BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series and although it is not an extension of the story told by the two earlier titles it does have much content that is thematically and conceptually similar.
The story is set in North America in 1912 and most of the action takes place in the 'floating' city of Columbia, whose very name is the personification of American maternal aspect, and whose location is in stark contrast to that of the city of Rapture which, as devotees of the series will know, is underwater. The city was founded as a Nativist ideal and is governed by The Founders a Nativist and Elitist political grouping. The Vox Populi. or the voice of the people, as the name suggests, are a populist grouping who support the poor but are regarded as something of a revolutionary movement. As expected the two sides do not see eye to eye and are in open conflict.
The other problem that the city faces, and perhaps more interesting from a gaming point of view, is the tearing of the spacetime continuum leading to momentary but meaningful glimpses, relative to, and suggestive of other eras.
So much for the overview. What about the specifics? Well, for one thing, the story, though not overly complex, does contain a great deal of character interaction and knowing references, but in outline deals with the rescue by Booker DeWitt of Elizabeth. However, there is much greater depth and meaning woven around this simple story and the characters themselves and their backgrounds are detailed and complicated.
The dramatic hero is Booker DeWitt, and it is he who the player controls. He is a disgraced former Pinkerton National Detective Agency investigator thrown out for his fondness of drink and gambling, but now working as an independent agent. Elizabeth is a highly educated young lady who has been held against her will for most of her life in Columbia. She is controlled by the game's AI, and crucially, can manipulate to some degree the spacetime continuum. Her rescue results in her and Dewitt being pursued by both political factions.
The other main characters are:-
The baddie, Father Zachary Hale Comstock, a religious fanatic and founder of Columbia and hence the Founders. To make things a little more complicated he claims to be Elizabeth's father as the result of the seven day pregnancy of his wife.
The leader of the Vox Populi and servant to Comstock is Daisy Fitzroy, an African American who came to Columbia to start a new life. Given the political orientation of the city, and the political views of her employer, this would seem to be a pretty stupid move.
Robert and Rosalind Lutece, mistakenly thought to be twins but who turn out be two sides of the same persona, pop up constantly throughout the story and are behind some of the city's technology, but are mostly in a sort of unrealized quantum state. They sort of are and then they sort of aren't.
Then there is Cornelius Slate a former soldier and fighting comrade of DeWitt, once a follower of Comstock, who became aware of his underhand dealings and converted to Vox Populi.
There are also many and various enemies in the shape of hard hitting heavies with names like the Handymen, so called because of their immense hands made for throwing things, including their enemies, over long distances. Others are the Boys of Silence, the Motorized Patriots and the Siren, each imaginatively designed and with powerful abilities.
But of course all this is of little worth if the game does not play well or the graphic and audio presentation is poor. So how does it fare?
As with previous BioShock titles it is a first person shooter with some degree of role playing, a wise choice given the popularity of the earlier games. DeWitt moves around Columbia mostly on foot or using a grappling hook and rope to traverse the main arterial routes which connect the city's main buildings which are composed of a system called the Skyline which is a futuristic type rail line in the sky. He is limited to carrying only two weapons at any one time, but these can consist of many different wisely chosen combinations.
Greater powers such as those of telekinesis and controlled use of electricity can be obtained by collecting 'vigors' found in various locations around Columbia. These are attacking abilities and strengths but defensive and damage limiting capabilities are also on offer. Both rely on collection, purchase or other upgrade methods for their accumulation and again require a conscious choice of combination to optimize their effectiveness for a particular task. Once Elizabeth has been rescued her time warping abilities can be used to open up access to ammunition, health packs and the like, not forgetting the all important Salt on which 'Vigors' rely.
Following the general trend of serious gaming, the year by year improvement of graphical presentation, the visual presentation of BioShock Infinite is outstanding in all aspects. The background and incidental music are equal in quality to the graphics, the voice acting being particularly fitting.
BioShock fans will certainly buy the game on the strength of previous titles alone, and newcomers, after playing Infinite will want to take a look at BioShock's other offerings.