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Mega Man’s Spiritual Successor Needs Our Help

mightyno9

Everyone knows how much of a fan I am of the Mega Man franchise, and how I’m not a fan of how Capcom has been handling the brand since Keiji Inafune, the “father of Mega Man” as many refer to him as, decided to leave the company. When Inafune-san left, he also left behind a legacy of titles he poured his heart and soul into, including the fan-involved Mega Man Legends 3, which was a long-time dream of his to finally develop with the help of his dedicated fans. Now that he has his own studio, known as Comcept, he no longer has any affiliation with Capcom and, therefore, can no longer carry on the development of Mega Man titles due to Capcom’s death grip on the license. However, that’s not going to stop him from carrying on the legacy of Mega Man, as his newly-launched Kiskstarter campaign proves.

This is Mighty No. 9.

Clearly, the game looks to draw from a lot of the same concepts as the Mega Man franchise, but instead of a hero that copies boss weapons, Beck, as the protagonist is called, can copy the abilities of regular enemies, too. He doesn’t only apply them as weapons, either, but as tools that he can use to traverse environments, among other functions. This potentially opens a lot of doors to some creative level designs that can turn the platforming genre on its head. I could honestly see this being an evolution of Mega Man had Inafune remained with the company. It may not have been the Mega Man, but a spinoff that could portray a new version of the Blue Bomber. As it stands now, I see Beck as an evolution of Mega Man; a successor, if you will. It’s as if the torch is being passed and the legacy is being carried on into the future. With the involvement of Keiji Inafune as well as many veterans who worked on Mega Man titles in the past, we can rest assured that there is plenty of experience behind this project in order to make it the best it can possibly be.

Does this mean that it’s okay for Capcom to just kill off Mega Man? No. The franchise will never be the same without Inafune’s involvement, as the past few years since his departure can attest to, but I still think that with the right developer and the proper involvement of Capcom that Mega Man’s course can be corrected and we may finally see a new entry or perhaps a new series bud as a result. Of course, I’m not holding my breath, but you never know what can happen this day and age.

With Mighty No. 9, though, I feel my mind is at ease. The man who kept Mega Man alive all of these years clearly still cares about his fans and the franchise he left behind, as is made evident by the video above where he expresses his regret of not being able to follow his dream as well as the dreams of many Mega Man fans by seeing Mega Man Legends 3 to its completion. This is finally a chance for him to realize his dream, and what better way than to have his fans come along for the ride as we not only open our minds to a spiritual successor to the franchise we all know and love, but embrace the chance to help him by pledging and getting involved with the development directly in order to help make that dream come true.

I’ve already made my pledge. The amount I contributed was higher than most, but I feel passionate about this project and I wanted that to be reflected in the amount I chose to give. Plus, the extra perks and rewards involved are truly once-in-a-lifetime stuff. These are the sorts of things I’ll get special display cases for so that I can show them to people and tell them that I helped make this game happen. They’ll be symbols of pride for myself; objects that have more than just monetary value. They’ll represent a dream that came true, an ambition realized. When you think about it that way, there’s simply nothing better.

You, too, can contribute if this project interests you. The Kickstarter link is here, complete with all of the details, rewards, and such. Kickstarter’s payments are made through Amazon, so it’s secure. The project is already on track to completely obliterate its $900,000 goal. I’m hoping it will raise at least $2.5 million so that I can play this on my PlayStation 3, as I play far more games on consoles than on PCs. I’m going to try and get the widget working on the side bar to the right so that there’s always a link to the project, for those who want to keep track of it (including myself). I’ll keep it there until the game’s release, should it reach its goal, as I’m sure the page will be updated as progress is made.

Today, a long-time Mega Man fan can now rest easy knowing that there is a future for the Blue Bomber’s legacy. Even if it doesn’t include Mega Man himself, that’s okay. I know his heart and soul is in this project, that’s for sure.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Review

tmnt-out-of-the-shadows-promo-02Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer(s): Red Fly Studio
ESRB: Teen
Release Date: August 28, 2013 (Xbox 360, PC), September 24, 2013 (PS3)
MSRP: $14.99

NOTE: This review is based off of gameplay of the Xbox 360 version.

There’s absolutely no denying how much of a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I am. I have a shelf full of figures, both sealed and open, pajama pants that I wear all the time, the complete 80’s animated series on DVD in collectible Turtle Van packaging, the 25th anniversary movie collection on Blu-ray, and, of course, a majority of the video games spawned from the license over the years. One title I’ve always held in high regard, as well as count among my favorite games of all time, is the Super Nintendo version of Turtles in Time. To this day, I still have yet to find a Turtles experience that can top that classic brawler of yesteryear. It captured the look and spirit of the 80’s cartoon while delivering a fun and addictive brawler that could be played over and over. After playing Activision’s first crack at the Ninja Turtles franchise, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the wait for that coveted quintessential Turtles experience continues.

Out of the Shadows, developed by Red Fly Studio, is based off of the currently-running Nickelodeon show. The game’s plot feels like a mish-mash of TV episodes thrown together, as April is kidnapped and the Turtles try to uncover the reasons why Shredder is stealing technology from the alien race known as the Kraang. The story is told through some in-engine cutscenes as well as some rather poorly-drawn, still animation frames, with the latter giving the game a cheaper feel. Gripes aside, it’s nothing spectacular and merely serves as a means to chain the game’s four chapters together. While the game certainly borrows from the TV show’s universe from a plot and character standpoint, the visual style and sound are radically different. Out of the Shadows opts for a darker look, with the Turtles sporting a more realistic and humanoid appearance as opposed to the cartoonish aesthetic of the show. This has been a very divisive point amongst fans, but I, for one, appreciate a darker look for characters that not only originated as dark characters in the comics, but have needed a more gritty modern representation after being depicted as child-friendly animated characters for so long. Environments also take a similar cue, with a lot of shadows covering most backdrops, giving the game an overall darker tone. Even the Foot Clan has a more realistic look, with standard Foot Ninja actually looking very similar to how they appeared in the original live-action movie, which is a nice homage.

The overall look is certainly darker than most people are used to.

The overall look is certainly darker than most people are used to.

If only Red Fly could have secured the voice cast from the TV show. The one in place is actually good, but simply not as good as the cast in the show and the lack of it also hurts the authenticity of the presentation. Also, Raphael happens to suffer from some forced delivery in many of his one-liners, and seeing as he’s my favorite turtle, it makes it all the worse for me to cope with. Casting aside my personal gripe, one nice touch is how the turtles will start random conversations between fights as they traverse rooftops and hallways. These discussions are rather hilarious and sometimes make references and in-jokes that long-time Ninja Turtles fans will appreciate. The only crying shame is that, despite the game’s short length, these conversations somehow manage to repeat themselves several times throughout. The battle chatter suffers from the same issues, with phrases being repeated ad nauseum.

Speaking of battling, TMNT titles have been predominately beat ’em ups, where the four brothers take to various locales and beat the snot out of everything in sight. Out of the Shadows is no exception, but what sets it apart from previous endeavors is how much more evolved it is. While TMNT brawlers of the past pretty much consisted of mashing one or two buttons repeatedly with little to no depth, this entry takes an approach not unlike Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series and adapts it to a co-op experience, or, at least it tries to. It’s worth noting that all four Turtles are always on-screen at all times and can be freely switched between when playing solo, meaning the other three are controlled by surprisingly decent A.I. that manage to not constantly die on you.

Battling in Out of the Shadows consists of using weapon attacks and kick attacks, with the former being more damaging while the latter has the ability to break through enemies that block your attacks frequently. Using these in combination can mix up your combos, keeping enemies guessing and potentially chaining together many attacks, which is crucial for pulling off TPKOs, or Turtle Power Knock Outs, which serve as powerful finishers by doling out heavy damage. Pulling off TPKOs near fellow Turtles can allow them to jump in, creating flashy attacks that also increase the combo meter for every Turtle involved. Not every character can utilize team attacks from the outset, however, but they can be unlocked by leveling up the team and spending ability points to not only teach each Turtle new attacks, but increase their stats and even unlock perks that all four Turtles share. Every Turtle has his own set of skills and play style, so no two Turtles feel the same in combat. For instance, Raph likes to use brutal hand-to-hand attacks, such as kneeing enemies in the face, punching the daylights out of them while they’re down, and performing suplexes and powerbombs like a pro wrestler, while Leo’s style has more finesse and relies on fancy sword work, with spinning attacks that can hit multiple enemies at once. It’s no longer just about range and attack speed like in previous TMNT titles. Now every Turtle has their own fighting style, and it certainly helps give the game a sense of replayability and variety.

There are also special attacks that can be triggered by holding the Right Trigger and making circular motions with the right analog stick, similar to EA Sports’ Fight Night franchise, that can be unlocked for each Turtle. This is where things start to get a bit hairy. Whereas the buttons are generally responsive and rely on timing to create effective combos, the right stick motions don’t always register. I’d sometimes make the correct motion, only for my Turtle to either not respond or perform a different special attack entirely. For instance, one special requires a full 360 degree motion clockwise on the right stick, but when attempting to perform that, sometimes my Turtle would instead use a special that only requires a quarter circle motion, but isn’t as effective in dealing damage. So, not only did the game execute an inferior command, it also used up a block of my special meter that I have to build up again in order to use the superior special, which definitely generated some frustration when it happened.

Most of Out of the Shadows' combat mechanics work, making beating up baddies fun.

Most of Out of the Shadows’ combat mechanics work, making beating up baddies fun.

That’s not even the worst part of the combat system, however. Red Fly seems to have attempted to mimic the counter system of the Batman Arkham series, but wound up with a completely broken and unresponsive mess. The way the system is supposed to work is that, once an enemy begins to attack, a white flash shoots out from their body, and pressing the counter button as soon as the effect starts will trigger a counter. I have yet to actually figure out the timing for this, however, as I’ll clearly press the button with the right timing, only to block the attack, which takes away from a “Block Health” meter you have that, once depleted, renders you unable to block anything, or I wind up on my turtle ass after taking a sword to the face. There have been times when countering works, but it appears to be random, and such an inconsistent and unresponsive system all but breaks the game, as it simply does not provide you with a reliable means to defend yourself. Why this title was released with such a broken game mechanic is beyond me, as it doesn’t even function on any conceivably acceptable level.

The issues don’t end there. You’re able to evade enemy attacks with a tap of the A button while holding the left analog stick in the direction you want to go. This works well enough and even allows you to leap and roll over enemies and allies alike, but when you’re in the middle of using an attack button, forget it. You have to wait for the attack animation to end before it will actually work, so if you need to dodge a non-counterable attack, which is denoted by a green effect surrounding an enemy while they’re attacking, you’re screwed. There’s a boss fight with a giant, three-headed mouser that is made even more frustrating by this since it can smash the ground and create a shockwave all around it, but if you’re in the middle of attacking its weakpoints at close range, you won’t be able to avoid it. In fact, if you’re standing too close when this attack is unleashed, you’re still screwed, as the distance evading actually covers is too small to get out of harms way. What’s also baffling is the jump mechanic that is attached to the same button as evading. You can jump just by tapping A without holding the analog stick, but you can only jump straight upwards, not at an angle, making this a completely useless mechanic. You can’t create any combos off of it and the animation for it is stiff and feels unnatural. If you wanted to try and use some dive kicks just like in the old arcade games, that’s too bad.

Want some more issues? Sure, why not. To start, for some reason, someone thought it would be a good idea to sprinkle hacking puzzles into the game. Granted, most are optional, but the higher difficulty ones tend to be so infuriating that you’ll complete half of the puzzle, only to realize that you screwed up and have to restart all over again. These puzzles feel out-of-place and do nothing but bring the pace of the game to a grinding halt. During combat, the camera simply doesn’t want you to be able to see what’s going on. If you get too close to a wall or an object, the camera will just zoom in really close and just above your Turtle’s head, so you can’t see what’s going on. You’ll constantly be fighting with the camera just to get the right angle while fighting enemies at the same time, making for an unnecessarily cumbersome and clumsy experience. The game also suffers from several bugs and glitches, further dropping this unpolished title into the abyss. The framerate will sometimes dip just by rotating the camera while running around environments, giving the game a somewhat unfinished feel. I had one instance where a boss fight simply failed to trigger. Where Karai should have been waiting to fight me, I instead spent about ten minutes trying to figure out if I was missing a platform or ladder I needed to climb, all the while the Turtles kept spouting taunts at Karai while she responded with subtitles only, meaning she wasn’t even in the general vicinity. I had to restart the checkpoint over again. During the final boss, he would float over into a corner and just freeze there for no apparent reason. My attacks had no effect on him, but he would suddenly snap out of it and start attacking me. This actually occurred twice during separate attempts to defeat him. I’ve also encountered conversations with the Turtles that will run over into load screens and even cutscenes, so I had Leo at one point speaking two separate sentences at the same time. Simply put, Out of the Shadows is a rushed title that somehow made it through Activision’s quality assurance and it absolutely pains me to see a game with such a beloved license being handled so poorly.

Here we see Raph beating some sense into a member of the development team for botching this game.

Here we see Raph beating some sense into a member of the development team for botching this game.

Out of the Shadows sports two other modes outside of the main campaign. One is Challenge Mode, which basically consists of taking on waves of enemies in each of the campaign’s environments, along with one challenge called Survival, which tests how many waves of enemies you can fight your way through before all four Turtles fall. With all of the issues with the counter mechanics, trying to survive for any extended period of time is a futile effort as there’s very limited healing between each round to make up for the beating you’ll receive thanks to not being able to counter most attacks. The other mode is Arcade, which takes the campaign and makes it into an old-school, side-scrolling beat ’em up spread across seven levels. You would think that a side-scroller wouldn’t have camera issues, but alas, Red Fly somehow screwed this up, too. The camera zooms out too far at times, making your character as well as your enemies microscopic, and foreground objects like pipes, walls, and fences actually obscure your vision, making it tough to see what’s going on at times. Arcade mode supports 4-player co-op, but locally only, meaning you can’t play it with your friends online. Playing it alone is simply boring and imbalanced as, unlike the campaign, only one Turtle is on the screen and you get pretty outnumbered without any help.

Speaking of multiplayer, the game’s campaign can also be played online with up to three other players. I found in my experience that, while load times were rather lengthy, gameplay was actually smooth and lag-free, although playing with three other players that clearly have leveled up Turtles makes for a rather easy experience, as everyone is seemingly over-powered and more competent than the A.I. that’s in place when playing solo.

I can give Red Fly credit for capturing the Ninja Turtles’ subject matter in great fashion, with the overall darker tone being a fresh take on the Turtles, having each Turtle feeling more unique than ever before in combat, and a sense of camaraderie drawn from conversations between the Turtles and some entertaining team attacks infused into the mostly fun combat mechanics that are in place. I can also excuse the short length of the campaign given the game’s $15 price tag. However, everything else falls flat. Terrible counter mechanics, a cumbersome camera, myriad bugs and glitches, and extra modes that suffer from the same issues as the main campaign, which subsequently means they add nothing to the overall game, all serve to drag this experience down. When the fact that “Turtle Power” from the original live-action movie plays during the main menu and the end credits is one of the biggest highlights of this game, you know someone screwed up somewhere. As a major Turtles fan, I can’t help but feel severely letdown, as Out of the Shadows was one of my most-anticipated games of the year. All I can really say is that Turtles fans deserve far better, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is one of 2013’s biggest disappointments.

score4.0


Final Decision XIV

This past weekend, I managed to spend some time with Square-Enix’s reworked MMORPG (for the uninitiated, that stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, which is an online game with thousands of players inhabiting a single world and interacting with each other in real-time), Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Now, keep in mind that my MMO experience is limited to my time with DC Universe Online on the PS3, which I played a little bit of when it became a free-to-play title before uninstalling it due to waning interest and Trophies not being properly implemented, so I don’t have a lot of experience to go on as far as comparing FFXIV, as it will henceforth be referred to, to other titles in the genre. However, FFXIV has always piqued my interest simply because I’ve always loved the franchise and I’ve been interested in how it would function as an MMO. I know Final Fantasy XI has been around for years on the Xbox 360, but since I prefer to play on my PS3 due to not requiring annual fees to play online, I simply waited for FFXIV to finally launch on the PS3.

My experience began as a typical one for MMOs: a series of installs and patches. It’s the norm for the genre, so to pass the time, I popped in some Dragon’s Crown on my Vita until the beta finished patching. I was then thrust into a beautifully-animated opening movie, filled with the rich detail and animation we’ve come to expect from Square-Enix over the years.

Next up was character creation. As usual, Square made a great attempt to explain the lore and history behind this title, just like the rest of the franchise. FFXIV takes place in the land of Eorzea, where an attack from a giant dragon (the legendary Bahamut, for those who are veterans of the franchise and know who he is) has laid waste to the land. Five years later, people are still adjusting and picking up the pieces after the tragedy. You are a new inhabitant of Eorzea; an adventurer, if you will. This is where you get to create your hero.

For me, I made a male Miqo’te (think of a human with cat ears, a more flattened nose, and a tail) with a job class of Lancer, also known as a Dragoon. I picked the Miqo’te because of how his tail sort of reminded me of Zidane from Final Fantasy IX, and I picked the Lancer because the job features high offensive capabilities and also sports some really sweet armor. Lancers wield a large spear/javelin and are capable of launching themselves high into the air in order to strike from above.

Once I finished with my character, my first problem began. I had to select my “world”, or server, in other words. This would be the permanent home of my adventurer. However, every time I selected a North American or European server, it would say the world was full. I didn’t want to jump into a Japanese server simply because my connection would be terrible, but there I was, selecting different servers from my territory and still getting the same message. I finally managed to get one to work, or so I thought. Instead, I had a wheel spinning in the corner of the screen for about 20-25 minutes. I finally decided enough was enough and I restarted the game. Luckily, my character’s appearance was saved, so I only had to select his background info and job again, which took almost no time at all. After that, the first server I selected somehow worked. I was queued into the Adamantoise server. Finally, my journey was set to begin.

It does irk me a bit how irritating it was just to get onto a server, but a couple things need to be taken into account here before jumping to the “This game’s broken!” conclusion. First of all, it was a beta. The purpose of betas are to test out the servers as well as garner feedback from players about any issues they’re having so that they can be addressed. Things like this are bound to happen. The other thing is that, apparently, a lot of people jumped into this beta, so much so that they had to locked character creation on every western server and open three new ones to accommodate everyone, and on top of that, the entire game was hit with a critical error on Monday morning, which caused all western servers to be taken offline for a period of time for maintenance. I don’t think Square anticipated this many people, but they should take this as a good sign. A high amount of interest could mean more sales in the future, but it’s sad that some people will simply avoid it after such an event without realizing that it’s only a beta.

Anyways, I began my adventure wandering around Gridania, the first town I came upon in my adventure. It’s essentially where I stayed the entire beta. I did some story missions, a slew of side quests, which basically comprised of hunting certain monsters, doing menial tasks like cleaning and delivering items and messages to other people, and I did some battling, of course. The battle system seems pretty typical for MMOs,¬†with queued attacks and hotkeyed skills, although standard attacks can be set to automatic. I did find that using normal attacks is pretty much useless considering you have so many points to use skills. I would just spam skills to kill enemies more quickly.

My favorite part of wandering outside of town is that random events, called FATEs, will pop up in your vicinity. These tasks deal with defeating a hoarde of enemies or one giant enemy within a short amount of time. One in particular spawned a large imp, where I and about two dozen players surrounded it and starting obliterating it. It was this moment where I felt a large smile stretch across my face. Banding together with a bunch of people for an epic battle was simply an awesome experience and really showed me the magic of MMOs. It also didn’t hurt that I received a top-ranking metal and reward for my contributions.

This is where I stand right now. Did I enjoy my time with Final Fantasy XIV? Absolutely. Once I started taking requests from NPCs and hacked away at boatloads of monsters, the experience really grew on me, and if the title has a lot of content, I could see it being worth the $12.99 per month to play it. The issues I have, though, are what makes me hesitant. Beyond the server selection issues, I had problems connecting to a world I already inhabited. The game would tell me it was full and then fail to queue me so that I could wait for someone to log out. Restarting the game fixed the issue, but it was a minor annoyance. I also need to find friends to play with, as the game can be a lonely experience when adventuring by myself. Lastly, there’s the possibility of launch issues, which are bound to happen. This was only a beta, but once money enters the equation, server issues and shutdowns start to become more aggravating. It makes me ponder whether I should wait a couple of weeks for any issues to iron themselves oit.

If I were to pre-order now, I can get early access and Amazon will give me a $10 credit for a future purchase on their site, which definitely sweetens the pot. What if I run into issues, though? What if I don’t play it enough? Are there going to be any friends to play with? These are all things I’m going to need to take into consideration before I take the plunge. For now, I’m leaning towards going for it. I enjoyed my brief time in Eorzea, and I’m itching to jump back in.


BioShock Infinite Review

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Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: First-Person Action/Adventure
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer(s): Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Human Head Studios
ESRB: Mature
Release Date: March 26, 2013
MSRP: $59.99 (standard), $79.99 (Premium Edition), $149.99 (Ultimate Songbird Edition)

This review is based off of gameplay of the PlayStation 3 version.

The road to BioShock Infinite was no doubt one filled with anticipation, delays, and controversy, flooding gaming news outlets since its announcement. Seeing as Irrational Games took the driver seat once again after the very first BioShock lit the gaming world afire with its ambitiousness, storytelling, and atmosphere, it really came as no surprise that Infinite had a lot of hype behind it. Now, I’m not going to lie. I was genuinely concerned about how the game would turn out, seeing as delays don’t always mean a better product in the end. Upon making my ascension into Columbia, however, my fears were put to rest. BioShock Infinite is more than anyone could have ever asked for, setting a new benchmark for the genre in pretty much every regard while defining itself as one of the finest titles of this generation.

BioShock Infinite takes place in 1912, putting you in the shoes of gun-for-hire Booker DeWitt as he heads for Columbia, a city in the sky, in order to find and rescue a young woman by the name of Elizabeth in exchange for his outstanding debt being wiped. However, Columbia has far more going on than Booker anticipates, between a religious extremist named Zachary Hale Comstock proclaiming himself “The Prophet” as he rules over Columbia with his fanatical ideals and a rebellious group called the Vox Populi operating underground as they contest Comstock’s rule. As you can imagine, things won’t be easy for Booker in his task, nor will the job be as cut-and-dry as he believes.

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Welcome to Columbia. Why don’t you stay a while?

From the get-go, the world of Columbia sucks you in and never lets go. When I first made the ascension at the beginning of the game and watched the clouds clear, with a bright, sprawling city dazzling my eyes with all of its beauty, I was hooked immediately. I landed in the “Welcome Center”, a church of sorts, that highlighted the religious significance on Columbia straight away. Once I emerged from there, I wandered the streets, taking in the patriotism that bombarded my view wherever I turned. As my adventure continued, I constantly anticipated what could possibly be next for me to behold and explore. I was enthralled with Columbia from beginning to end, despite its flaws as a society, which you’ll come to learn when you play. I simply never wanted to leave, and after two playthroughs, I can still say I miss it.

While Columbia is an amazing and unique setting for BioShock Infinite, its inhabitants and happenings are the game’s greatest strengths by far. The story will play with your emotions, surprise you, and serve as a highly thought-provoking experience that will keep you guessing as you progress. Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship is a unique one, as it takes on its highs and lows as things unfold. Their trust in each other is constantly tested as their individual backgrounds are exposed, which the pacing of the story does very well in making sure their backstories get the attention they deserve. Comstock is a fantastic villain, and as you learn more about his ideals and what plans lie up his sleeve, you’ll detest him more and more, but at the same time, raise questions in your mind as to why he does what he does and how he can foresee so much. Comstock’s pet of sorts and overseer of Elizabeth, the Songbird, steals the show every time it pops in, creating tension-filled moments of both excitement and terror as chaos ensues. The entire cast is filled with memorable and interesting characters, all of which are peppered throughout a brilliantly paced narrative that never feels padded nor drags on.

Many of Infinite’s details can be garnered through listening to Voxophones and gazing into Kinetoscopes, which I highly recommend seeking out, as you can learn more about Columbia and its inhabitants than the plot will even let on as some even provide clues to some of the answers you’ll no doubt seek. The stellar voice acting and fantastic script brings every character to life with vivid emotion, creating memorable characters you’ll remember for years to come. The voice acting is especially important for Booker and Elizabeth, as they play off of each other the entire game, creating a relationship that you’ll enjoy watching evolve as you progress. There were moments where I laughed and others where I felt their pain, as the emotion in their voices is defined and appropriate, allowing for me to connect with them on a more personal level. Any time a game can manage to pull this off is an achievement in and of itself.

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Utilizing both Vigors and weapons is key to survival.

Infinite also does a fantastic job of capturing the era in which it takes place. Keep in mind that segregation is in full swing around this time, and as such, Columbia is no different than America, even going to more extreme levels than you’d expect. This is no doubt a mature title that tackles very mature themes such as racism and religious fanaticism in raw fashion, so do not expect it to pull any punches in this regard. These themes are here not only for the shock value, but to show the flaws of humanity in a world that is portrayed to be perfect in every regard. Tackling such issues is gutsy, but Irrational Games pulled it off expertly, as I felt the content was appropriate for the image that Irrational Games was trying to convey of Columbia.

The graphical style is highly unique, capturing the era in its architecture while at the same time bringing a bright, vivid color palette and some propaganda and advertisements that capture the art style. As I mentioned earlier, Columbia is going to suck you into its world to the point where, when the credits were rolling, you won’t be ready to leave, just as I was. Despite Columbia’s flaws as a society, the setting is so unique and interesting that I felt fully immersed. The game also manages to mix in music of the era as it plays over phonographs and radios scattered about. Pulse-pounding and dynamic music populates every battle, always punctuating at the very end as the dust settles to signify the end of the chaos. The best original piece has to be “Elizabeth’s Theme”, as its timing in the story and tone is perfect, giving the moment a more emotional impact. Also, keep your ears attentive, as you may hear some surprising tunes throughout your journey that you certainly won’t expect.

She’s the center of the story and will raise your most pressing questions throughout, but as far as gameplay elements go, the most significant addition is Elizabeth. She’s by Booker’s (and thus your) side for most of the game, conversing and interacting with him as you progress. She’s certainly not just a pretty face, though, as she has many uses in battle and out that will benefit you in a pinch. While you’re in combat, she’ll warn you of incoming threats, toss you ammo, health, and salt if you happen to run low, and is able to open Tears, which are holes in space that allow her to pull in walls you can use for cover, freight hooks you can grapple on to in order to get to a better vantage point, and even mechanical allies that will fight by your side. Don’t think that this makes battles too easy, however, as it takes time for her to rummage up supplies you can use, preventing you from relying on her too much. This keeps battles elegantly balanced, making for a challenging experience even on Medium difficulty, as the A.I. is smart, aggressive, and more than capable of getting the drop on you. Elizabeth also stays out of the way and cannot even take damage, so you’ll never have to babysit her. She’s there to support you through and through, and every time she tossed me some ammo in a pinch, I couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful for having her.

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Meet Elizabeth. She’s the reason you’re in Columbia in the first place.

When outside of battle, Elizabeth helps you further, allowing you to pick locks (should you have lock picks for her to use) in order to find hidden supplies, Voxophones, Kinetoscopes, Infusions, which upgrade your health, armor, or salts depending on which you choose, and Gear, which you can equip in order to give you certain advantages in battle, such as stunning enemies when using melee attacks and increasing firearm damage while you’re moving on a sky-line. She’ll also find money lying around as well as point out lock picks and other objects of importance. Considering scavenging for supplies, like in previous entries in the franchise, is a significant and rewarding part of the experience, having her around makes things a little easier, but not too much so. You’ll still have to the majority of scavenging yourself, which personally, I wouldn’t have any other way. Perhaps one of her greatest elements is the manner in which she conveys her emotions. The motion capture done on Elizabeth is amazing, as you’ll always know how she feels at any point in the story. She’ll walk around with a carefree look if she’s happy, or will wear a scowl if she’s unhappy, for example, giving her a human element that’s easy to connect to as a player. Elizabeth is a fantastic element of gameplay, and while the feeling of isolation felt in the original BioShock is lost most of the time, having her company proves to be something you’d rather have than not.

As far as Booker’s arsenal goes, he functions largely the same as previous entries did, with the same polished gameplay you’ve come to expect from the series. He wields several different types of weapons, from your standard pistol, shotgun, carbine rifle, and sniper rifle, among others, to some variations, such as the Heater, which operates like a shotgun, but lights enemies on fire with every blast. A personal favorite is the Hand Cannon, which is essentially an extremely powerful revolver that, when fully upgraded, is nothing your enemies want to be on the receiving end of. Speaking of upgrades, vending machines make their return, allowing you to buy supplies and upgrade weapons and Vigors. Vigors are another element of Booker’s arsenal, which aren’t unlike the Plasmids of prior entries in the series. With Vigors, you’ll have the power to wield lighting bolts, send your enemies floating into the air, possess enemies and make them your allies for a limited time, catch incoming fire and send it back to the enemy, and more. They literally give you immense power and variety at your fingertips, and combining them with each other as well as your weapons is not only key to survival, but immensely satisfying, as some of the foes out there will more than give you a run for your money. These include Motorized Patriots, which are essentially large, metal wind-up toys with mini-guns, and Handymen, which are towering part-robot, part-human behemoths that are some of the greatest challenges you’ll face and create some of the most memorable encounters you’ll ever have throughout the game. The enemy variety doesn’t disappoint, as the game finds ways to mix things up and keep you guessing, which will cause you to shift your strategy at a moment’s notice as well as keeping things from getting dull.

The final key element is the Sky Hook, which serves as your transportation around Columbia. This arm-mounted mechanism features three spinning hooks that allow you to hang from rails and hooks, which not only help you get around, but can also be effective in battle by giving you vantage points and making you a moving target. Traveling around on the Sky Hook is exhilarating and novel, bringing something new to the table you’ve likely never seen before. The mechanics works smoothly and also makes for some amusing kills as you can leap off of the sky-line onto enemies. The Sky Hook also operates as a melee weapon in combat. It can make for some very gruesome and entertaining kills as you break necks and rip heads off. Executing enemies in this manner never got old, and I still laugh manically every time I manage to pull one off.

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The Sky Hook is a boat load of fun to use, both in and out of combat.

Very much dependent on how much you scavenge, what difficulty you select, and whether you choose to take on some optional tasks will ultimately decide your length. I scavenged heavily and managed to pull off a playthrough that lasted close to the 15 hour mark, though this is an estimate as the game does not track the length of your game, or at least, from what I could find. Once you’re through, you’ll no doubt want to take the journey again, and that’s where 1999 Mode comes in. It can be unlocked by inputting the classic “Konami code” at the main menu whenever you like, or by completing the game once, which I recommend. This mode presents the biggest challenge that BioShock Infinite has to offer. Supplies become pretty scarce and, as a result, I found myself running out of ammo pretty often. Enemies also dish out more pain, so I found myself having to be more conservative in my approach, utilizing a sniper rifle from long range to pick off targets while keeping a shotgun or Hand Cannon at the ready for when things became more close quarters. It presents an admirable challenge, especially against Handymen, but it never manages to feel unfair as any battle can be overcome with the right strategy and loadout. Overcoming each large-scale battle in 1999 Mode felt like a hard-fought victory, as one slip up could easily mean having to respawn, which offloads 100 Silver Eagles (the game’s currency) from your inventory, and running out means you’ll be booted back to the main menu, which actually happened to me once. If you want an added challenge, take on the Trophy/Achievement that restricts you from using Dollar Bill machines, which means you can’t buy any health and salt packs nor any ammo, forcing you to scavenge like your life depends on it. I have the Platinum to show for it, and I can attest that such a playthrough is possible and also very rewarding.

The biggest take away you’ll have from BioShock Infinite, though, will undoubtedly be the ending. I’m pretty sure my jaw was hitting the floor the entire time, and I’m still in awe of what I observed, as it consumed my every thought well after the credits finished rolling. However, I wasn’t finished yet. You see, the world created within is so downright absorbing that I couldn’t help but come back for more. I wanted to see the sights of the Welcome Center and Battleship Bay again, experience the twists and turns of the plot once more, and seek out every Voxophone I could to glean more lore from the world of Columbia.¬† Simply put, I loved every second, to the point where I struggle to find fault in it. Elizabeth’s animations seemed to be jerky on occasion and, this being an Unreal Engine-powered title, some textures would look muddy before they loaded in, but these are minor nitpicks that do nothing to hurt the overall experience. The game is brilliantly paced with engaging characters, an immersive world to explore, and polished gameplay that manages to be both fun and challenging. Perhaps most significant of all, though, is the fact that whenever I thought about the game ending, I would get this sinking feeling in my stomach. This isn’t a feeling I get very often, but when I do, it’s extremely notable. It means I simply love a game so much that I don’t want it to end, as it delivers an experience that I will never, ever forget. I applaud Ken Levine and the team at Irrational Games for the outstanding achievement they have accomplished here. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that BioShock Infinite is one of the finest titles of this generation, setting the standard by which all first-person titles should be held to from now on. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, is well-deserving of the perfect score it has achieved, and should be experienced by anyone and everyone.

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