BioShock Infinite Review

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅02-04-13
Equipment and Combat

Mastering Skylines is one component of success in combat

BioShock Infinite follows a tried and tested formula of introducing combat gradually, building to a much more frenetic pace as play progresses. Combat sections don’t begin until a good half an hour into the game, but when it does it’s perfectly timed to coincide with a tension-filled situation that you won't quite have the time to dwell on. Suddenly you’re surrounded by unarmed police, but with only a melee weapon to your name it will be a jarring battle. The tempo moves up a notch soon after when the friendly police drop a pistol… how nice of them.

Later in the game the option to use Skylines as part of your combat strategy becomes appealing and adds a level of dynamism in what could otherwise be quite a formulaic experience. Being slightly more evasive and the use of dismount takedowns and will be integral to victory, but be aware that at higher difficulties enemies will also take to the skies to defeat you.

The default controls for your skills and abilities are quite poor and benefit from being rebound immediately: right-click to aim down sights and a mouse thumb button for casting the active Vigor suited us well enough, but your preference may vary. Start experimenting before the difficulty begins to ramp up, and ensure that mouse acceleration is disabled.


The tools at your disposal for this title will remind you of BioShock, although the first departure to note is that both your weapon and power (i.e. Vigor) can be used simultaneously. A wide selection of weapons ranging from melee through to mortar launcher - split between red and blue types - are available. Although red weapons - utilised by the Vox Populi faction- only become available roughly half way through the game it would incorrect to assume that they were flat out better than the blue Founders firearms. If melee specialisation is your thing you’re given the option to execute enemies for a ludicrously over the top kill, but it’s hardly worth it unless you revel in this sort of grizzly animation and specialise accordingly.

A retrograde step Irrational have implemented, perhaps more down to narrative rather than gameplay reasons, is a restriction to only two equippable weapons at any one time. When progressing through the game this swiftly becomes apparent as your chief limitation, doubly so given that vending machines sell ammunition but not the weapons themselves. Each weapon also has a number of weapon-specific upgrades to purchase which could improve damage, clip size or reload speed, whilst during combat you can improve accuracy by aiming down sights at the expense of movement speed.

Weapon upgrades/augmentations are purchased from a Minuteman’s Armory vending machine, with three or four available per weapon, but the cost for each upgrade is quite prohibitive and requires specialising with a few weapons in order to be most effective. Unfortunately there is no way to tell in advance which weapon ammo will be plentiful in an encounter before-hand, and Elizabeth doesn't provide ammo often enough to be a reliable source through an encounter. The fact that Founder and Vox Populi weapons overlap in strengths but use separate ammo makes you realise that you could cut the number of weapons in half and lose nothing in terms of gameplay, and that's without adding an alt-fire component.

As a consequence gunplay is by far the weakest aspect of the game: the two-weapon restriction begins to chafe very early on, and is obviously a crutch for the designers when it comes to difficulty ramping and an effort to force combining Vigor effects. The final battle in particular is made difficult purely from by this limitation where otherwise simply unloading all your accumulated magazines in enemies would see an easy win. Of course BioShock Infinite isn’t a full-on FPS so it’s not the setback that it was in Duke Nukem Forever, but it does end up being the single greatest frustration in play.


Vigors are roughly analogous to Plasmids from the original BioShock but with variation on the range of effects and your access to them. They can be mostly split into three overlapping sub-groups – Damage, Utility and Control – and for the first time almost all have a secondary effect subtly changing how they're used in combat. Each can also be upgraded in Veni Vidi Vigor vending machines to strengthen the primary or secondary effect in order to increase their potency with no downside apart from the cost. They’re fuelled by Salt rather than EVE, a resource which you find in plentiful quantities through the game but will be depleted swiftly if you're profligate with your Vigor use.

The game UI has two quickslots for Vigors, allowing you to choose any two and swap between them during or out of combat. Unlike BioShock however changing which are active is as simple as pressing 1 through 8 rather than needing to visit a Gatherer Garden (a BioShock I vending machine), meaning that for all intents and purposes you can swap to any Vigor at any time. This functionality will be crucial at higher difficulties where the effectiveness of some Vigors is limited against certain enemies and chaining effects together is especially important.

Vigors are either found through exploration or dropped by specific NPCs on death; if you already have it then the drop will restore an amount of salt instead. Here is a short sample of some of the eight available through the course of the game, either as quest objectives or rewards.

Possession:- Allows you to possess an enemy NPC or mechanism to fight on your side for a short time. Use against vending machines will spit out their silver coins but not reduce the cost of items sold.
Devils Kiss:- A fire projectile which will damage enemy NPCs and a small area around them. The secondary effect is an explosive trap triggered on proximity.
Murder of Crows:- Summon a flock of crows which will stun a biological enemy and deal damage over time. The alt effect is a trap causing a similar stun and damage when triggered.
Shock Jockey:- Fires lightning which damages and stuns targets, though stun duration reduces with enemy power. It can also be used to power machinery in Columbia.

Initially pretty inefficient, the use of Infusions and purchasing upgrades makes them more viable in longer encounters; you'll need to judge where you spend your Infusions carefully but spending them on Salt will rarely be unwise. In most cases the effects aren't flashy, but they can become far more powerful than your weapons once upgraded.


Gear are pieces of equipment (clothing flavour-wise) which confer passive bonuses in combat, and are similar to the Tonics of BioShock. Four different slots are available and may add such bonuses as Vigor effect chaining, bonus damage whilst aiming down sights at the expense of damage when hip-firing, or even limited invulnerability. Gear isn't difficult to find - you'll see a few in most game zones after the first hour of gameplay - but searching out secrets will also uncover rarer drops with more exotic effects.

The effects are broadly equal but often very situational. For example, effects which trigger on mounting or dismounting from a Skyline will not be much use in indoor combat, whilst those which augment Vigors you rarely use will be less valuable than many alternatives. Juggling these to tailor your loadout to the situation will often mean the difference between a scraped win and embarrassing defeat.

One or two Gears are clearly more powerful than others, but don't always spawn on a play-through. This may cause some difficulty on the hardest settings where health is at a premium, but won't be an issue on medium so long as you're not too gung-ho in your playstyle.

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