Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bioshock Infinite

I remember when I met the film director Quentin Tarantino we spoke about the film Jackie Brown and his belief that the film was more fun to watch the second time round because you were freed of your obligation of having to follow the plot and could just enjoy the dialogue between the characters.

Actually now that I think about it that might just have been a DVD extra I watched.

Anyway the point is that on an initial run through I found my feelings while playing Bioshock Infinite fluctuated somewhere between enjoyment, boredom and feeling rather overwhelmed.  On a second play through its difficult not to praise the scope of the game’s ambition, even if ultimately the much hyped story gets rather confused and the world it creates is not quite as immersive as it could have been.

There are undoubtedly moments of highly polished gameplay, although these sit alongside the occasional incomprehensible moment that might have been clever in the late 90s but now sticks out like a sore thumb.  To be honest once I’m hurling fireballs through the air and riding a skyline firing rockets at motorized automatons of George Washington that can be conjured into existence out of thin air then my excitement threshold has already been stretched to a level that is unlikely to be exceeded by every toilet in the game excitedly telling me “PRESS SQUARE TO FLUSH!”

The skyrails themselves are an original idea but poorly integrated.  You need to be looking in exactly the right place to use them and this is almost impossible to do quickly.  When the difficulty steps up this makes them at best redundant and at worst frustrating as you are repeatedly battered to death while apparently frantically studying every inch of the world above you.

I also encountered as many bugs with this game, which received universal praise from critics, as I did with Aliens Colonial Marines, which was universally panned for being bug ridden (no pun intended). 

Which makes me seriously question just how much in the pocket of the manufacturers the games journalists really are.

For those of you who are au fait with this concept feel free to skip ahead.

Games magazines and ‘independent’ games websites have huge influence over the video game market. Websites that review video games and give the illusion of independence are many people’s first port of call to catch up on the latest games news because they have the most recent trailers, appear top of Google’s search engine hitlist, and publish the first reviews.

In practice should a bad review be written by one of these websites then the company responsible for the game can withhold future demo releases from the website, refuse to give them trailer videos and so on.  The effect of this is that the reviewing website won’t have the latest news, reviews or videos and people therefore won’t go to their website which causes a drop in website hits, the reduction of advertising on the site and the collapse of the website.  Even simpler than this the games manufacturer might not pay the website their annual ‘supportive’ donation.

I will no doubt in future wax lyrical about Deus Ex, Fallout 3 and Knights of The Old Republic and I would like to thank the billion dollar behemoths responsible for those games for sponsoring me during a recession in an industry which is not exactly known for its financial rewards.

And obviously expecting a balanced review of a PS3 game in PS3 Magazine is like trying to decide whether you should buy a Honda Civic by reading the brochure.

To be fair Bioshock Infinite isn’t the best example of this I could have picked.  If you liked the previous instalments then there’s a fair chance you’ll like this one.  I base this on the fact that I thought the others were alright and I’d say the same about this one too.  A better example of an awful game given rave reviews would have been something like Final Fantasy XIII, but the thought of having to replay that snoring festival of horse piss still keeps me awake at night.

Bioshock Infinite just doesn’t feel like quite the immersive experience that the game is striving to be.  For example I had moments where every time I crossed an invisible ‘new area’ line, the enemies around me would inexplicably pop in or out of existence.  Which just reminds me that I’m playing a game that is essentially a series of hoops I’m expected to jump through as opposed to a living breathing world I can pretend I inhabit.

If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it then does it make a sound?

Well if I knew it didn’t then I would have much less interest in the world around me wouldn’t I?

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