Bioshock Infinite : Pretentious?
Charlie Brooker stirred up a few gamers on Twitter by claiming Bioshock Infinite may just be a little bit too pretentious. It’s an opinion that many won’t agree with, including our own Luke Martin, who reviewed Bioshock Infinite recently.
Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful, captivating game, that has intuitively inventive combat, a stunning looking world, hours of story and an intriguing premise about a floating city in the sky that is rotting from within. But is Brooker right when he says it is like “the second Matrix movie crossed with Alice in Wonderland”, and that the developers should have called it “Shooty Magic Adventure, just to fuck Edge magazine off”? Well, unfortunately for gaming in general, he is totally right.
The events that unfold throughout the game are incredibly pretentious, from the grossly over-stretched gun-smith section to the nonsensical, well, nonsense that are the sections detailing the effect that balance of power has on people living in the slums. The ending is the worst kind of self important gash that makes the TV series Lost seem lucid in comparison. In any other medium, whether it be film or book, you would say ‘what is this shit?’ when deceased enemies lose their memories and stumble around like electrocuted zombies after you step through a rift. The couple that appears intermittently are an unbearable addition to this pompous, overblown dross – so much so that I nearly ate my controller to stop the pain.
You will never guess, but that prophet is actually one of the bad guys!
It is like the worst kind of pulp-fiction, B-movie tripe that Channel 5 would have trouble screening.
However, that isn’t really the whole story, as millions of players are right now enjoying this same story immensely and are completely immersed in the world of Infinite. Many will be so impressed that they will flock to gaming boards to praise the game, yet these same gamers will also complain in droves if the latest Doctor Who episode is even slightly pretentious or preening.
How does that work? Well, the answer is quite simple: video game makers have never really been very good at telling stories. With gamers fed utter garbage like the stories in Halo, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim, anything approaching decent will captivate them and seem a lot better than it actually is.
Perhaps I am being unfair on developers. After all, when most games are over twelve hours long, it is a lot to ask for a writer to fill those twelve hours with a compelling tale. One that has to account for the fact that every gamer will experience things a little differently due to the very nature of the medium. Ask a screenwriter to write a twelve-hour screenplay; most of it will be terrible filler.
When you meet the rebel leader, you start ‘fighting for the people’. Sigh.
There are some games that get things spot on, and point the way to the future. Games such as Metroid Prime, which offers an absolutely bare-bones story, there only to provide a frame for the game, with the gamer given the option of scanning to unveil the full story. A rich tapestry waiting to be discovered, or ignored. Dark Souls is another that gives only a basic story, with far more there to be pieced together by the avid fan.
Bioshock Infinite is pretentious, and is, I suspect, the product of the developers actually believing their own hype about the moral choices that the watery city of Rapture offered. Yet Infinite is still a fabulous game, as Brooker is only too happy to admit.
Games take themselves too seriously and try too hard with crappy stories. Most gamers, sadly, wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s hope that more developers take the Dark Souls approach and leave the B-movie stuff to, well, the B-movies.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.