I found myself doing that very thing for the recent release of Bioshock Infinite. I was and still am a huge fan of the original, and to a lesser extent its sequel. To this day that is the only game I can think of that I would still enjoy playing if I were somehow able to simply unlock all the doors and remove all the enemies, simply for the opportunity to wander the streets of Rapture at leisure and explore the incredible environment that the fine folks at Irrational Games created.
If you’ve played the original Bioshock, then you undoubtedly already know what I’m talking about, and if not there’s really not much that can be said to describe it other than superlatives that don’t have much meaning. Beautiful is probably as close as I can come; that incredible blend of 1930’s art deco with dieselpunk technology will always stick in my mind as the most unique, enthralling and over-the-top setting ever to present itself in a game.
So yes, I am a Bioshock junkie, that’s clear now. I sat at my desk, properly prepared with dim lighting, plenty of fluids and snacks and a comfortable chair for a prolonged gaming session. I will admit to apprehension on more than one level. Any new PC game is fraught with risk, it’s the nature of the machine. The only advantage a console has over a PC is, in my opinion, the fact that you can take the game home and it will work. Every time. The PC game is not so certain. With the millions of potential variations of the machines that are supposed to run these games, glitches and conflicts are to be expected, so I was worried. Even with a machine as powerful as mine there were no guarantees that the game would even work. Such is the lot of the PC gamer. I’m used to it.
The second apprehension was new to me. I was worried about the content. How, I wondered, could these people possibly match the artistry and beauty of Rapture? This game was set in an entirely different setting, a floating city in the sky, as different as it could be without being in a different world.
The moment came, the game unlocked and unpacked and started up without a flaw. I’ve put several hours into it now and I can say without hesitation that this game is more than worthy of its predecessors. As hard as it may be for fans of Rapture to believe, Columbia is even more beautiful. Yes, I said it. The first section of the game even involves no combat or puzzle solving at all, simply wandering the streets of Columbia, an opportunity missed in Rapture. If you are anything like me, your jaw will be open the entire time.
The developers have realized that the setting and story are what sold Bioshock. Face it, at its core it’s just another shooter, although with an interesting arsenal. But these games prove that if you drop the mechanics of a shooter into a setting and story that grab the player and involve him, the basic function of the game is irrelevant. If the mechanics work smoothly and properly they shouldn’t even be noticed.
Fans of the original may be disappointed at the lack of difference in gameplay, to be honest. Many of the sounds and smaller features of Bioshock make a reappearance here, but honestly I’m glad. Slipping into this game felt like putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes, and taking a walk in them in the most incredible place I’ve ever seen.
Really, if you enjoy a good shooter but atmosphere and story aren’t that important, you will still enjoy this game, but that’s not what it’s about. Having been to Columbia now, I can tell that all the hype is, if anything, underplayed. I cannot recommend this game highly enough, and already have plans to play it again at a harder difficulty when it’s finally done.
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