Let's get right to the chase. From my point of view as a Christian gamer, it's impossible for me to say that I wasn't slightly offended while playing Bioshock Infinite. Coming into this game with no expectations or understanding of where the story would lead me, I was quite honestly surprised by the the way the game presented itself at first glance. However, the further I got into the game, the more I understood that it's much deeper than I would have imagined.
The game begins with our main character, Booker DeWitt, seated on a rowboat that is piloted by two unknown people and headed towards a lighthouse. The only information that you're given, is that there is a woman by the name of Elizabeth, who is needed to be captured and sent to New York for your debt to be paid off. That's all the information that is given to you at this point, yet it's enough to drive you forward and continue.
Once you reach and enter the lighthouse, you will find quotes that look to be written from The Bible planted on the walls, as well as a dead body of a victim who looks like he's been abused and killed in a very brutal fashion. Needless to say, this game starts off as the type of game that I'd personally try to stay away from. However, with my curiosity, I kept moving forward with hopes of finding Elizabeth. Eventually I reached the top of the lighthouse and found a chair that would lock me into place and shoot me off to the top of the sky.
What came then was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in a video game. It was a utopia that was built in the sky. The first thought that came to my mind was “is this heaven”? And of course, I was dead wrong once my shuttle arrived at its destination. The building that I arrived at looked to be a flooded chapel, as there was around 2 feet of water throughout the whole building. It looked like I may have arrived at the wrong time, as that day was the day for baptism.
The first thing you learn is that the people of this city worship a man by the name of Comstock. In their eyes, he is a prophet that was sent to them by God, who saved them from Sodom (earth). While you are wandering around the Church, you will see a man surrounded by people dressed in white, calling you over to receive baptism in the name of Comstock. Immediately I was forced to get baptized so I would be granted access to this floating city named Columbia. The priest then decided that I wasn't clean enough and attempted to kill me through drowning. After passing out, I finally awoke in a garden and immediately understood that I have been granted access to Columbia.
I know what some of you may be thinking, and yes, I agree that this isn't the type of game you'd recommend to your son or daughter, or someone who is having a faith crisis. Even though I disliked the portrayal of Christianity in this game, it was easy for me to understand that this is a cult, plain and simple. As someone who grew up in a church that had cult-like behavior, it was easy to identify that this game is not designed to put Christianity in a bad light, but instead to show how a cult could function if it was given this type of power. I found that the game started making more sense the longer I played.
Besides the opening sequence, you will find that the population of this city is racist, lustful, greedy and gluttonous. In fact, for a city that is supposed to be a heaven before Heaven, I found that it's just as worldly as it is in “Sodom.” The only difference being, that these people thought that they were in some way holier than others, and would brag about how Columbia is the greatest place to be. This is an obviously skewed portrayal of the conservative Christian population of the United States.
The game itself is extremely violent and gory, with a good amount of swearing, hate speech and racism. I recall a section where you go through a museum that displays racially insensitive images of Natives and Asians. There's another moment where a crowd is gathered around a stage, with a presenter giving you a baseball to throw at a couple for race-mixing, though you are also given the choice to throw the baseball at the presenter instead. Also, throughout the game you will find a lot of paintings and imagery that show Jon Wilkes Booth as an icon, and Lincoln as a satanic demon.
Magic plays a part in this game, although it's not portrayed the same way as it usually would be in a typical fantasy setting. In this game, it is given to you by drinking a potion. The abilities that you receive are named vigors and are powered by salt (typically known as mana in other games). The vigors can range from ice and fire attacks, to possessing machines and monsters. One of the vigors is named “Devil's Kiss” and the bottle is shaped like a nude female devil. This also shows that the population of Columbia is definitely not as holy as they make themselves out to be.
As for the game itself, I found that the gameplay was quite entertaining until around halfway through. Even though traveling through the skyline with your skyhook is a very fun and interesting feature, the combat becomes a bit of a chore and loses its charm once you fight through the same waves of enemies every time you enter a new area. The fact that you're only able to have two weapons equipped during the whole game feels like a major downgrade from past Bioshock titles. I was also not fond of the AI, as there were moments where enemies would completely ignore me even though I was near them. Some of the elite enemies weren't very interesting and weren't much different from regular enemies. The only main difference being that these enemies have a built in hotspot that, when attacked, would deal massive damage. Also, weirdly enough, you're unable to save your progress manually in this game and have to rely on checkpoints that are pretty far apart. It really boggles my mind as to why this isn't a feature, since you were able to do this in the other Bioshock games.
The gameplay is your typical shooter but with special abilities. Health and salt packs are automatically used the moment you pick them up. There is a regenerating shield system that protects you for a certain amount of damage. To clarify, if you're taking a lot of damage and your shield breaks, attacks will then make you lose health until your shield regenerates back again. There are infusions found lying around in the world which are used to improve what you feel is your most important stat, such as: health, shields and salt. There is gear scattered around that gives you stat boosts and programmed random occurrences (70% chance for enemy to catch on fire, etc) for certain weapons. Finally, there are vending machines that sell you upgrades for your weapons and vigors, as well as ammo, salt and health packs. You can mix and match the way you see fit with your playing style, as well as make purchases for tight situations.
Elizabeth is found very early on in the game, and the focus will then be for you to try and escape Columbia with her. She will be accompanying you during most of the game and help you out with her abilities. Occasionally she will toss you some extra money that she's found, as well as salt, health packs and ammo. The main ability she has is the ability to tear holes in the universe and travel to another dimension in time. There are some areas where, during a firefight, you can open a tear to get some weapons and ammo from another dimension. Only one tear is allowed to be open during any given time. She can also collect lockpicks for you, as well as unlock doors and safes that contain secrets and goodies.
The sound and music in this game is brilliant, with a soundtrack that is just as memorable as the soundtrack from the first Bioshock. The sound effects don't feel out of place and make you feel like you're truly in this world. It really helped me feel immersed and made the experience much more enjoyable. Music is normally played through record players found throughout the game, and are able to be turned on and off. The voice acting is marvelous and the cast for each character really makes them come to life. You can find Voxophones lying around that give you insight and reactions from characters in the universe. They're very interesting to listen to if you'd like to have a better understanding of the lore.
The graphics are stupendous, with vibrant colours and beautiful scenery. While I was playing through, I couldn't help but take a screen shot at every beautiful vista I came across. Screen shots that were taken at random are good enough to be framed and put on a wall. Every area you enter looks and feels different, with a lack of recycled objects. Unfortunately, and this might come off as nitpicking, you can tell that a lot of models have been reused, and it doesn't take long to take notice of that.
Don't let the game score fool you, Bioshock Infinite is a great game. In fact, it's quite possibly one of the greatest games to come out this year. The story is unforgettable and the writing and presentation is definitely the best I have ever seen in a video game. Just like in the first Bioshock, there is a story twist, and trust me when I tell you that you will not see it coming. It completely blew my mind, and people all over the internet are still talking about it. I have yet to see anyone find any plot holes in the story because it's that good, but it's hard to say that this is a perfect game due to all of the small issues and repetitive gameplay that plagues first-person shooters.
I'd also like to point out that although I wasn't extremely offended by this game, I still had a few gripes with the way it portrays Christianity. One of the main things that I hope and pray about is that people wouldn't conclude that this is an accurate portrayal of what Christianity is, and instead look at this as Christianity gone wrong. Like I said earlier, cults are a very real and scary thing, and as someone who has dealt with a church in the past that was very cult-like, this game was very deep for me. We must pray every day for the people who are dealing with spiritual abuse, and for those who are lost but think they're on the right track.