Why I stopped playing BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite coverLet’s start by acknowledging that the latest entry in the series, BioShock Infinite, is a pretty game.  Really pretty.  Staggeringly pretty.  The use of colour and depth, the tiny details and the sweeping vistas, it’s one of the best looking games to come along in a long while.

So why, with such great graphics, and what by all accounts is a story and an ending worthy of discussion and dissection, did I stop playing after only an hour, well before reaching the game’s main hook?  Two reasons.

1.  I am irredeemably stupid

I’m accustomed to feeling dumb playing games.  My ability to predict plot twists or to solve whodunnits is about on par with my ability to fly.  The most logical of adventure games leave me reaching for a walkthrough, and the Portal games were frankly unfair on the old grey matter.

But Bioshock Infinite was different.  Here, it wasn’t me being stupid, it was my character, Booker DeWitt, moron extraordinaire.  When you go to such pains to immerse the player in the body, life and mind of the character, forcing the character to do stupid things is forcing the player to do stupid things. When your players are asking the screen “What the fuck am I doing?  Why?  WHY?”you may have a problem.


2. I am irredeemably violent

Seriously.  Booker’s response to being grabbed by police (immediately following Exhibit A of “Being Irredeemably Stupid”) is to immediately and brutally murder one, cut down the others amidst a screaming crowd of citizens, and then proceed to gun down, blow up, possess, stab, slice and generally murder his way through the entire armed forces of the city.  And that’s a lot of armed forces.  So far, so normal for shooters, if a little extreme on the introduction.  Well, it’s not an RPG, don’t expect options.  They’re not real people, they’re the Bad Guys.  Racist bad guys, so it’s fine.

Later on, I took refuge in a house.  Going down the stairs voices floated up, a woman – presumably the lady of the house – giving my description to a police artist.  They spot me, she screams, policemen pull guns, violence ensues.  A moment later and there is just me, fractionally more blood-soaked, and her, cowering and whimpering.  Well, at least I can spare h-  More gunfire.  I turn and shoot.  A man falls.  Not a policeman.  Her… her husband?  I just killed a man for trying to protect his wife from an armed murderer, in their own house.  And on the floor by his corpse, a teddy bear.

I stopped there.  Limbo left me feeling uncomfortable and ambiguous.  BioShock Infinite left me feeling like a murderer.

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