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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Back to the Lighthouse: Thoughts on Bioshock Infinite after putting it down for a whole year.

There was a time I threatened to make Infinite my 2013 game of the year. I should have made a similar threat for 2014, but to be honest... nothing jumped out at me and the heavy hitters ultimately broke even. Inquisition was two good halves of one great game as the open world devoured half of it's story. Beyond Earth is at least one comprehensive expansion pack away from being anything special. And Dark Souls 2, while being a damn fine game in of itself sits in it's predecessor's shadow a bit too much; though it's subtle tweaks to the death formula and it's central town were wonderful.

Wait... what were we talking about?


I love Infinite. Too much, honestly. As I said before, I tried to give it my goty when no one else would. After the initial influx of perfect review scores the tide turned sharply. I wanted to link to the IGN review, but they walked it back to a 9.4. It was a 10 two years ago. That's how swift and angry the backlash was. People were furious. But when aren't gamers furious? After a couple weeks Infinite's place in history was set, cooled by months and months of contrarian cynicism. Do I sound bitter? I should. I'm insanely bitter.

I wanted to write an article that was confident. Something so sure of the game's merits that I wouldn't be bothered by the fact that this was the game people decided to complain about finding loot and food in trash cans. I believed Infinite became a symbolic target for things critics had tired of. My article kept devolving into mini tirades. I was jumping into the cheap seats and throwing punches.

Now that I've booted it all up again and enjoying it all again, I find myself picking at the old wounds.

Like how vigors felt tacked on to most folks. People thought they weren't integrated into the story enough. They were brand new! The story of vigors was the story of plasmids because they were literally the same thing stolen from Rapture. People didn't have time to get all tumory yet. And Colombia's implementation of shock jokeywas a hell of lot more sensible then what Rapture ever made of it.

But I concede the game has flaws. Many, in fact. But all sins are forgiven in my eyes because it manages to be so convincingly weird. With the right story and characters you can go anywhere and do anything. Even kill sky racists while traveling through time and space.  I especially love how well it treats faith. Not just zealotry. I believed the Colombians believe in Comstock. Their murmured prayers, the way they policed their friends, and their stunning monuments. The flooded church where Booker's rocket lands and the choral version of "will the circle be unbroken" gave me the closest thing to a religious experience a piece of entertainment ever will. No other game has captured the beauty and the horror of blind faith so powerfully.  Oh... I just got the symbolism of the blind baptizing priest. Christ, that took me long enough didn't it?

But one thing that bothered me the most was the twist surrounding Booker's identity.


As if ya'll don't even know.

I thought they cheated. Using a different voice actor, a cheap poly involving the Lutece field artificially aging Comstock, a general lack of evidence and foreshadowing. But I was wrong. It's actaully much better put together than the whole Atlas/Fontaine twist. If I was really paying attention the first time I could have figured it out!

For one, in the beginning Comstock knew everything about Booker. He knew about the mark on his hand, he knew he served at wounded knee, he knew about his daughter.

Two, at the hall of heroes it claims Comstock did everything Booker did at wounded knee. Comstock even brought Booker's old commander, Slate, along to Colombia.

Three, aside from the running theme of baptism and remaking ones' self you hear about in all of Comstock's audio logs; they totally set up the concept of the exact same person being two different people in different worlds. How?

Come on, Redbubble. This shirt's been in "manufacturing" for 5 days!!!"

It was all there... I'm so proud of you Bioshock! You know, Fitzroy's lack of evolution notwithstanding. But rendering your entire trip to Finkton with a hole in the universe was actually devastatingly cheap, for the record.

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