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Default Bioshock Infinite - Combat Mechanics Regression

April 15th, 2013, 20:26
In his blog on Gamasutra Eric Schwarz explains why he feels that the combat of Bioshock Infinite is a step down from the previous Bioshock games.
One of the dangers in striving for "perfect balance" as BioShock Infinite does is that you can end up with a game that feels very flat and soulless. Outside of the competitive multiplayer community, I'm of the opinion that balance is something which needs to be "good enough" but nothing more. In trying to ensure every option is equally effective in most situations, BioShock Infinite runs into the unfortunate problem if no weapons being especially preferable to any others.
The two-weapon-max system is a tacit admission of this by Irrational Games - if you could carry all guns you would have virtually no weaknesses in combat, hence the limitation imposed on the player. As there are no guns which are significantly better against certain enemies, or certain weapons which offer substantially different or interesting functionality, you end up sticking with the same guns throughout the whole game. You've invested money into upgrading them, you can only carry two, and combat is only going to get harder as you go - so there is actually substantial disincentive to experiment. And while there is a widely-held belief that two-weapon limits are more tactical, when you have so few enemy types and all guns are so effective in almost every situation, there's not much point to this limit.
The lack of interesting weapon upgrades and secondary capabilitie sis another big concern. Customization of your guns in Infinite is nothing more than a slight boost in effectiveness, and while upgrades are limited by the money you have available, you really don't have to make significant choices about what weapons to upgrade since chances are you'll only be using a few weapons throughout the game anyway. BioShock 2 had interesting capstone upgrades for its guns, like super-charging your Rivet Gun with bolts capable of setting enemies on fire.
More information.
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April 15th, 2013, 20:26
Nice detailed analysis in that article. It covers more than combat, BTW. In summary, it sounds like the combat mechanics, powers, hacking (non-existent?), weapons, upgrades, and enemy AI is simplified/"streamlined" vs. Bioshock? Not surprised. Is there some good gameplay video that demonstrates otherwise?
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April 15th, 2013, 21:14
That was a good article, not the usual rant.

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April 15th, 2013, 22:04
Bioshock was a huge step down from System Shock 2 in terms of mechanics, so this should come as no surprise. It certainly didn't surprise me.

However, what the article seems to overlook is that by enforcing the two-weapon limit - the game will be a lot more interesting to replay. I actually complained that I was able to carry everything in the original Bioshock. System Shock 2 did it best - because you could only carry a limited amount - but you had more freedom to choose exactly what to prioritise. Beyond that, System Shock 2 had a ton of replayability through the three different classes and the various skills.

Bioshock Infinite has MUCH better gunplay than Bioshock, though, and I found the weapons to be much more satisfying in terms of feel and viability. That may have been luck, because I prefer standard weapons like the Carbine and the Sniper rifle - and those are apparently among the best weapons in the game. But I'm looking forward to replaying it and going with a different load out.

Another problem with Bioshock was the Plasmid redundancy and the fact that you could afford to upgrade pretty much everything by mid-game. Infinite Vigor upgrades are much more expensive, so you have to focus on a few. Again, that's exactly the kind of thing that drives replayability and makes your choices interesting.

But people are focusing on the wrong things. Bioshock Infinite isn't just a shooter.

It's an amazing interactive story that just happens to use shooter gameplay as a foundation. It's true that mechanics are less interesting overall than they were in Bioshock - but they're also less important, because the game delivers something absolutely fantastic that no other game has managed to deliver. The shooting isn't the main gameplay - exploring is.

I'm talking about a level of detail in terms of exploration that's unprecedented, and I'm talking about an AI partner that feels more real than EVERY single AI in EVERY single other game out there.

It makes you feel like a part of a real place in a way that's just unheard of.

It also introduces a genuine novelty in the form of Skylines and that's a pretty big new gameplay mechanic. It's arguable how much it brings to the experience - but I found it to be very fun and engaging.

But, most of all, it manages to tell a story that's utterly compelling and it does so without feeling like a series of cutscenes. Beyond that, it has the most profound ending I've ever experienced in a computer game.

If bitching about mechanics regression that everyone in the know should have expected is the best people can come up with when talking about the game, I have to say I'm not impressed.
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April 15th, 2013, 22:28
Yep, good article.
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April 15th, 2013, 23:17
@Dart - Really? Why should we expect gameplay mechanics to be further dumbed down? That's a defeatist attitude if I've heard one.

This kind of movement away from deep gameplay, to shallow simplified shooter mechanics and "interactive movies" (ala Mass Effect SP) bores me. Especially from an industry that is notoriously bad at writing….
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April 15th, 2013, 23:26
Originally Posted by Thrasher View Post
@Dart - Really? Why should we expect gameplay mechanics to be further dumbed down? That's a defeatist attitude if I've heard one.

This kind of movement away from deep gameplay, to shallow simplified shooter mechanics and "interactive movies" (ala Mass Effect SP) bores me.
Why should we expect it? Because we're going to get it. I'd rather expect what I know is coming than something I know will never come. But that's me.

If you think you can change the nature of Irrational Games and their approach to game design by expecting something that won't come - you might not be defeatist, just deluded.

I want deep and intricate mechanics more than most people, but I'd have to be a moron to expect such things from developers who seem to have no appreciation or understanding of them.

I learned enough about Levine and his company from Bioshock to understand that we'll never see a true evolution over Shock in terms of mechanics. They want to appeal WIDE - and you don't do that by getting more complex and intricate.

In that same way, I don't expect the next Mass Effect or Dragon Age to become Fallout or Gothic. That's because I know Bioware and I know how disappointed I would be if I expected them to be anything else.

The fortunate thing about Bioshock Infinite is that it doesn't need deep or intricate mechanics to be one of the best games of all time.

AFAIK, you haven't even played it. You're talking about being bored by an obvious tendency as if that meant the game has to be boring as well. That's a weak and irrational position.

Play the game first, then talk about it. Doing it in reverse is only going to taint your experience to the point of being unable to appreciate it. Especially when being as stubborn and proud as you are. You'd never admit being wrong - so maybe it's already too late for you to enjoy it.
Last edited by DArtagnan; April 15th, 2013 at 23:45.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:11
Well I passed on ME1/2/3 based on weak gameplay, and like them anyway, but there's better. Infinite is just not a day 1, nor day 30 purchase for me. I don't have to get it for cinematic exploration. But I will probably like it for what it is once it's cheap. Not for $60, no way. There is zero replay value for cinematic exploration games with shallow mechanics, too.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:14
With your keen insight - you probably don't even have to play it to experience it fully
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April 16th, 2013, 00:23
Well I can watch the videos for free on youtube. Cinematic, and an interactive play/pause button of awesomeness. Good enough?
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April 16th, 2013, 00:26
I can probably live with that, though it's obviously going to be a very hard life knowing Thrasher cheated himself out of a fantastic game
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April 16th, 2013, 00:28
I'll play it eventually. I just can't see spending $60 on it for now.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:32
Thrasher sometimes has a habit of judging games he's never even played.

I definitely don't feel like Infinite was vastly superior to Bioshock in any way though. The way the story unfolds is better in Infinite, but I prefer the setting and atmosphere of Bioshock.

I'm replaying Bioshock now, and I think I'm actually enjoying the combat more. The Vigors in Infinite make for some interesting combat mechanics, but I was disappointed that there were only 8 of them compared to the dozens of Plasmids and Tonics in Bioshock. I suppose the clothing bonuses you get in Infinite take the place of Tonics, but I didn't care for the way that was implemented.

Story is fantastic though, and I feel it's a game that everyone should play.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:37
Yeah, I don't waste my hard earned $$$ on stuff that's too expensive for what it is. If you think that's judging, then you're mistaken.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:41
It's amazing that you have the omniscient power to determine something that you haven't experienced for yourself isn't worth the money.
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April 16th, 2013, 00:45
Yes, well that's why I am a smart buyer, and not impulsive when it comes to these things. Do a little research before you buy something on a whim of internet hype.

I haven't even played Bioshock 2, after getting it for $5. Why waste $60 on something with simplistic gameplay, which isn't my favorite? 'splain yourself!
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April 16th, 2013, 00:56
Sure, I could attempt to explain, but we already know that trying to explain something to you after you've already made up your mind is a fruitless endeavor.

Moving on…
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April 16th, 2013, 01:18
You already tried, and I didn't buy, so to speak. At least not for me. FPS with good exploration/story/setting, state of the art companion, and skyway gimmick isn't really what I am looking for in a $60 purchase.
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April 16th, 2013, 01:50
BioShock Infinite was easier than the previous games, but it was still fun and the roller-coaster like Sky-lines really made the game unique.

I just beat it for the second time in 1999 mode.
For those interested, here are my tips for a quick and very easy final battle…

Spoiler
Last edited by Vindicator; April 16th, 2013 at 04:26.
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April 16th, 2013, 02:33
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The fortunate thing about Bioshock Infinite is that it doesn't need deep or intricate mechanics to be one of the best games of all time.
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