Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Red Pill Review: Bioshock Infinite


Does it Suck?

Answer: Yes.   After you finish this one for the first time.  It's going to sit in your hard drive unplayed and unloved until you need disk space.

I suppose you may want more of a review than that.


First of all if you have waited this long to play it, you either weren't very interested or you are a cheap bastard and are waiting for the right Steam Sale.

In my case I promised myself I wouldn't buy it until I finished a book I was writing.  I have now finished the first book of my Dark Winter series. For a number of reason this book took a lot longer to complete than I was planning.  Enough so that I only recently played Bioshock Infinite for the first time.  It will be my last time.

This one was not worth the wait.

What I didn't like about it:

The game play and the plot.

Bioshock Infinite is at least true to it's roots.  An uninnovative FPS with very limited replay value. 


Unlike the first  Biohock you only get a choice of two weapons. So if you need a rocket launcher and you are armed with a shotgun and sniper rifle.  You have to find an RPG and drop one of your weapons to get it.  There are ammo drops in the form of duplicate weapons.  The other place to get ammo is vending machines. Weapons upgrades can be purchased as well but are so expensive you will never be able max up all of your weapons.  So you tend to specialize in two or three for any one run through of this game.


Vigors are found throughout the game but they are not purchased with the collection of ADAM as in previous iterations of Bioshock.  Unlike weapons you keep all of your Vigors.  Upgrades are again expensive, so you will specialize here as well.

In theory the high priced upgrades should make you come back and try some other combinations, thus enhancing replay value. 

These things have worked in other games and could have worked here as well but they didn't.  The game simply isn't engaging enough as a game for this to work.

There is no one single thing you can put your finger on as to why it isn't all that enjoyable.  Other than that the game clearly came secondary to the plot.

Major diversion here so bear with me.

Gamer Gate got it's start in the 1990s.  Gaming mags were taking off but had a major problem.  A typical review usually read something like, "This is a good game. I like it very much."  There would follow two or three pages of technical prattle and that would be it. 

Editors decided that they could either teach gamers how to write or teach writers to play games.  They made the wrong call.

Writers could learn to play games no problem but it would never be their passion.  Writers care about characters, plotting and story structure.  They find game mechanics dull and tedious. They liked good graphics though.  They were super keen on those.

Oh and left wing politics, so you had better have those too.

Consequently, they started reliably giving good reviews to games  with a good story line that leaned left and looked pretty.  Game producers noticed and adjusted accordingly.  Prime example? The first Bioshock.  It was so buggy that it was all but unplayable on a PC but was universally hailed as the game of the year in 2007.  There are more people today playing F.E.A.R. launched two years previously, than are still playing the first Bioshock.

This brings us to what I really didn't like about Bioschock Infinite's plot.  Nihilism.  Heavy handed, anti-American nihilism.

The anti-Americanism takes the form of Heinlein's Scudderites.  The producers have built a left wing vision of American Exceptionalism, which in case you are wondering they utterly hate.  Steam punk was fashionable when they started this, so you get plenty of that.

 Yay, I guess

Like many another steam punk story you get lots of alternate history tropes.  You hear the word, "quantum" a lot, as well as a few other magic phrases.  I admit I haven't seen them used much in games but it's hardly new to the field of science fiction. Bottomline the science here was quantum babble and hand waivem. They may as well have just gone ahead and said, "hey, it's magic don't worry about it."

As for nihilism, it infects every part of this game.  Here it goes beyond standard leftist tropes and takes the plunge.  Your every action is ultimately futile and doomed to make things worse.  Elizabeth whom you rescue from her tower goes from a bright and chipper, eager to face the world seventeen year old girl to a lost and disillusioned woman. Then finally she becomes a broken and insane old harridan destroying the world in the name of a religion she doesn't believe in.  But good news you can get her back to being lost and disillusioned. 

Your final goal as the player is to have your daughter Elizabeth drown you to death in an anti-baptism.

Apparently killing you makes life better for her
Which is all that counts really.

For those who are wondering what I mean by Nihilism.  I provide this snippet from  John C. Wright

Nihilism is a halt-state: once one believes the philosophy that says all philosophy is in vain, one cannot use philosophy to reason oneself out of this position.

If the Morlock cannot change, what happens next?

Next he destroys himself. This is usually done indirectly rather than directly, but notice the enthusiasm which which Morlocks uphold and celebrate everything that is either foreign to them, hostile to them, or mutually exclusive to them. Islamic terrorism is an obvious example, but by no means the only. Even the support of such gentle institutions as schools that discourage learning, art that destroys beauty, and governments that cannot govern has its roots in this self destructive attitude which is the visible sign of nihilism in action.

Morlocks are, as a race, suicidal. They are allured, almost as if under an erotic allure, to images and symbols of death, destruction and decay, to things that are against nature, or that are sterile, vain, futile, and ugly. Go into a modern art museum or watch a gay pride parade to see visible displays of an invisible self loathing.

The flaw is spiritual rather than psychological. While theories about undeveloped amygdala, or the rabbit strategy of welcoming predators into an overpopulated meadow may have some merit, when you see a man who wishes to destroy himself and his homeland, look to the formation of his conscience for the answer to this dark and ugly riddle.

You see a man whose own values, whose own sense of right and wrong, has condemned him to death. Something in his conscience tells him he is unworthy of life.

Now, look next at what he believes, what he tells himself is true.

If he is a hard core Leftist, he believes he was produced by blind natural forces, out of nowhere, and for no reason, blown together by the wind like a sandheap for an hour, to die and blow away again, and never to again live or laugh or love for all the countless eons of eternity.

He thinks he is a meat robot, a thing without free will, without even the dignity of an animal. At least animals are not fools fooling themselves into believing in the illusion of free will. He is the weakest and saddest of beasts. He also, if he is a hardcore Leftist, he believes that these same blind winds created an injustice so deeply ingrained into society that there is no reasoning with the powers that be, no way of peaceful reformation. Evolution works by the Darwinian law of the jungle, survival of the strong. This is true of social evolution as well (or so his perverse worldview tells him).

If the evils of society cannot be mended by sweet reason, violent overthrow (not merely of part of society, but of the whole rotten structure from top to bottom) is the only alternative.

Hence, for the hardcore Leftist, any love or loyalty to his homeland is a betrayal of his highest sense of goodness and righteousness, because then he is supporting the evils of mankind.

So what about it's own merits?  Since it is meant to be an interactive story more than a game, does it succeed in that?  Somewhat, I will grant but with glaring and obvious failures. The science as I said was bad.  Initially we are told that Elizabeth has the power to open tears between worlds.  Standard Steampunk trope, fine there.  But then we are told that she is somehow actually creating these worlds as a form of wish fulfillment.  Quantum mechanics doesn't work like that!  It doesn't matter how much quantum it's got.  It's not a wish spell.

During a mission to get guns for rebels that will eventually turn on you because nothing real is worth fighting for
You create a world where the rebels get the guns but the Chinese gunsmith who you were getting them from is dead along with his wife.  This apparently shatters Elizabeth but in no world that she has visited have you gotten to know the man at all.  She should have no reason for this kind of a breakdown, yet she has to have one just to move the plot along.

It's weak, as a device but understandably so because and here is the big point...Games are a terrible  means for telling stories.  When you build a game you can create a great and atmospheric setting but it ends there.  A setting is not a story.  More importantly, a story is not a game.  Using a story to create little rewards that you unlock as you make your way through a game enhances the gaming experience.   Yay you!  You won this small section plot.  But when you make the plot the over riding experience you drastically diminish enjoyment and replay value of the game, as a game.  Which was exactly what Bioshock Infinite did. 

In conclusion, Bioshock Infinite is a game with limited replay, a depressing story that is nihilistic,  heavy handed and derivative.  I don't recommend it.


Jew613 said...

So when's the book coming out? Preferably an audio version.

Cataline Sergius said...

Dark Winter is currently out to me alpha readers.

I'm hoping to launch it in February.