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GOL Cast: Exploring the Flying City in Bioshock Infinite

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You might have seen our port report of Bioshock Infinite and might already know that, against all expectations, it performs really nicely. But let's go one step deeper and see what the rest of the game has to offer.

Bioshock Infinite is a first-person shooter developed by Irrational Games and ported to Linux using the eON technology by Virtual Programming set in the year 1912 in an alternate reality that is not quite like how history remembers that time period. You play as Booker DeWitt, a gunman of sorts, and you are sent to the floating city of Columbia to find a girl called Elizabeth and get her back to New York. You are not explained why the girl is so important and needs to be found, you are merely told that by getting the girl the debt will be paid.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOawuI8yzE0

It seems to be becoming a theme that I apologize at the beginning of each review but I'll do it anyway. This particular review is really late and partially that's because of my laziness and all of the other things in life. But hey, better late than never I guess.

Anyway, let's get to dissecting this game.

Bioshock Infinite doesn't explain a whole lot in the beginning parts of the game. You are told that you need to go to this floating city of Columbia and get the girl. Why, how, what? No time for questions, just go. At first glance Columbia looks like an idyllic city. Everything is extremely colourful, people are friendly and everything looks very bright and happy. But it's soon revealed that not everything is as good as it seems. Columbia is very much split into social classes. Workers in the factories are slaves to their monopolistic employers, people of colour are discriminated and all religions apart from Christianity are banned. Zachary Comstock, an ultra-nationalist, has complete control of the city and is regarded as a prophet sent by God himself. Very quickly things turn ugly for Booker as the religious fanatics of Comstock identify him as The False Shepherd, someone who will, according to Comstock's prophecies, destroy Columbia and its society. And the girl you are after somehow seems to be important to Comstock's plans, so Comstock will do everything in his power to stop you from escaping Columbia.

Gameplay wise, Bioshock Infinite is regular old first-person shooter action. You travel through Columbia on a semi-linear path and kill enemies as you encounter them. You can occasionally explore some of the bigger areas for secrets and extra loot but most of the time you'll stay on a set path. There are also some side quests which usually involve finding a code book to decipher a code written on a wall or finding something else that is hidden somewhere around the map. The combat is super simple, you can either shoot people with the guns you've found throughout the game or use Vigors, special powers acquired by drinking interesting looking drinks. With these Vigors you can throw exploding balls of fire or lightning, posses enemies' minds and turn them against their friends or just throw them in the air where they will wiggle around for a moment for you to shoot them down. Sadly the combat isn't all that exciting. You can only carry two guns at a time, meaning that you will either stick to your favourite load out or constantly switch between weapons, not really knowing that you might need or find next. Many of the guns also feel underpowered, though some of them definitely had very nice punch to them, including the shotguns and the hand cannon. I found the Vigors to be very situational and overall boring and ended up using them very rarely during my playthrough.

Now I'd do the game a huge disservice if I didn't mention Elizabeth. During most of the game you are going to be accompanying her on your way out of the city. It's quite obvious how that could go wrong. Luckily the developers actually gave Elizabeth a very nice role in combat situations. She's can't get hurt, so you are not stuck protecting her all the time, and she actively participates in the combat and is vital to your progress. She will actively look for ammo, med kits and salts (which are used to power your Vigors) and she can use her special powers to open these things called Tears, which can help you in various ways. Sometimes a Tear can spawn some cover or a friendly turret, sometimes it could be a crate of med kits or a weapon. Some areas have multiple Tears spread around them and you can decide which one will help you the most. You can only have one Tear opened at a time though.

In addition to helping you during the gameplay, Elizabeth will also revive you if you die, making death basically a non-factor during the game. When you die you will simply lose some cash and your enemies gain back some of the health they've lost. So dying is pretty much not a big factor in the game. Some people might not enjoy that since it obviously makes the game a whole lot easier, but I didn't mind since I only play games to enjoy them, not to die constantly and get frustrated.

Graphically Bioshock Infinite is among the best looking games I've ever played. Columbia is full of colour and walking through the environments was just an absolute joy. The pretty visuals contrast the inner flaws of Columbia really well and make the game world truly come to life. And since eON is able to tap into the powers of OpenGL 4, the port should look more or less like the Windows version. It also performs surprisingly well, running mostly at 60 FPS and only a couple of times dropping down to 30. And even during those heavy battle scenes with tons of projectiles flying around and people running everywhere it was still playable. I never felt the need to drop the settings down from high to gain more frames per second to get through a particularly taxing area.

The game was also bug free and really stable for me. Not once did I see a gameplay, visual or any other kind of a glitch. There is one somewhat minor annoyance which is the low field of view. By default the game will run at an FOV of 75 degrees horizontal which is just unacceptable or even unplayable for many. Even I got eye strain and I can't imagine the game being enjoyable for someone who suffers from simulation sickness for example. Even when you max out the FOV in the options menu you will only get 82.5 degrees. The wonderful PCGamingWiki has a tweak for that though, which you can apply without having to do any special Linux-fu. Just check where the config files are located and adjust the FOV range there and you should get 90+ degrees of FOV for a significantly better gaming experience.

My overall recommendation is to get the game. It doesn't really bring anything new with its gameplay mechanics but the story and the visuals coupled with it form an enjoyable experience that lasts about 10 hours. I'm all for stories in video games and, while not the best one I've seen, Bioshock Infinite's was thrilling and unique. Just make sure not to judge the story too much before seeing the end, as the game's story telling is by no means linear.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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14 comments
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coryrj19951 20 April 2015 at 8:34 pm UTC
Great game, runs really smooth for me. I also find it great that the game has good controller support (I wasn't sure how that would be, since this one wasn't a native port and all)

QuoteI only play games to enjoy them, not to die constantly and get frustrated
So your not hoping for a *Souls game to appear on Linux then
Pecisk 20 April 2015 at 8:43 pm UTC
I have to say that at hardest level I both loved and hated combat. That part of the game feels a bit of mixed bag, but I feel that devs at least tried to balance it. Game doesn't challenge you much regarding combat and that might be it's issue as shooter. So in nutshell, while I won't remember Bioshock Infinite as awesome shooter, I will remember it as whole. Because it's whole experience works - and that's root of it's success. Combat felt part of story. It never felt alien or out of character. In fact, it underlined idea behind the game of cycle of violence which everyone struggles to stop.

Also would be nice to point it out that tonally game changes quite a bit and while first part feels like corridor shooter, it soon spans out quite a bit.
GBee 21 April 2015 at 8:21 am UTC
I flat out hated the combat, the mechanics, the under powered weaponry, the suicidal AI which would run towards you, yet somehow still manage to dodge bullets with the reflexes of a super hero ...

It's strange that the second vigor you get (Devil's Kiss) seems to be the most powerful, the one which uses the least salts and yet is often able to kill multiple bad guys with a single shot. It makes all the later vigors seem almost worthless by comparison. Although alternative uses for 'possession' and 'shock jockey' are initially introduced this is abandoned later in the game, and vigors are only useful in combat. This seems like a wasted opportunity to include some puzzling solving and other gameplay using the unique properties of each vigor.

While the impact of the initial level design cannot be understated, once the non-hostile NPCs disappear the world loses most of it's interest and colour. The level design becomes simpler, less detailed and less real.

The story may not be linear, but the game as a whole is and it utterly fails to disguise this fact. It feels like such a waste to be given the setting of a flying city, then only allowed to walk a pre-defined path through it. It's ironic that one of the mechanics should be the rails transport system, since this only serves to remind you that throughout the game itself you are also on rails.

Speaking of the rails network, initially this appears to serve some useful purpose within the city, transporting cargo around the place from point to point where cargo is loaded on and off. However all pretence is abandoned later in the game and the rails become tight circular loops that travel to and from nowhere, with no obvious purpose except to helpfully deliver you to a roof-top.

By the end I was only playing to complete the game, and not because I was enjoying the experience.
Guest 21 April 2015 at 8:58 am UTC
got a 760 and a fairly weak quad core amd cpu. I run the game on the 'high' preset, to me it looks better than ultra as ultra is just a bit too overdone with the bloom and shading, I get a largely constant 60fps @ 1080p and ironically its smoother than a lot of native opengl games

amazing port technology. the "burial at sea pt1 & pt2" DLC is even better than the main game imo

if Eon can pull that level of smoothness and quality from a game like that, I cant see why pretty much any game from late 2013- early 2014 and previous cant be ported using the same technology
tuubi 21 April 2015 at 9:13 am UTC
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I'll have to join the chorus in saying this game doesn't deserve all the hyperbole. It's okay and has some innovative elements to it. The combat was fine, but I'm more of a story guy. That's why I usually play games like this on the easiest setting (unless there's a bullshit penalty attached). Life's challenging enough. I don't need my entertainment to frustrate me as well.

The story... well, it is certainly okay but not ground-breaking. Well, maybe it's not the kind of story the younger generation of gamers would have been exposed to otherwise. That might go some way to explain the "bestest story evar" type reviews you've all seen around the Internets. It certainly didn't blow my mind. Not that my mind needs to be blown to make the experience worthwhile.
Smaloki 21 April 2015 at 5:07 pm UTC
While I really like the game so far, I haven't played nearly as much as I would have if it worked properly. Performance is perfectly fine, but the game crashes at random (using a FX 6300 and a GTX 760 with Nvidia's proprietary drivers). I have no idea what's causing it... there even was a thread on the Steam forums about this a while ago as well. Maybe they actually fixed that by now. I should probably give it another try.
Guest 21 April 2015 at 5:13 pm UTC
SmalokiWhile I really like the game so far, I haven't played nearly as much as I would have if it worked properly. Performance is perfectly fine, but the game crashes at random (using a FX 6300 and a GTX 760 with Nvidia's proprietary drivers). I have no idea what's causing it... there even was a thread on the Steam forums about this a while ago as well. Maybe they actually fixed that by now. I should probably give it another try.

practically the same setup as me and i assume you run ubuntu also, perhaps one silent crash to desktop but im not sure, i dont think it ever has crashed for me.
dimko 21 April 2015 at 9:56 pm UTC
Game constantly hangs after a few minutes, where it can be 2 inutes to 20 minutes. Impossible to enjoy.
I reported issue to devs, no reaction.

Issue only happens in Bioshock and Witcher.
TheReaperUK 21 April 2015 at 10:45 pm UTC
mr-egg
SmalokiWhile I really like the game so far, I haven't played nearly as much as I would have if it worked properly. Performance is perfectly fine, but the game crashes at random (using a FX 6300 and a GTX 760 with Nvidia's proprietary drivers). I have no idea what's causing it... there even was a thread on the Steam forums about this a while ago as well. Maybe they actually fixed that by now. I should probably give it another try.

practically the same setup as me and i assume you run ubuntu also, perhaps one silent crash to desktop but im not sure, i dont think it ever has crashed for me.

On AMD Cpu's you need to use 2 core's or less, that will stop the crashing (Not sure if Intel have this problem).

Right click on BioShock Infinite in steam, then go to Properties, then click "Set Launch Options" then enter:

taskset -c 0,3 %command%

Click ok, then close the Properties window then play without crashes, FPS might not be as good on 2 core's, Depends on the ghz of your CPU, runs 60+ on high with AMD 8350 and GTX 960 on 2 core's.
Segata Sanshiro 22 April 2015 at 2:51 am UTC
QuoteI'm all for stories in video games and, while not the best one I've seen, Bioshock Infinite's was thrilling and unique. Just make sure not to judge the story too much before seeing the end, as the game's story telling is by no means linear.

I thought the story was pretty mediocre at first, but then I watched a youtube video (won't link it in case of spoilers) about the ending which brought in lots of details which a lot of people might miss when playing it through and it made me appreciate it more.

Yeah, there's been games with better stories, but I think where this fell short is more a reflection of the genre rather than the quality of the writers. FPSs demand lots of fast-paced action and constantly moving from location to location, and while shooting racists can be fun, I think the story (and game as a whole) would have benefited from a slower pace and a bit of digression and time to explore the beautiful city and talk to a few racist and not-so-racist NPCs to develop the story a bit more through sidequests and such.

So yeah, I agree with everything that Samsai said about the game (especially the quality of the port, which was really, really good), I just wanted to give my thoughts on that. Also, "Linux-fu" is an awesome way to summarise the hacks and workarounds which we so often have to do, should use it more often .

I'll probably be playing the DLC over the next couple of weeks and looking forward to playing a bit more in Rapture since I barely played the first Bioshock and also have a deep loathing for Ayn Rand and her lunatic "philosophy", so should be fun looking at a critique of the other side of the American right after seeing the weird patriotic racism side in the main game.
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