Bioshock Infinite tells a compelling story. The story is Elizabeth’s, not yours. You, Booker DeWitt, just gets caught up in it. The thing about Bioshock Infinite is that you could write books of praise about the graphics and the story is very much driven by what you see in the floating city of Columbia. You could also write a great deal about the superb voice acting, the exquisite soundtrack, the smooth and gleefully violent combat, the joy of having an AI companion that is both useful and interesting, but all of these things diminish in the light of a story that has so much to say. At the heart of it, Elizabeth steals the show. It is all about the girl.
Reasons to play it
Superb dialogue superbly delivered
Of all the great things Bioshock Infinite delivers, the most outstanding has been the dialogue and voice acting. Write down the dialogue of most video games and when you read it back, it is cringeworthy. The dialogue in Bioshock Infinite reads like a book with plenty of short scenes, clips and phrases that would look very will written down on pieces of paper and tacked on a wall. It is quotable fiction and I have not been pulled in so completely by voice acting since Nathan Fillion’s rendering of Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck in Halo: ODST.
The most memorable thing about Bioshock Infinite is Elizabeth. At the start, her girlish innocence, her enthusiasm for life and her stubbornness makes her someone easy to care about. Booker can’t help but want to protect her, despite the fact that she is obviously very capable of taking care of herself. Elizabeth is one of the most complex and memorable characters video gaming have ever seen.
Room for Improvement
The little things
No game is without flaws, but Bioshock Infinite only has a few minor blips. The recycled voice clips often ruin the mood. Elizabeth would reveal something personal, the mood would be tender and grave and I would turn to open a locked door and she would say in a chirpy voice one of the rote things she says every time she is asked to pick a lock.
The skyline rides occasionally lose Elizabeth, when combat starts the street empty very quickly, bad guys behave predictable, deus ex machina save the plot more than once, but overall, it is small annoyances sweeped away by an overwhelmingly great game.
Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)
Bioshock Infinite is moderately accessible if you have photophobia, a common symptom of migraine, autistic spectrum disorders, cataracts, colour blindness, dyslexia or traumatic brain injury. It has some flicker and flash, particularly in the latter part of the game that cannot be avoided. The first that really bothered me was a flickering lightbulb in an elevator, featured in the video above. There is a sequence with very bright lightning and flash effects that I played in very short bursts relying heavily on AI support to get me through.
It is moderately accessible if you suffer from simulation sickness, motion sickness induced by video games. It is a first person shooter and the first person perspective is the biggest and a pervasive trigger. The sky line rides integral to the game are also less than pleasant and there are a few scenes throughout involving airships and simulated movement.
Ken Levine said in an interview that it is a game that would only work on a first person level and despite a personal dislike of first perspective due to its nauseating effect, I have to agree. I knew it was a first person shooter. I played it anyway. It was worth it.
In the settings there is a slider that adjusts “controller look sensitivity” and I would recommend setting this to a low-level or if playing with a mouse and keyboard, lower the mouse sensitivity to avoid an out of control camera. I also noticed that moving slowly and controlling the camera angle carefully reduced the nauseating effect and it is possible to make limited use of the skylines. If motion sickness is a problem, play in short sessions to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Low Vision and Visual Field Defects
Bioshock Infinite is very accessible if you have blurred vision, visual distortion, tunnel vision (peripheral field loss) or blind spots in your visual field. The menu system and UI is minimal and information is clearly displayed with icons and standard size text. If you can read the UI, you should be fine with all elements within the game. There are two options that may help in the menu, highlight searchable objects and highlight important objects. Both are turned on by default and I would recommend keeping them on.
Colour Blindness (Colour Vision Deficiency)
It is very accessible if you are playing with a colour vision deficiency and there is no reliance on colour alone. Only one small detail might be a problem – the health bar is dark red and when it drains, black with low contrast between the two, making it difficult to read at a glance.
- Display Mode: Fullscreen, Windowed (Fullscreen), Windowed
- Aspect Ratio and screen resolution: Select from drop-down lists
- Graphics Quality: Custom or Preset
- Custom Options include antialiasing, texture detail, texture filtering, dynamic shadows, postprocessing, light shafts, ambient occlusion, object level of detail, brightness settings, lock frame rate, field of view
- Art subtitles on/off toggle
- Enemy health bars on/off toggle
- Highlight Searchable Objects on/off toggle
- Highlight Important Objects on/off toggle
Subtitles & Closed captioning
Players land on a menu screen after the opening credits. It is great for anyone who requires subtitles as it allows the opportunity to adjust the settings and turn on subtitles before the opening cinematic starts.
All dialogue has subtitles. Subtitles are off as default, but can be turned on in the Options menu before starting the game. For those with tinnitus or a mild to moderate hearing impairment, dialogue has no excessive background noise during cut scenes or pivotal conversations. The voice acting is superb, extremely clear and easy to follow.
Reliance on auditory cues
Audio cues are an optional extra, always accompanied by a visual counterpart. Bioshock Infinite can be played with or without sound.
- Master Volume (slider)
- Music volume (slider)
- SFX Volume (slider)
- VO Volume (slider)
- Dialog Subtitles on/off setting
- In the graphics menu, Art subtitles on/off
Bioshock Infinite has three difficulty settings – Easy, Medium and Hard – with an extra 1999 hardest mode unlocked with the Konami code. It is possible to change between difficulty levels at any point during the game through the options menu.
Easy mode does not need quick reflexes or instant reaction time and there are no timed sections or quick time events. Enemies do advance on you, but if they get close, knock them back or use melee combat to finish them off.
Precision (Manual Dexterity)
A moderate level of precision is needed to complete Bioshock Infinite. Players control the view point and character’s movement and as a first person shooter, some precision is needed to aim correctly and dispatch waves of enemies. There are many options that make combat without precision easier, including aim assist through the options menu, a choice of weapons, easy to use magical abilities and powerful melee options, all requiring little aim. Easy mode is also very forgiving in combat.
Bioshock Infinite offers a 10-12 hour-long campaign with collectible voice recordings and a few treasure hunt side-quests adding a few more hours. It is most enjoyable when played in medium to long sessions. For those with chronic fatigue or pain conditions who need frequent or unplanned breaks, the option to pause any time is very useful.
The game autosave at checkpoints only, but save points are frequent and if you have to stop playing suddenly, there will rarely be more than a few minutes of retracing steps the next time you come back. There is only a single save slot, be aware that restarting the game will delete any earlier play through.
Complexity of Controls
The controls employed by Bioshock Infinite is quite complex but easy to use. It can be played with a keyboard and mouse, controller, switch system or any other USB device. It is possible and seamless to switch between different input whilst playing as it auto-detects and accommodates your preference.
It can be played with one hand with some difficulty, the UI is not clickable and abilities are key bound access to both mouse and keyboard. If playing with a controller, both analog sticks are required to control movement and viewpoint. Ideally, play with a one-handed custom controller or MMO multi-button mouse.
Bioshock Infinite uses dozens of keys that are fully remappable for the keyboard, but not for the controller. The controls are relatively easy with single presses and holds. Holding is the biggest obstacle. Some abilities can only be triggered with a hold and there is no autorun key, players have to hold down “W” or push and hold the analog stick up to move forwards.
- Key mapping: Full remapping for keyboard (and mouse keys)
- Controller Options: Invert controller look on/off, Controller Look Sensitivity (slider), Aim Assist (on/off), Controller Vibration (on/off), Left/right stick layout (default, southpaw, legacy, legacy southpaw), D-Pad layout (default, left stick, right stick), Alternate default controller layout on/off
- Windowed and windowed (fullscreen) mode
- Pause any time
The language used is university level and provided as both audio and text. Text is in an easy to read font and format with clear contrast. Writing is not required at any point.
There is no memory requirements in Bioshock infinite. The controls may rely on many buttons, but the layout is well-designed, intuitive and as simple as it can be. Players can trigger a directional arrow that indicates the direction to move in and all objectives will flash up when present on hitting the reminder button, making it easy to keep track of where you are and what you were doing.
Calculations and Currency
Bioshock Infinite requires an understanding of basic mathematics as players have to manage their budget and ammo.
Complexity and Support
The game menu, mechanics and game controls need a short learning curve to master, but in-game support options do help. A basic tutorial is shown every time a new ability is available, an arrow indicates the direction of your next objective with the press of a button, floating combat text can help make sense of combat, adaptive training offers helpful suggestions during gameplay, every time you use a skyline a control panel pops up to remind you of the controls and HUD markers highlight important things in the environment, such as Elizabeth’s call out icons. All of these are automatically enabled, but can be disabled individually in the options menu.
It is a single player campaign with no NPC interaction or dialogue choices involving NPCs. Occassionally, players are given the option to interact with Elizabeth, for example, “Press X to comfort Elizabeth”, but these moments do not affect the course of events and players are guided with prompts.
- Floating combat text on/off
- Adaptive training on/off
- Sky-line control panel on/off
- Enable HUD markers on/off
Bioshock Infinite is a character and plot driven shooter. Usually narrative and combat mixes like water and oil, but yet again Irrational Games have succeeded in combining a great story with great gameplay to create a truly magnificent experience.
It is generally a very accessible game and it is obvious that the high standards applied to its production also extended to its accessibility. It is greatly accessible to many with visual, auditory, physical and cognitive impairments. It is least accessible for anyone prone to simulation sickness, vulnerable to flicker and flash effects and its complex story may be hard to grasp for some.
Bioshock Infinite truly is a must-play game for everyone and I would highly recommend it to fans, followers and newcomers alike.
[stars rating=”5″ type=”Game”]