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Review: “Bioshock Infinite” is a must-play

If there’s one thing this console generation will be remembered for, it’s pushing narrative and world building as a pillar in video games. Just as titles like “Resident Evil 4” and “Final Fantasy XII” pushed the limits of game design for the Nintendo GameCube and Sony’s PlayStation 2, “Bioshock Infinite” is the culmination of a refinement in storytelling seen since the release of the Xbox 360 in 2005, from platforms like “Braid” to first-person shooters like “Portal.”

Just as in the original “Bioshock,” it all starts with a lighthouse. You play as Booker DeWitt, a former private investigator who has been given a job to erase his gambling debts. His task? To travel to the floating city of Columbia and deliver one of its residents to New York City.

“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.”

That’s the MacGuffin that moves the plot forward for the first few hours of the game. Of course, once you meet Elizabeth, the game’s deuteragonist and the “girl” in question, things get a bit trickier. Much of what makes Elizabeth unique as a resident of Columbia, a former U.S. colony that seceded once it became too American for America, is what makes her valuable to the game’s story and as your ally.

But the less said about Elizabeth’s abilities the better. Much of the plot of “Infinite” revolves around her role in the fate of Columbia and its citizens.

While the gameplay in “Infinite” doesn’t revolutionize the action game genre, it’s totally functional. It controls much like any other first-person shooter, with the right triggers controlling weapons like handguns and shotguns and the left triggers activating powers called Vigors – “Infinite’s” version of the original “Bioshock’s” Plasmids – which grant DeWitt powers like the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands Sith-style, or sic a murder of crows on an enemy.

It’s the story in “Bioshock Infinite” that takes center stage and the reason why it’s garnering universal acclaim among the gaming community. The social commentary that series creator Ken Levine and his writers have sprinkled throughout the adventure – from critiques of American exceptionalism to populist movements – is well-structured and Elizabeth is one of the most compelling companion characters in the history of video games.

“Bioshock Infinite” will likely take home several game of the year honors and is worth the 12-16 hours it will demand of you.

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Eder Campuzano

Eder Campuzano

Eder is the Emerald's director of audience engagement. His work has appeared in The Oregonian, The Statesman Journal and the News-Register in McMinnville. He was also a founding member of the University of Oregon's competitive Pokémon league.