Bioshock Infinite review roundup

Bioshock Infinite hits shelves in the US this week. Here's what critics are saying about the new alternate-history epic from Irrational Games. 

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    Among the baddies in Bioshock Infinite is this gun-slinging robot, which has the face of George Washington.
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The 2008 shooter Bioshock is one of the most beloved releases in video game history, and for good reason – the title mixed top-notch game play with killer storytelling and a wonderfully weird premise. Bioshock 2, which was released in 2010, was also received warmly by critics and consumers. Now comes Bioshock Infinite, the third title in the series, and probably the last Bioshock to be released on this generation of consoles. 

The hero of Bioshock Infinite is the former Pinkerton man Booker DeWitt, who is dispatched to Columbia, a steam-punk city-in-the-clouds, to hunt down a gal named Elizabeth. Eventually, Booker and Elizabeth team up and dash and leap through Columbia, battling some wonderfully weird baddies, like the fighting machine pictured above. So how good is Bioshock Infinite? Very good, according to reviews.

We'll let the pros break it down for you.  

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The world 

"To put it in practical terms, unless you are in the midst of battle, Columbia is a place where you walk, you don’t run," writes Tom Hoggins of the Telegraph. "You are compelled to take it all in, to soak in the vistas of a city floating in the clouds, to inspect every nook. This is early 20th century Americana writ large, unbound from the rules of the union, defined by religion and enhanced by heady science-fiction." 

The world, part 2

"Columbia is a tremendous place to be, the all-American dream-turned-nightmare crossed with steampunk sensibilities," writes Kevin VanOrd of Gamespot. "Nationalist propaganda is mixed with airships and mechanical combatants, and the moving picture machines you occasionally use elaborate on the history of Columbia, which seceded from an America that just wasn't American enough." 

The world, part 3 

"DeWitt and the player are introduced to the technology and ideals that power the city as they move across its interlocking sections; and as gorgeous as the world of Columbia is, it's a horribly grotesque place," marvels Xav de Matos of Joystiq. "DeWitt learns that the city is fueled by racism, misplaced loyalty and morbid patriotism, and it quickly becomes a joy to know the game will eventually allow him to pull it down from the sky, arrogant brick by brick." 

The graphics

"Infinite's art direction alone stands head and shoulders above most other stuff out there," writes Talal Musa of the Daily Mail. "It must be said, though, that the game's visuals fall victim of aging console hardware. Whereas 'Ultra' settings on PC captures every intricate detail, maintains a smooth framerate and just feels 'alive,' consoles look flat in comparison - with bland textures, some minor framerate hiccups and uninspiring character models." 

The story

It's good, writes Jim Sterling of Destructoid. He reserves special praise for the "elegant conclusion," which expands "the BioShock universe to a staggering degree before bringing it sharply inwards to one of the most affecting, intimate closers I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a game," Sterling continues. "In an industry full of games that seem to struggle with satisfying conclusions -- an area BioShock itself famously failed in -- Infinite is one of those rare games with a perfect beginning, an engaging middle, and a perfect end." 

The gameplay 

"Enemies lack the kind of inspiring artificial intelligence that makes firefights in Halo so distinctive," opines Tom Bramwell of Eurogamer, "but Infinite soon establishes its own feel and it works. Sprinting and flying around the environment, spitting vigors while cocking a shotgun and reloading as I ran enemies through minefields of tornado and fire traps – Elizabeth out of danger but never far from my side – battles became something I looked forward to as much as the next rummage through an abandoned side street full of secrets." 

The gameplay, continued 

"Infinite retains a lot of the franchise's DNA through its combat system and mechanics," writes Brett Molina of USA Today. "Plasmids are replaced by Vigors, elixirs that bestow players with special powers. Possession allows players to briefly control human or robotic foes, while Bucking Bronco suspends enemies in the air for easy shooting with a broad arsenal of weapons. Instead of EVE from the first BioShock, players manage Salts to use Vigors. Even the zany vending machines return, this time with 1912 flair. Players scrounge for food, ammo and salts in barrels, crates, desks and other objects."

The bottom-line endorsement

"An instant Game Of The Year contender – and, at this point, favorite – Bioshock Infinite is in a class of games that only come around on very rare, very special occasions," writes Mike Wehner of The Escapist. "It combines fantastic action with a story that will evoke every emotion you have to offer, and leave you wanting even more. This is as close to perfect as videogames get." 

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