Blast from the Past
FBT returns to one of his most hated games ...
When the teaser trailer for Infinite landed, I was beside myself; we see a Big Daddy in the water as we hear the sounds of drowning - whoa. Would You Kindly be awesome? But it turns out to be an aquarium ornament. We’re flung out of a window but instead of water pouring in, there’s nothing but air, and then a rose vine appears and catches us, thanks to some steampunky-looking girl. It wasn’t Bioshock. Turned out it wasn’t Infinite either.
Elizabeth, the rose-flinging saviour wasn’t some Plasmid-charged super-sidekick; she just lobbed ammo and explained the plot. The window-throwing creature was a little daddy and the sky-bound setting, Columbia, with its nationalism, racism and religious extremism was just window-dressing; instead we tried to shoot through primary-school-level quantum theory and multiverse guff. Just reminding myself of Infinite is getting me angry.
Yet Infinite is constantly referred to as one of the best games of all time. Maybe my Bioshock love clouded my judgement. If I drop the ‘Bioshock’ and just play ‘Infinite’, is it a good game?
Still a Blast?
God no. When I did a complete play-through review/therapy session, I thought Infinite was the most indulgent, smug game ever. It was a two-part review I had to get so much hate out. But I was wrong. It’s just a total cheat, a cover-up of a mess. Buckle up, here we go …
I don’t get why Infinite got so many good reviews on release. It’s a master class in style over substance. If its style was a hastily put together school project. Folks waffled about it’s deep-dive into America’s troubled race history - It’s not, it’s just a shooter set in a KKK Town. Critics blathered about its head-twisting multiverse setting; just saying ‘quantum entanglement’ doesn’t make portals clever or explain a floating city; Irrational just read the Wikipedia article on Quantum Mechanics and figured ‘we can do anything’ but the Quantum Reality is they disappeared up their Quantum arse, got Quantum lost and ended up slapping ‘multiverse’ on it to explain how fragmented and nonsensical it is.
The plot, sort of, is Booker, a gumshoe cliché has been sent to Columbia, a floating city still in America’s Jim Crow era, to recover a girl - Elizabeth, the daughter of Columbia’s ruler, the Prophet. What follows is a completely abstract, absurd sequence of events where we bounce between realities, ignoring narrative holes you could sail Columbia through as we find a way to escape and stop the Prophet from launching an attack on the ground below. Along the way we explore Booker’s past, Liz’s powers and all the ways reality can tangentialize, or as Liz puts it, figure out the constants and variables. As I put it, the nonsense and bollocks.
The opening where we reach Columbia is dripping in great noir. I despised the Luteces (and still do) but this time I try to pretend their wittering has some impact - they discuss Booker in present, past and future tenses, and it feels threatening and ominous, as does the stormy lighthouse opening; Infinite is setting us up for a seriously twisted trip/letdown.
The ominous tone continues in Columbia. Beautiful architecture, sunny parks and an idyllic feel; it seems a lovely place as pinstriped, boater hat-wearing whites promenade and enjoy spectacles while ‘blacks’ sweep the floors and tend the toilets. Oh... Posters warn of the threat of non-Whites and demand the absolute worship of the Prophet. Problem is, while it’s a rage-inducing environment it’s just a fairground we walk through - Booker has no impact, it is just the backdrop. You can no more interfere with Columbia than you can a Doom level. Liz on the other hand ...
Liz has the ability to open ‘tears’ to other realities, allowing her to bring in objects or perks, or making them big enough to pass through. This is the first logic own-goal; suddenly, structure, plotting, timelines don’t have to matter - it's revealed she exists in two realities; and therefore she can open an infinite number of others? Even if you accept the logic, the first question is ‘why do we need an airship to escape, open a tear to a new reality and let’s go?!’ In cut-scenes she does it for a trapped bee, and even opens a tear big enough to let in a twister, but not us?!
Liz keeps rabbiting on about how this is happening and giving excuses as to why we can’t use it to escape, but she sounds like a kid pulled up to the front of the class to explain a problem and is making it up. There are infinite ways infinite realities could help. She admits at one point she doesn’t know what’s going on; she even suggests she’s creating those realities with her mind. What?! How?! How did you even get to that? Detention for you young lady.
Rumours persist that originally Liz would, on command, use Tears to bring forth all sorts of destruction but it was cut. She can bring in minor perks during fights, but we can’t use realities unless the story says so. Instead, Booker gains ‘Vigors’, which are poorly explained, poor-man’s Plasmids that make no sense in the context of Columbia. It should be a shooter Portal but there’s no actual gamer use for her ability, and the items she does offer might as well already be on the battlefield - when you see a few dotted around, you just go ‘oh, fight coming up’. There's so much shooter potential in a side-kick who can open portals, but no.
And the shooting i