Bioshock Infinite

I have been having a very hard time reacting to Bioshock Infinite. As a story, it was beautiful and compelling and I spent every moment from beginning to end wanting to know more. As a game, it was, well, rather a lot like Bioshock, with a few interesting differences. And a few unfortunate ones, it must be noted. The inability to have a save game and instead only be allowed to wait for when the game decides to save for you is… mostly not so bad, but when it was bad (I’d like to go to sleep now, not in 15 minutes; I’d like to be able to restore and do this fight a different way), it was pretty terrible. Still, as flaws go, they had a good reason for it and it was nowhere near a showstopper.

Unfortunately, I got about two lines into the next paragraph before I realized that I have to play this one too close to the vest to be worth a whole lot. But I can give you the premise in broad strokes, I suppose: Booker Dewitt, down and out private detective, has been sent to Columbia, a city in the sky, with one haunting directive: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” Well, okay, there are one or two more directives, but they wouldn’t mean anything much to you until you were playing anyway. I would quickly add that he discovers nothing is as it seems, but let’s be honest, he just magically appeared in a floating city in the clouds in 1912, I think you probably already knew that part. I think he probably already knew that part already! Okay, the rest is behind the cut.

What I was saying that made more sense when this was the second paragraph of the review is that the technical aspects of the game weren’t where I was drowning over here. No, it’s the plot. And the characters. And implications: ethical, moral, scientific, philosophical, take your pick. And the tragedy. That most of all. This game is steeped in human tragedy, with every major character making the worst possible choice at every turn. I think… I think that’s the place where I’m the most stuck. Because Bioshock Infinite has left me a little heartbroken, both for the characters in particular and about the nature and role of fate in general.

I wish I had time to play it over again, right now. There are so many layers, layers I am only discovering during this review as I thought about the warning for what raffle ball not to pick, just to name an example. But mostly, it’s the fate thing. Booker never had a good possible fate. Elizabeth never had a good possible fate. Their best fates, carried out together, are the single saddest moment I have ever seen in a video game. And then… probably it’s just a timeloop anyway? As much as anything, I want to play again because my mind is convinced that surely this time there’d be a different outcome. And if there’s one thing I’m used to in my rational brain right now[1], it’s that there isn’t a different outcome. I just want there to be.

Also: it bothers me, to an extent, that baptism and rebirth for Zachary Comstock, in a broad spectrum of timelines and possibly all of them, always led to the horrors of Columbia. Both the personal ones for Booker and Elizabeth and the more general racist ones. Elizabeth said so, and she should know, but… that’s awfully cynical.

[1] Even here in spoilertown, I won’t say what I mean, but if you have experienced both recently, as I have, you will surely understand.

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