With BioShock Infinite, Ken Levine of Irrational Games said he wanted to reshape storytelling in games. That’s a pretty ambitious goal to say the least. Did they even come close? In my opinon, yes, yes and a thousand times yes. It may have its flaws, but BioShock Infinite is a breath of fresh air in an industry that needs it.
I’ll keep the description of the game very brief, because as I explain below, the story is the best part, so I absolutely don’t want to spoil anything for you. The protagonist is a man named Booker DeWitt, a private investigator, mercenary and veteran. All we know at the start is that to honour a deal he’s made he has to go to Columbia, the floating city in the sky and find Elizabeth. It turns out that Elizabeth has been imprisoned there since she was a child and seems to have inexplicable and powerful supernatural abilites. Columbia is led by Zachary Comstock, their religious and political leader and a self-proclaimed prophet. Most of the white citizens of the city live quite well, but there is clearly unrest among the working classes (essentially made up of anyone who is not white, other than those of Irish descent) and we hear much around the city of the Vox Populi, a revolutionary movement that’s gaining momentum.
To me, the story and the art were the best parts of the game. The twisting, complex plot of BI is by far the best I can remember in a long long time. It’s an intelligent game that doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. In fact, the very premise of the game is built on philosophical, political and theological questions that were undoubtedly going to be controversial. However, BioShock never tries to make up your mind for you. It merely presents the situation and the characters to you and asks you to judge them for yourself. There are no easy answers and like with real life, good and evil are often difficult to distinguish from each other. More than anything, the people in the BioShock universe are presented as human and even the racist and often casually brutal people of Columbia have their own redeeming qualities. They too, like Booker, like everyone we meet along the way, are simply looking for redemption. Even Booker, the ‘hero’ of the game is presented right from the beginning as a man with too many flaws to count. I applaud Ken Levine and Irrational Games for making a game that tries to be something more than just entertainment. There are many great cities that were built on the backs of slaves and there have been religious dictators throughout history. It’s a fact of life and are issues that have been explored in film and other forms of media, so why not video games? I don’t believe that BioShock Infinite is anti-religion at all, as some might have feared. It doesn’t try to make any statements as sweeping as that. If anything, it’s simply pro-human.
I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like Far Cry 3. At first it started growing on me like some sort unasked-for fungus and then unexpectedly, one day I began to LOVE it. At some point, I will probably write up a more detailed analysis of the plot (it will be extremely spoiler-ific), because much as I disliked the way the writer Jeffrey Yohalem explained his perspective on and intentions with the game and much as I felt that he didn’t make his point as well as he’d thought, personally I do think Far Cry 3 has meaning beyond what a lot of people give it credit for. It at least got me thinking and it seems there are other people out there who feel the same way. If you haven’t heard about all the controversy surrounding the game, there were a lot of gamers out there who felt that the plot was stupid, full of holes and blatantly racist. Taken at face value, that’s certainly what it seems like. There were others who saw what Yohalem says he was trying to do in creating a meta-commentary on the games industry and its use of certain tropes in games. Then there were the critics who were like me and really believe in the vision he was trying to create and saw the over-exaggerated or nonsensical elements of the plot as largely intended and were there to get you to think and to not take things at face-value. Don’t get me wrong, I was in the second camp before, so I completely see where people are coming from in their criticisms and I’m not denying that there is a feeling of Ubisoft Montreal wanting to have their cake and eat it too. However, many elements of the plot really spoke to me on a personal level and from my perspective, it was clear it was intended to. One thing that critics have often agreed on, however, with this game is that as open world first-person shooters go, this one is pretty damn fun. To be honest, fun doesn’t even really cover it. For me, this game was exhilarating, heart-pumping, trippy and explosion-filled. Also, it was certainly insane in more ways than one. I wouldn’t recommend anyone touch my Xbox controller, because I’m pretty sure my palms sweated through the whole game. I pretty much gave up trying to wipe it off after a while. There’s an unneeded disgusting fact for you. You’re welcome.
Weeee! Ziplines are an awesome way to get back down to ground level.
So the plan was to review Gearbox’s ‘Borderlands 2’ as a co-op experience. The plan was that I would play through the whole thing by myself, all of the missions and then when I had finished it, I would go back and play it co-op. Wow. Yeah. That’s not going to happen for a while. I ended up playing the game for about two weeks and fairly intensively at times. Sure I’m definitely somewhat of a completionist, but it’s still a looooong game, especially when you’re playing by yourself. It’s also an intense experience that I will need a bit of a break from before jumping back into it at some point with another character. I played as Sal, but all of the characters, there were four in the main game plus one added by DLC, were awesome. There was Sal the gunzerker, Axton the commando, Maya the siren and Zero the assassin. Like the first ‘Borderlands’ (which I haven’t played, so I can’t compare) it’s a first person shooter with some RPG elements, although there’s much debate (as usual). I can only talk about this game from my personal perspective, from having played one of the four characters and only on single-player and not having played the first game (I was told that 2 was significantly better and to just play that one and I certainly didn’t have any problems story-wise just jumping right in), but as it stands, I think the game was absolutely incredible. I may even have to update my favourite games list when I round it out to my top 10, because yes, it deserves its place there. I won’t say it’s a perfect game and there were definitely some downsides to playing it all by my lonesome (which I’ll discuss in some detail), but overall, I was blown away by this game.
Wow. There are so many things I could say about Bioware’s last piece of DLC for the much-loved Mass Effect trilogy, but I’ll try to just tell you why I think this is for me the best DLC out of the Mass Effect franchise and possibly even the best story arc in the whole series (not from a technical standpoint, but because… well you’ll see). Also, anyone who’s played this series will understand why this DLC in particular is so personal and there are many things that I feel you just have to experience for yourself. It’s truly one big farewell party, a way to hang out with the friends you’ve made over the years and it gives Shepard the rare chance to let his or her (metaphorical) hair down and just enjoy their company with no Reapers to worry about in the immediate. This is not going to be a long winding review about its merits. Instead think of this more as a recommendation. I would basically suggest anyone who’s a Mass Effect fan buy this if they can, because I absolutely thought it was worth every penny. However, if you’re one of the people who won’t be happy unless Bioware changes the ending, then I’m sorry to say you probably won’t be appeased by this, so in that case, it’s up to you to decide whether you feel this is worth playing. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, but it didn’t ruin the whole experience for me and the Extended Cut DLC pretty much addressed my main issues with it and left me at a place where I was fine with it, so for me this was truly the icing on the cake, something that will leave me glowing for a long long time. That’s the last I’ll say about the ending, because I don’t want this post to be about that at all. That’s not what ‘Citadel’ is about. It’s for the people who still love the series and who want to come back for more. Yet, it still felt like a real finale, a true ending, even if it wasn’t the last mission.