I don't normally write reviews...but this game, well "experience", demands it!
While I mostly enjoy shooters for the mechanics and action, not many really capture my long-term attention. Most lack story and interesting (more than one-dimensional) characters. Bioshock Infinite, like the original Bioshock, as both in spades!
Emotion and being engaged -
Candidly, the first (original) Bioshock game was the first game that actually made my eyes start to well-up a bit at the end.
I hadn't realized a game could generate that kind of emotion.
Again, Bioshock Infinite achieved the same result.
I believe that outside of simply the "story itself", the emotional engagement is increased by the intellectual engagement and exercise. You're picking up back-story and constantly trying to figure things out, searching for hidden meanings or clues, and piece together your character and the storyteller's intentions.
Action, gameplay and set pieces/visuals -
Wow and wow! I'll give the edge to the set pieces/visuals/presentation over the action. And...I think that's a good thing. It plays and controls expertly, but so do many games, but the gameplay plays into the story (the weapons/vigors factor in to the story and plot and are therefore more memorable and meaningful). The AI is spectacular and quite varied. You're mostly constant sidekick, Elizabeth, isn't an AI...she's Elizabeth! Her actions and dialogue (perfect voice acting!) and intelligent AI bring her to life. This will sound strange...but she's so good and elevated the concept of "AI companion" for me, so much, that I actually started thinking about how much better this will be in the future (with amazing developers and designers such as Irrational Games) - like, "Oh wow, they can be so good! Now I'm imagining AI companions/NPCs beyond what I thought was possible before."
The visuals and set pieces are gorgeous. I'm a console gamer as well, but this game makes me realize why I have a PC!
But ...the visuals are just to drop jaws...like Bioshock before (as well as System Shock), they tell a story and set a mood. You can get lost just walking around and looking at things.
Who I'd recommend to play this -
Everyone! Seriously....everyone! Ok, not little kids as it deals with mature themes and is violent. But, otherwise - all gamers. If you're not a shooter fan, don't worry there's so much here to explore, appreciate, and absorb. If you're not into a challenge with the gameplay, just turn down the difficulty.
Other games, which myself and others have similarly appreciated, might also be indicators of people who would enjoy this game - Portal 1 and 2, HalfLife series, and perhaps Far Cry 3 and Dishonored.
Type of game -
I believe that the creator, Ken Levine, has said something along the lines of - "to be commercially viable, as a major funded title, it needs to be a shooter". If that was misinterpreted from forums or reviews I've read, I still believe that this is the case. The story and experience they've created here would stand on its own in other formats (book, movie, adventure game, traditional RPG game, etc)... but I think that to make a blockbuster AAA title it needs to be delivered in a FPS. I don't think this is a bad thing either. I think that it also helps move the FPS genre forward, as well as expose something more than traditionally delivered to this audience. At the same time, I believe it's right at the tops of its class for FPS.
One last thing. If you loved the first Bioshock, you might find yourself in a similar situation as I. Loving this game but not certain which is better. I feel Bioshock literally changed first-person gaming. I'm slightly inclined to feel the combat experience was marginally better or more highly tuned to perfection in the first. I expect because of the smaller and tighter environments the experience was different. Infinite is so much more open that it could lead to somewhat larger and more chaotic engagements (not a bad thing). There was a tendency in some places to - walk into large area, wait for bad-guys to poor in. However, the variety of bad-guys, and the variety of the approach to tackle the combat and environment was fantastic. So Bioshock 1 seemed more tight/tuned to perfection encounters, where as Infinite seemed more wide-open and varied (environment and combatants). I could see one's preference going either way...but rest assured, both are outstanding and if you loved Bioshock 1, you'll feel at home here!
I believe is very high. So much to find and discover. Deep story and multiple interpretations. I think that a lot more will make sense or take on more meaning in a second playthrough. Also, the varied action, tactics, and environments I described, as well as options with levelling weapons and powers... can make for a dramatically different experience. Near the end I was thinking...hmmm, I wonder if I'd levelled-up this or that weapon/power. Just thinking about it makes me want to go start a new game on "1999 mode" (unlocked after 1st completion).
If you haven't played this....and haven't stopped reading my gushing review yet... STOP reading now and go out and purchase and play this!
I purchased the DVD set from Amazon, but it's activated by Steam and instantly available online. I'm assuming not re-saleable so if you have decent bandwidth and don't care about a box laying around - order the digital copy.
I'm old fashioned and like have the DVD and box art sitting on my shelf.
Reply to my review if you disagree and don't like the game... I can't imagine anyone who doesn't love it!