Game Reviews Games (not MMOs)

Bioshock Infinite: cover is still bad, but the game’s pretty great

The Cat Context podcast is turning one year old later this month, and to celebrate we’re goin’ live! On Saturday, April 20th at 2pm PST we will be live on stream from sunny Las Vegas with myself and Ellyndrial and a number of other previous guests (and potentially a phone visit from Arolaide) to talk about the last year of gaming. Save the date, and more details to come! :)

Way back in December I wrote a post on Bioshock Infinite’s bland cover art, which developers said was purposefully generic to attract the “frat boy” console shooter market. I had two big problems with that decision. First, it betrayed the uniqueness of the Bioshock series and made me worry about what else might have been softened to appeal to a wider audience. Second, for obvious reasons I am not a fan of the gaming industry’s rush to cater to the “generic” audience, which inevitably means straight white college dudes, and I don’t think that will change until studios make it change.


After playing about half of Bioshock Infinite (don’t worry, no story spoilers here), I’m pleased to say that while the cover is bland none of that generic attitude made it to the game itself. I spend most of my playtime with my jaw dropped, either from the story, or the clever historical references, or scenery, or the crazy action sequences.

In some ways it makes the cover issue even more irritating. Bioshock Infinite is a really interesting game with really interesting features and, as with previous games in the series, an examination of certain aspects of American history and culture. It has been getting glowing reviews, and if my Steam list is a reasonable representation of current PC market then a lot of people are playing it. It comes from a known and beloved series of games with a fairly infamous auteur at the helm in Ken Levine. It was poised in a perfect position to show that games can be great and sell well by celebrating their uniqueness, not joining the herd of interchangeable dudes-with-guns games. Dumbing down the box art is extra depressing when the cover belies such great content, and makes plain the complete absence of Elizabeth, who is both critical to the plot and delightfully written.

Don’t mistake my griping about the advertising as an indictment of the game itself, though. If you like Bioshock, if you like games with thought behind them, if you like single-player shooters with crazy settings… ignore the cover, and get this game!

(More on the specifics of Bioshock Infinite in a few days after I finish it.)

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