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This week, Zero Punctuation review BioShock: Infinite.

TranscriptEdit

I think the best explanation for Ken Levine's career is that there's some kind of matronly school teacher standing behind him repeatedly going, "Now do it again, but properly this time." It starts with System Shock 2 basically being System Shock but without the shitty cyberspace minigame, or looking like someone drank a load of cerulean paint and vomited on Ultima Underworld. Then there was BioShock, basically being System Shock 2 with more imagination and no longer having to put 6 points into 'Exotic Weapons Proficiency' to figure out how to twat people over the head with a piece of jagged rock. And now we have BioShock Infinite, which is basically BioShock but now with the word "Infinite" on the end. And when the protagonist with a shadowy and unwittingly significant past arrives at the lighthouse that is the secret entrance to a corrupted idealist utopia, he takes the stairs leading up this time.

Don't take this the wrong way though. BioShock Infinite is a retread, but it's the good kind of retread that uses a formula that works to explore new ideas, and it's a worthy sequel to the original.

"Don't you mean second sequel, Yahtzee?"

...GET OUT.

Booker DeWitt is a cynical private detective and amazingly not-silent protagonist who makes the most of that talent to read aloud every single sign he passes and then go "Huh" in an increasingly irritating way. He's sent to the floating sky city of Columbia to rescue a mysterious young girl and then escape the city with her, although one wonders why that part proves so difficult. Surely the maximum amount of time one could be trapped in a cloud city would be however long it takes to make a parachute out of a pair of curtains.

The first significant way Infinite differs from the first two Shock sisters is that Bio and System were horror games in which you were late for the party and have to piece the events of the party on a gloomy hungover Sunday morning, whereas Infinite is a pulpy, swashbuckling adventure and you're just in time for the party, because the party is you. Columbia starts off perfectly fine resembling an idyllic, cartoonishly racist Disneyland, until Father Comstock, city leader and alleged prophet, marks out DeWitt as the guy who's destined to fuck everyone up, so he's forced to fuck everyone up after they all turn on him for being the guy who was going to fuck everyone up.

Comparisons to BioShock are as inevitable as a bear shitting on a Catholic (or however that phrase goes,) and under that light Infinite falls kinda short. What's disappointing is that the villain is basically just a racist nutter who wants to blow up the world. I listen to him frothing about how his carpet made of black people should be grateful he hasn't trod in any dog shit lately, and he becomes hard to take seriously. The truly great villain is one who talks sense; Andrew Ryan had some weird ideas about sweat ownership, but he was articulate, dangerously intelligent, and wouldn't let someone like Comstock run the fucking hot tap.

Also Elizabeth the wide-eyed Little Sister amalgamation has the ability to manipulate the fabric of reality, which is always a can of worms for any story to open. And the game starts threatening to disappear up its own butt. Reality manipulation becomes what ADAM was in the first game; a crutch to hold up the weirder parts of the plot, a crutch being very important for walking when parts of you are stuck up your own butt. And events get a bit hard to follow when alternative realities are colliding all over the place — not that one would want to follow someone who's heading straight up their own butt.    

The continuing presence of Plasmids, or, in this case, Vigors, is a bit of a sticking point for me, because in BioShock 1 they were an essential part of the plot as well as the gameplay, representing the fall of Rapture because everyone was getting too spliced up to jerk off to Atlas Shrugged more than twice a day. But now they're just sort of there; maybe they fell out of a reality rift to the convenience dimension. Which is not to say it's not still fun to electrocute people with naught but your winning smile, and in fact there's not much to complain about on the whole gameplay front.

I do have a minor issue in that, like BioShock 1, there's still a bit of gulf in enemy threat levels; it doesn't take too many upgrades for the standard human enemies to be threatening only to whoever has to shampoo the carpet. I ended up being able to chain lightning entire rooms to death halfway through the first racial slur. But it seems like every other enemy they throw at you can take damage like your mum takes cheap gin, followed by the entire room full of sailors that were buying it for her. And another condition Infinite seems to have inherited from its forebear is shitty final level syndrome, A.K.A., the "Shinfles". The semi-optional tower defense sections in Assassin's Creed: Revelations and Black Ops 2 were a bit of a pinecone in the fruit salad, but the only thing worse is a completely not-optional one.

So how does Infinite beat out BioShock? Well I remember saying that a game set in an underwater city with no swimming gameplay seemed like a bit of a missed connection, and I was afraid Bioshock Infinite would similarly miss the potential by restricting the gameplay to the usual modern shooter ground-based skirmishes under very pretty skyboxes, where the jump button exists only to taunt you with the momentary belief that perhaps you could climb over the strategically placed piles of rubble that mark the inevitable invisible walls. But thankfully the Sky-Hook rail traveling system is a lot of fun and adds a whole lot to the huge open-air feel of the maps as well as the swashbuckling tone to the action. I'd swoop down from on high, machine gunning racists, then jump off and kick the last survivor off the ledge and feel like Errol fucking Flynn. I was almost afraid of landing in case I got bounced away on balls like a couple of hairy space hoppers.

And it certainly has a better ending than BioShock, which isn't saying a whole lot. A situation wherein a man with a gun is ordering you to dig a shallow grave in the woods would probably end better than BioShock 1 did. But for all the alternate realities splurging confusingly around the story's mid to late period, Infinite somehow manages to tie it all together with an ending that really stuck with me, and made me want to go back and pick through the whole thing again going "Oh, so that was the significance of the 4 gay blokes."    

It is, however, hairy space hopper levels of pretentious. It comes and goes in and out of its own butt the whole way through but the ending is the point of maximum "own butt" penetration; it wallows in a bit of abstract meta-narrative - wanky wanky word word - that doesn't really serve the essential plot points, and I found myself thinking, "If this ends with us meeting God and God looks like Ken Levine, then I'm gonna fucking punch someone." But, you know what? If it isn't boring and gives us something to talk about then it can't be bad. And Infinite isn't bad; it's good, perhaps even great. You see, sometimes it's kinda nice to be up somebody's butt if it's cosy and warm and they've put some interesting conversation pieces up there.    

AddendaEdit

A fellow of infinite jest: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Does anyone else think the picture of Elizabeth on the back of the box looks distractingly like a young Olivia Coleman

Lucky no-one on the surface planted any beanstalks lately.

ScreenshotsEdit

BioshockInfinite1

Columbia!

BioshockInfinite2

Father Comstock.

BioshockInfinite3

"Balls like a couple of hairy space hoppers."

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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