This is my Blog, on it I simply write stuff that I feel like writing about. You'll find it heavily slanted towards tech, games, entertainment and the like. I write about other stuff too, and somethings I write about things. I also do photography, the link is on your right.
Sunday, 7 April 2013
The talk of the video game world these days, the “belle of the ball” so to speak, is most indubitably Bioshock Infinite. Everywhere you roam on review sites it’s getting perfect or near perfect scores. It’s unanimous, the game is amazing, but what I want to know is why? What sets this game apart from all of it’s contemporaries.
Let’s start with the basics. The game looks gorgeous, bright, colourful, and inventive, creative environments abound. The environments are so detailed and lush that the first 30 minutes or so of the game is literally you just wandering around taking in the sights and sounds of the world, and it’s not boring in the least. The game is set on a floating city. Streets, building, parks, even a beach, float on connected platforms that bob lazily up and down and stretch out and far as the eye can see as clouds drift amongst them. In this story it is 1912, so all the aesthetics reflect that, clothing, architecture and music, right down to the floating stage with a barbershop quartet signing merrily.
Second is the gameplay itself. As any gamer will tell you, this is of paramount importants for any game, for obvious reasons. If a game is hard, confusing or frustrating to play, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. Lucky for us Bioshock Infinite has some of the tightest most precise gameplay I've ever seen. Combat, which is the core of any first person shooter is extremely satisfying. The weapons are plentiful and easy to come by, no matter how you like to play it, there is a perfect weapon for you. There is a mechanic in the game called “vigours” essentially special ablities that give you a little extra edge in combat. Things like lightning bolts, fire grenades, and my personal favourite the “bucking bronco” which launches all the enemies in front of you into the air, flinging them like ragdolls which you can then pick off at your leisure. Even the environment itself can be used as a weapon. You get a grapple hook of sorts that you can latch onto rails. You hang from the bottom of them, zipping around like a roller coaster, peppering enemies with gunfire and leaping down on unsuspecting foes. It’s fast, furious and it never seems to get old, it’s just plain satisfying.
Now if we were to just stop there what have we got? A good looking fun game, in a nutshell. There are plenty of good looking fun games out there, that alone is not enough to garner perfect or near perfect scores. There must be something else. Something that raises this game to a different level.
This game takes on topics head on that most developers would never dare to. Racism, racial segregation, oppressive religious ideologies, choice, free will, and redemption. Simply put, this is a mature game. Normally when we refer to a game as mature, that means in the ESRB sense. That little “M” in the corner of the box to let parents know that a game has blood, violence and naughty language. Well, BS:I has all that, but that’s not why I would call it mature. It’s mature because it deals with these heady topics in a way that feels very “grown up” for lack of a better word.
Right near the beginning of the game, as you are wandering around this idyllic setting you come across a stage where the inhabitants of the city are hosting a raffle. You character grabs a baseball from a basket with the number 77 written on it. They make the draw, and of course you win. You’re thinking “yay I won!” Then the curtains parts and behind them are a couple tied up, one white, one black. There is a moment of confusion before the announcer say, “Come on…are you going to throw it, or are you taking your coffee “black” these days. Then you have to make a choice. This is when you realize this game is going to go a lot deeper than your typical, “your mission is to blow shit up” style game that the industry is known for.
The archetype main character of a FPS shooter game is usually a blank slate. Take some popular games like Halo, or Half-life. Gordon Freeman doesn’t speak, and nobody has ever seen Master Chiefs face. The reason developers do this is so players can fill in the blanks with whatever they want, after all, they are viewing the entire game through the character's eyes. Essentially they look or sound exactly how you want them to.
This is another way BS:I sets itself apart, you play as Booker DeWitt, a down on his luck detective who is charged with going to Colombia, the floating city, and rescuing a girl names Elizabeth. Booker is not who you want him to be, he is a fully flushed out character with personality traits that are all his own. When you finally meet up with Elizabeth, you get to watch as her and Booker get to know each other, and slowly build a relationship. You get to see though Bookers eyes as he upsets Elizabeth, or comforts her. You get to watch as Elizabeth does the same for Booker. What makes this so powerful is that you are not a passive observer, your are right there, in the moment with them riding the same emotional roller coaster.
I don’t want to discuss the plot too much, but story is like a twisting turning road snaking it’s way up a mountain. The higher you go, the tighter and more urgent the twists and turns become. Hints, clues, little insights, keeping popping up, sometimes causing, sometime clearing confusion and intrigue. it builds and builds until you get to the top of the mountain, where you get a full view of everything that has transpired.
If your were to go on Youtube and search for “Bioshock Infinite discussion” your will find dozens of videos of people sitting around deconstructing what they experienced, discussing and sharing concepts and ideas that this game presents to the player. to me it’s more powerful than watching a really good movie. Each person who played, didn’t just watch, they experienced the story. you can seen that in their conversations, hear the enthusiasm in their voices.
I think people will be talking about this game for a very long time, which to me is the real reason for it’s perfect scores. In a medium where a game is played, loved dearly for a few days or weeks, and then forgotten, this is the tremendous accomplishment that BS:I has achieved.