Tear today, gone tomorrow – Make your mind up about tears
The pan-universe tears are the single most important part of the whole game yet it can't seem to make up its mind whether they're actually a strain for Elizabeth or something she can conjure up with hardly a thought.
I refer not to the overarching story but to the inexplicable decision to have Elizabeth be able to help you out in fire fights by tearing into existence a friendly bit of cover or sentry turret. This decision is so baffling, I almost don't know where to begin. For a start, if Elizabeth can control these tears enough to make these friendly objects appear, why can she not also tear people out of existence or perhaps tear a great big rock on top of someone.
More frustrating than this though is that the whole idea of having these tears appear willy nilly totally dilutes the impact of when the rather more significant universe shifting moments arise.
The Solution? Drop the tear-assists, make them more obviously a strain (i.e. it takes Elizabeth a while to recharge) or only use them in far more grandiose set-piece moments.
The crux is that all the extras – the vigors, the tears, the gear, the elixirs, the weird guns – actually detracted and distracted from the most important part of the game, which is its story and setting, without really making for a much more enjoyable game.
What did I ever do to you? - Why so violent?
One of the more controversial moments in the game is the first time Booker is recognised and the local populace sets upon him. Within a split second you're torn from casually observing the beautiful world around you and forced to start ripping people's heads off with a Sky Hook, and from here on in it seems the violence never stops.
Within what feels like a few more moments you're armed with guns aplenty, vigors and gear, and all before you are simply fleshy targets to be taken down.
Where have the normal citizens gone? Why is Booker's conversion to all out massacring apparently so easy (okay some of that is explained later in the game, but still)?
The solution? Drop the drawn out Sky Hook finishing moves – they're just unnecessary. Then, introduce the violence more steadily, starting with the need to takeout just a couple of people that blow your cover then having to progressively eliminate more and more people until it's all out warfare.
Shut up already – Stop Elizabeth constantly interrupting
Elizabeth is one of the better sidekicks I've ever played alongside, being as she can't be killed and doesn't generally get in the way, but she still wasn't perfect. The mechanic of having her regularly throw you ammo or money is just yet another unexplained oddity that totally breaks the rhythm of the game.
It's not just that it didn't really make sense – if she was picking the ammo up then why not say it at some point just to clarify, and maybe even show an inventory for her – but that she would randomly try and throw you a coin mid fight or while listening to a Voxophone recording.
Also, the points she chooses to talk to you always seem odd. Rather than speaking just after a firefight while collecting loot, she'll wait until the next big moment has started.
The solution? Just explain her actions and time the scripted moments a little better.
Oops I did it again – Make it less easy to die
When I played through Bioshock I didn't once allow myself to use the Vita Chambers to respawn upon dying because, well, it just didn't feel right and there were savegames. However, in Bioshock Infinite I must have died dozens of times and just carried on without a care. I can't recall a game where I've died so many times and cared so little – apart from Limbo, obviously.
This was perhaps less another way in which the game broke its narrative hold on me, as a reflection of the consequences of the weak hold it already had - why care about the fact you're being miraculously brought back to life when the rest of the game makes no sense either – it really was only the soaring heights of the final sections of the game that started to engage me.
Perhaps that's too strong a sweeping statement and maybe it was just because you can't save the game but rather have checkpoints, and actually respawning is just easier than reloading the checkpoint.
The solution? Perhaps just give the player a bit more health so it's not so easy to die, but overall the game needs to make it feel like the life of the character you're playing means more.
Be prepared – You need to play Bioshock first
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me, however, was not actually the gameplay but the astonishing story and what I didn't get out of it.
The overarching story of Bioshock Infinite can be understood on a superficial level if playing the game in isolation but for the full impact it's imperative that you know in reasonable detail the story of the first game. While I did play the first game, it was a long time ago, and there were plenty of details I'd forgotten. As such, when I completed Infinite, the multiverse explanation felt a bit vague and wishywashy. To know of just how much more profound and enjoyable the impact of the big reveal would have been were I forearmed with the required knowledge makes me now severely regret not replaying the first game.
The Solution? Just let it be known that it's worth playing, or reading up on the story of, Bioshock before playing Infinite.
So there we have it. Bioshock Infinite is
still an amazing game with an astonishing final few hours as the story ramps up but to know it could've also been a ground breaking gameplay experience fills me with sadness. And the worst irony is that a great many of my concerns seemed to be addressed in early demos of the game (the video below shows vastly more exciting Sky Hook sections, a greater amount of health (for less dying), more interactive NPCs and a more powerful Elizabeth). Whether the changes were because of time constraints, console port limitations or simply because minds were changed is a tale yet to be told. No doubt it'll be just as fascinating a story as the ending to the game.