BioShock Infinite

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BioShock Infinite
Official cover art for Bioshock Infinite.jpg
Developer(s)Irrational Games[a]
Publisher(s)2K Games
Director(s)Ken Levine
Producer(s)Adrian Murphy
Programmer(s)Christopher Kline
Artist(s)Scott Sinclair
Writer(s)Ken Levine
Composer(s)Garry Schyman
SeriesBioShock
EngineUnreal Engine 3
Platform(s)
Release
  • PS3, Windows, Xbox 360
  • March 26, 2013
  • OS X
  • August 29, 2013
  • Linux
  • March 17, 2015
Genre(s)First-person shooter
Mode(s)Single-player

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. The third installment in the BioShock series, Infinite was released worldwide for the Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and OS X platforms in 2013. The game is set in the year 1912 and follows its protagonist, Booker DeWitt, who is sent to the airborne city of Columbia to retrieve a young woman held captive, named Elizabeth. Booker rescues Elizabeth and the two become involved in a class war between the nativist Founders that rule Columbia and the rebel Vox Populi representing the city's underclass. Elizabeth possesses the ability to manipulate "Tears" in the space-time continuum that ravage Columbia, and Booker and Elizabeth discover she is central to the city's dark secrets. The player controls Booker Dewitt throughout the game, fighting enemies and scavenging supplies, while the AI-controlled Elizabeth provides assistance.

Irrational Games and creative director Ken Levine based the game's setting on historical events at the turn of the 20th century, such as the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and based the story on the concept of American exceptionalism, while also incorporating influences from more recent events at the time such as the 2011 Occupy movement. Development was troubled, and the game underwent significant changes from its originally-demonstrated forms at trade shows. The game was supported post-launch with downloadable content, including the story expansion Burial at Sea, which links Infinite's story to that of the original BioShock game.

BioShock Infinite received critical acclaim, with praise particularly directed at its story, setting, and visual art design. It is often regarded as one of the best video games of the year, of the seventh generation of consoles, and one of the greatest video games ever made. It has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. Infinite was re-released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch as part of the remaster compilation BioShock: The Collection.

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

BioShock Infinite takes place in the flying steampunk city of Columbia.[4]

BioShock Infinite is set in 1912 and takes place in a floating steampunk city-state in the sky called "Columbia", named for the female personification of the United States.[5] The city of Columbia was founded by self-proclaimed prophet Zachary Hale Comstock, and funded by the American government as a floating world's fair and display of American exceptionalism.[6] Tensions rose between Columbia and the US government after the city intervened in the Boxer Rebellion, and Columbia ultimately seceded from the United States and disappeared into the clouds.[7] Free from outside influence, Comstock now had complete control over the city, transforming the city into a theocratic police state, with Comstock worshipped as a prophet, and the Founding Fathers of the United States venerated as religious icons.[8] Institutional racism and elitism are widespread in the city, with minorities serving as a labor underclass of Columbia.

By the time of the game's events, racial tensions have risen to the point where Columbia is on the verge of civil war between the Founders and leaders of Columbia and the Vox Populi (Latin for "Voice of the People"), a resistance group led by Daisy Fitzroy who fight for the rights of the marginalized.[9]

Columbia is also home to "Tears" in the fabric of space-time.[10] These Tears reveal alternate universes, and allow for interaction with them. Some individuals have exploited the insight offered by them to create radically new weapons and technologies, while several others have replicated futuristic music and songs heard from the Tears, bringing anachronistic elements into the Columbia of 1912.[11]

Characters[edit]

The player controls protagonist Booker DeWitt (Troy Baker), a disgraced member of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency emotionally scarred from the acts of violence he committed at the Battle of Wounded Knee.[12] Faced with mounting gambling debts to sinister forces, he is sent to Columbia to find Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), a young woman imprisoned there since childhood, who has the ability to open Tears.[6][13] Her confinement has been maintained by Songbird, a large, robotic bird-like creature who has been both her friend and her warden.[13] Zachary Hale Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel), the main antagonist, is the founder of Columbia and the leader of the elite Founders who rule the city. The Founders are opposed by the Vox Populi, led by Daisy Fitzroy (Kimberly Brooks).

Robert Lutece (Oliver Vaquer) and Rosalind Lutece (Jennifer Hale) are two mysterious individuals that direct Booker to Columbia and appear throughout his travels. Though they appear as twins, they are revealed to be the same person but from two different realities, having managed to figure out how to communicate and subsequently cross through realities.[14]

Plot[edit]

In July 1912, Booker DeWitt arrives in Columbia. In the city, he is pursued by Columbia's authorities, who recognize him as a prophesied "False Shepherd" who will corrupt Elizabeth and overthrow Columbia.[15][16] Freeing Elizabeth from her tower, Booker narrowly evades her captor, The Songbird. Commandeering an airship, Booker promises to take Elizabeth to Paris; when she realizes they are going to New York City to fulfill Booker's debts, Elizabeth knocks him out. Booker awakens to find the airship under the control of Daisy Fitzroy, who offers to return the ship if Booker helps her arm the Vox Populi.

Booker and Elizabeth join forces to secure weapons from a local gunsmith. Traveling through Tears, they arrive in a world where Booker is martyr for the Vox Populi and open warfare has erupted in Columbia. Elizabeth kills Fitzroy to prevent her from executing a Founder boy. Songbird attacks the duo as they try to flee Columbia again, and their airship crashes back to the city. Elizabeth and Booker discover a conspiracy behind the city's founding: Elizabeth is Comstock's adopted daughter, whom he plans to groom into Columbia's leader after his death. Comstock had the Luteces build a Siphon to limit Elizabeth's powers in her tower, and killed his wife and the Luteces to hide the truth.

Elizabeth is recaptured by the Songbird. Pursuing her, Booker is brought forward in time to 1984 by an elderly Elizabeth as Columbia attacks New York City. This Elizabeth returns Booker to 1912 with information on controlling the Songbird, in hopes he can save her younger self and erase the torture and brainwashing she suffered.[17] Booker rescues Elizabeth, and the pair pursue Comstock to his airship. Comstock demands that Booker explain Elizabeth's past to her, and the two begin to argue; an enraged Booker drowns Comstock in a baptismal font. Booker denies knowledge of Elizabeth's past, but she asserts that he has simply forgotten. Booker and Elizabeth direct the Songbird to destroy the Siphon, awakening Elizabeth's full powers.

Elizabeth opens a Tear and transports them to the underwater city of Rapture.[18] Elizabeth explains there are countless alternate lighthouses and versions of Booker and Elizabeth; their reality is one of an infinite number depending on their choices.[19] She shows that Robert Lutece approached Booker on behalf of Comstock to acquire Booker's infant daughter, Anna DeWitt in exchange for erasing his debts, as Comstock was rendered sterile as a result of going through the Tears. Booker attempted to take Anna back from Comstock, but the closing Tear severed Anna's finger. Comstock raised Anna as his own daughter, Elizabeth; her severed finger, which caused her to exist in two realities simultaneously, is the source of her ability to create Tears.[20] Robert Lutece, angry at Comstock's actions, convinced Rosalind to help him bring Booker to the reality where Columbia exists to rescue Elizabeth.[20]

Elizabeth explains that Comstock will always remain alive in alternate universes, as the Luteces have enlisted the Bookers of numerous different universes to try to end the cycle.[17] As stopping Comstock requires intervening in his birth, Elizabeth takes Booker back in time to a baptism he attended, in the hope of atoning for the sins he committed at Wounded Knee; she explains that, while Booker changed his mind, some Bookers in alternate universes accepted the baptism and were reborn as Zachary Comstock.[17] Booker, now joined by other universes' Elizabeths at the baptism, allows them to drown him at the moment of his choice, preventing Comstock's existence. One by one, the Elizabeths begin to disappear, the screen cutting to black on the last.[20]

In a post-credits scene, a Booker[b] awakens in his apartment on October 8, 1893. He calls out for Anna and opens the door to her room before the screen cuts to black.[20]

Gameplay[edit]

Booker wielding a gun as he rides the Sky-Line in combat

Like BioShock and BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter with role-playing elements. As Booker, the player must fight their way through Columbia using weapons and a variety of tools in order to complete objectives. The player may carry only two weapons at a time, and can collect other weapons and ammunition from defeated enemies or the environment.[21]: 8 [22]

The player is opposed by enemies representing the Founders and the Vox Populi. These foes range from normal infantry to Heavy Hitters, more formidable enemies that act as mini-bosses throughout the game. Armed automatons scattered throughout Columbia act as a security defense system for the city.[21]: 11–14 [23] Booker has health and a damage-absorbing shield; the shield automatically regenerates out of combat, while health must be replenished with medical kits or food.[21]: 4  If Booker dies, the player revives in a safe area at the cost of money; Booker regains partial health and is granted additional ammunition, while local enemies are also partially healed. Columbia is traversed on foot or via the Sky-Line, a rail system that Booker and enemies ride via Sky-Hooks. Booker can jump on, off, and between Sky-Line tracks at any time, and can use one-handed weapons while using them.[24][25][26] The Sky-Hook also serves as a melee weapon, capable of performing executions on weakened foes.[21]: 6 

Booker gains powers and abilities through Vigors, Gears, and Infusions, all scattered around Columbia. Vigors, the equivalent of BioShock's Plasmids,[27] grant powers such as creating shockwaves, releasing bolts of electricity, and controlling other humans or machines.[21]: 9–10  Vigors require Salt, the equivalent of magic points, to power the abilities.[28] Gear grant passive abilities that can improve the player's strength or damage resistance.[27] A piece of Gear attaches to one of four slots: Hats, Shirts, Boots, and Pants. Only one piece of Gear can be affixed to a slot at a time, with extra Gear stored in the player's inventory.[29][21]: 14 

Booker is aided throughout the game by Elizabeth, a computer-controlled non-player character.[24] Elizabeth requires no protection and assists during combat by tossing ammo or helpful items to Booker as needed. She can also use her Tear-opening powers to aid the player, bringing in items or pieces of the environment, such as cover or a ledge for higher ground.[25][13][30] Elizabeth can pick locks using her hairpin to open doors or find useful items. Cash, food, medical kits, ammunition and Salts can be found scattered throughout the game's environments.[31] Vending machines can be used to buy supplies and powerful upgrades for weapons and Vigors.[32] Optional side-missions are also available, where the player must unlock safes or decode hidden ciphers; completing them rewards Booker with supplies and upgrades.[33] Audio logs (Voxophones) and film projectors (Kinetoscopes) scattered through Columbia expand on the characters and events of the game.[34]

Infinite has four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulties are available to start. After beating the game on a lower difficulty level or inputting the Konami Code in the main menu, the hardest "1999 Mode" is unlocked. Enemies are much tougher, the player's navigational aid and aim assist is removed, resource management is much more crucial to survival, and death is more punishing.[35][36][37]

Development[edit]

Ken Levine was the creative director and lead writer for BioShock Infinite. Levine had previously worked in the same roles for BioShock.

Developer Irrational Games (then 2K Boston) and publisher 2K Games released BioShock in 2007 to critical and commercial acclaim. In late 2007, 2K Games approached Irrational Games about a sequel. Exhausted from shipping BioShock and wary of repeating themselves by returning to the same property, staff and studio head and creative director Ken Levine were uninterested in immediately returning to another BioShock game. Instead, Irrational and 2K struck an agreement that saw select personnel from Irrational form a new studio, 2K Marin, to start work on a sequel. Levine and Irrational would instead join development of a game in the XCOM franchise.[38][39]: 48–50 [c] By contract renewal negotiations in the middle of 2008, however, Levine had reportedly lost interest in the XCOM project and wanted to return to BioShock. Levine's lack of interest was matched by disappointment within the studio's ranks that another company was making the next BioShock, not Irrational. While 2K Marin continued working on BioShock 2 and Irrational's Australia office (later 2K Australia) continued work on XCOM, the main Irrational team would draw up concepts for the next BioShock game.[39]: 51–2 

Concept work on Infinite began in February 2008;[40][39]: 54  2K granted Irrational a great degree of creative and financial freedom to develop the next game.[41] Irrational considered several settings for the game, including reusing Rapture or setting the story in the Renaissance period, before deciding on the floating city of Columbia.[42] While the setting of a floating city would remain consistent, the time period, characters, and the story itself remained undefined as the team churned through different ideas. Designers and artists would sometimes spend months developing ideas that would be scuttled within minutes after priorities shifted or Levine changed his mind.[39]: 55–6  Levine's creative process was described as brilliant but time-consuming, as he focused on very small details; one department within Irrational ran dress rehearsals for any meetings with Levine.[41] At the same time as the story mode was undergoing constant revisions, a set of multiplayer modes was also being designed. The first mode, Border Control, was a tower defense game intended to be set within the game's world. The other multiplayer offering, code-named Spec-Ops, would have been a cooperative mode with up to four players. Matches would take place on maps that would evolve after release, using environmental storytelling to depict Columbia's evolving civil war.[41]

Irrational began hiring and expanding its team. One notable missing person from the original BioShock team was Jon Chey, who had worked with Levine since their days at Looking Glass Studios in the 1990s, and who headed the Australian branch of Irrational. The two developers' differing aptitudes meant that the two teams had what Chey called a "synergy", with Chey's team emphasizing technical ability while Levine's team was more creative-minded. Dissatisfied with the questions of what Irrational's next project would be a disatisfied with the dynamics of a large company, Chey left 2K in 2009.[43] Chey's departure meant Levine had to shoulder more production-focused work in opposition to his creative focus, and the staff buildup in Levine's estimation "shattered" the company culture in the process. "Managing 30 or 40 people where you know everybody's name is a very different process than managing 150 people. You walk by people in the studio and you don't know who they are," he recalled.[44]

Irrational artists had been reading Erik Larson's 2003 book The Devil in the White City, which prominently featured the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, and they turned Levine onto the book as inspiration.[40][45] The setting was inspired by turn of the century American culture and propaganda, with some of the artwork around Columbia adapted from historical posters.[46][47][48] By selecting the hypothetical date of Fourth of July, 1912, the team identified films to draw imagery from, like The Music Man, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Hello, Dolly which exhibited ideal views of Americana at the turn of the 20th century.[49] The bright, open-air environments of Columbia presented a challenge to the team to keep aspects of the horror genre within the game; Levine stated they took some inspiration from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and David Lynch's Blue Velvet, transforming bright, sterile environments into something frightening.[50][26] While initial designs of the flying city were darker and closer to Art Nouveau, Irrational felt this made the game world too claustrophobic and too similar to Rapture. Instead, they decided on a brighter, expansive architecture and color scheme.[51][52] Irrational designed the vertical and open-air spaces of Columbia to provide more opportunities to include various types of combat compared to the close-ranged limits of Rapture.[22]

The concept of American exceptionalism, which the World's Columbian Exposition was considered to have symbolized, later inspired the game's story and setup.[53] The game also incorporated influences from more recent events at the time such as the Occupy movement in 2011,[54]

Central to the game was the relationship between the player character Booker and the AI companion Elizabeth.[55] Unlike BioShock's Jack and BioShock 2's Subject Delta, both of whom were silent protagonists, BioShock Infinite's protagonist Booker was given his own voice and identity.[50] Elizabeth, a crucial element of the game, was designed as a character which could not only be a useful AI companion to the player but a real partner with a significant emotional bond as well.[56] Elizabeth's development was inspired by the character Alyx Vance, who was described by Levine as a central element and an "emotional driver" of Half-Life 2.[57] For the story, Levine took a novel approach by bringing the voice actors for Booker and Elizabeth, Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper, respectively, into the studio to develop their characters and help refine the story.[58] Levine, however, did not provide the actors with full knowledge of the story in order to help them develop their characters' relationship in a much more natural manner.[59]

BioShock Infinite runs on a heavily modified Unreal Engine 3, with additions and replacements on the core engine.[60] Irrational had initially considered using the heavily modified Unreal Engine 2.5 used for the original BioShock, but it was deemed inadequate for their vision.[61] According to Levine, Infinite was designed and developed from scratch, with no assets reused from previous BioShock games.[62]

Irrational worked in secrecy on Infinite for two-and-a-half years prior to its announcement, teasing the game with the moniker "Project Icarus".[63][64] The game was announced at a press event on August 12, 2010 in New York City, where journalists were shown a teaser trailer and Levine outlined the basic story of the game; these were followed by several demos and showcases of the game at events in 2011.[39]: 57–60  Within the studio, however, the game was still undergoing a troubled development. While the big picture elements of the story were now locked, Levine continued to make changes to large parts of the game at a whim. Despite the expanding cost of development and additional staff, the game was not getting closer to completion.[39]: 59–61 

Within Irrational, there was concern that the game would never be finished. The game's ship date repeatedly slipped and staff left the company. Jordan Thomas, a former BioShock level designer who had been creative director for BioShock 2, was hired in January 2012 to get the project back on track. Levine and Thomas created a roadmap for the game, deciding on cuts to reduce the scope of remaining work; this included the entirety of the multiplayer feature, with the staff reallocated to the single-player portion of the game.[41][39]: 59  Thomas was followed in March 2012 by game producer Don Roy. Experienced with closing out games at publishers like Sony and Microsoft, Roy said that there was no playable game available for him to try when he asked. Roy created a new workflow to bring order to Infinite's disorganized and inefficient project management. Irrational hired Rod Fergusson as vice president of development in August 2012. Fergusson had a reputation as someone who made tough decisions to ship difficult games, and reined in Levine's worst tendencies; Irrational staff recalled Levine worked best when under constraints, and that without Fergusson the game might not have shipped.[41][39]: 61–2  Thomas left Irrational in November, with the game on track to release.[41]

To finish the game, Irrational entered into a period of sustained crunch; one staffer estimated he spent most of the final year of development putting in 12-hour workdays.[39]: 62  Content such as Vigors, Tear mechanics, weapons, locations, characters, and other enemies, were cut from the game—enough material for five or six whole games, according to one developer.[65] After the game was release life cycle#Release to manufacturing (RTM)|released to manufacturing, more than a dozen staff voluntarily left Irrational, with the number accelerating as the game's post-launch content began development.[41] The game ultimately took roughly five years to make,[66] and involved a team of around 200 from Irrational in addition to support from outside studios.[67][68]

Music[edit]

The original score for BioShock Infinite was composed by Garry Schyman, who had previously composed both the scores for BioShock and BioShock 2.[69] Ken Levine stated that Infinite's score was different compared to those of the previous games in the series, in that it was "sparer" in "instrumentation and the style." He felt that the game had "much more of an American feel to it", and added that the team wanted "a bit more of a frontier feel to it, slightly." Levine went on to comment that the score was partly inspired by Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood, which served as a "good" starting point, and Paul Buckmaster's score for 12 Monkeys.[70]

From the very beginning during development, Schyman opted for a completely fresh approach to the score for Infinite due to its differences with previous BioShock games.[71] He said that compared to the previous games, Infinite's world and time period were "completely different and unique in nearly every respect", and that it was "much more fleshed out in terms of the characters" with story being driven by the two main protagonists.[70] Schyman noted that he worked on the score over an extended period of time, and due to the game's long and evolving development cycle, it took longer to find the right approach to the score.[72] After much experimentation, Schyman found that using a simpler musical score was best for the game as he felt that it was consistent with the simpler time of 1912.[70] However, Schyman stated that he did not limit himself to the music of the period,[70] and added that while the game's setting of 1912 was very influential, it was not determinative. He said, "I did not wish to imitate the popular music of 1912 which is not particularly emotional to our ears in 2013."[72] Originally working with a more orchestral approach, Schyman later used very intimate small string ensembles with anywhere from three to ten players to compose the game's relatively simpler score.[70] Schyman also called Elizabeth a critical element to the music, explaining that "a lot of the music relates to her and some of the emotional things that she's going through." He went on to describe Infinite's music as "more of an emotional score" as it was about the relationship between the two key characters in the game, Booker and Elizabeth.[71]

Levine stated that choosing the licensed music for Infinite was much more challenging compared to the original BioShock.[73][74] He commented that with the original BioShock, set in 1960 in the mid 20th century, it was easy to acquire musical pieces representative of the era, with him saying that the team "had this huge slate of great music to choose from."[73][74] Levine stated that with Infinite, however, it was set in 1912 in the early 20th century, which had music he described to be "awful" and "not very listenable" to the "modern ear". Consequently, the development team had to "dig really deep" and research extensively for more satisfactory music in Infinite's time period.[73][74] Levine noted that he was not strict with selecting the music and songs that was accurate to the game's time period, as he felt that the most important thing with regards to the music was "that you get people to feel things." He added that the game's fictional nature justified him and the team "play[ing] a little fast and loose" and "[doing] things a little differently" with the music.[73] Levine also stated that Infinite's music would play a "strange role" in the game; he explained that the music would "tie into the macro story, to some degree", and that the team had "a lot of little stories" to tell about it.[73][74]

Release[edit]

BioShock Infinite was released worldwide for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013.[75] Aspyr later published and ported Infinite to the MacOS platform on August 29, 2013.[3][76] Two special editions were released alongside the game, for each release platform – Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The Special Edition includes an art book, a propaganda poster, a mini-figurine of the Handyman, a keychain, and the game's soundtrack, along with in-game codes for special powers and, for consoles, additional themes. The Ultimate Songbird edition, in addition to the above, includes a 9.5" statue of the Songbird, designed by Irrational's Robb Waters.[77] The game's release was accompanied by various tie-in merchandise, including replicas and figurines,[78] a board game based on the game called BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia,[79] and a prequel novella, Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt.[80]

Two major pieces of downloadable content were released by Irrational for the game. The first piece is Clash in the Clouds, a non-story arena-based combat mode where the player is faced with increasingly difficult waves of enemies on various maps based on in-game settings. It was released on July 30, 2013.[81] The second piece is Burial at Sea, a story-based expansion set in Rapture that links Infinite's story to that of the original BioShock game. It consists of two episodes, with the first one released on November 12, 2013, and the second one on March 25, 2014.[82][83] BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition, bundling BioShock Infinite with Clash in the Clouds and Burial at Sea, was released on November 4, 2014.[84]

BioShock Infinite along with Burial At Sea was remastered and released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as part of BioShock: The Collection in September 2016; the Windows version of Infinite, at this time, was considered already at par with the console version and did not receive any additional updates.[85] A standalone version of BioShock Infinite (including Burial at Sea) as well as The Collection was released on the Nintendo Switch on May 29, 2020.[86]

On September 3, 2022, Bioshock Infinite along with its predecessors was updated with the "Quality of Life Update" which added a launcher developed by 2K Games. This update was met with heavy criticism from fans of the game, citing that the game is now unplayable for both Linux and Steam Deck users.[87] The update was also criticized for serving no purpose except for adding telemetry, and impacting the games performance.[88]

Sales[edit]

In its first week of release, BioShock Infinite was the best-selling game on Steam's digital Top 10 PC Charts.[89] In the United States, BioShock Infinite was the top-selling console game for March 2013, with more than 878,000 units sold; these figures do not include digital sales such as through Steam.[90] Take-Two Interactive reported that the game had shipped 3.7 million copies to retail by their May 2013 financial report,[91] and surpassed 4 million in late July.[92] According to Take-Two Interactive, the game has sold more than 6 million copies as of May 2014,[93] and 11 million a year later.[94]

During the first week of sales in the United Kingdom, BioShock Infinite debuted as the number one selling PC game, and the best-selling game on all available formats, topping the UK PC Retail Sales and the UK All Formats video games charts.[89][95][96] In the game's opening week in the UK, its Xbox 360 version ranked No. 1, PlayStation 3 version ranked No. 2, and the PC version ranked No. 9 in the UK Individual Formats video games charts, due to 64 percent of its sales being on the Xbox 360, 31 percent on the PlayStation 3, and 5 percent on PC.[96] As of April 2, 2013, it is currently the second biggest launch of 2013 in the UK after Tomb Raider, and is the biggest UK game launch in the BioShock franchise's history with approximately 9000 more sales than BioShock 2.[95][96][97] During the game's second week in the UK, despite a 75 percent drop in sales, BioShock Infinite maintained its lead in the UK All Formats charts.[98] In its third week, Infinite became the first 2013 game to top the UK charts for three weeks in a row.[99]

Reception[edit]

BioShock Infinite received critical acclaim upon release, with reviewers particularly praising the story, setting and visual art design. Aggregating review website Metacritic summarized critical consensus as "universal acclaim", with the game netting score of 93–94/100 across its released platforms. BioShock Infinite was the third-highest rated video game of 2013 across all platforms on the site, behind Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us.[115] Consensus among several critics was that BioShock Infinite was one of the best games of the seventh generation era of video game consoles,[106][116] with IGN's Ryan McCaffery praising the game as "a brilliant shooter that nudges the entire genre forward with innovations in both storytelling and gameplay."[108] Joe Juba of Game Informer stated that Infinite was among the best games he had ever played,[105] while PlayStation Universe's Adam Dolge called it "one of the best first-person shooters ever made."[117] Identifying it as a "masterpiece that will be discussed for years to come", Joel Gregory of PlayStation Official Magazine concluded that Infinite was the latest game to join the hallowed ranks of Half-Life, Deus Ex and BioShock as "the apotheosis of the narrative-driven shooter."[110]

Many critics favorably compared BioShock Infinite to the original BioShock,[104][105][108][111][118] with some even believing that Infinite had surpassed it.[109][119][120] Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich stated that "if BioShock was The Godfather, then BioShock Infinite is Apocalypse Now",[121] with Adam Kovic of Machinima.com calling them "two similar-yet-separate games that can co-exist and remain equal in quality."[122]

Wide acclaim was directed to the story, with several critics calling it among the best in video gaming.[109][123][124] The story's exploration of mature themes was well received,[107][125] with Time's Jared Newman praising its ability to prompt commentary and critiques from players as the game's true value.[126] Several critics, including Adam Sessler of Rev3Games, also praised BioShock Infinite's storytelling, noting that its ability to finesse player agency and interaction resulted in a narrative that could only work in a game.[127][128] The story's twist ending was mostly praised,[105][109][127] with several critics predicting that it would provoke debate, and that it would leave a deep impression on players, prompting them to replay the game.[35][107][113][123] It was also generally agreed that Infinite's ending was an improvement over the original BioShock's,[108][118] with Gregory explaining that, unlike its predecessor, Infinite never lost momentum after revealing its twist.[110] Some critics who overall praised the ending did concede that it suffered from plot holes and leaps in logic,[117][129] with Edge calling it "a finality that doesn't make sense within the universe the game has created."[103] Several articles have since been released attempting to explain the game's ending.[14][17][20][130]

Critics particularly acclaimed the city of Columbia as the setting of the game, with Arthur Gies of Polygon stating that it was "one of BioShock Infinite's greatest assets."[131] Columbia was praised by some critics as one of video games' best settings,[104][108][125] with Destructoid's Jim Sterling explaining that, unlike BioShock 2, Infinite made a wise decision in abandoning Rapture "for an all new story in an all new setting, introducing us to the cloud city of Columbia."[118] The setting's visual art design drew praise, with Columbia being described as beautiful and gorgeous.[108][118] Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar went on to describe Infinite as "one of the most visually captivating games ever made."[106] The setting's attention to detail was also well received,[119][127] with critics impressed at how diverse the game's environments were, and how no two of Columbia's many different areas ever felt alike.[106][108] Critics also enjoyed how the game encouraged them to explore more of Columbia,[117][132] with Juba explaining "whether you’re looking at a piece of propaganda, listening to an audio log, or participating in a horrifying raffle, almost everything you encounter contributes to your understanding of the floating world."[105]

Elizabeth's role in the gameplay and narrative received wide praise.[108][129] Her implementation as an AI partner for the player-controlled Booker was described by Sullivan to be "downright ingenious",[106] and was stated by some critics to be the main aspect that separated Infinite from its predecessors.[104][108] Special praise was given not only to Elizabeth's ability to take care of herself in combat, but also for actively assisting the player by finding ammo and health, and opening Tears.[105][106] Critics also acknowledged Elizabeth as not just a combat partner, but a companion that invoked an emotional response from the player.[104] Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell felt that the game "creates a familial bond" between Elizabeth and the player,[35] with Sullivan stating that she felt like "a friend."[106] McCaffrey explained that Elizabeth's presence in the game provided motivation and emotional depth, something he believed the original BioShock lacked.[108] Edge called Elizabeth "a technical triumph, the most human-seeming AI companion since Half-Life 2's Alyx Vance",[103] with Sullivan stating that her "behavior makes you forget she's a video game character."[106] Several critics also praised Elizabeth's relationship and interactions with Booker, believing that they formed the core of the game's story.[118][128] Mikel Reparaz of Official Xbox Magazine explained that "the evolving interplay between [Elizabeth] and Booker is the heart and soul of what makes BioShock Infinite such an involving, memorable experience."[111]

The voice cast was well received,[109][119] with Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper being particularly praised for their performances as Booker and Elizabeth, respectively.[133][134] The audio and soundtrack also received positive responses,[105][119] with Cheat Code Central's Josh Wirtanen stating, "from the absurdly talented voice actors to the so-happy-it's-actually-creepy music selection to set the mood, this game sounds fantastic from start to finish."[135]

Although the gameplay's combat was mostly well received and praised,[105][107][127] it was the most polarizing aspect of the game, with The Daily Telegraph's Tom Hoggins noting "the gunplay is far from Infinite's most satisfying component."[128] Nevertheless, critics opined that the game's gunplay and shooting was an improvement over its predecessors.[125][135] The game's expanded environments were well received,[110] with Edge noting they encouraged the player to think more tactically and improvise.[103] Tom Francis of PC Gamer and Hoggins felt that Infinite's overall combat was an improvement over the previous BioShock games largely due to the dynamism of the expanded environments.[112][128] The addition of the Sky-Line received special praise from critics.[108][127] Sullivan felt that the Sky-Line "delivers a new FPS experience entirely",[106] while Gregory hailed it as a "real game-changer".[110] Critics also enjoyed the Vigors, weapons, and upgrades,[105][107] with McCaffrey praising the game's "myriad combat options".[108]

In contrast, the gameplay was criticized by some as monotonous and repetitive,[129] with VideoGamer.com's Steven Burns explaining the game's lack of real sense of escalation in either abilities or enemies made combat very tiresome and grating.[113] Some also noted that Infinite had regressed into a simple shooter compared to the role-playing System Shock games,[125] with Newman stating that "combat feels too constrained as a result."[126] There were also complaints that the middle portion of the game was padded by gameplay flaws.[108][128] Critics expressed disappointment that the game limited the player to only two weapons,[113] with Reparaz feeling that this, along with the lack of outlandish upgrades, made Infinite's "less inventive" combat "not quite up to BioShock's high standards."[111] Criticism was also directed at the combat's "meager" death penalty,[105][111] with complaints that this resulted in a less challenging game.[125]

Awards[edit]

BioShock Infinite was nominated for or won multiple awards during its pre-release period. It was a nominee for Most Anticipated Game at the 2010 through 2012 Spike Video Game Awards,[136][137][138] and won over 85 editorial awards at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011,[6] 39 of which were Game of Show.[139][140] The game also received two consecutive Golden Joystick Award nominations for One to Watch in 2011 and 2012.[141][142] After release, Infinite won the Game of the Year award from multiple publications, including the Associated Press,[143] CNN,[144] Electronic Gaming Monthly,[145] Entertainment Weekly,[146] Forbes,[147] and Games.[148] The game also won Best Shooter of the Year awards from several publications, including The Escapist,[149] Game Informer,[150] GameTrailers,[151] Hardcore Gamer,[152] IGN,[153] and Official Xbox Magazine.[154]

Date Award Category Recipient(s) and Nominee(s) Result Ref.
October 26, 2013 Golden Joystick Award 2013 Game of the Year BioShock Infinite Nominated [155]
Best Storytelling BioShock Infinite Nominated [155]
Studio of the Year Irrational Games Nominated [155]
Best Visual Design BioShock Infinite Won [156]
Best Gaming Moment Hallelujah Nominated [155]
December 7, 2013 Spike VGX 2013 Game of the Year BioShock Infinite Nominated [157]
Studio of the Year Irrational Games Nominated [157]
Best Shooter BioShock Infinite Won [157]
Best Xbox Game BioShock Infinite Nominated [157]
Best Voice Actor Troy Baker as Booker DeWitt Nominated [157]
Best Voice Actress Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth Nominated [157]
Best Soundtrack BioShock Infinite Nominated [157]
Best Song in a Game "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" performed by Courtnee Draper and Troy Baker Won [157]
Character of the Year The Lutece Twins Won [157]
January 13, 2014 17th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year BioShock Infinite Nominated [158]
Action Game of the Year BioShock Infinite Won [158]
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction BioShock Infinite Nominated [158]
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition BioShock Infinite Won [158]
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design BioShock Infinite Nominated [158]
Outstanding Achievement in Story BioShock Infinite Nominated [158]
February 23, 2014 18th Satellite Awards Outstanding Action/Adventure Video Game BioShock Infinite Nominated [159]
March 8, 2014 2014 SXSW Gaming Awards Game of the Year BioShock Infinite Nominated [160]
Excellence in Art BioShock Infinite Won [161]
Excellence in Narrative BioShock Infinite Nominated [160]
Excellence in Design and Direction BioShock Infinite Nominated [160]
Excellence in Musical Score BioShock Infinite Nominated [160]
Cultural Innovation Award BioShock Infinite Nominated [160]
March 12, 2014 10th British Academy Video Games Awards Artistic Achievement Scott Sinclair, Shawn Robertson, Stephen Alexander Nominated [162]
Audio Achievement Patrick Balthrop, Scott Haraldsen, James Bonney Nominated [162]
Original Music Garry Schyman, James Bonney Won [162]
Performer Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth Nominated [162]
March 19, 2014 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards Best Audio BioShock Infinite Won [163]
Best Narrative BioShock Infinite Honorable Mention [163]
Best Visual Art BioShock Infinite Won [163]

Themes[edit]

Levine claimed that the core messages in Infinite were neither personal nor political, insisting instead that they were historical. Levine stated that players are supposed to draw their own conclusions from the game, with many parts of Infinite open to interpretation and speculation; to this end, Levine avoided providing an authoritative final answer regarding the game's ending, saying, "what actually matters is what people think. Why does my interpretation matter more than yours?"[164] Acknowledging that Infinite's themes left fans debating and frustrated, Levine was nevertheless satisfied by the game's opacity, stating that it was his intent, and compared the game's interpretation of quantum mechanics to some of his favorite films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fight Club, The Master, Miller's Crossing, and There Will Be Blood.[164] Rob Crossley of CVG stated that "To [Levine], the [game's] Many Worlds Theory is a storytelling device; one that gives his narrative something unique in games yet celebrated in film: interpretability."[164]

The game's plot point of "constants and variables" received attention, primarily drawn towards the Lutece twins, who are shown to be key figures behind Columbia and the drivers for the game's events. Commentators discussed the associated themes of sameness,[165][166] fatalism,[166] choice,[166] and unintended consequences within the context of the Luteces' backstory and appearances.[166] The story's theme of alternate universes and Elizabeth's explanation that "There's always a lighthouse, there's always a man, there's always a city" has been cited as reinforcement to this.[167][168] The story's theme of multiple realities in particular was also commented as drawing parallels with the fact that, in contrast to previous BioShock games, Infinite only had a single ending despite the in-game morality decisions it offered. Wired's Chris Kohler explained that, similar to how the alternate universes within the story all had their similar "constants" and different "variables", the game could be played through in an infinite number of ways, but that certain things would always be the same.[169] Tom Phillips of Eurogamer agreed, interpreting Elizabeth's line ("We swim in different oceans, but land on the same shore") as meaning that, just like Booker's journey in different worlds, different players would have different experiences throughout the game but would nevertheless all reach the same ending.[17] This has led some to identify BioShock Infinite as a metagame and meta-commentary on the whole process of players making different choices in games.[170][171][172]

In response to people discussing Columbia "as a particularly racist society", Levine said that the game was making no particular point about the theme of racism and that the game's depiction of it was merely "more a factor of the time."[164] The racism portrayed in Columbia was seen by Levine "more as a reflection of what race relations in the U.S. were like in 1912;" Levine explained that the game was "less about exploring the good and bad sides of racism and more just a reflection of the time and how it impacted that era."[173] He noted that several historic American figures such as the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were "men of their times", great men who were nevertheless racist because of the times they lived in. Consequently, Levine reasoned that the depictions of nationalism and racism were warranted in the game, saying that to not do so would be "dishonest" and "strange" to the time period.[173][174] Many reviewers praised the game for its treatment of race.[175][176]

In addition to overt depictions of racism, the possibility of multiple realities, and the themes explored by the concept of constants and variables, the game was interpreted as tackling political and social problems.[177] Other themes discussed by commentators within the context of Infinite's setting and story include American exceptionalism,[178] extremism,[178] fundamentalism,[179] nationalism,[180] fanaticism,[181] cultism,[181] populism,[182] religion,[182] dichotomy,[165] free will,[183] hope,[183] self-loathing,[164] denial,[164] rebirth,[184] and redemption.[184]

Controversy[edit]

A Columbian propaganda poster showing George Washington standing tall with the Ten Commandments above a throng of racist caricatures of Irish, Chinese, Native Americans, Mexicans, and Indians. This Columbia propaganda poster, showing the xenophobia of the Founders, was briefly used by the National Liberty Federation.[185]

Infinite's themes of racism, religion and an ideological society caused controversy. In the various reveals of the Founders and Vox Populi before release, Levine and Irrational Games were criticized by various groups; upon demonstrating the Founders, people that favored the ideals of the Tea Party including Levine's relatives felt the game was attacking that movement; on the announcement of the Vox Populi, Levine found some websites claiming the game was an attack on the labor movement, and one white supremacist website claimed that "The Jew Ken Levine is making a white-person-killing simulator."[174] Levine considered that Infinite, like BioShock before it, was a Rorschach test for most people, though it would be taken negatively in nature and upset them, as his vision in crafting the stories was "about not buying into a single point of view".[174] Some of the game's imagery has been used by conservative groups. In 2013, the National Liberty Federation, a group in the Tea Party movement used a propaganda mural from the game espousing the Founders' racism and xenophobia on their Facebook page before its source was recognized and later taken down.[186] Fox News created a logo extremely similar to the BioShock Infinite logo for a segment titled "Defending the Homeland" relating to immigration control.[187]

Comstock was altered after Levine spoke with a developer who threatened to quit over the game's presentation of the character and religion; the developer helped Levine to reconsider the notion of forgiveness in the New Testament and set to figure out why people came to follow Comstock and to understand the ecstatic religious experience they would be seeking. Levine did not consider this reinvention of the character to be censorship, instead a means to present the story better to a broad audience.[188][189][190] In another case, a player that considered himself a "devout believer" of Christianity was offended by the forced baptism that Booker receives prior to entering Columbia proper, prompting him to request a refund due to being unaware of this content in the game.[191] Patricia Hernandez of Kotaku considered that the baptism scene was "admirable" in the context of video games as an art form, and the scene elicited numerous responses on social media.[191] The baptism scenes throughout the game were also interpreted by some not as a critique of Christianity or religion, but as a representation of themes such as free will, evil, rebirth and redemption.[165][183][184][192][193]

Graphic violence[edit]

Infinite's graphic depiction of violence generated substantial discussion. Polygon's Chris Plante considered that the degree of violence in the game could detract it to players who are more interested in the game's themes and narrative. He believed that unlike films that are based on violence as part of their themes, Infinite does not attempt to rationalize its violence, claiming the "magnitude of lives taken" and the "cold efficiency in doing so" was "unfamiliar to even the most exploitative films."[194] Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton agreed, stating that while violence is a common theme across video games, "[the] ridiculous violence stands out in such sharp relief when placed against the game's thoughtful story and lovely world." Hamilton acknowledged that Infinite likely would have been difficult to sell at the mass market if it lacked the first-person shooter elements, but still said that the violent kills felt "indulgent and leering" and unnecessary for the game. Cliff Bleszinski, the creative lead of Gears of War, a series Bleszinski acknowledges as being purposely violent, agreed with these sentiments, saying he "felt the violence actually detracted from the experience".[195] Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat felt that the game's nature as a first-person shooter limited its audience appeal due to the extreme violence inherent in the genre.[170]

Rus McLaughlin of VentureBeat stated that the sudden onset of violence at the carnival at the start of the game was a necessary element to show that "Columbia is not perfect. It's ugly, xenophobic, and ready to explode." McLaughlin also considered the message carried by Infinite about the extreme nature of the violent acts Booker commits to be tied to his redemption by the end of the game, that "there can be no morality in an extreme".[196] Jim Sterling from Destructoid said that the violence in the game is justified because "BioShock Infinite is a game about violence." They claimed that "Though [Booker] feels guilt for what he did, he's a violent man at heart, who inescapably resorts to butchery to solve his problems" and "His entire story is one of denial." Similarly, Sterling also pointed out that "Columbia is a fake, a sham, with an atmosphere of horror under its manufactured surface." They believed that having a non-violent option would go against everything natural to the game itself and "Those asking for a non-violent BioShock Infinite are asking for a different game entirely." They claimed that those asking for a non-violent BioShock were asking for "yet more homogenization in games" and "BioShock Infinite is not your game if you want a non-violent exploration of its themes, because Infinite's themes revolve around violence as a core concept".[197]

Levine defended the game's depiction of violence, stating that using violence as a narrative device was as old as storytelling itself and that it was "a part of the storyteller's toolkit".[198] He went on to say that art had a responsibility to authentically replicate and depict violence.[199] He later explained that he felt "the reaction to the violence [in BioShock Infinite] is more an expression of people building confidence in the industry's ability to express itself in more diverse fashions".[200]


Future of series[edit]

In February 2014, Levine said BioShock Infinite would be the last game Irrational would make in the series, leaving the intellectual property to 2K Games.[201] Levine eventually let go of most of Irrational Game's staff and rebranded the studio as Ghost Story Games to work on smaller narrative projects; Levine said pressure and stress of managing a large team as he had to for Infinite had impacted his health and personal relationships.[202] 2K Games affirmed in December 2019 that another BioShock game was in development, headed by a new internal studio Cloud Chamber.[203]


References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Additional work by 2K Australia[1] and Human Head Studios.[2] Ported to OS X by Aspyr.[3]
  2. ^ The game does not clarify if this is the same version of Booker that the player has played as, or a Booker from a different alternate reality.
  3. ^ The XCOM game would eventually become The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2013).
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External links[edit]