Video game corner: Bioshock vs. Bioshock Infinite

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By Willem Weinstein

Due to the drunken snail’s pace that is the game release schedule for this time of year, I now present a comparison between Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite; I reviewed the latter in the April 11 issue.

Is Infinite actually the revolutionary Godsend game it appears to be, or are players simply stuck in the honeymoon period of its release?

The original city of Rapture is dark and grim, reflective of the chaos from which the city suffers in its post-war state. Its citizens have all fallen into some form of sadistic insanity.

On the other hand, Columbia of Infinite is at the height of its prosperity. This city is brightly lit and full of apparently wide, open spaces, providing a stark contrast to the claustrophobic Rapture. Both games use their environments to more fully flesh out their stories and create an immersive gaming experience for their players.

I believe Rapture does a fairly better job in these respects. I never felt that survival was all that paramount in Infinite, and while the story was far more interesting to me in the sequel, Bioshock has a much more enthralling backstory provided by its city. Rapture is far more immersive than Columbia.

I was happy to be distracted by the sights of Columbia, but I was constantly nagged by the feeling that I needed to check the barrel in order to salvage gameplay.

On that note, both games have very similar styles of combat. Despite these similarities, I prefer the excellent weapon upgrade system from the original,  while Infinite’s attempts to do the same feel shallow and ineffective. I do, however, like that in Infinite, the powers are keyed to a second hand so that players are not burdened with the task of switching while playing.

In terms of characterization, Bioshock certainly has more characters. As I briefly touched upon earlier, they are all fascinating, representing different versions of madness. Each character is incredibly well rounded, and while they are certainly twisted, I can still empathize with their perspectives.

Infinite, on the other hand, has only a handful of really well-rounded characters—namely, Booker, Comstock and Elizabeth—that I care about. The focus in this game is placed firmly on the development of Elizabeth and Booker, the only characters with any story arc whatsoever. The story of this arc, however, really touched me on a deep, emotional level.

I cannot really say that one game has better characterization than the other, but each takes a different approach to its portrayal of its respective characters.

There is no real contest between the endings of the two games in the Bioshock series. Infinite ends in a way that provokes real, thoughtful responses and questions about the nature of gaming that has made me think about this form of media more than any  other game in recent memory.

Bioshock does not. Instead, players are given an ending that does not live up to the high-minded ideals of the game. This ending is arbitrary and carries no emotional depth due to the pointlessly tacked on moral dilemma of the game.

Part of the success of Infinite’s ending is its vast improvement over the end of Bioshock.

Thus, I have to conclude that the original Bioshock is the better game overall, while Infinite is  better in terms of plot. The latter features one of the greatest stories ever told in recent video game history.

Certainly, both games have their strengths and weaknesses, but like a good sequel, Infinite builds off of its predecessor in the best way it can, or at least tries to do so.

Together, the two games demonstrate what can be achieved in the potential of video game narrative.

 

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