Bioshock Infinite (PS3)
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Dazzling, awe-inspiring, breath-taking - all terms that somehow fail to capture the scale of BioShock Infinite's splendour.
The visuals are radiant from the start, when Booker DeWitt finds himself ascending to the top of a storm-buffeted lighthouse, strapped into a chair and rocketed up into the clouds to dock for the first time in Columbia. The city is magnificent, a living, detailed landscape strewn with jaw-dropping vistas. Titanic statues loom out of the blue as zeppelins swim among skyscrapers; every so often, a hummingbird flits from the rose beds to hover before your eyes.
The sound is similarly sublime - literally so at the beginning of the game, when DeWitt finds himself in a flooded temple glimmering with candlelight and resounding to the strains of spiritual songs. Later, when the plot thickens and danger closes in, the initial atmosphere of peace and tranquillity seems ever more inspired for its irony.
Best of all, there's nothing to jolt you from the experience, with intuitive controls and easily accessible inventories ensuring the action flows ever onward. The overall effect is of stepping into a particularly vivid and fantastical dream - one you never want to leave.
BioShock Infinite draws you deep into a thrilling alternative past, reimagining the USA of 1912 as a steampunk fantasy of floating cities, clockwork monsters and deadly mystery.
The action takes place in the flying metropolis of Columbia, a spectacular city in the sky founded by Father Comstock: political leader, religious zealot and hard-core nationalist. When former Pinkerton detective Booker DeWitt first arrives in Columbia, the place - a cluster of shifting, hovering islands linked by zeppelins and zip lines - seems almost heavenly. Bathed in sunlight and in the midst of the cheery chatter of its inhabitants, DeWitt could be forgiven for forgetting why he came to Columbia - to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman held captive here since childhood.
Even before he reaches Elizabeth, however, the city's mask begins to slip, and DeWitt finds himself a wanted man. Thanks to a strange mark on his hand, he's soon on the run from Comstock's agents, which include police officers, mechanical militia men and the soulless, sinister Songbird, an avian robot tasked with preventing Elizabeth's escape. Fleeing his pursuers with Elizabeth in tow, Columbia's facade cracks wide open and DeWitt discovers the terrible secrets behind Comstock's surreal city - but will he be able to save himself from the evils all around?
Combat in BioShock Infinite is fast, frenetic and lots of fun. With loads of different ways to deal death - including a host of plundered firearms and an ever-evolving range of supernatural "vigors", which allow you to throw fireballs, paralyse foes and so on - the trick is to know your arsenal well. That way you can combine the best traditional weaponry with the most fearsome paranormal powers and wipe out anyone who stands in your way.
Every so often, Elizabeth will come to your aid, using her dimension-warping abilities to provide you with handy stuff like gun turrets, and you can also use Columbia's Sky-Line system to get the jump on your enemies from on high.
In BioShock Infinite, combat is a vital part of the story, and with each fight you feel that you're moving towards a greater goal. It's this respect for intelligent narrative and satisfying structure that propels the game forwards and keeps you desperate to find out what happens next. Although of course, endings can't always be happy.
- Play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent sent to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman imprisoned in Columbia since childhood.
- Develop a relationship with Elizabeth, augmenting your abilities with hers to escape from a city that is literally falling from the sky.
- Learn to fight foes in high-speed Sky-Line battles, engage in combat both indoors and amongst the clouds, and harness the power of dozens of new weapons and abilities.
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