Bioshock Infinite – A great concept let down by dreadful execution

This is my first attempt at a game review but I felt I had to put my feelings towards this game onto paper (so to speak). I bought Bioshock Infinite in anticipation of being about to play one of the greatest games of all time, backed by a compelling storyline and excellent graphics and gameplay. I leave, dreadfully unfulfilled. Whether that was due to all the hype or not is another matter, but I am certainly frustrated by this game.

After recently also being disappointed by games such as Dishonored, which was very well received by critics and fans alike, but which I found dissatisfying and dull, I was hoping for an improved experience with Bioshock Infinite but alas I think I am feeling even more disappointed than before. I have absolutely adored Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3 in the last year, with the former’s gorgeous graphics and gameplay and the latter’s compelling storyline and excitement. I finally got round to playing Bioshock (1) a couple of years late because it for some reason dropped in price quickly. I’ll admit being put off by the idea of the Big Daddies and how I generally dislike fighting creatures of superhuman strength, but I bought it nonetheless and it’s now clear to me that the Big Daddies were what made Bioshock a true classic game, scoring an exceptional 95%+ on many review sites. The audio on that game was the best of any I had played at the time, and that is still the case now. This is an odd thing to praise, but it created so much tension, realism and authenticity that I have to make a big point of it.

I enjoy shooters as much as the next gamer, but make no mistake, this game is no shooter – at least that’s what the creators must’ve been thinking when they made it. I’m going to run through a few of the things I don’t like about the game after a rather brief selection of things I do like about it, and feel free to comment if you wish.

Bioshock Infinite delivers very good graphics and a unique concept for a game – set in the clouds in the city of Columbia, ruled over by General Comstock – it’s basically satirical of American Imperialism, and generally I think this is done very well. You control Booker Dewitt, and your task is to rescue a girl called Elizabeth from captivity in a tower – a fairly cliché plot if you ask me. Similar to the first two games, the audio is exceptional, making the city of Columbia a very believable haven in the sky. The graphical team deserve an awful lot of credit because it looks stunning, even though it’s made in a semi-cartoon style, it looks like no other game.

Now I unfortunately have to move onto the negatives of this game, of which there are substantially more. The first and probably more prominent complain from me is that the developers seemed to forget that they were designing a game and not just a story and a gorgeous setting. They put so little thought into the actual gameplay that it became a drab and tedious affair to plough through the game. As a little example of what I mean, the combat is so dreadfully repetitive. You turn a corner and inevitably have to face another fight, signified by a change in the music which ends when all enemies are finished. The AI on the opponents is pathetic. I recall watching a blimp firing countless missiles at an unmanned bridge regardless of where I was. The rapid firing missiles never ran out (at least, not for the 15 mins I was there). You can run and hide from the baddies and they won’t come and find you, just wait for you to return, healed, to deal with them. Bioware made a huge deal of the ‘revolutionary’ AI of the main protagonist’s helper, Elizabeth, before this game was released. What this meant was that whenever you run low on health, salts (used for magic) or ammunition, she would magically conjure some out of thin air and awkwardly toss you it, helpfully reminding you that you need it. She also gives out money when you’re near vending machines. Conveniently she always seems to avoid any sort of damage whatsoever despite being amidst explosions and bullets galore. Finally, the weapons seem half-arsed, a few of them are considerably better than the others, which all feel weak and a waste of energy. And they have dramatically reduced the number of powers you can use from the previous games, with fewer customisation options for them, and for weapons and ammunition. The powers are relatively bland anyway, all basically doing the same thing except for Possession (the first one you come across, who knew?).

This takes me nicely onto my next point. The vending machines are used to upgrade weapons, buy consumables and upgrade powers. However, this is possibly the least satisfying upgrade system I have ever experienced. The upgrades appear to make next to no difference, without even a visible difference with them. You can also upgrade Health, Shield or Salt capacity by finding hidden potions dotted around the place, but even this is done without much thought, and there is no sense of development or reward for doing any of these things.

I am playing on the PC and every other time I play I experience terribly graphical glitches which render the game unplayable until I restart. This doesn’t affect everyone, but for someone who’s paid a decent amount for a good graphics card, it’s certainly a pain.

Bioshock Infinite has perhaps been praised most for its storyline. But I’m afraid I am just struggling to understand why it’s so amazing. I get the concept, and I like it, but it’s not compelling and it’s not a story I have found too interesting. I appreciate that this is a very subjective matter and for those people that did enjoy the storyline, maybe the game has been a much more enjoyable experience, but a game should be a game primarily – if I wanted just a good story I would have bought a book or film and a much discounted price. I cannot sympathise with the character of Booker DeWitt, he just seems to be a nasty protagonist with a dark past, and it’s incredibly difficult to get behind such a person in my opinion.

All of these things lead up to one overall thing that this game is lacking. It’s something that Bioware captured so perfectly in the first two (particularly the first) iterations of the game series, and indeed in many other great games. They were chock full of suspense and tension. There is absolutely none of this in this game. Action is predictable and tedious, and there is no creepy music playing or eerie corridors to explore, manic splicers that shock you from around every corner, and there is no Big Daddy patrolling narrow corridors forcing you to think carefully and devise a plan to take him out in order to actually improve your character. Ultimately, Bioshock Infinite lacks a depth to its gameplay that would make me hooked to playing it, that feeling of ‘one more level’ that so many games can offer, and I’m afraid this, perhaps not helped by the ridiculous amount of hype that the game generated, makes it one of the greatest disappointments in this industry that I can remember. 

Overall rating: 5/10

A Novel Solution to a National Problem

Visiting a Currys.digital store yesterday helped open my eyes to one of the UK’s many current issues; the Primark sale that is the job market.

Young people desperate for work will hand their CVs into every shop or to every company they can think of, in hope that one of them will take them on. But this is not how it should be. The young lad (he must’ve been even younger than me) in Currys proved this to me, with his attitude that stank of ‘I’d rather be anywhere else’, not knowing the company’s products and not seeming to care for me as a customer. For the record, I enquired about the Lenovo Yoga laptop, one of the flagship Windows 8 devices, which he did not even seem to recognise the name of. Yep, a worker in the only consumer electronics shop didn’t recognise one of the main products on offer.

After running off to find someone who actually knew the answer, he still seemed unsure and couldn’t offer any more information about the device. He kept saying he was new to working there, which was obvious, but there wasn’t a hint of an apology. Apparently you have to go to a bigger branch to see the laptop.

Workers like this highlight the problem the country currently faces. Young adults in search of work have a tendency to throw their CVs at any company that might give them time, rather than the ones they actually want to work for. What this does is it means the workers will lack the enthusiasm required to be a good salesperson if working in the retail sector. However, this problem is not exclusive to retail – every job will be completed better by an employee with a genuine enthusiasm for the company, a person that wants the company to succeed will be so much more enthusiastic in whatever workplace they are in, and this positivity will only be transferred to their colleagues.

It is not only the fault of the jobseekers, though, the employers also should take some of the blame. Their interviewers should be capable of working out who’s going to offer positivity and enthusiasm, and who’s going to be like the boy yesterday. If they only took on people with genuine enthusiasm and preferably knowledge about the products, productivity would increase by so much.

Furthermore, if people only applied for companies they wanted to work for, both employees and employers would benefit, and with fewer applicants to each position, a lot of time would be saved too.

I do appreciate that now we are stuck in this cycle, it’s very hard to emerge from it, with such a competitive job market the likelihood is if you only apply for the places you want to work, someone less enthusiastic will get the job. One possible solution to this could be a government enforced limit to the number of applications you can make in any given month, say 4 companies. If each potential worker had their own ID card that they presented employers alongside their CVs, they could only be considered if they hadn’t exceeded their limit, and this would encourage people to be careful about to whom they apply.

This isn’t a full-proof solution, but certainly a novel idea that could be just what this country needs in these times of great austerity.

If you have anything to say on the matter, please comment below.

Oli

A Frustrating Experience

I thought I’d share a frustrating experience I had yesterday in a Three shop in Sutton. I had gone in with my dad in search of a new phone for him and for my sister. I currently own the HTC 8X and was keen to suggest to them the similar phone the 8S. My dad wasn’t keen, but at the very low price (only £180) it was definitely a possibility for my sister. Anyway, a woman who worked at Three came up to us and asked if we wanted any help. My dad asked about the HTC One S, which is certainly still a good phone. She told us that HTC are no longer pushing the One range, opting to put more money behind their ‘Windows’ range.

I was already slightly annoyed that she didn’t even know the name of the OS.

However, after my dad joked that they would be foolish to put all their money behind ‘Windows’, and I whipped out my lovely HTC 8X (in my opinion the best phone out at the moment) and she looked disgusted, and proceeded to tell us that she ‘hates Windows’. That’s a good start then – the people supposed to be selling Windows Phones claim to actively hate it.

However, the real outrage came when she tried to justify herself to me. She said that she thinks the look and feel of the OS are both good, but that (and I quote) ‘hate the app store’ because it doesn’t have enough apps. What an excellent reason to hate an entire OS. One can only imagine what she thinks of Blackberry OS. In what world is 115,000 not enough apps? If people like this woman are supposed to be selling these phones, it’s not a surprise they’re not selling well. Microsoft seriously need to address this issue in the UK, stopping the ridiculous prejudice against Windows Phone despite it’s underrated Store, and the phone companies should take some of the blame too for not educating their biased workers.

#rantover

 

Team Oli vs Team Matt Summer Kickabout Results

The summer has been drawing to an abrupt close, so Matt and I thought we should face off to see who’s all talk and who can actually deliver when it comes to football. The location was a hard basketball/4 a side football court near a local Sainsbury’s supermarket, and the teams were Oli and Joel vs Matt, Peter and Damir. The weather was cool with a light wind and the support was minimal, to say the least. The rules were standard football rules except that you can’t shoot from your own half. There was also some confusion over tackling, with Matt accusing Oli of implementing a ‘no tackling in the opposition’s half’ rule, which effectively rules out a comeback from the losing team, so the rule was eventually abolished and play resumed, a few minutes in.

15 minutes a half ended up to prove a little too long, and the scoreboard got out of hand within only the first couple of minutes. It was, to the surprise of many, that Oli and Joel took the lead initially by making the most of slack passing from the opposition, but then the extra man really told and they were able to come back and take a 3-1 lead. After this, they opted (somewhat ironically, given the manner in which the conceded the majority of the goals) for the ‘Barcelona passing style’, and they each took on an alias – Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

This new technique seemed to work out for the team at first, and while they were still full of energy, they were able to maintain possession impressively and tire Oli and Joel, who kept switching from being in and out of goal. However, a Pepsi later, and the rejuvenated combination was able to claw itself back into the match, but consequentially leaving itself very open at the back. By this time, goals were flooding through, and the score got to an incredible 11-9 at half time in favour of Matt, Peter and Damir, who had been ahead f0r most of this time thanks to a flurry of goals from Damir.

A brief pause, and a switch of ends later, and normal play was resumed, with many more goals, getting more spectacular each time, being scored. But it appeared that Team Matt was tiring, and twice Oli and Joel were able to get on level terms, only to see themselves pegged back again and again. Oli was lucky to stay on the pitch thanks to lenient refereeing from opposition player Matt, after a handball that prevented a goal, but it was lucky for the match that he was only given a yellow, for 3 on 1 would have meant the end for Team Oli. Then, with his team ahead by two goals, Matt decided to take the resultant free kick himself, but somehow manage to balloon the shot well out of the grounds – resulting in an additional 3 minutes added on at the end. After returning, he somehow managed to pick up a spot of cramp but was able to overcome it to finish the game. With the score delicately poised at 20-18 to Matt’s team, Oli and Joel were able to combine brilliantly to force a 19th goal, and a shocking defensive mishap allowed Oli in again to equalise in the dying seconds and send the game to penalties. Final score: 20-20.

With only two players on the team, Oli and Joel had a lot of work to do. Oli and Damir were the designated keepers, and both were unable to keep out the first two efforts, including a truly remarkable effort from Peter. However, by the time Damir stepped up for his first kick, one could see he was not confident. His shot went straight at Oli, who gratefully kept it out of the goal. Every remaining kick was dispatched, with Oli hitting the winning kick. Matt requested an additional shootout, but Oli and Joel were having none of it, and they retired with a satisfactory victory with one fewer players. Oli and Joel win 5-4 on penalties.

Ratings:

Matt’s Team:
Matt – 6.5 – Played through the pain of a broken toe, and showed flashes of brilliance but also some patches of rustiness after not having played football for a few years. “That was possibly the worst pass… ever”
Damir – 7.5 – Matt’s Team’s best player by a mile, and current top goalscorer. He was involved in every move, and was instrumental and energetic throughout.
Peter – 6 – The team will not forgive him in a hurry for the early slip up that allowed Oli’s Team to take an early advantage, nor will they be terribly happy that he only turned up to the match a few seconds before kick off, but his inch-perfect penalty in the shootout and awareness to nick goals off the opposition showed why they shelled out all that money to sign him back in January.

Oli’s Team:
Oli – 6.5 – Became tired and predictable quite quickly, and was not always able to offer his team-mate the best options. However, he honed his finishing skills with some neat finishes, notably a few from very tight angles, and he performed admirably in the shootout. A mixed bag, to say the least.
Joel – 7 – Selfless as ever, Joel also put in a perfect shootout performance and scored some of the more important goals for his side and deserved to be on the winning side despite being seemingly unable to head the ball throughout the match.

Don Broco @ Camden Barfly (gig review) 13.08.2012

This was probably the best gig I’ve been to, and it was the album release show that you had to preorder the album to win tickets to. Luckily, I won the tickets and headed up to Camden eagerly anticipating a great show, as I’d seen them (supporting) before, and they were excellent. It was perhaps a shame that the gig was on the same day as the album came out, because many of the new songs weren’t too well known, and they said that they couldn’t play every song on it yet because they’ve not learnt them all!

The doors were open at 7:30 and they had us waiting around until nearly 9:00, but boy was it worth it. It was good to meet some other people with similar music taste and I think everyone had a good time – even my +1 who didn’t know the band at all (he’s a ‘gig whore’).

It was a great shame that they only played for a little over an hour, but to be fair they only have one album and one EP and a few additional songs, so it was understandable. I’m quite glad there were no supports, because Don Broco were exhausting! The atmosphere inside the Barfly was incredible, and the songs were performed faultlessly.

These guys are doing so well on the UK iTunes rock chart and are getting national radio and BBC coverage too, so hopefully they’ve got a good future ahead of them, and I’ll be proud to say I’ve seen them twice already.

9/10

Scouting England U19 (England 1-2 Greece)

I spent my afternoon watching the young England boys play in a tough encounter against Greece in the European U19 semi final. We started brightly, but cooled somewhat and conceded a headed goal from Diamantakos from a corner that we really should have defended better. However, we were not ones to give up, we came back more lively than before and just before half time the Greek defence was split in two, only for the goalkeeper Kapino to make an excellent tackle. The referee adjudged it to be a foul though, and subsequently sent the poor guy off the pitch. We missed the penalty, and Greece went into half time in positive spirits.

A little way into the second half, we were able to nick an equaliser through another header, this time from Afobe up front. We pressed and pressed, dominating the match, but were unable to find the winner we wanted.

So to extra time we went, and England continued in a dominant manner, only to be undone by poor defending and a deft lob over keeper Sam Johnstone by Lykogiannis. The game was up; we tried to press, but no further clear cut chances were created. A wasted chance at beating a very good side who were not on their best of form, but we couldn’t take it.

A few players stood out from this match for me, most notably of which was Everton youngster John Lundstram (http://twitter.com/jlundstram), the playmaker. However, Manchester United centre back Michael Keane left sided midfielder Ross Barkley (another Toffee) (https://twitter.com/RBarkley20) shone in patches through the match. I thought England played well today, despite a shocking injustice with the sending off, they deserved to get through to the final. Alas, it was not to be, and I expect the Greeks will feel that justice has in fact been done. A 2-1 defeat but I expect they will have their heads held high after that performance. There’s always next time…

What’s Going to Happen to RIM and the BlackBerry Brand?

With Research in Motion falling dramatically in influence in the US, and even seeing signs of slowing in the UK, one of its crucial markets, it begs the questions of what the Canada based company will do next.

RIM certainly have a large number of assets, and these are things that could prove important in its future. It has been speculated by many that Microsoft may attempt to buy the large smartphone manufacturer, for they have a significant amount of money to spend, but I am not sure they would do this. I do not think Microsoft look to purchase competitors in order to gain marketshare, certainly not ones losing significance  as fast as RIM are. However, I think it’s certainly plausible that RIM moves OS from BlackBerry 10 (whose release was set back a number of months to early 2013, further cause for concern for its future) to Windows Phone 8, when it comes out in Autumn. A company as large as RIM must have checked out all its competition, and it’s the case with most Windows Phone users that they don’t want to leave the platform. Even Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has stated he thinks the Nokia Lumia 900 and Windows Phone 7 OS are beautiful – he’s not wrong. I think RIM are well aware of the potential of Windows Phone, certainly considering Windows 8’s pending release, and so may make the risky move to the platform. This would very much put RIM in the position Nokia is in, fighting for its life and heavily dependant on Microsoft. Having said that, with the added backing of another huge brand name, Windows Phone could benefit greatly and perhaps it would mean BlackBerry Messenger would become standard for Windows Phones as RIM and Microsoft become closer integrated. I certainly think the help of RIM would have a large effect, even though its marketshare is diminishing. I think the diminishing marketshare is more to do with the outdated OS than the hardware or company. RIM made an ambitious move into the tablet market with the BlackBerry Playbook, and I must admit, whenever I’ve played about with the device, I’ve been very impressed. But it’s just not caught on in the market. Windows 8 could change all that, and forming a partnership with Microsoft would be the first step towards this. Furthermore, Microsoft wish to establish a powerful business presence with Windows Phone, and BlackBerrys are traditionally the business phone of choice, so I really see many potential gains from this move. I do not personally like BlackBerry phones, due to the clunky interface and the outdated trackerball and keyboard. I would expect most WP8 BlackBerry phones to have no physical keyboard. Although this makes the phones less distinguishable, I think it’s the best tactic and that’s the way the world is moving – touchscreen, touchscreen, touchscreen. It would certainly be an interesting move on RIM’s part, but I honestly think it may pay off for both companies in their attempts to at least snatch some marketshare back from the abusing clutches of Apple and Google.

There is a case for RIM to switch to Android as well, and this would be cheaper for the company (as it is open source) and would allow more customisability and product differentiation, although I would be concerned that the Android space is already so heavily dominated by the titans that are Samsung and HTC. Windows Phone is still in relatively early development, and so any entrant will be able to have its unique effect. I do think Android would provide instant sales for BlackBerry, but Windows Phone would be a longer term effort. I think firms should always think long-term, especially if they’re in such a rapidly changing market as smartphones – that’s why I am of the opinion that they need to move away from their current BlackBerry OS, because consumer tastes have changed and they need to keep up with them or they’ll be out of contention completely.

Oli