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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.

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.

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dimko 22 April 2015 at 5:45 am 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.

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.

I was the guy who started thread in steam, where the "solution" was offered. It does delay but doesn't solve problem. And no, Linux gentoo user is here. But as said, only other game that gives me grief - Witcher 2. So I really don't think it was anything else.
tuubi 22 April 2015 at 7:40 am UTC
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Segata SanshiroYeah, 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.
True. And it also had a definite Hollywoodian produced-rather-than-designed quality to it, like all modern big budget games tend to have. Playing it safe to appeal to the widest possible target audience and whatnot. But in the end it's all in the eye of the beholder as they say. Some of us are bound to like the story more than others.
Segata Sanshiro 22 April 2015 at 12:58 pm UTC
QuoteTrue. And it also had a definite Hollywoodian produced-rather-than-designed quality to it, like all modern big budget games tend to have. Playing it safe to appeal to the widest possible target audience and whatnot.

That goes without saying really, and that's pretty much the "glass ceiling" on AAA stories and unlikely to go anywhere unless The Market(tm) starts demanding quality. Or in reality, when those who control the market stop imposing mediocrity.

But yeah, you can only compare it to the manure the large culture factory pumps out, and I think compared to Fast and the Furious 17 and Call of Duty 31, it's very good.
kozec 22 April 2015 at 5:28 pm UTC
Just one thing in video bugged me in video.
Shock jockey does minimal damage on handyman
Use Murder of crows. It does almost no damage, but handyman will spend 5-10s slapping crows, standing on one place, with hearth beautifully exposed. I can kill him without getting a single hit on hard using that.

(sorry, I can't comment on youtube, 'cos google+ -_-)
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