GZ Roundtable: Does combat in BioShock Infinite hurt or enhance the experience
BioShock Infinite was among our favorite games of 2013 here at GameZone. Not only was the story incredibly well done, but Columbia felt like a living, breathing city. However, if there was one thing that we didn't fully agree on, it was the combat.
While we're not saying the gunplay was bad by any means, the game did get a 10/10 after all, we're debating whether it was necessary. So where do we stand on this topic?
Warning: There could be potential spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Combat in BioShock Infinite wasn't bad by any means. It just felt unnecessary. Here you are in this awesome city of Columbia and rather than exploring the intricacies of it, you're forced to fight waves of enemies. Towards the end I found myself more annoyed with the combat than anything. All I wanted to do was uncover more of this giant, mysterious plot, but I was constantly interrupted with enemy encounters that were seemingly thrown in there to give the player some sort of action – which the game really doesn't need. Yes, zipping across skylines and raining down hell from above was fun at times, but again, I was more interested in the story.
There's so much to take in with the city and plot alone that fighting in the game became bothersome. There was a considerable drop off for me in the latter half of the game, mainly because of how much combat was involved. After playing through the game and experiencing the story, I almost feel it would've been better off as a point and click adventure.
Listen, I totally get that people receive a bit of a shock after walking around Columbia and being completely drawn into how beautiful it is, then suddenly there is a copper’s face all ground into a spinning blade of unrelenting doom. That sort of stuff doesn’t sit pretty with everyone. That is the exact reaction it is supposed to draw out of you though. Columbia is only beautiful on the outside. Once you see it for what it is you learn it’s a pretty messed up place that has an entire backbone of racism.
BioShock Infinite is a “BioShock” game. Therefore it should have homage to previous BioShock titles. The combat in Infinite plays VERY similarly to BioShock and BioShock 2. With a plasmid/tonic in one hand and a weapon in the other, the combat feels welcoming and familiar. Add the whole skyrail system and tears into the mix and you add new/unique gameplay to give fans of the series something more. Without combat, Infinite would play more like an interactive novel than a video game - which isn't wrong but it's not BioShock.
After all, the whole debacle about the cover art was to draw players to the game, who haven’t played the previous titles before. This goes back to the whole ‘Trojan Horse’ effect. You draw in the FPS crowd with the combat and cover, blow them away with amazing story, get them hooked, and watch the fan base/money roll in. It’s a genius business model and from what I understand thus far, has worked. Hell, if I had some sort of ‘infinite money’ cheat on, I’d buy this game for the whole world.
For those who complain about the violence, I return to my first point. The 1912s were a violent time. Sure Infinite takes places in a version of our real 1912, but it still emulates the times. With this much ramped racism, cultish religious fervor, and near brainwashing… folks are going to be violent when someone (a false Shepard) goes against everything they believe in. The violence brings the time to a more ‘real’ place. Once again, Columbia is FAR from perfect on the inside. Lastly, Booker is a violent man. He served as a Calvary member at Wounded Knee – he’s a killer; even possibly a tin man. His ability to be violent adds more depth and allows for more character development throughout the story.
This is one argument about BioShock Infinite that I have a hard time understanding. Since the first BioShock, the series has been a shooter. To say the game would be better without the combat would take away part of the series’ identity. The shooting segments may not be revolutionary, but they fit in with the story if you really think about it.
I’m going to mention spoilers, so if you’re reading this, you better have beaten the game. First of all, Booker comes from a violent past. He was in the U.S. Cavalry and was a Pinkerton Agent. He has done things he’s not proud of, and that makes him the man he is. Though the Comstock version of him has repented his past sins, Comstock is even more violent -- to radical measures. The flying city of Columbia is essentially Comstock’s flying fortress to shape the world to the way he see’s fit. And he means to accomplish his goals by raining down fire upon the United States, who’ve turned their back on him. With Booker’s military background, he’s going to accomplish his mission by doing whatever is necessary. Columbia is a violent, hateful place, and so its people are violent. To rescue Elizabeth, he resorts to the same violence that’s within Comstock. Guns speak louder than words.
If we’re talking about the Vigors in combat, they have just as much importance to the story. Knowing that there’s always a lighthouse, always a man, always a city, if BioShock Infinite did away with the combat of the first two games, it wouldn’t fit with the universe. The cities must have consistencies, and one of those consistencies is combat. Both cities from both games must have combat; that’s why Plasmids have carried over to Columbia in the form of Vigors. That’s why there are Handymen to combat instead of Big Daddies.
This isn’t Myst. It’s BioShock. If you take away the combat, you’re taking away one of the things that make BioShock what it is. The combat without a doubt enhances the game, even if only because it makes sense in the story.
BioShock Infinite is a very complex creature. If you were to lay out every interesting aspect of the game there would be quite a bit to look at. The complexity of the story, Elizabeth (one of the best NPC's to date), the graphics, the gameplay...Oh, the gameplay. The combat in the game is gathering some attention and it isn't the good kind of attention. Many are quick to point out that the combat is unnecessary and takes away from the game but I believe otherwise. The combat adds to the game, without out it wouldn't be part of the BioShock series.
The first BioShock wasn't known for its puppies and candy, oh no, it was known for its darkness. BioShock Infinite shows you a different kind of darkness. To say that the combat takes away from Infinite is to say the combat took away from BioShock and it simply did not. Booker has weapons similar to ones found in Rapture, you have your plasmids/vigors, guns, and a melee item. The police and handymen that are attacking him are the main defense of Columbia...If someone were to come into your town looking to kidnap a girl and help incite a rebellion (the Vox Populi) how would your defenders react? They aren't simply attacking because Booker is an outsider but because he is the 'false shepherd', he threatens their way of life and their religion. So they attack to protect their world and follow the commands of their leader. The combat could be seen as somewhat gauntlet-like, which could be over-whelming, but it is simply that, over-whelming. It got your heart racing and your palms sweaty, it helped make the game memorable.
In BioShock Infinite the combat isn't there to fill in space, it's there to add a different dimension to the game. The game is bloody, almost as bloody as Booker's past. Is that simply a coincidence? Probably not.
See, this is a tricky question. Rephrased, it’s almost, “Would your favorite game of the past five years be better or worse without the most prevalent style-component of its gameplay?” It’s tough to speculate -- would Call of Duty be better or worse without streak rewards? Would FIFA be better or worse in half of Earth’s gravity? And so on.
But enough dodging. Without the face-shucking gore of the Skyhook, without the explosive violence of a well-aimed hand cannon from close range -- hell, without the ability to watch a man get chewed to death by a flock of birds -- BioShock: Infinite would be half the game it is.
Columbia’s tale hinges on its intricate, brain-inverting spiral of a plot, and on its beautifully rendered set pieces -- sure. But Columbia, much like the early-1900s world it’s based on, is a brutal place. Even the plot itself, when told without the gunplay, is brutal. Murder, deceit, a gigantic robotic bird-thing that can wreck a building with the abandon of a tantruming toddler; racism, messiah complexes, gambling and alcoholism: none of these things exactly scream, “Rated E for Everyone.”
Rather, BioShock: Infinite is a game of stark opposites, and while I do think that a weapon-crafting system, or an experience-based skill tree would have taken away from the game’s ability to deliver its story, the brutality of the gunplay fits in perfectly. Columbia is a violent, ugly place, gilded with all the decadence of a falling empire. Similarly, Infinite delivers a delicate, beautiful story through all the chaos of me-against-the-world warfare. And you know what? The fact that you have to set a dude on fire, shoot him in the face, and carve him with a hook on your way to uncovering that story... that just gives those moments of plot all the more breathing room to make their impacts.
So give me my Murder of Crows, give me my shotgun, and get the hell out of my way: I’m gonna go make something beautiful.
The combat in Infinite was spectacular. Especially later in the game when the Skyrail opens up, it becomes a one-two punch of vigors mixed with bullets that make for an exhilirating experience. However, each time I was 'forced' into an onslaught of enemies, I felt like it was completely unnecesary. Save for some plot-based, situational confrontations, I thought the overly violent, and chaos filled gunplay just didn't fit the universe.
I also fell in love with Columbia. Sure, its ideals were racist beyond belief, but there was beauty to this dystopia that I actually wanted to be a part of and explore further. Except my inquisitive nature quickly got a punch to the face whenever I'd come across an area that placed down obvious barricades for cover, and got greeted by a horde of enemy soldiers through hails of gunfire. It's not that I don't care for the gunplay, I just wish it wasn't so frequent, and wasn't so drawn out.
Chalk this up to my love for stealth games, but I almost wish Infinite played a little more like Dishonored, and let me move around Columbia silently, use disguises, and only get into firefights when sh*t indeed hits the fan. One of my favorite parts in Infinite was sneaking around the Boys of Silence, which resulted in absolutely no gunplay, but rather tension filled gameplay. As it stands, Infinite was absolutely amazing, I just didn't care for the drawn out and overly violent combat sequences.