More layers are added to the combat by companion Elizabeth and the Sky-Lines that connect Columbia's districts. Leaping onto a rail and scooting around the map, then plunging down lethally onto an enemy's head provides the perfect action ratio of "help, which way am I facing" to "wa-hey!". And the final layer of combat comes from Elizabeth's rips between universes. It's this ability that provides the bewildering backbone to the story, but in battle, it's simple: in an infinite number of universes, it's a mathematic certainty that one of them will contain a crate full of health packs. Elizabeth can access some of these universes, bringing helpful things into existence. Every so often - not so often that you can rely on it, or are made immortal - she'll forage and sling you some ammo or health. All taken together, it's a huge amount of fun.
Elizabeth is never a chore, and you don't have to worry about her during combat. That's good, because your relationship with her is crucial to the story. Instead, her dialogue with DeWitt is uniformly convincing. Infinite's single problem comes not from this central relationship, but the sci-fi theorising that takes over.
This is a game that smashes the concept of time travel into the quantum theory of an infinite - and constantly growing - number of coexisting universes. Some of it works perfectly - you'll devise your own theories as to why that statue swapped sexes at the beginning. At other points, the plot bends bizarrely in a way that seems designed simply to allow for a boss battle. But the most important moment of the plot, the moment that the game leaves you with, doesn't quite tally with the rules you've been taught. It's not thought-provoking, so much as "wait, what?"
As frustrating as that is, we can't wait for the public discussion to begin around Infinite's story and conclusion. If the game misses its full potential, that's as much a testament to the ambition behind it. And let's not forget that the impeccable dialogue, art, sound, acting and cast of characters. With BioShock Infinite, Irrational feels like it's leaving all of Bioshock behind. Hopefully that's not true: we're not quite finished here, yet.
Head this way for a follow-up Bioshock Infinite Q&A, containing answers to pressing questions like "is it a true story?" and "how much cheesecake is it worth?"
Explain how all this works, sweet DLC
- Columbia is fantastic
- Incredible art direction
- Perfects the old one-two combat
- Great central relationship
- Plot needs talking about