.

        • SamPlays says:

          @GaryX:disqus Cool. Coolcoolcool.

        • zpoccc says:

          wow, @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus struck a bit of a nerve, there, huh!

          what he brought up – that AAA games are routinely reviewed negatively at this site – is a real thing regardless of the reasons behind it. on a basic scale of probability, the chances of you giving bioshock infinite a poor review were very high because of your history, and lo and behold, you surprised no one with your opinion expressed here today. 

        • Enkidum says:

          Appreciate the back-and-forth here.

          Y’all are grown ups, and have handled disagreement in a pretty grown-up manner. On the internet. Imagine that!

          Can I just poke at this raw wound a little more? I’ll say a couple of things. 

          First, @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus could definitely have worked on his phrasing in the OP (and should have probably been conscious of the likelihood of starting shit, given John’s history of responding to people saying similar things in the past.

          Second, @JohnTeti:disqus could have given a lot more benefit of the doubt, given that this is a commenter who does know the place, adds value to it on a regular basis, and clearly isn’t (a) a moron or (b) trolling. So yeah, the response to OP could have worked a lot on its own phrasing (probably moreso than the OP, to be honest).

          And I think at this point everyone agrees with most of that.

          I think Mercenary is probably correct to say that there’s something of a bias towards indie games as opposed to AAA titles, but if you’re a site that values creativity, that’s inevitable. Halo 8, while it will be completely beautiful and have almost flawless gameplay, will be nothing other than a slightly improved version of a game that was essentially complete 12 years ago. So if you’re interested in games-as-art or whatever, then there are going to be criticisms of said game that just don’t apply to your Braids or Bastions or what have you, because almost by definition they aren’t spinning their wheels – the whole point of indie games like that is that they try something new. Which is essentially impossible with a sequel to an AAA game – the whole point of these sequels is that they are meant to be better versions of something you’ve already seen.

          And when you have a game like Bioshock which is one of the few AAA titles that really tries to push the games-as-art line, then criticizing its sequels for delivering more of the same is pretty much inevitable, I think. 

          And the idea that giving such criticism amounts to a rejection of the game is silly. John clearly had quite a bit of fun playing the game, despite gaping plot holes and recycling of very old ideas. It’s just that the aspects of the game that are good are pretty much obvious, and the problems with it require a bit more elucidation. So especially in an essay-format site like this one, the review may end up stressing the negative a bit more than the positive.

          Eh, there was more I was going to say but my hangover’s wearing off and I have a thesis to finish…

        • Fluka says:

          @Enkidum:disqus FINISH YOUR THESIS.

        • zerocrates says:

          Even without all the later apologies and clarifications, I’m not sure I see anything in Mercenary’s comment that’s demonstrably false, anti-intellectual, or vile. Dismissive? Sure.

          “Anti-mainstream bias” is a somewhat tired argument that seems to show up on comments with regularity on reviews of “big” games here (and especially at AV Club’s old Games section) that have strong positive critical consensus. I’d say there’s an element of slant or bias on both “sides,” not merely belligerent drive-by fanboy readers.

          I myself assumed in advance that this site would be at least much less effusive in its praise than nearly every other outlet seemed to be, but I think that says more about those outlets than it does about Gameological.

          To me, the “us vs. them” mentality that seems to arise against more “mainstream” views is as disappointing as some of even the most rude and dismissive critiques. Stuff that’s an attack or over the line can be flagged or ignored, but I don’t see anything like that here.

      • Girard says:

        You sound weirdly less skeptical of “everyone else …falling all over themselves to worship it before they had even played it” than you do of John actually producing a well-argued dissenting opinion.

        Then again, you’ve also generated some weird black/white fiction where because this review isn’t glowing, Gameological “hates” the game, so maybe you’re just electing not to use your critical faculties right now.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           hate was too strong a word.  And I didn’t mean to sound fond of band-wagoners.  In fact if anyone in the industry is dishonest, its the review sites that cozy up in order to get exclusives.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus , I don’t know how anyone is supposed to take the IGN review seriously. I’m sure it’s in the ballpark, but how can it not be colored by it’s own exclusivity?

        • Travis Stewart says:

          But is it actually a well-argued dissenting opinion? It almost feels like Teti’s problem is that Bioshock Infinite has to be a game at the end of the day. The inclusion of vigors is characteristic of “a disregard for internal logic”. While the narrative becomes “tangled in psychobabble and filial angst”, “the most discordant moment” of Teti’s playthrough is the title’s failure to incorporate that angst more heavily into the general gameplay. The review barely talks about the gameplay, because to do so would be “like praising your dog for licking his balls”.

          That’s an odd sentiment for a game review, but it’s a deeply problematic thing for a thematic discussion because it means that full weight is not granted to the gameplay elements. How can you arrive at an accurate depiction of the narrative and its dynamics if you ignore that? The “pursuing power is bad” reading provided by the author is described as “ideologically thin”, but it’s absolutely bonkers if you treat the protagonist as having a role to play in the creation and treatment of themes in the game.

        • I agree with Travis. I love GS, although I think their overall “beyond the game” approach is flawed in a lot of ways. I love their intellectual approach to a lot of their pieces, which is why I keep coming back, but I kinda which they’d applying that rigorous approach to the actual nature of the gameplay itself. I know that Teti has issues with pasted-on narrative of this game, but I don’t know how he feels about it in relation to the actual act of playing it.

          Anyway, a while back I believe Teti and I debated over this as well (or was it Drew?), but I’d like to know how, for example, when fighting some of the larger enemies, how the fight itself fits into the narrative. Does the environment help or hinder these types of fights? Vigors lack a context, but does that contextual lack mean anything in the midst of a fight, from either badguys or good guys?

          Basically, how does all this fit into the gameplay? Hell, is the game even fun?

        • Girard says:

          @google-51e69d88a29e1efd2d880564090ed43c:disqus I think, bearing in mind that he has a limited space to work with and can only name a few specific examples, he constructs a pretty strong case about gameplay elements being thoughtlessly ported over from previous games without having the same diegetic/narrative justification they had in the previous games.

          While he does cite some specific gameplay mechanics as arguments, he glosses over the more mundane (ball-licking) elements of the gameplay because they are banal, and something pretty much anyone who has played a shooter is familiar with already. The fact that he doesn’t go into detail about distinguishing elements of the shooter gameplay reads to me as an indication that the shooter gameplay does little to distinguish itself.

        • Travis Stewart says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus  It feels like his case about ported mechanics is really only things though: Vigors as presented did not make intuitive sense in the setting, and the vigor/gun combination doesn’t work so well in the open environment of Columbia, largely because vigors allow for easy take-downs at great distances. So really, the problem with the ported mechanics as presented here is just that vigors are overpowered as implemented. As far as I can tell, this is why the reader is supposed to see the game as complacent (as claimed by the link on the front-page) and treating “the rules [..] of Bioshock as if they form a perfect vessel”. Maybe this is coming more from a critique of the story which Teti thinks would require spoilers (since that last quote cuts out references to “structure and flow”), maybe I’m just overlooking part of the review in my haste to actually post a response, but that doesn’t strike as terribly strong grounds, especially since it doesn’t stop the game from being “among the best games where you shoot at people”. What am I missing?

          Okay, so I admit I did manage to find a line which is actually reviewing the gameplay. I even found more than that, because the breakdown of the combat effects of vigors is quite nice (even though I’m not sure it describes a problem I would personally ever have, due to being pretty bad at these games). I don’t think he’s just glossing over the mundane either: The Skylines goes completely without barely a mention, as do the gameplay effects of the rifts (unless “a pretty swell trick” is supposed to describe that side of things as well). If these don’t work well, even though they are fairly big parts of how the gameplay (and kind of the setting) has been sold, that’s something to mention. I mean, that seems a bit more relevant than  three sentences decrying how “the present-day studio system” has made it good quality shooter gameplay too common to be praiseworthy. Those sentences come really close to saying that shooters have nothing to really contribute to gaming these days, which is an idea that would be more at home in a feature article really mining the history of this genre than in a review of one entry. I wouldn’t treat the lack of detail of the gameplay as indicative of the quality of said gameplay, because it sounds like the critic doesn’t think the entire style has anything to offer him.

          That’s a shame, because the bits he talks about make it sound like there’s a completely different style of shooter which could complement the setting quite nicely: A paranoid cover shooter in which player awareness is the key to survival, filled with desperate dashes across open walkways, tense encounters with NPCs who might at any moment reveal themselves to be Founder or Vox Populi thugs, and burrowing into crate nests with the hope that there isn’t someone you missed two hundred feet above aiming a sniper rifle at your head. Done properly, I could even see a Dishonored-style morality system where the player giving into his suspicions raises the violence and conflict-torn nature of Columbia even more, creating this cycle of escalation. Okay, it’s probably a rubbish idea, but still: There can be merits to talking about even stale or unsuccessful gameplay.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          @facebook-501651:disqus I find myself agreeing with you; loved @JohnTeti:disqus ‘s write-up all the same, because it touched on stuff DIFFERENT from the other reviews. Still, I disagree that you could simply pick enemies off from afar: there are plenty of enclosed areas (within buildings like the Bank Vault or Hall of Heroes) and set-piece fights that force you to make clever use of vigor combinations. Not sure what difficulty John was playing on; I have a feeling that many critics play through on Easy/Normal so as to get through quickly or so as to remark on the story/gameplay itself. (This is not an accusation or condemnation; I’m curious.) The downside to this is that they’re not pushed to utilize all the skills: I didn’t see anything in this review, for instance, in regards to the use of the sky hook (aerial assassin), which makes for remarkably different experiences than in the first two titles, especially when it comes to the vertical scale of certain environments. 
          I’ll say this: I thought the game was a lot of fun. I had concerns with the story, but nothing game-breaking, and most of the hidden audio tapes often alleviated those worries.

      • jayydee92 says:

        So far this game has an average 96/100 out of 43 reviews on MetaCritic. It’s clearly an unmitigated success. I feel like this site sometimes goes overboard on the criticism to the point where it doesn’t even matter. I can’t see this game (as well as the original) as anything but brilliant and monumental. 

        • zerocrates says:

          Generally glowing reviews aren’t a reason to pan a game, but they’re not a reason to dismiss a more critical review, either. If you really can’t see the game as anything but what you already think it is, maybe reviews aren’t the best reading material.

          Much of the gaming press, particularly as represented by Metacritic, is pretty useless for all but the most basic separation of the wheat from the chaff for “major” games. I (mostly) don’t think these opinions arise from dishonesty, but something more like low standards, or at least a preference to a fault for the kind of flash and polish regularly delivered by big-budget gaming.

          All this to say, I’ve been disappointed more than enough times to know that 10/10s and high aggregator scores aren’t anything like a guarantee of quality or universal appeal. Maybe I’m just an outlier, but I’d like to think not.

          • jayydee92 says:

            I doubt GS is the lone ray of light in a sea of “useless” outlets. If not a single major review body dislikes a game, then it’s a damn solid bet it’s a good one. There are other sites out there with very discerning opinions. I see it as brilliant because I’m playing it and it’s brilliant.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

           If we really want games to be considered art, we are going to have to be more critical than your average Metacritic review. Especially for games like this, which actually have some artistic aspirations (as opposed to say, COD).

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

          Many sites categorize as “great! awesome! incredible!” because it has HDR bloom and a high-poly count.  That the game is just a prettier reiteration of a title that is released every 2 years is irrelevant.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

         Your mistake (which is frustratingly common in internet discussions of video games) was forcing this into a false love it/hate it dichotomy, and then dismissing his opinions because he didn’t happen to fall on the same side as you. If you really had disagreements with his opinions, bring them up and start a discussion.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Ha, I’ve been looking forward to this game since the original teaser. It would take more than a few critical words to dampen my interest. I get the impression that Teti is more disappointed in how the game explores, or fails to explore, the ideas it brings up, but I look forward to seeing how it goes myself.

      I like that Ben Kuchera has at least one other fan around here; I don’t recall many mentions of the PA Report on this site, but I consistently like what I read there. Haven’t read the comments over there, though, so I can’t say what the atmosphere is like.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        There are things to dislike about this game but I scoff at this review mainly because of the “This Bioshock game plays very similarly to a Bioshock game!” factor, which is something you saw a lot with Fallout: New Vegas as well (“It’s a glorified Fallout 3 xpac!”, the idiots said). 

        I don’t know when the gaming press started expecting each successive game in a series has to see a massive departure from its predecessors to be taken seriously as a sequel, but I suspect it’s to do with the long and expensive AAA development cycles affording substantial GFX engine and system changes (TES games, for example). I remember when Fallout 2 was lauded as a great sequel. These days Teti et al would deride it as “more of the same”.

        • I’d say that’s a pretty important thing to mention. Teti cited it as a negative, but if you would consider it to be a positive then that’s a good thing. Teti lays out the facts, and then offers his opinion of those facts. If you don’t like Teti’s opinions, then dissent, but don’t “scoff”.  

        • mobvok says:

          “this plays like previous games in the series, (A) which is something I (dis)like. (B)”

          Yeah, going off what @twitter-493417375:disqus  said, I think far too many critics-of-the-critics get hung up on (B) in judging reviews, as opposed to considering the utility of (A).

          A review of Halo 4 as “more of the same” can be just as useful to somebody who finished 3 and desperately wanted more, as it is to somebody who finished Halo 3 and was weary of it by the end. Both opinions are great! But the way you framed it reads to me that not liking something for having been done before is *inherently* illegitimate. That Halo 3 player who grew tired of the mechanics can’t say that’s why they’re unsatisfied by the game.

        • The Guilty Party says:

          Huh, did I read the same review as everyone? It didn’t seem like it was all that negative. It pointed out some good things and some bad things and based on how I felt about Bioshock 1, I have a pretty good idea of how I’ll like this game.

          Mission accomplished, no?

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

           New Vegas has worse problems than just being a glorified xpack for FO3, the fact that its main storyline is an utterly non-engaging, nonsensical mess being only one of them.

          This doesn’t mean I disliked FONV, but it does mean that after six hours of playing it the first time, I hopped over to Fallout Nexus and downloaded 300 mods to add some world-space content and alternate quests, because the fight between the NCR, House and the Legion meant absolutely nothing to me.

      • I’m a huge fan of Ben Kuchera but the commenters on the PA-Report don’t have the same chutzpah you see from the guys here.

        PA-Report, Gameological and Polygon are the only gaming sites a person really needs.

    • John Teti says:

      That’s definitely the right answer. Personally, I always want people to play the games I review. Then I have someone to talk to!

    • Fluka says:

      Split the difference with the Alec Meer’s Rock Paper Shotgun review!  It’s full of strong praise of the game (more so than John’s), but also thoroughly examines some of its flaws too.

      Those three reviews seem to give a pretty well-rounded (and spoiler-free!) picture of the game.  All of which come down to “Yes!  Play it and talk about it!!”

  7. Logoboros says:

    Geez, the design for Elizabeth really has a Bratz doll thing going on, doesn’t it?

    • George_Liquor says:

      I like that she’s about to clobber you with quantum physics in that screen shot. 

    • Girard says:

      Brats Dolls have pretty much the same physiology as grey aliens. Which is why they’re so nightmarish.

      • Apparently, the makers of Bratz Dolls have taken those comments to heart, because they recently released a line called “Novi Stars” which are actual alien Bratz dolls.

    • Fluka says:

      If I end up not playing this game, it won’t be because of the critiques in this review (which is more of a conversation than a “do/don’t play” recommendation).

      It’ll be because there’s a grotesquely moe mutant doll following me around, throwing things at me and trying to eat my soul!  Burn it with fire!!  *Ingests relevant Plasmid/Vigor*

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       Her mo-cap/animation and design is based on the Disney Princesses and the traditional Disney films (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, mebbe Beauty & the Beast) featuring them. 

  8. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    Excellent write up as usual. I eagerly await a bunch of FUCKIN NERDS to come in here and complain about how you didn’t like it. 

    This review sounds like the game is about what I’d expected. I didn’t really like the first Bioshock game because actually playing it was boring and unfulfilling, so I wasn’t planning on picking this one up either. Each time a big hyped up game comes out I feel like I care less and less. AAA games just don’t do it for me anymore. 

    But really, this was a great read, thanks.

    • IntotheNightSky says:

      Perhaps it’s simply because I’ve never been particularly interested in single player shooters, but I too found myself feeling rather ambivalent after playing the first Bioshock.  While aesthetically it was certainly interesting, it didn’t really provide the narrative kick I had been expecting given the plaudits it had received.  It seemed far more concerned with having me dispatch gruesome mutants in a variety of colorful ways, which I guess is fair enough given the genre but it didn’t particularly impress.

      • Merve says:

        I’m only an hour into Infinite, so maybe these thoughts are misplaced, but one of the things that bugged me about the original BioShock was that while the aesthetic choices the designers made when creating Rapture were visually appealing, they didn’t complement the narrative. Why at the bottom of the sea? Why art deco? Where is the evidence of unfettered capitalism? Why do there seem to be so many public works projects in this supposed objectivist paradise?

        By contrast, Infinite’s Columbia rubbed my nose in a sort of romanticized Americana almost from the get-go. Was it a little forced? Perhaps. But every aesthetic choice makes sense. Columbia is twisted, funhouse-mirror version of the United States, which is a fitting setting for a game that explores major themes and ideas of American history.

        It remains to be seen whether the narrative will actually deliver, but so far, the game isn’t just about combat. There’s a lot of walking around, exploring, and observing too.

        • neodocT says:

          On the narrative, I assume you’ve gotten to the raffle at the beginning of the game? I had read a bit about the game’s themes, but I’ll be damned if that didn’t still shock me. 

          • Merve says:

            MAJOR SPOILERS
            Yeah, I’m just past the first boss battle. (The idiot blew himself up.)

            The raffle scene also shocked me – not only because I didn’t expect interracial romance to be punished in such a way – but also because the game subverts your expectations by giving you a QTE and then not letting you follow through on it. It’s a subtle but very effective piece of game design.

        • neodocT says:

          SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (for the first hour of the game, but still…)

          @Merve2:disqus , I knew that racism was a big theme in the game, but wasn’t sure how it would be treated. When the couple was brought out, but the “shooting” commands hadn’t yet popped up, I was actually terrified of having to throw the ball at them. Even before given the choice, I kept trying to point at the announcer guy, though the game wouldn’t let me.

          Very few times have I felt that my in-game actions were truly awful like that. From the review, it seems that the narrative derails at some point, but I felt that was a very strong start to the game (that and Beach Boys to set the setting, gotta love the Beach Boys).

        • IntotheNightSky says:

          While it’s not quite as on the nose as Bioshock: Infinite’s portrayal of American exceptionalism seems to be, I can at least see the rationale behind the original’s aesthetic.

          The Art Deco style certainly seems to jive well with Ayn Rand’s support of industrialism and technological advance.  The images evoked by the era, particularly in architectural landmarks of the era such as the Chrysler building, certainly complement Ryan’s objectivist ideology.  I also imagine it could be seen as a callback to an era before the large scale social welfare programs instituted in the thirties and forties.

          And as far as it being under the sea, I suppose it’s not quite as feasible as a floating city, but if you’re planning on building your capitalist paradise free of government intervention, I imagine it’s going to have to be in international waters.  I can’t really begrudge the developers for going for the wowza factor of putting Rapture under hundreds of atmospheres of pressure.

          I can’t speak as much to your other concerns though, I didn’t really notice them quite as much.  Though if vending machines can be considered the heights of unfettered capitalism, well Bioshock has those in spades.  Don’t know what that would say about capitalism though.

        • PaganPoet says:

          I used to wonder about the art deco style choice myself (while I actually adore it) which would have been well out of vogue by 1946 when Rapture’s construction is supposed to have begun. The best explanation I could come up with was that it was Ryan’s personal choice to pine for a time such as USA in the 30s; while most of the country’s population squandered in poverty, the country’s wealthy and elite (and therefore exceptional and talented, in Ryan’s eyes) could still have luxury and opulence.

        • George_Liquor says:

           @PaganPoet:disqus Art Deco was in decline in the 40s, but it hadn’t completely fallen out of favor. Besides, it’s reasonable to expect that an entire underwater city like Rapture would have spent a very long time on the drawing board.

        • Merve says:

          @IntotheNightSky:disqus, @PaganPoet:disqus: Those are some very thoughtful responses. Thank you. Having been raised in Canada, I’m not very familiar with American history and which aesthetics spanned which decades. But I’m fine with saying, “Why have an art deco city under the sea? Because it looks really cool!” It’s really the latter two questions that bug me. I don’t see Ryan’s vision in Rapture; I just see an underwater city. I might need to replay BioShock at some point. I don’t think I “got it,” so to speak.

      • Girard says:

        Likewise. I don’t enjoy shooters, and only got a few levels into Bioshock before I completely lost interest. The game basically said to me “Here is a vividly realized undersea fantasy world with a rich and harrowing backstory! …Now explore it with the most boring and generic, least appropriate gameplay style possible!”

        • George_Liquor says:

          It’s worth playing at least until you encounter Andrew Ryan. On the off-chance that The Big Surprise(tm) has not already been spoiled for you, it contains a brilliant moment where the entire concept of free will in a video game is subverted.

          Agreed about the repetitive & unoriginal gameplay, though.

        • Girard says:

          I Youtubed that scene, which saved me the trouble of having to play through any more of that game. After the first two levels I was super bored and sick of it; I checked a GameFAQ and was legitimately horrified to see I still have, like, 15 more levels of that bullshit ahead of me, and just said NO.

    • I don’t miss the Metacritic hate-traffic. It’s funny when the review is a snarky takedown, but not when it’s as thoughtful as this one.

    • GaryX says:

      Maybe I’m just a philistine, but I still think the first one was marvelous.

      • The_Helmaroc_King says:

        Oh, I liked the first one a fair bit, but I tend to give a fair amount of leeway to games if they show me something interesting. Undersea art-deco dystopia? Yes, please!

        The “Would you kindly…” scene was plenty interesting itself, but I didn’t feel like the ideas it brought up were explored very well beyond that one scene.

      • The Guilty Party says:

        I honestly liked everything about it but the gameplay. I am not the biggest FPS fan.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Nah, I can totally see what people like about it. I love the art design and theme and everything, but actually playing sucked all the fun out of it for me. 

    • Bioshock, to me at least, is less a prettied-up generic shooter (although, yes, it is) and more of an… exploration of a large, detailed space where you also have to kill a bunch of guys. While the over-emphasis on the myriad ways to kill people is overrated (seriously, half the those methods are wildly impractical in the heat of battle), my relative enjoyment of it was moving around, fighting cluttered, heated battles in areas quite different than other shooters.

      Most shooters is walking into a room –> badguys come running –> shoot them all –> into the next room. Bioshock played with space and darkness and creepiness, allowing a bit of planning and set up before fighting, which especially was clear with fighting Big Daddies and Big Sisters. It some ways, it’s a FPS by way of Batman – look around, see what you can use, see what you have, and execute to kill all these Splicers/Big Daddies/get past those turrets (while also marveling at the details and the various recordings/backstory moments). While it’s not exceptionally well executed, I do like the idea behind it, gameplay wise.

      • GaryX says:

        Yeah, separate from gameplay, I’d argue that Bioshock is notable alone for its conception and execution of place and virtual space though I’m pretty biased when it comes to favoring those aspects of a game.

      • ComradePig says:

        Yeah this is most certainly the case, it wouldn’t of course be financially viable, but playing through Infinite does on some level make me yearn for something like a low-key detective story set in this world or something.

        The combat is well-implemented and fluid certainly, but at day’s end you’re still shooting fellows as one generally does, and on lower difficulties you can just about blast your way through without extensively using vigors a lot of the time. The parts I really have savored of the game so far have just involved taking in all the small details and atmosphere put into the game world.

  9. DoctorMemory says:

     It brings players to a wonderful new place, teases them with new ideas, and then takes them on much the same ride as BioShock did six years ago.

    So you’re saying this is the second remake of System Shock 2 that Levine has done?

    • Girard says:

      I felt like that reading this review, too. Many of the complaints lobbed at this game w/r/t Bioshock could just as easily be lobbed at Bioshock w/r/t System Shock 2.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      It’s almost as if there’s some sort of… thematic connection between them. But what is it? And how can we tell that these games are connected in some way? It’s not the number “2” in the title. I’m stumped, help me out here.

      • GaryX says:

        Wait, are you suggesting that video games might an iterative medium? Surely not!

      • DoctorMemory says:

        I wouldn’t mind the thematic similarities if the story beats weren’t almost exactly the same while the gameplay got shallower and shallower with each iteration.  (Obviously in re bioshock/SS2; I only have this review to go on as far as BSI is concerned, but it doesn’t sound promising.)

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          While I’m all about RPG system depth, I don’t miss SS2’s stat-based combat, incredibly broken as it was (WRENCH MANIAC being the unexpected best build and the interesting-in-theory Psi system completely breaking down unless you use a specific combo of powers late-game).

          More to the point, Bioshock is not a simplification of SS2 because its goals are entirely different. SS2 is a survival horror game, contending with Silent Hill 2 as the best ever produced. Bioshock is very clearly an FPS with Irrational / Levine’s thematic preoccupations (identity, manipulation etc) transplanted into it. That was intentional – the original concept for Bioshock was a very faithful System Shock-type game but they couldn’t get it sold and they needed to eat. So they went from a game built around fear and avoidance of combat to a game that openly embraced it.

        • GaryX says:

          The story beats, so far, aren’t very similar. The ones that are (the opening) seem intentionally designed in such a way so as to play off those expectations.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I don’t want to spoil anything, but there IS sort of a reason Bioshock Infinite feels so much like Bioshock. And System Shock. Maybe that’s a cop out, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but, uh . . . yeah.

  10. muddi900 says:

    I think you are overselling the quality of Bioshock’s combat; I found it dull, so much so that I never finished the game. But it’s nice to read a review that doesn’t seem to be written by a shill.

    • neodocT says:

       I also thought Bioshock’s combat was pretty dull, though I’ve always liked the way the guns feel heavy, like shots really hurt. And that thankfully returns in Infinite.

    • JoshJ says:

       Same here. I finished Bioshock in spite of the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy playing it. All the guns were kinda lame. The powers are some pretty standard shooter tropes. That’s fine, but it all felt very off. Add to that the fact that you know 3-4 baddies will spawn in the same locations relative to you (one’s always behind) X number of steps into the room… it killed the tension for me.

  11. Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

    It’s appropriate that this review is as long as Atlas Shrugged, but apart from Teti’s strange 3 hour long speech complaining about the parasites who designed the lockpicking mechanism in Assassin’s Creed 3, it was substantially easier to read.

    Also, I read “It’s less appealing as the basis for a video game sequel, which is what makes BioShock Infinite so vexing” in the voice of Jerry Seinfeld from that episode where he talks about his girlfriend eating her peas one at a time yet scooping her corn niblets.

    • John Teti says:

      The speech was five hours in the first draft, but I cut out the section that was nothing but Nietzsche quotes. Seemed indulgent.

      • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

        I’ll be disappointed if the future Digest edition discussing this game doesn’t start with you announcing:

        “For one year, you have been asking: Who is John Teti? This is John Teti speaking.”

  12. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    While it would have been a terrible idea, I was slightly disappointed you didn’t go for the crow pun. Bioshock Infinite: Fewer swarms, more murders!

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

      While most critics have been raven about Bioshock: Infinite, Teti has not found much to crow about.

      • Chum Joely says:

        Teti will really be eating crow when he sees that he’s the only one who didn’t like it.

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

          I like John’s straight shooting writing style. It’s not his fault that he wasn’t avian a good time playing this.

        • Cloks says:

          Haha, these puns are really foul. Shit, fowl. Did I do that wrong?

        • Merve says:

          You just know that some sites are going to be goosing the review scores for this one.

        • PaganPoet says:

          You’re all having a laugh now, but wait until some birdbrain posts a link over at the BI fan forum just to ruffle their feathers. There’ll be plenty of squawking going on around here.

        • Girard says:

          Haters gonna hate. Personally, I don’t give a flock.

        • His_Space_Holiness says:

          I’m just afraid he’ll get pigeonholed as a contrarian, and will chicken out of future reviews.

  13. MisterGutsy says:

    It’s refreshing to see a thoughtful and legitimate critique of a game that has otherwise received nothing but unrestrained praise from other critics and reviewers. I especially loved the points made about the mismatch between the gameplay of Bioshock and the world of Infinite.

    I’m sorry to see so many people dismiss the article simply because they see it as too persnickety or contrary to the consensus of reviews. If the medium is to go forward, it must be held to a higher standard, and dissenting voices should be welcome. It shouldn’t be enough for a game (especially one that delves into thematic complexity) to be pretty and functional.

    • DadlikedThomasEdison says:

      Even as someone who never played the other Bioshocks the disconnect between the vigors and the world we’re in was apparent to me. The flavor is fine – vigors fit in this world – it’s what they do and why you get all of this benefit when no one else does that requires as much ignoring the details as so many other video game mechanics.

      And I’d rather love the details – the ones that fit are brilliant. To me a review that didn’t point this stuff out would be just like any other. While I don’t have the previous games to go on the additonal inisght of why the vigors are there (that’s pretty much Bioshock) is useful. I no longer have to make shit up about the powers, just accept this is a feature of a Bioshck universe.None of this is preventing me from enjoying the game, it’s simply preventing me from saying “every single thing fits perfectly” which is fine, cause if I did say that I’d be lying and so would the reviewer.

      • MisterGutsy says:

        “None of this is preventing me from enjoying the game” – yeah that’s it right there. Enjoying a game and analyzing it critically are not mutually exclusive.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I don’t understand the criticism of the vigors in Bioshock Infinite. There *are* enemies/citizens who use them, and there’s at least one that’s consumable as a carnival game. It makes sense that the Vox Populi can’t afford them (they can barely get weapons), and I don’t imagine that most of the rich people you normally see really care to have them permanently in their system. It’s not like being able to attack people with crows is a skill high society members are chomping at the bit for. 

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I admit that I’m scanning the comments section, but I don’t see that many people dismissing it. The one valid criticism with the review, so far as I can see, is that it doesn’t adequately address gameplay so much as how the gameplay relates to the world itself (i.e., validity of vigors); no mention of, say, the sky hook, the stat-shifting gears, or the way in which the environment is manipulated to get the upper hand during combat. Teti’s dissent is welcomed, and I’m glad to have read analysis that I wasn’t getting in other outlets, and yet I wish he’d extended his criticism to the entirety of the title. (How did he feel about the anachronisms and their explanation?)

  14. Girard says:

    I was looking forward to Ellie Gibson’s review where she dismisses it as “Just another one of those games where you shoot people in the face.”

    To be clear, I am thoroughly in the Gibson camp when it comes to talking about Bioshock. An unusual environment, the ill-conceived shoehorning in (self-plagiarization?) of System Shock 2 stuff, and a laughable tacked-on moral choice system don’t make your boring shooty game any less boring or any less shooty.

    • Matt Kodner says:

      Girard, I agree with you on those points yes. But also it is so, so scary to play. I screamed so many times during the original, and had to walk away because I was too spooked to continue. CoD don’t do that to this KoD.

  15. Horatio_Scornblower says:

    Going to play the shit out of this game, and honestly I’m probably going to love it. 

  16. KidvanDanzig says:

    I really know the “Vox Populi bad… false equivalency!!?!” criticism is gonna come up a loooot with the reviews coming out, but I think they’re mostly baseless / coming at it from the wrong angle. When you’re first encountering them with Elizabeth, she gets really excited about them because she read Les Miserables and she feels their cause is just. But what the Vox actually does is more in line with what the French Revolution was like in reality, and the game’s depiction of the Vox turns once they get to their Reign of Terror equivalent, as revolutionary fervor gives way to score-settling and purges. That’s how all violent revolutions tend to work (and it’s how they SHOULD work, per Fanon and other revolutionary writers in that vein). Of course that doesn’t address the problem of asking the player to tackle the ethics of violence when the entire game (most of the industry, really) assumes it to at least be necessary and at most be wholly just.

    I would’ve been more annoyed with them had the Vox won a neat Rumsfeld-style liberation victory for the sale of the gaming press’ (/ gamers’) “shades of grey” fatigue.

    • ComradePig says:

      On one hand I’m torn in that Teti makes an excellent point about the intellectual laziness of false equivalency on this front, in that it can take the form of critique but one that offers no solutions or substance. And hell, games like Red Dead Redemption, and even Just Cause 2 of all things, have touched on the somewhat tired trope of the rebel leader who is just as bad as what came before.

      On the other side of it, just because a revolution might come from a just place doesn’t mean its final results will be so. Indeed, from all I gather about Columbia it’s clearly a highly repressive autocratic state in the guise of a Utopia, and really as far as historical precedent goes, the more brutal the regime the uglier its fall tends to be. This is understandable of course, but it doesn’t make it any less horrifying in actual practice.

      One need not look much further than the Russian Revolution and Civil War to find a situation in which each side, both born from the rigid Tsarist system, were in many regards intensely deplorable. Examining how an individual navigates being trapped between such extreme poles is not an inherently poor subject for art, even if that’s not the focus here.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        FWIW I think Teti completely misses the mark on Fitzroy’s motivations as well. There’s a reference to a “grand narrative” but given the situation it takes place in, I think it’s more of a meta punchline than anything (there are a couple of those – you can come up to an arcade machine and Elizabeth will tell you about how its development was delayed three times and everyone got angry). Fitzroy is a true believer in the Vox, and a true believer in cleansing violence. Or at least… well, don’t want to give too much away.

        Also if you played through the (rather slight) Industrial Revolution puzzle game they gave out with pre-orders, it goes a little bit into the history of the Vox. They start out as a typical union labor movement, then as violence escalates between the Founders and the Vox, all passive resistance advocates / pacifists are branded as traitors and spies by Fitzroy and purged. She’s made out to be a Robespierre analogue – There was a specific pacifist character mentioned in the minigame that I was expecting to see or hear from in the main game but there was no mention. Possibly a casualty of development.

        • ComradePig says:

          I’m playing the game now and they do seem to touch very lightly on the question of where the Vox came from and why in a way I don’t think the review quite takes into consideration.

          Namely, early in the game when you’re on the run you come across a samizdat press run by an underground railroad analogue and the two characters running it have a very brief discussion on the nature of the Vox’s revolutionary violence with one advocating a stricter course of non-violence while the other essentially posits that, given the state of oppression suffered by the workers/minorities of Columbia for so long and the inability of the system to change, that violence is inevitable.

          Again, it’s an extremely brief moment and I’m maybe putting more stock into the story forethought than is necessary but just quick dialogues like that, sum up things like the aforementioned French revolution pretty well.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       Eh, I think that might be because Elizabeth apparently cannot hear the various audio-recorder things you keep finding laying around.  The first one I found by the Vox Populi woman… whatever her name is… pretty clearly spells out that she doesn’t care about justice so much as she has a girl-boner for vengeance.

  17. KidvanDanzig says:

    I just beat it (shouldn’t the Gameological Society have some sort of “Spoiler Space” as its parent site does for films? This seems an ideal maiden voyage for such a thing), quick thoughts before I pass out:

    – Combat was fun, best in the series when taking into account things like the skyrail. The equipment / “tonic” system works the way these things should, ie being interesting in and of themselves while clearly aligning with one another to create any number of powerful character builds. I went with fully upgraded shotgun, fully upgraded Charge plasmidtonic, and equipment that causes melee hits (including charge attacks) to soften targets up for double damage for 5 seconds, plus if they die they set off an electric supernova. It’s pretty much Bioshock Vanguard, and once you get the late-game equipment that gives you berzerker damage multipliers you’re completely unstoppable.

    – I’m not as cynical as a lot of other gamers but I think Elizabeth worked really well, for some of the same reasons that Clem worked so well in The Walking Dead. That said, the emphasis on Elizabeth saps the world building to a significant degree. Granted, the story is very much about her, but I think a lot of discerning folk looking for Bioshock-level world building are going to be disappointed, because this isn’t the story of Rapture. The story of Columbia is an afterthought, really. Comstock and Fink and Daisy Fitzroy are about on par with the plumbing engineer dude from Bioshock 1 in terms of characterization, which, well, it’s better than most games but it still could’ve been deeper. There’s very little of the sort of “ambient story” that you’d expect from an immersive sim: In Bioshock you had many audio diaries of people reacting to the Big Daddies and outlining what they are and what they’re meant for. In B:I, you’ve got two audio diaries that offhandedly mention that Handymen are terminally ill dudes kept alive in giant robosuits. Not as cool. 
    – The game is very driven and focused. That said, the levels are often big enough to explore. You can collect lockpicks that Elizabeth will use to access hidden caches, and every once in awhile you’ll come across a coded message from the Vox that requires you to find a cipher elsewhere in the level before you can access its goodies.

    – The ending… I won’t give anything away, but as a sci-fi fan who grew up with a lot of a particular author, I love it. It’s definitely a mindfuck. I imagine the bloom will come off its rose for me in time, considering the many apparent plot holes / things left unsaid in the game. Perhaps that’s what the DLC is for.

    – I did not see the twist coming (there are actually several). I had a pretty plausible sequence of twists planned out and none of them made the cut. I’m slippin these days

    • I second a spoiler space. Of course, that’s what the Digest is for.

    • Czar says:

      In a way though, I’m glad the story is about Elizabeth and not Columbia. It’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, I mean, I sat for like five minutes just watching her joy at being able to DANCE at Battleship Bay, and her absolute joy and wonder with the world. 

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        Yeah, by all accounts coding Elizabeth was an absolute nightmare to program but it seems to have paid off. Her AI was generally impeccable (save for that occasional tendency to teleport ala Watson, a contrivance that’s absolutely vital to keeping the gameplay coherent). The dancing was great because the mocap’s great, but my (and apparently the team’s) favorite parts were the little things. 

        Walk into a dilapidated house, and while you’re ransacking it Elizabeth will be reading a handwritten note on the floor. Walk into a smoke-filled alleyway and she’ll cough. Can’t really imagine the number of programming hours that went into making sure all of that worked. She also has body language that changes through the course of the game. The comparisons to Alyx Vance are apt, overall I think she’s an improvement.

    • ToddG says:

      I just finished it, and the narrative lost me about an hour ago.  I get the thematic idea of the last (pre-credit) scene, but everything between it and the last meaningful combat sequence just felt like a bunch of stuff thrown at the wall to see what stuck.  Maybe I need to play it again and pay better attention; I only got about half the audio things and didn’t really do any of the optional stuff.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        There is no small amount of exposition and explanation that is conveyed via audio diaries toward the ending of the game but many of them are behind locked doors out in the environment. I’m not sure of the degree to which the mechanics of the ending are explained or are explicable (see above comment about thinner world building) but they’re dealing with a kind of sci-fi that’s more explicitly magical than the DNA-slug conceit of Bioshock 1. 

        I thought it was startling (certainly visually sumptuous) and effective and sad, but I haven’t thought about it too hard and I probably won’t unless I get through the game again in 1999 mode before I lose interest. It’s thorough and complete, though, and not rushed. Mass Effect 3 it ain’t.

        If I were to compare the experience of it to something else, it would probably be what’s-her-name’s first trip into the dream in Inception, or maybe the sequence in Assassin’s Creed where the alien talks to Desmond (and thus the player) directly through the memory, but on a larger scale. The bottom drops out of everything but in a good sort of mind-bending way.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        Here’s a pretty solid explanation of the ending’s mechanics, far as I can tell


        • ToddG says:

          That chart is very helpful.

          *VAGUE SPOILERS*

          So we are to assume that the individual he addresses is, in fact, in the room in the post-credit sequence?

        • KidvanDanzig says:

          @BreakingRad:disqus Not sure, I think it’s supposed be one of those teases

        • GaryX says:

          @ToddG @KidvanDanzig:disqus I like to think said individual is. That the final scene takes place in one of the other universes where it never happened. Where just enough was different to give them another chance.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       I just got into the game late last night and got as far as…. uh… I’m in some place needing to electrify my ass or something.

      Anyway, yes, the character of Elizabeth is really cool, especially, I think, for the world-wear veteran that you (as DeWitt) seem to be.  It’s a nice contrast of characterizations. 


      Also, I dunno if this changes things, but when you are buying tickets to the airship, and dude is on the phone reporting you, is the cutscene after you shoot up a room full of people with Elizabeth any different if you don’t draw your weapon and blast that dude in the chest?  I was packing the shotty at the time and left that dude in pieces against the wall.

      My route, I chose “Go fo’ ya gunz!” (or whatever it was called) instead of just demanding tickets, blasted like 20 crackerass crackers, and then got into the “Oh my God! You just killed all those people!” freak-out with Elizabeth.  Does she react differently if you choose the other option?

      • zherok says:

        A little of both I guess. She freaks out and runs away from you regardless, but if you demand tickets instead of shooting the guy, he stabs your right hand with a knife, which Elizabeth later bandages.

    • GaryX says:

      I finally beat it, and though the final, final twist was spoiled for me, it didn’t really upset me much in execution. Though, I kind of understand Teti’s “beholden to the masterpiece” angle of the review even less now that it’s been revealed to kind of be the entire meta-point.

    • GaryX says:

      Also, I don’t understand the “all Bioshock villains hold onto their beliefs despite the world around them falling” critique in this game at all. It’s SPOILER
      almost the opposite when it comes to Comstock since all the destruction actually vindicates him as seen in the final series of plaques before your actual confrontation with Comstock.

  18. JohnnyLongtorso says:

    The takeaway is that anyone who seeks power is a scoundrel, a moral
    steeped in the easy cynicism of false equivalence. (I expect this sort
    of Nihilism Lite from Rockstar Games, but not from Levine.) The
    intellectual dodge of calling everyone a loser excuses Infinite from having a meaningful political point of view.

    Ah, the South Park fallacy.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Oh man this is good. I don’t know how I haven’t heard that before, but it’s so true. “We’re so brave, we make fun of EVERYONE who believes in ANYTHING! Truly we are egalitarians!”

      This also applies to skeezy internet hangouts.

  19. KidvanDanzig says:

    “(And the original game was itself an extension of ideas Levine tried out in System Shock 2, a sort of proto-BioShock.)”

    I know you’re writing for an audience that has probably never played nor would care to play nor would enjoy playing System Shock 2, and it’s useful to establish context, but calling SS2 a “proto-Bioshock” implies a linear evolution from one to the other, and in all respects that matter, that isn’t the case at all. Bioshock‘s a completely different animal (and I’d argue, an inferior game) and Levine was pretty explicit about that during development.

    So I guess what I’m saying is “C’mon, son”

  20. Cloks says:

    This game really showcases the difference between review websites. All the ones that assign objective scores have given it high grades and presumably sparkling reviews (I’m going to be honest, I might be misinformed here because I don’t read Brotaku or Lame Informer) but the reviews on websites without grades (here, Rock Paper Shotgun, etc.) have taken it to task for being a mediocre story. Did you guys not get enough Doritos and Dew money?

    • Jackbert says:

      It is a lot easier to put 9.5/10 !!! in a trailer than Infinite is a fine work, even extraordinary in some respects; it’s primarily a disappointment in light of its pedigree.

    • GaryX says:

      This is going to make me sound crazy, but even though I don’t really read them, I think referring to other websites as “Brotaku” or “Lame Informer” or using the–hopefully joking–phrase of “FUCKIN NERDS” as @Douchetoevsky:disqus did above to refer to knee-jerk detractors (who aren’t really nerds for doing that so much as just immature) does nothing but make the Gameological Society look bad. I know that’s not the case–and we’re pretty great–but I’d like to think we’re better than that. At the end of the day, we’re all, hopefully, just excited about video games.

      • Cloks says:

        Yeah, I definitely meant it as more of a joshing ribaldry than an outright dismissal.

        Edit: Wow, I can see how that definitely came out worse than I meant it.

      • SamPlays says:

        Yeah, there’s a lot of angst rolled up with elitist, condescending attitudes at Gameological today.  Lighten up you FUCKIN NERDS!

        • Fixda Fernback says:

          *deep breath*

      • Matt Kodner says:

        For what it’s worth, I took @Douchetoevsky:disqus ‘s “FUCKIN NERDS” with the same grain of salt that I took the first comment on John’s AVC review of Skryim. And that’s one of my favorite internet comments ever. 

    • Christohper Exantus says:

       The difference between Gameological and something like IGN or Giantbomb (even though I adore the staff there) is that other gaming sites treat video games as nothing more than entertainment–which of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I come to gameological because they discuss things that other game review sites wouldn’t.


      • GaryX says:

        Giant Bomb is maybe a bit different. I get the feeling that if Jeff could get away with not having scores, he wouldn’t. He constantly seems to be questioning even the point of reviews these days (and I don’t totally disagree). I think what’s nice about their staff is that the view of “what video games are” seems to wildly differ between Jeff, Ryan, Vinny, Brad and Patrick*. It allows for a good mixture of discussion that, generally, excites me more than just leaning one way or the other.

        I’ve actually been digging the Polygon podcast ‘The Besties’ as of late because, even though they’ve ditched the old battle royal format, their new mode of discussion has basically resulted in talking about both a AAA game and a indie game/art exercise/whatever every week. It’s interesting when they compare and contrast the two even though I wish they’d do it more often and more directly.

        *not to mention people like Dave who love games that are basically virtual spreadsheets.

      • Fluka says:

        Can we all agree that, when it comes to scores, the influence of Metacritic is the worst?  Looking at the links off the BS:I PC page there, folks are already flooding one of the reviews with outraged, OUTRAGED comments for daring to give the game an 8/10.  

        I am reminded of this old Penny Arcade cartoon.

        • GaryX says:

          The only people I know that would’ve been pissed about an 80 are my parents.

        • Citric says:

          *In the voice of Alan Jackson*

          Where were you, when Uncharted 3 got a C?
          Where were you, when that made people really mad?

  21. Jackbert says:

    Never played a ‘Shock, but this is a damned interesting and well-constructed review. *goes back to reading hundreds of comments about ideologies*

    • PaganPoet says:

      I’d highly recommend you play Bioshock. Preferrably both 1 and 2, but at least 1. People can chat all night and day about the flaws of the games, but one thing that most people seem to agree on that Bioshock had down pat was a completely engrossing and fascinating setting. It’s worth a playthrough for that alone, in my opinion.

      • Jackbert says:

        Recommending a violent video game with Randian themes to an impressionable 15 year old?! Oh boy, you’ll be sorry when I start choking people to death by shoving copies of Anthem down their throats!

        • PaganPoet says:

          Are you really only 15? Jesus. I thought you were like 17/18. I’m not sure why this makes a difference, but you are rather eloquent. I think I used to just mash my keyboard with the palm of my hand at your age.

        • Chum Joely says:

          I think you can handle Ayn Rand. She’s actually incredibly ham-fisted about the “philosophy”… you’d have to be ridiculously impressionable to actually buy into her ideas. (Note: I have only read Atlas Shrugged from her)

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

          The ‘Randian themes’ of Bioshock 1 do not paint the Ayndroids in a positive light, so I think your impressionable mind will be okay. Besides, it’s set in the 1950s, if you didn’t kill all of those people in cold blood they’d be dead by now anyway. It’s like you’re doing them a favor.

        • Jackbert says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus : 15 as of 4 days ago. And that’s actually how I comment, their coherence is merely a statistical anamoly. (See how grammatically awkward and possibly incorrect that last sentence was?)

          @ChumJoely:disqus : I’ve read Anthem, which I found rather silly. I have no interest in reading her writing spread over 800 pages. (Or however long Atlas Shrugged is.)

        • Citric says:

          I think a 15 year old can handle Rand. I first learned about her when I was 15, and a friend said “Have you ever heard of Ayn Rand? She’s the worst person to have ever lived!

        • Chemondelay says:


  22. Moonside_Malcontent says:

    Can I comment, just briefly, on how it is an interesting choice (and one that Teti didn’t go into at length in the review) that a game that presents authority and power as inherently corrupting influences casts you as a Pinkerton?  In a lot of ways the Eye That Never Sleeps represented the worst of American culture when it came to power and violence, and yet here you are standing against reactionary conservatism at its worst.  A cool historical note in a game with many of them.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      It’s not directly explored in-game but a sense of regret is pervasive throughout. Booker’s a bad man.

    • GaryX says:

      That part of his past is directly commented on in passing. It’s also always in the background with Booker.

  23. RCIX says:

    ” Strange turns like Elizabeth’s sudden mood swing require more than the suspension of disbelief. They demand the suspension of belief—belief that Elizabeth ought to be taken seriously, that she has a soul which persists from one moment to the next. I want to believe. And too often, Infinite makes it hard to do so, because the pieces of the puzzle don’t align.”

    Why? I find it perfectly believable to react such a way in that situation. Escapism into the comforting past is a quite understandable reaction to “learning a devastating fact”. What that says about Elizabeth’s character, I can’t say, since I don’t own the game (and it would only have been out for a few hours as of yet where I am anyway).

    “The takeaway is that anyone who seeks power is a scoundrel, a moral steeped in the easy cynicism of false equivalence.”

    The takeaway to me seems more that anyone who seeks *absolute* power is either extremely misguided (Vox) or very malicious (Comstock). 

    “So even if the grump with the rocket launcher is a hundred yards away as the crow flies, the crows will indeed fly there, and then they will peck him into submission.[…]So even if the grump with the rocket launcher is a hundred yards away as the crow flies, the crows will indeed fly there, and then they will peck him into submission.”
    I don’t exactly see the problem with this. The gameplay of Bioshock was lauded, no? Transplanting it, substituting closed environments for open ones seems to both incorporate the “if its not broken don’t fix it” philosophy gamers tout any time something they liked changes while mixing it up. And let’s be honest, this was not a game bought solely on the basis of its subtle, innovative shooter mechanics:

    “They’ve become banal, to the point that admiring BioShock Infinite because of its merit as a shooter feels like praising your dog for licking his balls. It may be entertaining, but it’s hardly worthy of applause.”

    So don’t. Approach it freshly and examine how it affects the narrative and feel of the game. Because this is, first and foremost, a game made to tell a story, and the gameplay is completely and fully in service of that.

    “Or is BioShock fated to be a series of sparkling Disneylands, ad infinitum?”

    Question: Why is this bad? It sounds like its a fantastic game on the whole and more wasn’t quite what was expected. It sounds different enough to be worth the developer’s time, and could easily appeal to different people. Perhaps someone like me even.


    I’m kind of disappointed by this review because it doesn’t really talk about the game much, instead favoring to philosophically critique negative aspects while leaving out positives. If your logic is “well, you’ll get mundane info from all the other reviews”, then fine, but it doesn’t seem like a review is a good name. Perhaps, “Opinion” or “Essay”. (no offense intended, it’s a very articulate article, just misnamed IMO).

    • Zack Handlen says:

      Given that one of Bioshock’s major selling points has been its attempts to integrate philosophical critique into game design, I think any review that -didn’t- directly address those efforts wouldn’t really be review. And it’s not like Teti gets into vague, esoteric conceptualizing here. He specifically and coherently explains why he thinks BI is a frequently enjoyable, but fundamentally flawed, work. If you disagree with him, great, but please don’t pretend there’s some kind of labeling problem, when what you really mean is, “This review didn’t conform to my unshakable expectations.” Telling you things you want to hear is the job of a PR department, not a critic.

      • RCIX says:

        I don’t feel that it was complete is what I’m saying. You can throw out a great article on Borderlands 2’s story, but it would be misleading to simply call it a “review” as such. 

    • ChicaneryTheYounger says:

       Pretty much all the reviews are like this here. It’s critical, but more of the philosophy and storyline rather than the mechanical aspects. I do think a little more focus on the mechanics wouldn’t go amiss, but reviews of that ilk can easily be found elsewhere.

      • Girard says:

        I think on games where the mechanics are more unusual or innovative, they are given a little more attention (which might be why this site has a rep for giving more attention to indie and experimental games). When the mechanics are just bog-standard FPS mechanics, with the only exceptional bit being a rehash of the Bioshock superpowers, it makes sense to give those familiar mechanics a cursory nod (they’re about as remarkable as a dog licking its ball sack, as someone once said…), and give a little more space to the unusual part (as Teti did, when describing the superpowers, though acknowledging that they weren’t terribly innovative, either). Wasting column lengths describing solid FPS mechanics most interested parties have already encountered plenty of times doesn’t seem like a great idea.

        • Mithono says:

          It’s mostly disappointing because it feels like they had potential to do something more. It’s almost like they decided to settle on making a fairly standard FPS game and then thrust any and all innovation elsewhere. It’s weird. Given the budget and the ideas at hand, you’d think they’d have been more ambitious.

          Solid? Likely. Inspiring? Doubtful. Disappointing? Yes. Ruinous? No.

        • RCIX says:

          That’s not particularly what I was talking about. The original article felt like a run-down of everything that *could* reasonably be objected to, without a ton of thought as to whether there’s logic behind the decisions made.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        Yeah the pretensions / word counts of TGS With John Teti seem to preclude a focus on mechanics, opting instead for a gestalt sort of high-minded aesthetic critique (see also: Todd Vanderwerff’s TV show reviews). Sometimes that’s warranted. For B:I would say it probably is, though I think he errs in a few key ways. Other times, the line between review and think piece is too thin (see also: Todd Vanderwerff’s TV show reviews)

        • GaryX says:

          Agreed. I’m probably sounding over defensive, but I think it’s a little disingenuous to critic a shooter for being a better shooter with the licking balls comment. This thing has been a shooter from day one, and it uses the constructs of the genre to tell a particular story. It’s intrinsically tied, at least in the portion of the game I’ve played so far (just got to Elizabeth), to what the game is trying to do.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

      The basic gameplay mechanics haven’t changed significantly from the previous 2 iterations of the title.  You’ve got some guns (maybe limited to 2, might get larger inventory slots later, dunno, I’m only a couple hours in), you’ve got your Vigors that let you shoot fireballs, mind-control ghosts, lightning, birds or telekinetic waves at people, might be more on the list (again, a few hours into the game) and you can slam down on dudes/dudettes coming off the Sky-Lines for massive, instakill damage.  Oh, and you have a shield.

      This is basically Bioshock 1 & 2, now with a vertical attack and a shield (which is basically a pool of self-regenerating HP, once it’s down you start taking real damage, and it doesn’t take long to put you down).  Combat mechanics and style hasn’t changed much.  You control guns & powers with the 2 mouse buttons, switch powers with the number keys, scroll to switch weapons (or use the E key), R reloads, C crouches, and hold left Shift to sprint.  V delivers a fairly powerful melee attack with your Sky-Line rotating blade/hook glove thing.  The spacebar jumps.

      Battles are less “stand there and tank it”, and more bounding from cover to cover to flank your opponents, hurl fireballs at explosives or oil spills to blow fools up or set them on fire, mind-control turrets… or if you’re smart and have a sniper rifle, set up in a good spot of cover and shoot dudes in the head from a mile away.  They will start looking for cover and try to find you, but if you’re good, you can seriously reduce their manpower before wading in.

      Very little of the combat is different from earlier iterations, excepting that the fights are now in larger, more-open areas usually.  There’s a fair amount of indoor, claustrophobic combat as well, which is actually a lot more dangerous, because they enemy AI will attempt to pin you down with gunfire while melee dudes come at you from side hallways, or simply advance towards you while you duck for cover.

      Basically, if you’ve played any FPS in the last decade, you’ve done this before.

      • GaryX says:

        Let me know what you think when you’ve finished it.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

          Spoilers (kinda) below a bit, so if you aren’t cool with that, passers-by, then keep on scrolling…
          Once I had access to it, I went through the entire game with a fully-upgraded Handcannon and a sniper rifle, also upgraded.  Once I was on the airship(s), I carried the upgraded machinegun… Repeater, I think it was called? instead of the sniper rifle, as the combats were much closer-quarters.  My uniform items were the… increased headshot damage, the kill-streak damage multiplier and… something that regenerated Health if I killed fools while low on HP myself.

          In a couple battles, I’d swap my sniper rifle for an RPG or something else laying around, once I was out of ammo and Elizabeth was still scrounging.

          The sudden ramp-up of battles was… interesting.  Dealing with, basically, a boss plus a never-ending horde of bad guys was challenging the first time through… after I had the mechanic down, though, it was a matter of setting up in a good sniping spot, surrounding myself with lightning or fire traps, and shooting the boss in the head a lot.

          The Patriot bots… eh, I just kept flinging the mind-control on them, let them shoot each other up while I flanked around with the handcannon to shoot first one, then the other, in the back.

          Also, you can apparently stare down the scope, aim, and fire a sniper rifle while on the Skyline.  You gotta be good, because your target-window is like half a second in most cases… but it’s doable, and definitely makes things easier, cause they can’t hit you for shit.

  24. Biclops says:

    “You have no stake in the fight; you’ve been hired to rescue Comstock’s daughter, Elizabeth, and return with her to terra firma.”

    Hmmm, don’t recall any review or article making reference to this father-daughter relationship. God help you if that was an important spoiler.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       I’ve seen/heard it mentioned a couple of times on various YouTube review videos that have come out in the last few days.  I haven’t had a chance to actually sit down and play the game yet (it was downloading on Steam when I left for work this morning) but I believe it’s part of the opening scene of the game.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      it’s not a spoiler.

    • DadlikedThomasEdison says:

      It’s only a spoiler if you’re Elizabeth AND you haven’t gotten 3 hrs into the game. If you’re anyone else or you’ve made it past that point it shouldn’t be a problem.

  25. Tom Jackson says:

    Man is this review hyper critical.
    Infinite is great but it’s also still just a video game…on top of that it’s a sequel to a game many consider to be one of the greatest of all time.
    The original Bioshock had flaws and a lot of these are improved in Infinite, but this is apparently invalid because it doesn’t have the same level of impact the original did and ‘too many things are similar >:(‘.

    Year after year I read top score reviews for Call of Duty games with generic (and bad) action plots that apparently can be forgiven because ‘the game’s fun, lolz’ but I’m supposed to be disappointed and question the validity of Infinite because it didn’t deliver an absolutely flawless plot experience and the gameplay is a little too samey as it’s previous iteration even though it’s a sequel? Oh, ok great, guess I’ll just sit through another session of unlikable douche-bag soldiers pointlessly throwing around random terrorist alias’ with averagely acted dialogue before I can shoot some more miscellaneous bad-guys in a jungle/snowstorm/ghetto/airport/mildly amusing locale to shoot things in.
    In the same breath from Gameological I’m reading reviews on the new Gears of War game being ‘a formula that still works’ and ‘pointless but still enjoyable’ but Infinite being restrictive, dissonant and awkward, full of plot holes and ‘like praising a dog for licking it’s balls’.

    Even if it is, so what?
    It’s one of the most beautifully executed, amazingly presented and wholly original gaming experiences of the last decade. It’s fun, engaging and an extremely rewarding experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a love of FPS games or games as an art form.
    If you feel like hyper-analyzing the plot or don’t feel the gameplay has evolved enough that’s fine but in no way does any amount of nitpicking invalidate what is one of the most finely crafted and presented video games ever made.

    Hell if you want to get hyper-critical on plot let’s cross Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil and the original Bioshock off the list while we’re at it because heaven forbid gameplay, music, art style, sound design, level design, AI, atmosphere and quality voice acting could transcend minor plot failings.

    • Girard says:

      “Year after year I read top score reviews for Call of Duty games with generic (and bad) action plots that apparently can be forgiven because ‘the game’s fun, lolz’ but I’m supposed to be disappointed and question the validity of Infinite because it didn’t deliver an absolutely flawless plot ”
      Uh, are you faulting Gameological for its inconsistency with other review sites’ praise for Call of Duty-style games? Because I can guarantee you that your bog-standard military shooter, if it did nothing remarkable, wouldn’t get a “top-score review” around here, either.

      It wasn’t simply criticized for being too similar to Bioshock, so much as for thoughtlessly importing gameplay elements from Bioshock that don’t suit the setting or narrative of this game. A Bioshock sequel using gameplay elements from Bioshock is not an inherently bad thing. A Bioshock sequel shoehorning in familiar gameplay elements from Bioshock despite their presence being jarring in the new setting may be worth pointing out.

      • Tom Jackson says:

        Nah I’m not faulting Gamological for Call of Duty praise but the latest Gears of War was shown in a rather more positive light for a very average title.
        Apologies for the CoD reference, it always sounds like trolling when CoD hate goes around but it was the best example I could come up with for a well reviewed franchise with terrible plotting.

        Yeah I generalized to make a point but I never felt any of the gameplay elements to be shoehorned or jarring with the exception of the rather shallow decision making sections.
        The looting has a survival element to it which translates quite well to Columbia seeing as Booker was sent there with nothing other than a pistol, a picture and a key. Though I can understand how it could be tedious in context with the fast paced combat and plotting I always found it to be a very enjoyable aspect.
        The Vigors are very obviously the same as plasmids but it’s a little dismissive to simply write them off as the same thing. They’ve all been reworked to better suit the open nature of the battlefields and have a greater focus on area of effect and range to better suit the combat situations in the game. If they’d simply been ripped straight from the original Bioshock it would totally warrant complaint but they’ve all been rethought and I think Irrational deserves some points there.

        As for their purpose in existing, It’s explained rather vaguely at the fair towards the start of the game and elaborated through audio logs and promotional material throughout that they were developed to impress in the same manner Columbia was designed to impress. They’re a showcase of scientific advancement and were developed in Columbia to display to the world the incredible achievements America had made. I gathered the reason Columbia hadn’t gone ass up like Rapture did was because they were primarily used for non-lethal purposes the same way plasmids were supposed to be used in Rapture. You can see an example of this at the fair towards the beginning where two people in devil costumes playfully use vigors on one another to demonstrate their uses. There’s also posters implying things like Devils Kiss being used to light cigarettes and chase off criminals and Shock Jockey being used to generate electrical current to power merry-go-rounds. The difference that saved Columbia is the entire mentality of the city and it’s townsfolk being the opposite of Rapture, where Columbia is about appearances and the greater good, Rapture is about the individual and bettering oneself.
        It definitely wasn’t as fleshed out as plasmids in the original Bioshock but i still felt they had their place and were a valid inclusion to the game.

        I guess I was trying to say that I found the review to focus too much on the negative side of things with almost no mention of positive aspects. Perhaps if the review was scored it would help in understanding the reviewers mindset but the review (to me anyway) came off as more of an essay or analysis. While they’re perfectly valid opinions and it’s always important to analyze games from a critical viewpoint, almost the whole review is negative and it comes off sounding like the game is bad, which I really don’t think it is at all. I struggle to imagine any games journalist playing the entire game and not finding at least one aspect they enjoyed. It’s not a perfect game but it’s a remarkable achievement and hopefully a game that will inspire more developers to try something a little different from Gears of War 5 and Black Ops 3

        • Enkidum says:

          As for GoW, I think it’s a matter of what the game’s trying to do. Ebert said something like this about his film reviews – he grades the films based on how good they are at what they were trying to do. When you have an explicitly art/thoughtful game, you critique it on those grounds. When you have GoW 5 or whatever, it’s just silly to critique it on those grounds. Does that mean that “art” games get a rougher ride in some sense and GoW-style games get a pass? Probably, but life’s not fair.

        • Girard says:

          @Enkidum:disqus Right – different games are trying different things, and that determines, in part, how they are assessed. Mario games’ stories are totally perfunctory, and intentionally so as in those games the mechanics are foregrounded. 
          However, a Mario property that tried to foreground narrative and tell a compelling story, like the Mario movie, could certainly be excoriated for its storytelling and its aesthetics, even if both were inarguably more complex and detailed than the 8-bit source material. Its aims are different, and it abjectly fails at achieving those aims. The “it’s just a game” defense only works when a game is presenting itself as “just a game.” The Bioshock games seem to be aiming for something more, and the narrative/thematic failings are pertinent (notwithstanding that some mechanics are discussed in the review, and are described as not working well within the rest of the framework the game is setting up).

          While I haven’t played Gears of War, what I have seen of the series indicates a lower level of literary pretension and experimental gameplay than Bioshock – it’s interested in being a solid shooter, and is a solid shooter.

        • Girard says:

          “Essay or analysis” is pretty much what the reviews here are shooting for. If numbered scores are a tremendous help to you, there are a zillion sites on the interwebs serving them up.

        • RCIX says:

          @Enkidum:disqus “Life’s not fair” always felt like a cop out to me — “Yeah, I know this isn’t right, but I don’t think anything should be done about it because meh”. I didn’t seriously come here for blind praise, but I also didn’t come for a mere summary of flaws (that IMHO, could have been thought through a bit better, but that’s beside the point).

        • Tom Jackson says:

          Enkidum, for sure games should be analyzed with their respective intentions in mind, it’s an unfair analysis to compare the plot downfalls of Gears of War: Judgement to that of Infinite because Judgement was not written to be enjoyed or analyzed on the same level as infinite.
          I was trying to point out that I found it a little inconsistent to show Gears of War: Judgement in a more positive light than Infinite which achieves a lot more than Judgement does in both plot and gameplay.

          Girard, the review format at Gameological is great and I enjoy a lot of reviews here.
          I found this review rather vague as to the reviewers final thoughts and contradictory given the approach of the Gears of War: Judgement review. I understand reviews are written by different people and they each have different opinions but the reviews are inconsistent with one another.
          I’ve always thought a review should discuss both positive and negative aspects, one should not be blind to a great game’s faults or ignorant of a poor games triumphs. If you’re going to mostly talk about the failings of specific aspects then it falls more into the category of critical essay or analysis which is fine but like I said it felt less like a review and more like a good blogger expressing some disappointing thoughts on the game.

      • SamPlays says:

        Kinda like how every AAA game sequel shoehorns in familiar game play elements from the series… I hate it when games do that! C’mon, Mario Brothers 3… jumping for coins? Again??? That just doesn’t fit with the cosplay narrative.

        • Girard says:

          The gameplay elements in the later Mario games certainly weren’t “shoehorned in” in any sense. They weren’t shoehorned in narratively, as Mario games aren’t as narratively driven as the Bioshock games, and they weren’t shoehorned in mechanically, as the levels and settings of Mario 3 lend themselves to the jumping and collecting mechanics.

          Contrast this with the review’s discussion of this game, where, for instance, the Plasmids were more or less copied over from the previous game, but in the new setting there was less narrative justification from them. And, in the opinion of the reviewer, they didn’t work as well mechanically in the levels designed for this game (he mentions how easy it is to break the game by sniping distant enemies with swarming crows, for instance, something that wasn’t a problem in the claustrophobic Bioshock setting).

        • SamPlays says:

          Mario 3 aside (I’ll assume your reply was intended to be equally absurd as mine), do you think that the goal of “narrative justification” is overrated in Bioshock or any other game that features any kind of story or plot? Teti’s inability to accept “vigors” as part of the game’s environment seems a bit ridiculous. The simplest reason for their presence is because the Bioshock series uses a game play style where your character uses one hand to shoot a gun and the other for magic. From a narrative perspective, bearing in mind that I’ve only read several reviews and haven’t played the game, vigors appear to fit with the 19th-century Americana vibe. Thematically, the impact of “vigors” seem to fit (humorously) in with the perspective on intoxication from that time period (i.e., temperance, teetotalism). You might think you’re a demi-god but let’s not take things so literally and make too many assumptions, right? At the very least, I would not assume a core game play mechanic, simply re-dubbed as “vigors”, was shoehorned into the game because it doesn’t have an explicit backstory (where an appropriate one could be inferred by the player). Personally, I think Teti missed the mark with this criticism, though I did enjoy his overall review and perspective on the game. At the very least, he could have cut his review by two paragraphs to save space or dedicate more words to more substantive criticisms.

          Can I ask why you’re defending Teti’s review so ardently? It seems to be a common thread to many of your comments on this article. I think it’s fair for people to critique the critique, even GS as a whole, but you seem to want Teti’s words (and GS) to exist in some kind of vacuum. I agree with your perspective on reviews in general (i.e., GS reviews are credible, legit sources of game analysis/description) but I don’t think we should assume that GS always hits the right critical marks. 

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

          Spoilers ahoy…

          The guy who developed the plasmids… er, Vigors… here is presented as basically a capitalism-driven snakeoil salesman, not really a member of the flock.  He’s also responsible for importing former slaves from a contact in Atlanta to be the working-poor class of Columbia, and the game calls out the “White Man’s Burden” to care for them.  Segregation is the rule of the day in Columbia, evidence of which is presented all over the damn place.

          Genetic purity is a thing in the storyline (the practice of which in high places is circumspect, given what Elizabeth can do and the nature of her confinement) and drives a few early interactions and plot developments.  As news reports of your actions spread, you are frequently referred to as a “mulatto midget”, “a Frenchman standing no more than four-feet-nine-inches” and similar, era-appropriate terms.  One lady, talking to a cop while I snuck around her house, even stated that I had red hair and green or blue eyes, obviously one of those Irishmen, and an anarchist, because you can just tell by looking at them.

          All that said… the Vigors are in use by a certain segment of the population for a number of functions, though other than the electrical one, none of those uses seem non-combat.  In fact, I don’t remember seeing an add for the Ravens, excepting a live demonstration on a Chinese prisoner as some random guy flays him alive with birds.  The fire for cigarettes and such existed in previous Bioshock titles, but I havent yet seen an add for why throwing dudes through the air is a good thing.

        • Nimran Ali says:

          Electric vigor power. Bucking Bronco- was actively described to be used for moving boxes and attaching things to skyhooks. The others could be used to defend yourself from the “undersirables” kind of the way a gun might deter  someone from attacking you. Except vigors seem more gentlemanly than carrying a firearm. I don’t see a dissonance between their presence here. And IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT VIGORS DON’T HAVE AN EFFECT ON YOUR DNA. Its 1912, no one knows what DNA even is!!! The question of racial purity that is posited is posited by someone with a lack of science history.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        He did mention Gears of War’s favorable review in the next paragraph.

        • Girard says:

          Gameological just can’t win. Apparently, either they indiscriminately shit all over all AAA games, or they’re not consistent enough in their shitting all over AAA games (and obviously the fact that the reviews are written by different authors with different opinions and editorial styles is no excuse for a website to have any variability of authorial voice).

          • KidvanDanzig says:

            Such is the life of any critic / editor that doesn’t see fit to emphasize consistency in their work. Makes for livelier writing but sometimes, you give the Honeymooners remake a rave review (or give Zaireeka a 0.0) and people start to suspect that the only thing calling the shots is one’s gut.

          • Girard says:

            Uh, but is it really a problem when your reviews are inconsistent with someone else’s fucking reviews? Is John Teti Drew Toal’s keeper? Does John need to feel the same way about the Honeymooners remake, or Gears of War, as every other member of the staff?

          • KidvanDanzig says:

            Editors have been known to guide (or impose, if that’s how you want to think about it) the voice of their publications, to varying extents. When they don’t you get situations like early Pitchfork that are just massive clusterfucks of laissez-faire English degree flexing next to measured and considered work, and on the other hand you have something like the New Yorker, which to the layperson might as well have be written by one person. Part of the editor’s job is to manage a publication’s “brand”, for lack of a better term, which includes managing reader expectations of what they’ll be getting when they open up a browser or a magazine or what have you.

            That editorial control can extend to things like review focus, or the amount of liberty writers have in employing personal voice. It seems pretty clear that Teti keeps the tone of TGS watertight but if there are prescriptions / proscriptions for content focus they’re not readily apparent. The site’s kind of loose, which is part of its appeal but also invites this sort of thing.

          • Girard says:

            I think Teti does impose a particular, as you said “watertight” editorial perspective on things, it’s just one that favors essay-style analysis that encourages subjectivity over pseudo-objective pronouncements. Which I see as one of the site’s strengths. (Another being thoughtful exchanges with intelligent commenters, like this one.)

          • Girard says:

            “like this one” was referring to “this exchange” with you being the “intelligent commenter.”

            I just realized it could be misread as saying “intelligent commenters like this [commenter], e.g. me, mr. intelligent-guy.” That was not my intent.

          • KidvanDanzig says:

            Also it’s problematic if you don’t see a very strong apples / oranges distinction between games. Conceivably, the highly interactive / kinesthetic / immersive nature of gaming could provide a criteria that broadly applies, ie “is the game a fun game and how fun was it”?

            So basically you have to ask, if Gears of War is a more successful game than B:I because it tries to do less, does a game that succeeds in doing more a comparitively better game than Gears of War? If so, then you’re sort of betraying your Ebert-derived “each game is an island” review philosophy, but if not there’s no real value in ambition.

          • Girard says:

            I think measuring all games on some linear better/worse scale is exactly what this site tries to avoid by eschewing things like number/letter grades. Perhaps even moreso than films, music, or TV, games vary extremely widely in their form and content, and comparing between two different games’ assessment (setting aside the fact that, again, those assessments were by different reviewers) is folly.

            When folks in the TV Club recognize it’s useless to complain about an episode of Big Bang Theory getting a B+ and an episode of Mad Men getting a B-, it seems even more ludicrous to invite “which is better” comparisons within a medium that contains both Tetris and Dishonoured.

            The question of whether Gears of War is “better” or “more successful” is an utterly useless piece of non-information for me. Maybe if I were a blogger compiling a top 10 list or some other reductive hierarchical scale of value, such a metric would be useful. Interpreting and evaluating artwork is a qualitative, not a quantitative, enterprise. The closest thing we have to a rubric is how well the game succeeds at what it appears to be trying to do, and, perhaps, how well the myriad creative decisions crystallized in it work together as a whole – maybe with some brownie-points for genuine innovation, even when not wholly polished.

            (Comparisons between games in a single series, or within a single creator’s oeuvre could be illuminating, as could unorthodox juxtapositions such as this sites “Decadent” features. But simply pulling two contemporary games off of the shelf and asking “Which is the better game?” doesn’t really seem fruitful at all.)

        • GaryX says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus You’ve really gotta relax. Just let the haters hate.

        • Tom Jackson says:

          Girard, Gameological can totally win and they often do, It’s just a weird and inconsistent review that doesn’t really come off as a review.
          I don’t think games need to be compared on a numbered scale or anything but they should at least be given the similar review treatment and address key criteria.

          GaryX, I’m not trying to hate, just pointing out inconsistencies.

        • GaryX says:

          @google-57dd62600fd9d07d68095401bcb87ee5:disqus I didn’t mean to make you out to be a hater. Sorry. Was just trying to break up all this damn tension. JUST MAKE OUT, YOU GUYS.

    • Citric says:

      Think of it this way. Bioshock is like a smart student, lots of potential, really clever and so on. So when they do something bad, it’s very disappointing, because you can see how brilliant it could have been had it done things right. So, you want to be hard on it just to push it harder for the next entry.

      Brotacular shooters are like – and there’s no kind way to put this – a kid with severe developmental disabilities. If it doesn’t crap its pants it’s kind of an achievement and praiseworthy.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Ken Levine is the Lou Reed to John Teti’s Lester Bangs, is the answer.

      (That’s a little too flattering to both parties, tbh)

    • Mithono says:

      I dunno about you but I came away form this review with the impression that it was definitely a game worth playing/experiencing even if there was room to be hyper-critical about it. It’s kind of like the series’ own high-standards are the bearer for its invitation to scrutinise it to the max. This seems quite reasonable on the basis of things. 

      I don’t think it’s a good thing to talk about games in a vacuum. Bioshock is talked about as a game of high-standards whereas if the Gears of War formula still works it’s probably more likely to be referring to its more banal, inane formula that appeals to those who like Gears of War and ergo completely over-the-top, repetitive shooting of things. It is kind of inconsistent as you’re saying but I think the writers do tend to write like they know their readers understand what kind of games they are talking about. Other websites tend to write like they are talking to idiots who are in a state of tabula rasa.

      Bioshock Infinite evidently aims high. It’ll be congratulated for that effort but perhaps that means there’s room for error even if it is one of the few beacons of light in an otherwise dark world.

  26. sirslud says:

    It’s *very* Bioshock. The AI, the game design mechanics .. not much seems to have changed with regards to 90% of the gameplay except for the (admittedly) very cool hook mechanic.

    The art is pretty good, but the game engine (the Bioshock game framework, not Unreal) is starting to show it’s age. It’s a very peculiar world – very immersive in some respects (some NPCs react to your presence, you walk into ‘situations’) and very very static in others. It feels very strange to loot a trashcan for money and a sandwich that a boy is sitting on. He stares blankly through you with nary an acknowledgement that you just reached under his bum for free money and a lunch.

    I’m enjoying the game as .. a game tho. It’s pretty. The fighting is enjoyable as ever and plasmids (or vigors .. but c’mon) are fun to use. 

    And the writing isn’t insulting, which is about all I ask from games, story-wise. From my 3 hours of playing last night, I tend to agree with most of what Teti has said here. This is fun, but the game stands at odds with the world, which really dents a sense of immersion. And the world and story are fairly facile to begin with.

    • sirslud says:

      Going to reply to myself here, after another 2 hours of play. This is a weird game. Going into a functional society of people sitting around living their lives and then going into really tight fun fps combat presents a dichotomy of tone. Teti is absolutely right. The first two Bioshocks got around this, because the world was broken in the first place. In Infinite, you spend a few minutes walking through a carnival fair or an airship lobby, and then a few minutes slaughtering everything that moves. I’m really enjoying the writing, appreciating the craftsmanship of the scripting engine, but there are a lot of aspects to it that simply work against itself. One second, you feel slightly emotionally connected, the next you’re yanked out of it by hearing the characters warp through the 4th wall to explain a mechanic to you. I don’t think this is how games should be made. When you mix character building, outright exposition, and explaining the game mechanics like this, it really does the entire experience a disservice.

      • Nimran Ali says:

        You’re a Pinkerton agent. That’s basically old timey gun for hire / security service / private army. So I didn’t feel as much of a tonal difference, once my life was threatened. 

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

           I thought it kind of odd that I could walk into a room that had people just working at desks and a printing press, I think, and kill them with my machine-gun, and not one swinging dick said anything about it.

          Shit, Elizabeth didn’t even comment that I had just, literally, murdered 8 people.  They weren’t even armed.  I was primed for combat, though, and was creeping around, trying to find a good spot for where I thought the battle was going to be (it wasn’t) and just came up on these poor fools and killed them with a sustained rake of gunfire.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Are you playing a console version or a PC version? Because the difference in visuals between B:I and the first two Bioshocks in terms of PC visuals is night and day, if you’ve got DX11 hardware, at least. Look at something like the water effects between the two games and it’s really pretty incredible. The rain on the woman’s slick in the first scene is almost photo-realistic.

      Because of hardware and memory constraints, high-resolution textures and some of the high-end effects processing never made it into the console versions, which is par for the course with the current console gen’s age. Uncompressed, B:I is about the size of Max Payne 3, which was startlingly inefficient with its space allocation (including different uncompressed FMVs in all the shipped languages, etc.)

      One thing a lot of people apparently never realized is that Bioshock and Bioshock 2 were made in a seriously retooled Unreal Engine 2, because of the original’s long development period (for reference, Deus Ex 1 was made in Unreal Engine 1), even though they were released in the heyday of Unreal Engine 3. Upgrading to UE3 for Infinite allowed them to flex their vfx muscle a bit more.

      • sirslud says:

        I’ve got a lot to say about that. I work on console games. :P Teams make choices based on the resources available. Maybe people didn’t know what engine the various Bioshocks were shipped on, but as you clearly know, many AAA games that ship on UE.X are retooled heavily.

        I’m playing Infinite at home on my PC, so yeah, I have DX11. It’s not a technically amazing game, but it’s a game that is good at squeezing out the best art from the engine. As for the water effects – we’ll, they put graphics programmers on water-only effects since Bioshock 1. So their water shaders have always been nice. If you ask me, the engine is still looking long in the tooth, but what they get out of it is a real accomplishment.

  27. Anon210 says:

    the 2010 cash-in BioShock 2

    ha ha ha what

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       Nah, it’s a fair summation.  BS2 wasn’t a terrible game, and it introduced some cool things to the setting, but even playing it, it’s pretty obvious that it’s rehashing/sequeling BS1’s storyline.

      • bostonrocco says:

         I have to agree.  It was beautiful aesthetically, just like the first one, but the wonder and amazement at the setting was gone.  I’ll give Infinite a whirl, though.  At the very least, I’m sure the imagery is worth the ride.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Judging by Levine’s ambivalence and hands-off attitude towards it, and the handing of it to a studio that had some overlap but was effectively different, plus the fact that it’s not all that ambitious and pretty inessential, it’s easy to regard Bioshock 2 as an unneeded sequel that was mandated by 2K. As I recall, the only things keeping 2K afloat around that time were their stake in Bioshock and the GTA games, so they were in a position to exploit their properties.

      • GaryX says:

        It’s funny how the finale of Infinite, though, does sort of bring Bioshock 2 back into the fold.

  28. hastapura says:

    I haven’t played this yet but I will say that the original Bioshock wasn’t exactly compelling because of its combat. I always thought it a bit weightless and loose. In fact I thought the sequel improved on the combat in tangible ways and was a pretty fun game – cash-in or no. 

    Gonna dig into this game after class, but I’m glad Teti has criticisms that go beyond the efficacy of the manshooting. I’ve seen some really glowing praise for this and I think a holistic, thematic view is a necessary corrective to the Graphics, Sound, and Gameplay metric.

    • Richard says:

      I’ve played Bioshock, and bought but haven’t yet played Bioshock 2. (I also pre-ordered B:I…I’ve got a bit of a backlog.) Anyway, I was curious how you felt B2 improved on the combat.

      • hastapura says:

        I wouldn’t call it a better game overall, but the dual-fisting plasmids and guns made for a faster pace, and I really liked the way you could pick your battles: choosing when and where to harvest Adam, but knowing full well it’d kick off a shitstorm.

        Also, the Big Daddy drill was endlessly satisfying.

  29. HilariousNPC says:

    “It was the equivalent of a close friend learning they had terminal
    cancer and then, in the same breath, reminding you that tonight is
    half-off margaritas night at Chili’s.”

    Thank you. More of this.

    Additionally, your point about the Vigors in this game is reminiscent about the point I found Bioshock to fall apart, the Vita-Chambers. They promise you everlasting life. There are ads for them ALL OVER Rapture, and you can physically see them.

    Exactly how do you imagine a population with super powers doesn’t go apeshit once they’re informed that the Vita Chambers aren’t for them?

  30. William Hume says:

    A very honest and well written review. I could write that.

  31. zgberg says:

    I’ll come out and say it- and my rep is worth little here anyways….I fucking hated the first Bioshock because it was too dark and claustrophobic. I got a little of the way through and never played it again. For reference, and not even sure its apples to apples, but I love Far Cry 3. So, when I saw trailers and such for Infinite, I actually thought I might want to play it.

    I know I’m in the minority about Bioshock but I had to get that off my chest. I’ll take my ass-kicking but know I’m sincere and not trolling when I say I just didn’t like the first one – and I like a lot of good games!

    • PaganPoet says:

      Let’s get ‘im, boys!

    • Girard says:

      I like good games, and as documented elsewhere in these threads, I found the original Bioshock boring and pretty ugly, to the point that I gave up on it about 2 levels in. Folks here are pretty civil about differences of opinion. Though you might catch some serious shit if you crap all over, say, Dark Souls…

    • Zack Handlen says:

      The only reason I’ve seen all of Bioshock is that I had a girlfriend once who was obsessed with the game and once spent a whole Saturday playing through it. I love the design, but the gameplay itself never completely clicked with me. I keep trying, though.

  32. Army_Of_Fun says:

    In defense of this review, one of the values that Gameological shares with its brethren over at the AVC is that risk taking and originality are worth as much as competent execution, if not more. This is easily summed up in Rabin’s loose Flop rating system of secret success/fiasco/failure. Where works that tried to do something groundbreaking but failed are prized more than works that do an ok job of following the well trodden path.
    Teti’s review of BS:I reflects this belief system: “It may be entertaining, but it’s hardly worthy of applause.” The review seems to say that BS:I is a good and enjoyable shooter but its also been pitched as a “thinking man’s” shooter and in that regard it came up short. It was clear to me from this review alone that I’ll probably enjoy a playthrough of BS:I. While the enjoyment you might get out of a game might be the only criteria you use to determine if you should buy or play a game, it’s only one aspect that should be considered when evaluating it as a creative product.

    I think it’s a strength of GS, not a liability, that the analysis of a game is more in line with other works of art than it is with a roller coaster. If we want more out of games then we should be championing efforts to analyze them not just on the basis of their technical execution and visceral thrills but also on their originality, coherence and ability to communicate some vision.

    • Girard says:

      I want to kiss you on the mouth.

    • Czar says:

      But I fail to see how this game isn’t original, or trying something. This game is most definitely doing groundbreaking things, from the AI of Elizabeth to basing a game on the 1893 Columbian Exposition. 

      • Army_Of_Fun says:

        The unique setting is definitely noted in the review as a highlight.

        The AI may be a great technical accomplishment but its nearly undone by not changing up the character’s behavior or at least her dialogue. I’m glad Teti made that point. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the scientific progress being made with advancing AI and lose focus of what generally makes characters compelling and believable which is ‘good’ writing. Take Mass Effect as a counter-example. The AI is competent but would never fool you during combat and yet due to decent scripts, the characters generally feel real and evoke genuine emotion.

        Regardless, the review is more mixed than the reaction to it might imply (‘he hates it!’). The attempts to try something new are in fact given praise. At that same time, it’s clear that the author felt disappointment in BS:I’s inability to break free from the patterns laid down by its predecessors.

        • hastapura says:

          I dunno. I feel like Elizabeth is a good character but implemented halfheartedly. It’s impressed that she can ‘handle herself’ or whatever, but no one ever even takes a swipe at her! It’s implied when you find her that people fear her powers and all but as you travel deeper into Columbia it nags at me that she may as well be in Booker’s head (Haven’t finished the game, so let’s hope that’s not the case). Also how do some people apparently know to shoot at you and others let you run around with a fat blunderbuss?

          Anyway, that’s nitpicking, but Elizabeth’s triggered “Hey, goodies!” lines do come at weird points. There’s a curious lack of interactivity to her character – I would’ve liked a system similar to that in Dragon Age, where you can chat anywhere and character relationships are charted. Would that be so difficult with two characters?

      • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

         Well, for the first part, it’s the 3rd game in a series of the same title, and the 5th game in a series sharing a whole lot of conceptual design.

        Two, Elizabeth’s AI is only… OK.  Her lines are well-written, the character is well-animated (in most cases), and the voice actress does a great job expressing emotion (and contextualizing that emotion to sync with on-screen actions)… but the AI is wonky.

        One, she will look at something interesting (like, say, a locked chest or a safe)… through the walls or the floor.  You might not have even noticed that you can go through a hidden door to the space under the stairs, but she’ll stand at the top of the stairwell, staring at her feet, walking around in small circles, still staring at her feet, saying “Over here! Look at this!”… fucking drove me nuts for 10 minutes as I could not, for the life of me, figure out what the hell she was looking at on that bare, hardwood floor!

        Two… she tries to maintain a set distance from you at all times (except combat), which leads to her running down a hallway, reaching the end of the AI’s tether, and then just spaz-walking at the edge of her distance limit, until you reach the point that engages the script for her to approach something of interest (a cabinet game, a cotton-candy vendor, whatever), at which point she’ll go an interact with it however the script demands.

        … and that’s just stuff I’ve noticed in a few hours of playing.  It’s not enough to make me quit the game, and, so far, I really dig the characters and their interactions, but it’s definitely not perfect and, perhaps worst of all, has been done better by other studios.

        • Nimran Ali says:

          Like what game studio? Or which game? You do know that she was trapped in the tower for her entire life? If she’s staring at a pile or rags or the floor its probably because she finds it fascinating? These moments were so far between they hardly bear mentioning. As far as not being able to see what she was mentioning… PBCAK dude. Not to spoil too much, but with the depth of her full vision (story wise) its not her fault if you can’t keep up.

          As far as the tether goes… aren’t you in control of that? If you pause in the middle of nowhere, or if you run stagger stop, what do you expect your companion in real life to do? A.) Run into you then insult you for being a spaz. B.) Hang out and figure out why you stop, realize you’re picking your nose and eventually move to the nearest shinier object…  

          My main question, what are you expecting out of an AI companion that is done better by another game?? Teti’s note on her off commentary during dramatic moments, I can understand (and explain as she tosses you coins when you are near vending machines or looting bodies). 

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

           Like Bioware, for example, in the previously-mentioned Dragon Age.   

          And I know she can’t see through the walls or the floor, if she could, she might, you know, warn me that there’s a dude with a shotgun behind it.  What she does, though, is stand at the top of a staircase, which has a flat, bare wooden floor, above an area that you can access (via her lockpicks) if you circle around the halls on the floor below.  She just stands there and stares at her feet and will say, one time, “Hey! Look at this!” or something like that.  It wasn’t until I found the room under the stairs that I realized that the lockpicks-required chest in that room was directly under her feet (plus about 15 feet, they love their vaulted ceilings) when she was standing at the top of the stairwell.

          On the tethering bit… I’m following her, she’s not following me.  If I stop moving, she doesn’t, until she reaches the end of the limit the engine allows her to be from me.  Then she does a jaggy spaz-walk that is not possible in real life, but is evidence of an animation loop that is trying to have her turn around to return to the tether-limit while simultaneously trying to have her run forward.  If she was following me and ran into me, with an appropriate comment, “oof!” sound effect, “get out of my way, you lunk!” whatever, I’d have no complaints at all.  Likewise, if she reached the end of the tether, stopped, turned around, then tapped her foot, told me to hurry up, asked me what was wrong… *anything* resembling human behavior, I’d have been cool with that, and would say “that’s pretty fucking cool”… but that’s not what happens.

          The rest of the character? It’s awesome.  Given the banter between the characters, though, I would have really liked there to have been a Dragon Age-like alignment/attitude mechanic.  Whether she loves you or hates you or is just using you like a particularly blunt tool would, I think, have served the story a bit better, *especially* given the “do things differently” set-up towards the end there.

    • Adam Gardner says:

      Yes, perhaps as a piece of art it’s not quite there.  But as pure entertainment it’s nearly perfect.  It’s more Breaking Bad than Mad Men.

  33. tvugly says:

    Gameological society sucks.. It’s nerd-hate 2.0: hoity toity nerd-hate. Negativity piled on top of negativity. (First one to cry irony wins!)

  34. Czar says:

    I have to say, the only game review I’m taking seriously (in terms of commenting on the story and themes) is Sessler’s review, due to his previous work and qualification on the side of narrative quality in games.

    After playing through about 3/4 of the game, everything he says rings true in terms of the quality of narrative and themes.

  35. Mithono says:

    That’s the best thing I’ve read all day

  36. Czar says:

    (Nevermind, server oopsie).

  37. Miles says:

    I applaud you, sir. You have beautifully described everything I was feeling about this game. Usually I don’t care about review scores (as long as they aren’t ridiculously low), but the perfect scores thrown left and right had me utterly exasperated. A game can have smart bits and smart ideas but not be smartly put together, and thus not really smart.

    • Christohper Exantus says:

       Right on point. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve played that rank between the 80-90% on metacritic and being absolutely bored by them. Sure, a game like Call of Duty might be technically sound (and I’m not just picking on CoD, this applies to alot of other AAA titles), and might look pretty, but they’re ultimately soulless creations, patched up by the industry to appeal to people who don’t give two shits about what they’re playing. I really, really hope I disagree with you about that with Bioshock, however.

      • Miles says:

        I’m in exactly the same bind. Games have grown technically impressive when compared to what was considered a good game in the 90s. They look gorgeous and usually play well in comparison, but they’re so soulless. At first I thought I had played games for too long and had lost that sense of wonder. But to continue  flogging a dead horse, I just finished Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, and it still, despite it being ancient, had me utterly spellbound, to the point that I would take 20 minute toilet breaks at work to play a bit more. Or even more recently, Little Inferno. I’m not even anal-retentive enough to fully appreciate the gameplay mechanics of LI, but the game… oh my… it just OOZED personality. Real personality, not just graphical style and design. Not only that, but the very, very limited gameplay mechanics were just perfect for it.
        A few months back I had a lot of fun with Dishonored, a game that was, if not considerably so, at least a breath of fresh air. But it just didn’t feel right enough to be considered an instant classic. It had tons of personality, but despite it having way more complex gameplay than something like Little Inferno, it still fell incomplete. Like most modern games, it just felt somewhat bland at times. Because even though it was a gorgeous world to explore… you couldn’t really explore it. And felt like it was this wonderful universe were shooter mechanics and utterly shallow stealth were shoehorned into it, to comply to modern standards. It didn’t try to be a hardcore stealth game like Thief, and it didn’t try to be a hardcore shooter like the old Unreal Tournaments and Quake’s. It was just… somewhere in between. Not here nor there.
        Look at this way… How would Beyond Good and Evil have felt if it focused on shooting people? Because that’s almost exactly how Dishonored felt like to me.

        • Biclops says:

          Try for a no-kill, no-alert playthrough in Dishonored and let me know how utterly shallow the stealth experience is.

        • Miles says:

          @ Biclops

          It’s utterly shallow.

          And I did try it (and succeeded till I got tired of it).

          But let me clarify: it’s shallow because the tools you get are shallow.
          Being able to do something in a game doesn’t mean you’re able to do it well. The game has features like “duck behind an obstacle so the guard can’t see you”. But at the same time, even that most important of features is badly implemented. It’s more of a “duck behind an obstacle so the guard can’t see you even if he’s literally next to you. You can call that a bug or whatever, but it’s just shoddy game design (due to lack of money, time, or ambition/vision).
          Especially since this is one of the 3 main paths you’re supposed to take towards accomplishing a mission. ( 1) guns blazing 2) stealth 3) trick/negotiate/circumvent)

          When you’re making a stealth game, you’re giving it all your focus. The mechanics a game like Thief had to stay unnoticed, even if it was pretty damn hard, makes the stealth in Dishonored look like a simplified joke.

          I can run a marathon in slippers, but it’s a lot less painful in proper running shoes.

          I admit that since the early days of gaming, a huge part of the fun in open-ish world games were trying to “break” the game. Do things that weren’t intended. And Dishonored’s devs clearly stated that as one of their intentions. 
          But the “breaking” of the game’s internal rules and mechanisms was something you did using the proper, and intentioned mechanisms that were meant to be used in the proper game.

          Meaning, you had a game, a story, and gameplay mechanisms that worked as intended within the framework of the game as the devs meant it to be. But at the same time, you could use those mechanisms to do unexpected things, to create new experiences.
          In Dishonored, the devs went half-assed on the gameplay mechanisms. They gave you some powers here, some weapons there and said “Hey, go for it, pick one of our solutions, or try to break the game”.

          And if you think about it some… doesn’t “do what you want” sound shallow? If you can do what you want, and you have multiple ways of clearing a mission, then why would the devs/publishers invest heavily in having a intricately well-made stealth system, if most people will just do something else, or be too busy trying to “break the game”.

  38. Brett says:

    A flowery review that is very much devoid of substance. 

  39. Adam Gardner says:

    I don’t agree that the use of Vigors inherently conflicts with Comstock’s need for racial purity.  Nazis certainly weren’t above experimenting with genetics or even the occult.  I would think that a white supremacist would want to give the white man superpowers, and so far everyone I’ve seen use ’em has been pretty white.  Vigors may not be as nicely woven into Colombia as Plasmids in Rapture, but I don’t think their existence is a glaring flaw in the narrative’s logic.

    Also, concerning the outdoorness of Infinite’s combat, I find it to be a drastic improvement over the original’s.  Skyrails add elements of Arkham Asylum, and help the game succeed because of it’s battles and not despite them.  I like the claustrophobia of Rapture, but I didn’t miss it one bit here. 

    This dog has found new, fantastic ways to lick its beautiful balls.

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       The racial purity thing, and it’s… hrm… surprising abandonment?… is less a focus of Vigors than a couple of the major characters in the game.  Maybe the game will come back to it, but, so far… eh… someone who should be well-acquainted with the concept isn’t at all acting like it.

      • KidvanDanzig says:

        Your hand isn’t really held through it but by the end you get a good sense of why Comstock believes what he does. I’d explain but it’s pretty major spoiler territory.

  40. Ryan Smith says:

    I honestly feel like the games press was ready to give “Bioshock: Infinite” a 95 out of 100 before they even unwrapped their own review copies. It’s the kind of game that sort of satisfies our own pretentions of “Games as Art.” 
    We desperately want Infinite to prove that this medium we’ve chosen to talk about, think about and write about measures up to great works in movies/TV/novels, so game reviewer types have been doing everything short of punching each other out to review it. 

    I’m not saying anyone has written dishonest reviews necessarily but I notice a huge bandwagon effect sometimes in the games enthusiast press. 

    • Adam Gardner says:

      Yea, I kinda agree on the whole bandwagon thing.  But I also think a lot of that is because of the nature of video games as a young medium, and because of the fundamental way they interact with our brains.

      Videogames as medium is barely older than thirty, and its still relatively easy to surprise audiences and critics, especially because hardware improvements and ballooning budgets have allowed developers to consistently up the ante.  Reviewers reward innovation, and for now there’s still a lot of ways to innovate.

      Beyond that, I think that what makes a game fun may be less subjective than, say, what makes music good, which results in greater critical consensus.  This is one of the first reviews I’ve read where gameplay was essentially disregarded, and I’m not sure whether that’s a negative.  Maybe we’re getting to a place where videogames don’t have to be fun, like how music doesn’t have to be catchy.

    • Tiako says:

      No argument from me, and I am absolutely loving Infinite (and I didn’t really like Bioshock). But on the other hand, I think an issue is that game critics play far more games than the average gamer, and thus its great similarity to Bioshock is far less of a negative than both games’ enormous difference from everything else out there is a positive.

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Irrational is the Wes Anderson of video game studios. They do really awesome work but a sizable portion of medium nerds consider them to be unsubstantive, largely because they’re popular.

  41. rabi3g says:

    Interesting read. But the game is called bioshock…so shouldn’t we expect it to be in the same vein the previous titles are? Just as there was system shock -a pretty different game- before bioshock. Who knows what the next series will be.

    • Miles says:

      That’s… you seemed to have missed the whole point of the article. His argument was that they shouldn’t have tried to shoehorn “Bioshock” gameplay mechanics and other elements into this game. Or rather, that this game shouldn’t necessarily have been a Bioshock. Or that they should have come up with news mechanics and such for this story. Because stuff like vigors/plasmids were intricately woven into the original Bioshock universe and story, but not as much in Infinite. Etc.

      • SamPlays says:

        Perhaps the biggest issue underlying much of the discussion about Teti’s review is the fact that AAA games are capable of being art (so let’s discuss narrative, philosophy, meaning, etc.) but they are primarily produced and distributed as a commodity (not necessarily by developers but certainly by the publishers). It might make better sense to call the game something else because it’s somewhat misaligned with the expectations created by the original Bioshock. But the reality is that “Bioshock” is a brand that gets attention – we may like to think of Infinite in terms of art but we shouldn’t ignore its function as a business tool. People recognize Bioshock as a top-tier FPS – that recognition leads to sales, which lead to profits, which results in sequels bearing the same brand (even when new ideas are thrown into the mix). If Infinite was the first Bioshock game, I’m not sure Teti’s criticisms would be the same considering his repeated callbacks to the first Bioshock game.

      • rabi3g says:

        Oh no I got that fine. And you’re adding to my point: vigors/plasmids and utopian dictators are part of the bioshock universe. And bioshock infinite is the last entry in that universe. So I don’t think it’s shoehorning.

      • zpoccc says:

        despite the different time/setting/characters, bioshock infinite is a direct sequel to the original bioshock – the idea that that game ‘shouldn’t have been a bioshock’ game is ridiculous.

  42. Andreas Rønning says:

    Calling Bioshock 2 a cash-in is seriously ugly slander. That game is an absolute pleasure.

    • Tom Jackson says:

      Agreed, while not as good as the first one it was still entertaining throughout and very consistent considering Ken Levine wasn’t involved.

    • While I like and appreciate what 1 did to set the world and story in place, I find 2 a lot more fun to play. The more creative and less realistic weapons appeal to me as a non-FPS gamer as well as the improvements with hacking (no strange time freeze and slow minigame) and research (less spamming and more variety to progress).

      Minerva’s Den definitely has a plot more befitting that of 1, and perhaps should have been the story they originally told in 2, but 2’s story still appealed to me a lot with its great use of the father and daughter mechanic for both the little sisters and Eleanor.

      Heck, Elizabeth basically is Eleanor combined with the little sisters and with you for a longer period.

      Also, the mute protagonist without a solid backstory in 2 made it much easier to immerse myself in the role which contrasts horribly with Booker being an already established character in Infinite.

  43. EightRooks says:

    Played it, beat it, hated it. This is the first review I’ve read because I was so wary of/upset by the almost universal rapturous applause for anything Levine/Irrational do – I think he seems like a very smart man, but I don’t think much of his abilities as a storyteller. Or a game designer, in many respects.

    It really, really is Bioshock 1.1, and anyone who thinks otherwise is seriously kidding themselves. If that’s all you wanted, great! Just don’t pretend you’re getting anything different. The combat was a formality – other than the Handymen and the ridiculous final battle I pretty much used two, maybe three Vigors, the same couple of guns and no tears whatsoever. That was on Normal. They’re simply not necessary and don’t change up combat in any significant, useful way.

    It was as linear as any AAA bro-tastic shooter, ultimately, and the few moments of backtracking (compulsory or otherwise) felt contrived beyond belief. You can turn up all the secrets pretty quickly, and there’s absolutely nothing going on in the levels once you’ve combed through them so why would you want to go back and stare at them again? The background clutter isn’t even close to the level of detail in Max Payne 3 or hell, GTA IV and its expansions.

    Much of the background clutter is dumb, too, with no real attempt to make it feel like it serves a purpose. (First example that springs to mind – surfboards in Battleship Bay! Who the hell is going to go using surfboards on an artificial beach that small?)

    Republican Disneyland was… neat, but somewhat ephemeral and unsatisfying in the long run (not unlike an actual fairground). The weird, very videogame rough edges didn’t help (only three different NPC faces would be my favourite) as well as every incidental conversation seemingly existing to ram some point home. I never really bought it as a place people would ever live or have lived, more just an awkward visual metaphor for a big grab-bag of hot-button political discourse.

    And while I liked the subjects Levine touches on – as I said, I think he’s a really smart dude, from what I’ve read – I thought the way certain threads wrapped up were almost comically simplistic. Yes, I can see the allusions to classical literature, yes, I get the whole “The cure is often worse than the disease” thing he likes so much, but God, I felt if Stormfront actually had any brains they ought to be wetting themselves laughing at the ineptly, shabbily reductive fashion in which the Vox arc of the narrative concluded. 

    Other people here have said it but just to add another vote to the count – Elizabeth was okay, but the idea this was the end product of six years of intensive AI development felt idiotic. She’s invulnerable, she’s a health and ammo dispenser, she has a pool of random phrases and animations to comment on stuff around you. Big whoop. She’s still glitchy, she functions like an afterthought if you’ve a mind to explore for yourself, the combat is easy enough she’s rarely that much of a helping hand.

    And the story, Christ. No. Just no. Hated it. I don’t like the particular SF plot lines it uses, I don’t think they had any significant impact on how the game plays out, I don’t care for the moral implications of where they went. Saw most of the plot twists coming – I mean my Lord it all but explicitly spells the main one out ahead of time – and thought the writing emphasised all the wrong aspects of what was going on (why are the Luteces appealing? They’re omnipotent assholes with no detail given to their backstory beyond we-know-everything-and-why-can’t-you-just-accept-it).

    Took me 12 hours on Normal, including a fair bit of hunting down secrets, collectibles and such. Got about half the audiologs, I think. And I have absolutely no desire to ever play it again. It isn’t a bad game per se, but the wild acclaim it’s been drawing both puzzles and saddens me.

    tl;dr – My favourite Bioshock is still #2, which vastly improved the “Shooting things” parts of the first while going with a simpler, but much more coherent and emotional story that didn’t concentrate too much on the shortcomings of the first game’s worldbuilding and backstory. So feel free to dismiss all of this as the ravings of a lunatic, or someone who’s just too much of a sucker for stories about angry robot dads who want their kid back.   

    • Czar says:

      You’re absolutely ignorant if you finished the story and still have no idea why 1) The Lutece’s are compelling characters and 2) Think the “plot twists” are plot twists for the sake of plot.

      • EightRooks says:

        Yeah, ignorant. That must be it. The fact they pretty much function as a MacGuffin, that they have almost no backstory beyond timey-wimey nonsense (which is never explored beyond smug witticisms)/two siblings separated (which has no detail to give it any kind of emotional depth or give me a reason I should care) is merely incidental, I’m sure. I’m aware lots of people love the omnipotent asshole character archetype, while I have very little time for how they’re done in most pop culture – Q holds no interest for me whatsoever, for example, and yet I’m given to understand a whole lot of Trekkies find him highly entertaining. But I’m not fond of waving away everything with “Well, whatever makes you happy” – I think it’s a trope horribly employed, for the most part, I think it’s done badly here and it’s one reason I grew tired of the game, so I’m trying to vent without resorting to spoilers. So sorry if my negativity ruins your enjoyment of Irrational’s towering masterpiece. 

         And I never said I thought the plot twists were written just for the hell of it; I’m saying they had absolutely no impact on how I played the game or anything I thought about what it showed me, beyond negative reactions and general thoughts about X didn’t make any sense, or I still wasn’t being told why Z. I hate, hate, hate the central premise of the main plot twist – as in I find it a juvenile, borderline offensive worldview – I think it’s very badly led up to, I think it’s a lazy piece of storytelling given Irrational’s back catalogue and I think it’s insultingly obvious. I hate the way the Vox plotline resolves, I think it’s similarly lazy, stupid, anyone with half a brain could see it coming a mile off and throwaway literary allusions do nothing to change the way it made me feel. And I hate that this was all wrapped up in a fairground ride, and a none too brilliant fairground ride at that which plays almost exactly like the game I played from the same team six years ago. Maybe there’s some devastating counter-argument that’ll get me to see how ignorant I’m being with all this, but I haven’t found it yet.

        • zpoccc says:

          “two siblings separated”… what are you talking about? how checked out do you have to be to even think that’s what their relationship was?

        • Nimran Ali says:

          Dude, according to your comments, missed or misunderstood major plot points in the game. Or are trolling for feedback. 50/50 chance at this time.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

          Spoilers ahoy…

          The Vox plotline resolves the way it does because, in the world you’ve jumped to, that’s how it goes.  Had you stayed in your previous thread, it might have gone differently (but probably not, the Vox leader is a bloodthirsty bitch), but that’s not the thread you’re in at that point.

          The Letuce twins aren’t twins, they’re the same person. There’s not supposed to be an emotional resonance with them, because they don’t have emotions to resonate.  Cold, calculated, analytical.

  44. Tiako says:

    I’m about three quarters of the way through, and well, I like it, which is impressive because I really did not like Bioshock. Bioshock I thought was very beautiful and it had a fun story, but it was struck me as a bit cold and lifeless (which wasn’t helped by the infinitely spawning Splicers disincentivising exploration). The after-the-end/apocalypse-log was fun, but I never got a sense of the world as ever having been lived in. Infinite, by focusing a great deal on the process of its destruction, gives the world a great deal more weight.

    Although I should pop in to say that one thing that irritated me about Bioshock, and irritates me about Infinite, is the real lack of intellectual depth. Primarily this is a case of targets: Bioshock deconstructs Objectivism, Infinite deconstructs American exceptionalism, which are both extremely easy targets of deconstruction and satire. I wouldn’t mind this in most games, but the Bioshock franchise holds pretenses to philosophical weight–it is fine to shoot fish in a barrel, just don’t act like you deserve a gold medal afterward. But more damningly, both games miss their targets: the deconstruction of Ayn Rand relied on murderous potion mutants, and the deconstruction of American exceptionalism relied on racism. You can definitely connect murderous potion mutants to Ayn Rand (unconstrained by morality etc) and racism to American exceptionalism (history etc) but in both cases it is a cheap shot. Especially in the latter case, as most people today define American exceptionalism as a product of diversity and multiculturalism, making the game an effective satire of the society of 1912 US, but not exactly relevant (fish in barrel, gold medal, etc).

    All that said, why do I like Infinite more? The gameplay is better. I felt Bioshock’s gameplay to be repetitive, tedious, and far too easy. Infinite’s gameplay has a few of these problems, but the wide open environments, sky hooks, and Elizabeth’s powers contribute to a dynamic battlefield environment. Neither game even approaches the brilliance of “Clive Barker’s Undying”, which created and perfected the left hand gun, right hand spell game type, perhaps because Undying had a huge variety of different gameplay experiences, whereas all the battles in the Bioshock games are a bit samey.

    But weighed against all criticism of Infinite must stand the fact that one of the enemies is a giant machine gun wielding George Washington robot who recites cheesy patriotic quatrains.

    • Czar says:

      Infinite’s primary thematic goal is not about exceptionalism. I thought it was going to be, but it’s not. It’s a much bigger theme.

      • hastapura says:

        Yeah the way this game opens up in the last twenty minutes is dizzying. I feel like it stands apart from the shooty, inconsistent rest of the game and really reaches into something unique. Something that unfortunately could not buttress a AAA title and so is relegated to a sliver at the end.

  45. Mark Knox says:

    John, I think you’re great, and I think this is a terrific website, but I think this review misses the mark, and I hope that I don’t think that because of my rabid fanboyism for Bioshock.  This review reminded me of a line from Garak, the Cardassian tailor/former spy on Deep Space Nine.  He considered Julius Caesar a farce because Caesar, a military genius, couldn’t foresee what was going to happen to him.  i just feel you were unduly harsh on the game.  I mean, many of my favorite authors always stomp on the same territory and tropes, and, that doesn’t bother me so long as they aren’t just repeating their old work.  I just don’t know what you expected from BI…

  46. I haven’t played Bioshock before… I assume that if I play this first, Bishock’s “pedigree” will stand out even more when I get to it?

  47. I haven’t played Bioshock before… I assume that if I play this first, Bishock’s “pedigree” will stand out even more when I get to it?

  48. I haven’t played Bioshock before… I assume that if I play this first, Bishock’s “pedigree” will stand out even more when I get to it?

  49. Phillip Collector says:

    Maybe it’s because I haven’t played a FPS in about a year but when I started playing this game I found it really surprising and jarring when I was all of a sudden asked to start slaughtering countless people.

    It was right after that scene when I have to chose who to throw the baseball at. In the blink of an eye I was surrounded by cops. I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to run away? I ran away, but there was nowhere to go! Okay…um well…I’ll trying punching these guys a little. Maybe that will scare them off. Oh Christ! I just ripped that guys face apart with my roller coaster glove thingy! He’s dead! I didn’t mean to do that! Shit! I just sliced up another one! That’s how this goes? I’m supposed to kill my way out of here? I didn’t realize I was playing as Gary Gilmore! Now they’re shooting at me! Ack! Now I’m shooting at them! Goddamn, I just mowed them all down! They’re all dead! What kind of psycho am I?

    Long story short, I initially felt like I was playing the game wrong. Was I? Is there a way to avoid gunning everybody down in that scene?

  50. Biran53 says:

    In defense of the Vigors, could we assume that they are just being manufactured, and haven’t had much of a chance to spread throughout Columbia yet? They way they were being presented at the Fair suggested that they were fairly new to the city. Rapture took years to collapse, and plasmids were introduced a few years before it did so.

  51. Man, what’s wrong with doing a good concept well. I’m only about 3 hours in, but I’m enjoying another trip into Bioshock world, this time with another knowing take on the American history I study for a living. These people know what they’re doing, and it delights me.

    Sometimes it doesn’t need to be that new, imo.

  52. Philip Scheidemann says:

    Levine’s X.

    It would be cool, if we could stop using his name as a stand-in for all the people that worked on his game. I don’t think I have to explain to anyone that games are not really suited to be described as belonging to just one auteur. Let’s not perpetuate that old culture, shall we?

  53. Scott Watson says:

    I think the game is incredible.  I miss the minigames of Bioshock, but not the tepid ones in Bioshock 2.  I feel they dumbed the game down a bit, because people couldn’t handle the puzzles.  The graphics are impeccable, and I don’t think Tepi would know a good game if it bit him in the face.

  54. Nimran Ali says:

    With no undue respect (I don’t know the author), I think you missed the mountain for the molehill in respect to this game. Mechanics wise you mention almost nothing about the variety of combat that is offered. I almost never replay single player games, but Infinite’s fast paced combat and depth is nearly unheard of in other FPS (single player). This is a video game, and one that has 0 quick button sequences, amen to that.
    I don’t really know how much more of the quantum theory philosophizing you could put into a game without having the ghost of Richard Feynman giving a lecture. They showed that there were parallel universes, consequences of realigning things, and different ends. Always a man and always a lighthouse ties together things in a very Dark Tower sort of way that I found satisfying.

    Elizabeth throwing a coin at you after the scene with that person; I can understand how that could break the immersion. Now I’d like to go out on a limb- Elizabeth only offered me money when I was actively looting things outside of combat, or was directly in front of a vending machine. Not sure if that’s my game experience only, or if its in the coding like that. I mean if you’re looting this corpse after she discovers that, she might just be commenting on your nature by throwing a coin or two at you :)

    As far as not taking sides on the political stuff in the game- you play Booker DeWitt, and he wants to get out of there with the girl and repay the debt. That’s the main purpose of the protagonist. If the protagonist was specifically there to lead the revolt, than I can understand how the game came up short, or vice versa to protect the city. 

    Take care!

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       It has two QTEs.  One at the outset with the announcer, another at the ticket stand with Elizabeth.  I’m thinking there might be 1 more in the game, but if so I can’t remember it off the top of my head.

      Leading the revolt… well… actually, you did, do, will do so… sort of.

  55. How many splicers in Bioshock attacked you with plasmids again? Oh right…

    • Oh, incidentally, there was one scene with Elizabeth that you could have actually made a case for that wasn’t pretty stupid, like being thrown a coin, and her being happy she was being helpful, when you explain to her twice that you are helping her to take her someone to pay off a debt, only the second time she gets angry about it. You could have made a case off that, but no, you decided to go with, she had a sad moment, and instead of dwelling on it, she tries to move past it. Good job you are not a good writer.

      • GaryX says:

        I had that happen to–where he mentions it in an elevator but it’s not until it happens on the First Lady that she gets upset. I figured the game just glitched and put an elevator convo earlier than it was supposed to be.

        • Nope. There is a sort of explanation to it, that my brother gave to me, and I can see his point although I don’t like it as much. The way my brother saw it was that she was just faking being ok with it before to get him off guard because she isn’t stupid.

    • Incidentally I could throw on dozens of more criticisms going in far more depth then you did on your not very well thought out story here like how the vigors have no place in Columbia, the combat which changed a lot although you seem to have missed that, your claim that it being an open space making it easier when bioshock was easy to begin with, and clearly you did not use charge + shotgun,  and your problem with villains holding to there own views even though there is evidence that they really shouldn’t. 

      Actually, I’m going to go in on that now, because I have a PERFECT example. Have you not ever gone on the internet? Looked on a forum? Talked with someone who was CLEARLY wrong and you had evidence to prove that they were wrong? And they persisted in their thought? Argued the point anyway? Sorta like how I know you if you actually read this will persist in thinking you are right about everything you said? That is exactly like the villains. People are funny that way, they hold onto their own views. Although you are going to need to explain how exactly Comstock was proven “wrong” in his views since he was clearly lying from the start and therefor would persist in his lie because, you know, why would he have lied in the first place if he was just going to flip flop. That would be stupid. Oh… I shouldn’t have imprisoned my daughter and promoted racism? Oh… I’m so sorry I’ll just stop that right now. That would not be a game, that would be an after school special or PSA that missed the point entirely.

  56. Even if you don’t personally agree, Nihilism is a valid choice, sure you aren’t just looking for that one special irredeemable asshole that happens to trumpet your own ideals? Not following is pretty scary eh? :D

  57. Having beaten the game I have to say the only thing that didn’t mesh well is the Vigors. In that aspect you’re right.

    However I don’t feel that the Founders vs the Vox Populi was a weaker topic as it’s mirroring the struggles between Nationalist vs Socialist movements of the late 19th to early 20th century.

    There’s really nothing more to be said about it and no twist or grey sides needed akin to Andrew Ryan. It’s Anarchy versus Control, Theocracy versus Freedom of Religion, Minorities versus controlling Whites.

    There are deeper contexts if you wish to search for them (such as the cult of the Raven) but they’re overall unnecessary.

    Since the story isn’t really about the Founders vs the Vox and the city of Columbia. It’s about Elizabeth and Quantum Physics and the choices one made or had not made in the overall scheme of things.

    What a person chooses to become or chooses not the become and what changes that brings.

    Columbia is just the setting not the centerpiece unlike Rapture.

    Instead Booker and Elizabeth take center stage unlike Jack from Bioshock

    That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different thing. 

    • hastapura says:

      Yeah. Where Ryan/Rapture were everything in the first game, here it’s a much broader mythology centered around these two characters. Comstock/racism/the Vox/Fink/blah blah are all either flavor or there to serve that mythology, not an explicitly ideological theme as in Bioshock. It certainly condemns – and perhaps shallowly re: Teti – extremism but there’s a lot of meat to it otherwise.

    • Zenturen says:

      I would agree with this. I definitely think that the Vigors did feel out of place (also I would have liked to see more enemy types with Vigors); however, the story was mainly about Booker/Elizabeth. While Irrational could have taken the time to explore the more political aspects I don’t think it would have done as much since it doesn’t relate to that core element and thus would detract from the main story.

      The reviewer’s point about stark changes in Elizabeth’s reactions are valid as well, but I would say overly critical and in my experience not as epidemic–I’ve gone through B:I twice (quick & completionist) and only had a similar experience once or twice. It is understandable the effect that it can have, though very difficult to remove as those interactions are randomly generated and timing of emotional states can be difficult to gauge as it varies between people.

      Finally, I would moderately disagree with the strong statement about B:I and its “performance” as a shooter as the addition of skylines and tears helped introduce a lot more variation into the fighting. Its true that Infinite can be played like a standard shooter with heavy reliance on gun play (well only on normal) and that would really make the interaction banal; however, use of the previously mentioned elements makes it highly dynamic. The game allows for lots of choice in combat and sole reliance on single strategies is a byproduct of easier modes. Granted a smarter AI that followed you to your sniper perch or one that mixed up enemy weapon types based on your play style would be welcome, but that would require much more processing (which the 360 might not have allowed), up’d the difficulty of battles, and stretched the spacing. 

      IMO as fun as sniping is, considering the tools provided I really feel you should be in the thick of it for a game like Infinite.

  58. Well I put in a fairly marathon session earlier today and it was pretty much because the games narrative demanded it. Something happened and there was no way I’d have been able to sleep knowing that it was unresolved. It also managed to make me genuinely upset in a couple of places to the point where I actually croaked out a rather pathetic sounding “I’m sorry” at the computer, thankfully with no-one around to hear me.

    While a lot of the flaws highlighted in the review are valid, the story is incredibly compelling, as is Elizabeth despite her moments of genuine emotional weight being almost immediately followed by some glib response after being asked to pick a lock. I’m sure this could have been fixed relatively easily with a few extra dialogue lines and animations?

    Basically, above average FPS with an amazing setting and Elizabeth but not perfect as a lot of reviews seem to have it pegged as.

    • GaryX says:

      What was the moment that compelled you to go further? Was it the part around heading to the House? (Trying to be as vague as possible for other people)

      • hastapura says:

        I’d been playing on hard and THAT boss fight in the graveyard made me knock it down to easy. I realized I was spending so much time swearing and respawning ever since the Bull House-ish point in the game that I was missing so much – in my blind rage I was just pressing forward to solve this massive mystery.

        But yeah, immediately after that fight/everything around the House felt like after a long stretch of tears-on-tears and dull Vox fetch quests the game clamped onto the thread of potential that had so many people anticipating it for years. And it rode that motherfucker straight to the end.

        • GaryX says:

          I thought the thing in the graveyard was kind of annoying and “too videogamey” and perhaps the only part that I didn’t like. The final tears stuff was interesting, but it felt like it was dragging it out a bit. Once you pull that lever to lower the bridge, though, goddamn does it just get better and better.

      • It was indeed. I eventually stopped playing at the airship protect mission (I hate those kinds of mission….) after I failed and then realised what time it was.

        • GaryX says:

          I cut it real close on the airship mission. Literally beat it with just a sliver of the meter left. I generally dislike those missions, too, and it got a bit tedious, but there was an awesome moment where I sent the Songbird to attack a zeppelin while I took the skyline up to another zeppelin, popping off dudes with a carbine and using possess on a motorized patriot to crowd control the bottom. It was basically firing all cylinders at that moment for me. Once I blew that zeppelin up, though, it got a bit tedious. THAT MISSION SPOILERS ABOVE

          • *More Spoilers and that for the 2nd to last mission*

            I did it on my 2nd go, you can pretty much ignore most of the patriots bar a couple of waves while Songbird charges up. You can possess a Patriot and he’ll own all the regular guys although that will agro him to you which they don’t seem to otherwise. 
            The biggest problem were the heavily armoured rocket guys (again, possession is your friend here) but after failing it yesterday, it was all over very quickly today and I still had about 70% of the engine health left. Odd how everything just kind of falls into place sometimes.

  59. Mike Bedi says:

    I have to agree with John Teti. After completing BioShock Infinite, I felt a strange sense of disappointment. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt let down for some reason. Later that day during work, my thoughts wandered to the game, its plot, its characters, and its world. I began to questions things, like “why are there Vigors littered everywhere, yet only a few people use them?” and “What were Comstock’s motivations?” I was unimpressed with Elizabeth’s AI; she felt less “intelligent” and more “random”. I went from cheering for to hating the Vox Populi so quickly it made my head spin. John said everything I was thinking, but couldn’t put into words. It’s not a bad game, but it doesn’t all fit together right.

  60. Cheradenine Zakalwe says:

    I’d like to say something on the point of vigors not being integrated into the society of the game: they wouldn’t be yet, they seem to very much be a newfangled invention, a wondrous new set of super-tonics being pitched at the inhabitants of Columbia.

    Unlike Rapture, we visit Columbia at its height. The reason plasmids were so integrated into Rapture was because the people had descended and plasmids were amongst the things being ransacked. The inhabitants of Columbia were only just being introduced to Vigors, we discover them at the fair just as the rest of Colimbia does.

    Look at the way they’re being promoted “would you believe a man could lift a horse?”, these people aren’t aware of the potential.

    The only ones who have access are those who were a part of Fink and Comstock’s forces, they seem to have been a military tool that were only just now being repackaged for consumer use.

    Also, there’s vox recordings that tell us how Fink used the tears to gain his technological knowledge ahead of time. This could explain the similarity to Rapture’s devices cleanly.

    The political aspects of the game sit exactly where they should… at the back, in stark contrast, adding colour to the backdrop. The fact this game deals only in deluded opposing absolutes is also a part of the fabric of its tale: “there will always be constants”. This tale is not a political one at it’s core, it’s a tale of redemption that spans time and space, and one that opens the Bioshock universe. The political stuff is not the focus, it’s small potatoes.

    The gameplay is also superior in many ways. Combat is refined and much more varied. The skyrail changes the flavour almost entirely. Vigors are, in my opinion, just as imaginative and enjoyable.

    It does feel like it’s lost setting, though… The lack of hacking leaves the environment feeling much more like a pretty backdrop and less like an interactive environment, all you can do past the first hour of

    • Zenturen says:

      Yeah, I would have to agree I do find that the number of different interactions with the environment has decreased vs Bioshock 1 and I feel that highlights the fact that objects are mostly scripted use and lack complex interaction. It goes along with the move towards a shooter as they removed pretty much all puzzles.

      Your argument about Vigors is possible, and I think if they included a discussion or audio-log expressing their novelty or new availability it help how they mesh into the world.

      Similarly, I think if there was some additional discussion between Booker/Elizabeth about the abrupt change in behavior of Daisy it might ease the transition. I could see Elizabeth fretting about whether the Vox was always like that or if her action caused that effect, it could possibly add nuance and deepen the unintended consequences talk related to Lin.

  61. TheMagicLemur says:

    John, I almost NEVER agree with your reviews, but I have to say this was pretty much dead-on to my own sentiments.

  62. hastapura says:

    No spoilers, but I think Teti’s absolutely right. This game is totally beholden to the first Bioshock.

    But there’s a very specific, satisfactory reason WHY. I can see an argument that they wrote in their own justification for adhering to the template, but I think we need a good hard discussion of that ending. There’s so much there and it’s hard to dig into the previous twelve-odd hours without that perspective.

    But I do agree most everything with the Vox, Fitzroy, Chen Lin, and that weird-ass Fink audition thing could be scooped right out of the middle.

  63. Michael Wolf says:

    You know for a game that has a major theme that the world has infinate possibility, where that theme not just eclipses but actually swallows all other aspects of the plot towards the second half of the game, where the ending of the game HAMMERs that point again and again, I would have expected some kind of choice in the half-hour ending sequence. I actually would have been happier with just an FMV explanation of the plot rather than having to navigate and press buttons to proceed with being fed the ending. It clashed terribly with the theme of the game and it was jarringly bad.

    • hastapura says:

      Variables, yes…but also constants. Notice that at the end you can choose which “doors” to enter (trying to be vague here) but they all lead to the same place. 

  64. bhlaab says:

    “When it was released in 2007, BioShock was a revelation.”

    …unless you played System Shock 2 first. Then it felt a lot like a dumbed down version of the same Disneyland ride.

  65. Bruno Jalles says:

    There is this short essay written by Jorge Luis
    Borges where he tells that mankind’s storytelling has always been about the same
    four stories retold in a inifinite number of ways but which are always the same in essence, and we are doomed to keep retelling them. I think that’s
    kind of what Levine&staff did with bioshock. Bioshock Infinite is
    both a retelling of the original story and a justification of why it has
    to be so .  It’s like they are trying to say  “Look there is this
    story,about a man that built a tower to achieve his dream, his sins
    stained the foundations though, and it falls on his sucessor to both
    finish it and cleanse him. And that’s how it always is.”
    PS:Sorry for any grammar mistakes and my somewhat poor english,I’m not a native anglophone.

  66. Personally you make a decent point on the vigors and their explaination or lack of in the infinate world, however this is not a game called infinite it’s a game called bioshock infinite and why shouldn’t an artist use or build upon a classic he produced? It is a business at the end of the day and if he does’t make money then he won’t be able to make more games of this calaber as you have admitted. So what’s the harsh critisim really about? Are you angry that this game sucks the teet of the great bioshock?
    Futher more I really think your critism of Elizibeth is far to harsh and unwarented. I think the team did a great job on her and though there was a few minnor inconsistances it was still really impressive and a complete success. Unfair and you know it
    Also I like the way he handled the political thing? How the hell did you expect him to do it? Come down on your own personal political beliefs? It’s a game and not a political statement and  personally that was handled very well, very well indeed.
    So you may have a point with the vigors but if they weren’t included then there would have been an outcry and you know it. The story was great and the ending was brilliant.
    It is a victim of bioshocks legendary statues but that’s not a bad thing as you try to make out as it moved the series on in a brave and ambitious way and that deserves credit not picky critisism.
    This game is a classic every bit as much as the great bioshock.

  67. Angus says:

    “The takeaway is that anyone who seeks power is a scoundrel, a moral steeped in the easy cynicism of false equivalence. (I expect this sort of Nihilism Lite from Rockstar Games, but not from Levine.) The intellectual dodge of calling everyone a loser excuses Infinite from having a meaningful political point of view. ”

    oh dear. la folie c’est vouloir faire conclure. 

  68. Amado Díaz says:

    Since this is one of my first posts in the web, please I beg you read until the end. English is not my native language. And I’ll try to make this comment as clear as possible. I know it’s long, but give me a chance, some issues must be clarified.

    First of all, I want to admit that this review is quite interesting, but not exactly because the accuracy of its perspective, which is rather a narrow perspective. It’s interesting because the themes, that has been developped, allow to clarify a lot of misinterpretations that construct, after all, the main criticism of this review.

    There are several wrong ways to understand the story of Bioshock Infinite (BI): an arbitrary metaphysical variant, a conventional plot about the villian-hero subject with a dissapointing ending, the dissastrous seek of power that leads inevitably to an utter destruction and the death of the protagonist/antagonist, or the simple political struggle point of view of the game. However, those are some of the misunderstandings that people who are used to hyper rationalize stories could fall into it.


    So I’m going to analyze a little bit more and prove that those are issues that the reviewer and you, the gamers, shouldn’t concern after all:


    It is presented in the review, and in some of the commentaries, the idea of a inevitable villain like a person whose hunger of power (either justice, equality, beliefs or values) makes him to become an asshole. Even if you’re trying to extract a more convincing plot about politics that actually makes sense, or you’re comparing the despotical leadership in human history, this is completely out of the discussion. It isn’t some sort of “nihilism lite”. It’s just a generic convention that intensify the true reality underlaid. SO IT’S A TOOL, A MEANS TO AN END. It’s introduced like an achievement of white people in a barely utopian american society: “a city in the clouds” (read: city in heaven) with those living in a barely dystopian place who doesn’t share the same race, religion beliefs or traditions. It’s easy to consider intellectual laziness in the development of an historical thriller, but THIS IS NOT AN HISTORICAL GAME. It could have been placed in France during the revolution, or in russia during the bolchevique struggle or even in the time of the first christians during the Diocletian persecutions: IT DOESN’T MATTER FOR THE REAL THEME OF THE STORY.

    Why? Because everything is a hint. The explanation is at the end.


    This misinterpretation is a direct consequence of the political theme misunderstanding. People are trying to identify the villain-hero duo in the dichotomy of the white-black, slavers-abolitionists, rich-poor, believers-heretics, etc. This is another convention just to contextualize a subsequent desperate situation. At the end, that only suggest the several ways of how the well-meaning leads to cruelty, madness, tyranny. And.. Oh…perhaps you have already read the phrase “Sic semper Tyrannis” right? And like a convention, at the end, IT ALSO DOESN’T MATTER. No matter the villain, neither the hero. They’re at at the end MEANS TO AN END.


    Even if metaphysics have to do a lot with the progression of the game, the identity of the characters and their destiny. It’s completely clumsy to suggest that if everything is possible, the game, at last, makes no sense (“It’s, like, your opinion”) NO. The metaphysical events really matter since the beginning to the end, because it is the only solution of a irresolvable conflict: a more grim reality never revealed, NEVER. Even if you end the game, it is only suggested.



    All the game, every single part of it, it’s about REDEMPTION, self-forgiveness, peace. All the progression leads towards to face an atrocity, a debt, a sin… AND EVERYTHING IS A HINT. Example: When Booker is in the boat with those guys (later the luteces), he has an objective: get a girl named Elizabeth and pay the debt (obviously with himself). If you noticed the first photo of her, she is wearing a white dress never seen before, JUST UNTIL THE END OF THE GAME where she appears wearing it: the same photo girl among the other stages (STAGES! EXPERIENCES!) of the same Elizabeth girl in the progression of the game.

    Several wills (conventions) have been merged to obtained two characters around which the whole story is constructed, and all the conventions: political, villian-hero, preferences, images, oppresion, racism, bussiness, war veterans just help to intensify deliberately the reality of an inevitable atrocity that has been made, but it’s never been mention. Just consider something: the several stages of Elizabeth clothing: since the clean teenager, to, eventually, an old woman, while she’s, in several stages, a free girl, a decieved girl, a killer, she has been tortured, and feels remorse about “what she has become”. All these stages are in concordance with each game conventional figure: Comstock, lady Comstock, Slate, Fink, Fitsroy.

    Now this: the complementary feelings between Booker and Elizabeth: first she wants to go to Paris, after a while, he wants to go to Paris. First, hope, then despair. The possibility of an escape, and then replace by the desire of vengeance. Everything, everything is just pointing to the main theme: The search of redemption for what Booker did. If you’re claiming the need of a meaningful political point of view, this enrichment doesn’t have anything to do with the main theme, and on the contrary it could damage it. Just think about Daisy Fitzroy with a meaningful political overview… that’s another game.

    Or maybe you’re trying to identify Comstock as the Villain, so why he doesn’t attack you when both characters (Booker/Comstock) encounter each other, if he’s so fanatique? Why he doesn’t defend himself? Why Booker continue calling him the father of Elizabeth? Why Elizabeth is so confuse and tried to stop Booker? Everything is a hint.

    Sadly, the reviewer of the game doesn’t mention anything about some the most revealing parts of the reality underlaid the madness, Example: What happened when you died? All alone: In your office, the shady colors, the grumble, the need to continue searching something (SOMEONE) outside. With Elizabeth: She’s your only aid (reason) to wake up (continue living). And you maybe died a several times. Do you remember the collapse of the tower?, did you died? You’re in your office with a strange fake girl… why, after that, you appear exactly in a beatiful beach? Searching… Hey mister did you see a girl? And your girl is in a happy dancing, free… Everything is just pointing the sense of loss, and a search for redemption. One redemption that can not be searched in the easy conventions that the game propose to the player. Just remember the first words of the game:

    Elizabeth: Booker, are you afraid of God?
    Booker: I’m afraid of you.

    And how about the impression of Booker when he’s seeing Rapture?

    Booker: A city under the sea! Ridiculous! ( YEAH… EXACTLY LIKE A CITY IN THE CLOUDS)

    Everything it’s just a big riddle waiting to be solved. And everything must point one terrible reality. How can a father may redeem himself, just to have her daughter back? What if in all the realities, the options, and the times, just could exist one, leading at least to be together with her, again. Free, happy, peaceful. (Beach scene) How?

    ELIZABETH (final entrie)

    More than a character, she’s, as you see, an objective. And even more: do you remember the strange song in that basement of an horrific bar, where it is a dead man, a poor kid… Just ask yourself this: Does Booker is really seeing her? If you use the logic of the reviewer, you could said: HEY IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO HAVE A BEHAVIOR LIKE A DISNEY PRINCESS IN THAT PIECE OF SHIT BAR. But Is she really singing? Is she there? What’s happening really with him? He’s in a bar playing a guitar, with some sort of revolutionaries upstairs. IS he planning help the Vox Populi? Why? It could be Redemption?, absolution for what the seven calvary has do in Wounded Knee Masacre? 

    At the end, she’s the reason you continue living (continue thinking), the reason of your doom, the person who could really forgive you if you ever meet her again. So, read again with this point of view the first words of the game. Change everything, right?

    Now you understand why it can not be a sexual attraction between the two characters, and now YOU KNOW why there is “tainted love” playing at least twice.


    A great game, a great riddle.

    (Levine, as I see, you’re trying to follow Ts’ui Pên, I’d never thought you were a reader of Borges, CHAPEAU!!!)


  69. TheReclusiveMan says:

    I’ve never played Bioshock 2, I didn’t play it because of Irrationals lack of involvement.  But Mr. Teti the way in which you so brazenly dismissed it as a ‘cash in’ when by all accounts it was a work of love by an honest team of developers seeking to expand upon Raptures story is a wonderful reason why you didn’t fully like or ‘get’ Infinite. And you really won’t unless you drop all the pretentious bullshit (that pops up again with your anger towards it being so beholden to its predecessor, when that very fact allows Infinite to mine realms of imagination and philosophy it would have had closed off otherwise). 

  70. Are you just determined to be the Armond White of games or what? Jesus.

  71. ????? says:


    Great article – I finished the game last night, and couldn’t quite wrap my head around the narrative (don’t get me wrong, I was in awe during the final sequence, much as I had been during the course of this truly wonderful game), and you have definitely helped me to pinpoint what it is exactly that bugs/confuses me. My greatest problem with any work of art that at least delves into parallel worlds/multiverses is that, in the process of doing so, it takes away from the core story. Up to a certain point, Bioshock Infinite seemed to be a breathtaking work of social criticism, complete with a strong female character (and Booker, who, in my head, even after seeing the ending, plays second fiddle to Elizabeth), but, when it introduced the idea of an infinite number of other realities, Columbia as a concept and everything that had happened up to that point started to feel almost… Irrelevant. If you have an infinite number of parallel universes, with an infinite number of possibilities, why is Columbia special? Why is everything that had happened to Booker, and to you as a player, up to that point – special? It is indeed the nihilism that the article mentions, but it extends not only to certain characters in the game, but to the game world and the experience as a whole.

    I admire anyone whose artistic goals are set so high, and I do love when a story is peppered with big existential questions, but here, in this particular game, the whole narrative would have been much more poignant and would leave me with a lot more to think about if Levine had left metaphysics aside and chosen to focus on the moral implications of his creation(s). Instead, as it is, the ending detracts from the real-world implications of the first two-thirds of the game, which is a shame, considering its starting point and all its potential.

    Anyway, this is just my two cents. Ultimately, the game is Levine’s story, and, all personal quibbles aside, it was really something to be a part of it. I know I’m going to replay it soon.

  72. regretsecret says:

    I like how Levine gave Bioshock Infinite a controversial theme yet it doesn’t revolve around it.

    The game shows what American exceptionalism looks like that’s why it’s appropriate to throw slavery and racism in there yet the game doesn’t “comment” about these issues. It focuses on the protagonist’s story and the twists and turns would make you want to absorb every details.

    For the normal mode and play it on hard mode – that’s how you should play it! And for a walkthrough, here’s a good one: 


    I thought I’d drop in and just say at first this review pissed me off, but in hindsight after letting Bioshock Infinite soak for a few months I have to say this review is mostly right

    the game is not perfect, it’s still pretty fucking good but it does have some obvious flaws, I can’t help but feel that the game did not quite live up to the sky high (pun intended) potential that it showed before it’s release, especially in the 2011 E3 demo

  74. Webb Myers says:

    “There’s always a lighthouse; always a city; always a man.”
    The fact that it’s the same game in different clothing is kind of the point.  It’s a meta-game point … even beyond the meta-physics of the setting … the author (Levine) saying to the player “Yes, it IS always going to be the same game just with a different wrapper.”

    We like a game, we ask for sequels, and then we complain when it’s a re-skinned, rehash of the original with updated mechanics.  If you don’t want the cycle to continue, then kill it before it starts by not playing the game.