In part two of FBT’s scathing Bioshock Infinite review, he basically rants for pages about how infuriating the game is. TLDR; FBT hates Infinite.
* Spoiler Alert – Plot-points and character fates are mentioned throughout *
Thus far Infinite has us shooting through a quantum physics-based plot murdering racist religious fanatics -and those who oppose them- while hop-scotching around multiverses to escape a floating city with a Disney Princess who can alter reality and pass through dimensions with her mind but not conjure an exit. While being chased by a giant mechanical crow.
Having reached Comstock’s airship, there’s nothing stopping us escaping so Songbird swoops down and swipes Liz. Then we’re in the future. 1984 to be clichéd exact. Without Booker to protect her, the years of conditioning turned Liz into the superweapon Comstock prophesied; Columbia is the Ark and Elizabeth the flood. We finally see what her potential really was … directing the Columbia airships to launch missiles. What? Comstock said she was God’s instrument, we’ve seen elements of her power and this is it? I wanted to see her tears pouring death from above, real fire and brimstone stuff, Sleeping Beauty become Maleficent. Nope. No Tear in sight. Just ‘drop a bomb there’. Not even Songbird!
Turns out Old Liz pulled us into this time to stop it happening. Okay, (deep breath) I thought she was on Comstock’s side now? She can’t be brain-washed and aware it’s wrong; Why not have a mini-boss battle with her? Save her, break the conditioning. Imagine that. And, she can time-tear? Oh and, because Old Liz sent us back with a clue to stop Comstock, that means not only can we affect the timeline but that this future won’t happen so we won’t get the clue which means … oh phew, here comes Levine waving his Quantum Theory for Dummies book, now with an all-new Grandfather Paradox Explained chapter!
Back to reality. We arrive just in time to see Young Liz’s super-charged powers open a tear to a tornado which wipes out everyone experimenting on her. THAT’S what I’m talking about! Go Liz! Then she NEVER does it again. So, with zero help from Tornado Liz, we storm Comstock’s airship. Comstock’s got to be impressive, charismatic, commanding, convincing to have pulled all this off; with the scene of Ryan playing golf while Rapture crumbles in mind, we wonder if we’ll meet the Devil or a con-man.
One good thing about this scene; I’ll never again be lost for an example of a game let-down. Comstock could have been one of the most complicated villains in gaming history; he seems to believe in his Old Testament sermons, but we also know he faked his Prophet-like status, using the Tears to gain knowledge. He was building an army to wipe clean the earth but because God told him to or a power-mad desire? And what of his segregation/slavery beliefs? We’ll never know because no sooner have we got past the pleasantries when Booker inexplicably kills him. Just like that. There’s only one reason why that happened. There’s a twist coming. Why is this entire game acting like it’s a ‘previously on’? Comstock, the Luteces, they all know but won’t let on – unless withholding the reveal is key to our final success, this game will be an unconscionable cheat. Before we have a chance to realise we got cheated, the game quickly spirals into an aggravating wave battle while Liz realises the clue from her future-self lets her control Songbird – that’s awesome cool! Sod Comstock, I wanna play Songbird! Wait … Why am I playing Serious Sam with the Vox while Songbird is relegated to background attacks in a hurried point and click? Why can’t we just fly Songbird about?! Massive Crow. Check. Remote control for Crow. Check. Tons of revolutionary, down with the racist and religious nut Vox soldiers to uncomfortably slaughter? Check. Instead I'm busy shooting like I've done throughout?
So, given Songbird was the thing stopping us leaving and we have control of it, there’s nothing stopping us leaving – Yes, there is. Booker DROPS the remote over the side. That's a moment of sickeningly bad, lazy storytelling. Songbird comes in for the kill and Liz opens a tear and transports us to … Rapture! The game already (desperately) justified the Vigors by showing they were Plasmids stolen through a tear so it seemed like we might visit. It’s nice, apart from watching Songbird die outside in the crushing water. It’s really quite sad; Songbird was such a tragic, disturbing creature and not just some automaton, it was a mix between Kong and a Big Daddy and it loved Liz, it’s only joy was looking after her. It’s a beautiful, heart-breaking, touching scene and completely out of place in the rest of this shitty, cheating story. God I hate this game.
So, Comstock dead, Songbird gone, free of Columbia; we’re all good, right? Roll the credits. Wrong. Liz’s full powers are unleashed and that gives her … the power to become a know-it-all. We float toward the surface catching a glimpse of Rapture as we go, but of course the moment is spoilt; Booker smirks ‘a city under the sea? Ridiculous’. You’ve just been on a floating … oh I’m done with you. Once by the lighthouse, Liz continues to ramble on; just like Comstock and the Luteces, she knows something she’s not telling me.
Remember that scene in the Matrix when the little kid explains reality; ‘There is no spoon’? and we understood; back to the bullet-time. If you ask Liz she’d talk about a bowl from the spoon’s perspective. Infinite has become Levine’s half-term paper on Quantum Theory and he’s just padding it to reach the word-count. There’s an apocryphal Feynman quote, "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't really understand it." And here we are. Infinite isn’t hard to understand until they explain it, then you realise they don’t know either.
The biggest surprise though is why huge plot twists deserved to be left until the end. We sit through moments that are completely drained of impact because we literally just walking behind Liz who explains everything. It’s like a magician explaining their trick, the power, the wonder is drained out of it.
Comstock is Booker in this reality. Whoa! Imagine working up to meeting yourself?! Questioning yourself, what your doppelganger did, wondering if you were capable. That would have been horrible; it's not now, being told after the fact just makes you go 'oh'. The moment Jack sees the ‘would you kindly’ quote on Ryan’s wall, that blew your mind. It was in front of you the whole time, a masterful twist, but Infinite never gives you that realisation. Next!
Comstock’s tear use aged him. Why? Oh of course, so the game wouldn't tip it's hand and let me recognise him. It also caused him to become infertile. Jeez you weren’t kidding when you said anything’s possible with Quantum Theory. Oh god, that means … Liz is my daughter! I don’t seem to react to that whatsoever. Neither does she. I get reunions are difficult but come on. Again, that could have been an interesting reveal midway through, change Booker’s opinion of her, from a payday to his daughter, revaluate himself while they awkwardly get to know each other. But hang on, this throws up all sorts of ques - Oh god, it’s the Luteces isn’t it.
Comstock made them open a tear to another reality where Booker, a burn-out after acts he committed in the war, sells the Luteces his daughter, Anna; but at the last second he regrets it and the tear closes and she loses a finger. That is an incredibly strong, shocking scene. But the game panics; we’re sitting there going ‘how did I forget all this?’ and it hurriedly explains Booker lost key memories passing through the tear at the beginning due to his mind trying to reconcile being in Comstock’s reality. Quantum Theory is so bloody convenient. I remember my acts in the war but not a daughter I regretted selling to pay off gambling debts? No sense.
Then there’s the finger thing. It’s because of that Liz can tear between realities? Not just those two, all realities? See, if her Pinkie is in our dimension and her body in Comstock’s why multiverses? Why not just the two? That would have been clean and concise; Comstock universe, Booker universe. Missing daughter, found daughter. Exciting game, emotional game. There’s ironically more potential in two universes than in infinite ones.
The first bit of good news is the fate of the Luteces; after being murdered (yay!) by Comstock to cover his plot, they were spread across all known realities and realised what Comstock had in store for the girl. They resolved to find a Booker and send him into the world to rescue the girl, and hundreds of Bookers later it was our turn, explaining all the see, saw, seen guff. If they wanted to break the cycle why did they continue with their non-sequitur ‘if only you knew’ bants?! They had critical info that would have helped, not knowing didn't change the outcome just made it harder to achieve! The dicks. The Luteces are the only ones who could have tortured the lighthouse keeper to get the access code at the start. So they themselves can alter and affect things, they didn’t even NEED a Booker or at the very least, they had no reason to keep it from him. It was all for this twist. Bad, cheaty storytelling. Dead. Died. Die.
Eventually Liz leads us back to a baptism that our Booker refused while that Booker took and became Comstock, setting him on his floating-city journey. Somehow. The only way to stop the cycle is for Comstock to never exist. As in, kill Booker to ensure Comstock never lives. Thing is, her thinking is flawed - we’re in a game called Infinite, so that means endless Comstocks; that means there’s a Columbia that helped to usher in world peace, a reality where Booker and Anna lived happily and at least one where Comstock wasn’t an extremist – not every believer is a religious terrorist and you want to kill them too? When you think about it, killing Booker only saves the Luteces. Godamnit! Although, that would be an ending; the whole thing was them just saving themselves. And what’s to stop them giving the tear concept to someone else who is equally nefarious? They’re the villains. We just get Liz joined by other-reality Liz’s for no reason except it looks cool and they drown me. Good.
Of course, there’s one final cheat; Mid-credits, Booker awakes to the sound of Anna crying. Did Infinite just imply it was all a dream?! If not, that undermines the entire game. Liz, open a tear to the exit menu.
Infinite is an incredibly offensive game; raising religious extremism and racism then jettisoning them - you do not use such contentious subjects as filler – having the Vox suddenly become the villains because they’re violent, casting Comstock as a religious zealot and imply he’s a fake – not to mention that his conversion to religion caused all of this; it’s just wrong. And then there’s the plot holes; What about Comstock’s vision, why did they fire on China and why did he prepare the citizens for the coming of the False Shepard; he had no reason to assume the Luteces would turn on him, he killed them to make sure Booker couldn't follow him. And of course the unresolved issue that that the game lets me be racist; in Bioshock we could murder little girls but you made that call and lived with it and the consequences – it’s as if the stoning scene is an in-joke; something so horrible has no consequences after-all; haha, you thought it was a moral choice, tricked you. Well fuck you Infinite, stoning a mixed-race couple is not a punchline.
There’s so many ways it could have gone; Comstock be a deadhead controlled by the Luteces and we’re just rats in their lab, or Liz even; planned it all to gain her full power. If this game wanted to explore any social issue it should have been the cult of personality; Why folks follow someone like Comstock, we see it in the real world every day. That would have justified almost all of it. It’s not even a very good shooter.
Clash in the Clouds is the worst kind of DLC – an arena battle. You expect something more; liberating the Vox, a tear-based experience, anything but this. I’d half expect it to just be surviving waves of non-sequitur exposition from the Luteces.
The second and third DLC though, Burial at Sea, seemed more like it. Set in Rapture as a prequel, this was going give us what we wanted in the first place, before it all happened.
Pre-War Rapture. Into Private Eye Booker’s office sashays femme-fatale Liz – in Infinite she was a waifish Disney Princess, in Burial she’s an hourglass-figured Kitty Collins. Liz engages Booker to find Sally, one of several little girls who've gone missing recently, and as we follow her Rita Hayworth walk to the door … there is Rapture. In it’s prime, right when life couldn’t get any better beneath the waves. It is absolutely beautiful and I spend an age just taking it in. We light Liz’s cigarette with a click of our fingers, a waiter uses his Houdini plasmid to deliver drinks quicker, it’s amazing. I’m not triggering any story-related stuff, I’m just going to live here.
But it’s short-lived. After a cameo from Sander Coen, we’re headed for Fontaine’s Department Store, where Sally was last seen. This place is unfortunately the Rapture we know; decrepit and looted after Ryan sunk it to banish Fontaine’s followers. There’s no splicers but we do have weapons and plasmid-Vigors to batter Fontaine’s men with; Once we find Little Sister Sally (it was obvious) Booker is surprisingly offed by her Big Daddy. For the first third, that was an awesome run through Rapture and felt like pure, honest fan-service. But never fear, the Luteces are here to ruin it all.
In brief, this Booker’s Anna was killed during an attempt to steal her. Taking pity on him, the Letuces wiped his memory and deposited him in Rapture. He tries to apologise to Liz for cutting her in half but she’s having none of it and planned for his demise. This girl’s got Daddy issues.
So we’ve missed an entire sequence where this Liz became some sort of inter-dimensional time-traveling assassin systematically killing surviving Bookers/Comstocks? Because that would have been awesome; an Assassin’s Creed Infinite? Although, if there’s one surviving Booker then the drowning didn’t work? Still, with Booker very dead where’s part two going? Where doesn’t it go! It even goes up it's own arse.
Part two picks up almost straight away, after a blatant dream sequence - GET ON WITH IT. Once over, a dazed Liz watches as Atlas captures Little Sister Sally. Awesome, we’re Liz?! We're gonna get to play God and use tears and run rampant! Then Booker reappears and coaches Liz to say what Atlas needs to hear before he kills her. Kills her? Wait ...
Because Irrational missed sexism off their list of bungled social issues in the main game, Burial pt2 strips Liz of everything that made her special, different, powerful. Through whiny monologues, Liz explains to her dead dad conscience (shouldn’t he know?) that she felt guilt about using Sally to expose Booker and the Big Daddy subsequently killed her; the Luteces sent dead Liz back through a tear to rescue Sally but due to reasons, she now has no tears and no foresight. Sigh. Aside from the loss of her powers, Pt2 is primarily a stealth game - Liz can't take down a Big Daddy, doesn’t get anywhere near the destructive level of Plasmid-Vigors that Booker did, nor does she have any heavy weaponry; Liz even has some non-lethal weapons - she drowned her own dad, I don’t think murder is a problem for Liz.
After helping Atlas reach Rapture, he of course betrays us then puts her through some unnecessary torture during which Liz passes out and misses the war. Goddamnit. She’s awakened just as Atlas is on the ropes and saves herself by offering to find the ‘ace in the hole’. Now weapon-less, Liz has become as much a Little Sister as Sally, driven by the will of men and its uncomfortable given Infinite was all about her freedom. She just walks through the ‘previously on Bioshock’ backstory, getting Atlas Jack’s trigger phrase. We couldn’t just have her finding Sally and the two escaping Rapture, have a mini-adventure, a self-contained view of the war? No, because that would have been great. Instead, it’s got to be all so epic and worthy; Liz realised the only way to save Sally is Jack; by ensuring Jack is brought to Rapture, Sally will be saved. At least she didn’t go back and drown Ryan who turned out to be Jack who was also her dad.
As a return to Rapture, Burial is a total con. We already know the story; Liz’s meddling isn’t interesting to play/watch as we never had any questions about Atlas’ rise. We barely spend any time in the period we’re most curious about and unforgivably miss the key defining moment, the 1959 New Year’s Eve War. The stealthing to avoid a Big Daddy does feel more realistic given their reputation but it would have been better during Booker’s part not Liz; she just jumps through hoops instead of tears and its a shame she’s reduced to a victim - turning Liz into a tragic character betrays her and makes a mockery of the main game’s own ending; plus, what if we played Jack as a bad-guy and killed all the Little Sisters? If the 'good' ending to Bioshock is the franchise cannon, then you've undermined that game as well. Even Bioshock 2 was kind enough to avoid Jack's actions beyond the show down with Ryan/Fontaine. Not even an argument that Burial is Irrational’s love poem to where it all started holds water because it betrays everything Bioshock stood for. Ryan would call Infinite a parasite.
Developer; Irrational Games | Publisher; 2K games
platforms; Win | PS 3/4 | X360/One