I bought Bioshock Infinite yesterday. It’s a big budget game that looks intriguing, I enjoyed what I played of Bioshock, and I saw floating cities and thought it could be cool. I also like to ensure I’ve played a few AAA games now and then to remind me how they work :D
I’ve played about 2 hours of it, and it’s kinda cool, very ‘impressive’ and clearly cost a lot. I’m not sure it’s genuinely fun for a player like me, for various reasons. Firstly I’m not a chisel jawed wisecracking American who punches lift buttons with his fists, so I already feel like it’s not really me playing, by my voice and my actions. Secondly, everything seems to be glowing. Nice bloom effect, but give it a rest please. These are fairly minor things though, that I’d happily overlook to experience adventure in what is a very interesting world.
The problems that put me off are more fundamental. Firstly, I don’t really feel like any skill is involved. I picked medium difficulty, but I haven’t run out of ammo, salt or health once, and that’s with me bouncing around like a hyperactive squirrel spraying bullets everywhere. I think I died twice, but it really didn’t matter. As a result, I don’t feel scared, or excited. I basically can’t lose, and am not challenged. I can burst into peoples homes and rummage through their house for money without a second thought, and nobody I’ve encountered has posed any real threat whatsoever.
Maybe that’s fixed on higher difficulty, at least for shootouts, but it certainly doesn’t require any stealth in the way the old thief games (or even dishonored, to a very superficial extent) did.
More fundamentally, there is no real sense of sandbox or player control. They have created an amazing world, but they then wrote a movie script for it, gave me superficial control of a character at certain moments, and spun me around like a puppet on a scriptwriters strings for the majority of the predetermined story. I say things I wouldn’t say, do things I wouldn’t do, and spend a lot of the game running predictably forwards as things fall down just behind me, or to one side. I know I could go slower and it wouldn’t matter. I know the pillar that hits me as it falls is scripted to and I can’t avoid it. I may as well just hold down the W key with one hand and play the game blindfold.
I see games like this as a missed opportunity. I know they appeal to a certain crowd, and are very well made for it. I just wish they could take that same awesome world, awesome design and huge budget and make a free-form sandbox game where I could adventure in that world with entirely emergent gameplay. Apparently GTA games do a lot of it. Thief did it better. Just Cause 2 did it exceptionally well.
To me, this is a horribly expensive use of art assets to just wheel me past amazing vistas as they explode. I know it sells, I just wish we could have true, challenging sandbox games set in such a world. No quests. Just free-form experimentation within systems. basically i want ‘sir you are being hunted’ with Bioshock infinite’s budget.