Windows 8/7/Vista/XP (Xbox 360, PS3)
ESRB rating: Mature
Review rating: 5.0 stars
Sporting a unique blend of surrealistic combat and creepy characters in a cramped underwater Utopia, "BioShock" took the gaming world by storm. "BioShock 2" improved upon this formula, but the latest installment in the series, called "BioShock Infinite," transports players into a visionary new world where steam, gears and corruption rule the roost.
Players take on the role of former cavalryman Booker DeWitt as he is charged with the safe recovery of a mysterious woman named Elizabeth. To find her, Booker must travel to the floating city of Columbia during the early 1900s. This city seems like a dream come true, but the peaceful inhabitants turn a blind eye to the racial oppression and false religion that control them. Booker quickly befriends Elizabeth, and his allegiance is torn between completing his mission and doing what he knows is right.
"BioShock Infinite" is a visual feast for the eyes, and the stylish Steampunk influence is evident throughout Columbia. For starters, most inhabitants dress in Victorian or Edwardian garb, and mechanical horse-drawn carriages and floating ships are a common sight. In addition, gigantic structures move about using intricate gear workings, and steam is the most prevalent power source in the city. Enemies utilize elaborate power suits to give them control over fire, and others actually use gears to gain extra power!
Players have access to deadly late 19th century weaponry that includes shotguns, rifles and the hand cannon as well as futuristic weapons like the Barnstormer RPG and the Vox Hail Fire. All of these weapons can be upgraded to increase their power and ammo capacity using vending machines throughout the city, and only two can be carried at a time.
When you add the ability to mix magical Vigor powers with powerful weapons, players become nearly unstoppable! Vigors are similar to the Plasmids found in "BioShock 1 & 2," and there are eight different ones to choose from. Take down mobs of enemies with fireballs from the handy Devil's Kiss Vigor or recruit an enemy to fight for you with the Possession Vigor. One of the more unusual Vigors, called Undertow, lets players pull enemies close to them using a stream of water. All eight Vigors can be upgraded to become more powerful.
Another feature that adds an immense amount of customization to the game is the addition of four slots that can be filled with gear. Players can find a wide variety of hats, shirts, pants and boots that will give them a distinctive edge in combat. For example, I like donning the Electric Punch top hat that gives me a 70 percent chance to stun melee targets combined with the Coat of Harms that makes enemies easier to melee execute. Wearing these two pieces of gear influences me to use melee attacks more often, while other pieces of gear may favor projectile combat or give health boosts.
Also new is the Sky Hook, which is not only a lethal weapon but also a handy means of travel. Using melee combos with this cool device easily dispatches enemies, and it's also capable of performing bloody executions. However, my favorite use is connecting to hooks to reach high ground and also sliding around on metallic rails to reach new areas. Skilled players can even engage enemies in combat while sliding around using the Sky Hook.
When you add in optional side quests and various collectibles, "BioShock Infinite" has my vote for Game of the Year!