Bioshock: Infinite

There are some games that you play through, think “oh that was fun” and then promptly forget about- and then there are some games you play through and become so immersed in the story and gameplay that, even after you finish, you can’t stop thinking about it. Bioshock: Infinite, I am happy to say, is one of the latter.

For those who are unfamiliar, Bioshock is a series of first-person shooter games set in creepy, dystopian worlds. The first two games, for example, is set in an underwater city called Rapture in the 1960s. The latest game in the series, Bioshock: Infinite, takes a slightly different turn, being set in 1912 in the floating city of Columbia, which had seceded from the United States about a decade before. The setting is a little more steampunk-y and less scary than the first two, but don’t let that fool you- the game still has its freaky moments.

You play as Booker DeWitt- which is the most 1912 name ever, by the way- a former detective who is sent to rescue a girl named Elizabeth in order to pay off his debts. He manages to find his way to Columbia purely by accident (although, conveniently, that’s where he’s meant to go), and straight away things are a little off. The city is run by a cult leader named Father Comstock, who believes he is a prophet. His brainwashed populace see no other way than to follow his lead.

One thing I love about this game is that it doesn’t shy away from tough issues. Ideas such as religious extremism and race relations are recurring themes, as well as the concept of moral ambiguity- one of my favourite things in every type of media. Not everything is cut and dry, and sometimes good people do shitty things. In this particular case, while the main character is the “good guy”, he is at heart kind of a terrible person. The game doesn’t try to convince you otherwise.

I’d love to talk about the ending, but I don’t want to give anything away. I just want to point out that it is a magnificent ending. It’s rough, raw, and at times a little confusing, but that fits in with the rest of the rough, raw, confusing game. So instead of spoiling it for you, I want to talk a little bit about Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is the heart and soul of Bioshock: Infinite. While at first she starts out as a naive Disney Princess-esque archetype, she actually has one of the best character arcs I’ve ever seen for a video game character. While some parts of her personality are massively unrealistic (she’s lived in a tower on her own all her life but she somehow has no problem navigating social situations? Really?), the way she grows and changes throughout the game is done very realistically. For example, when she first sees Booker kill someone, she understandably freaks out and runs away screaming. A surprisingly normal reaction from a video game character, where most other characters probably would have just shrugged and said, “Whatever, happens all the time.” It’s rare to have a character react to violence as if it’s not normal, because most video games are set in violent worlds.

Throughout the game, we see Elizabeth’s demeanour change. At first she’s cheerful, happy to be out of the tower she’s been trapped in, but slowly she starts to look haunted as the horrors that happen throughout the game start to catch up with her. Eventually she changes so much she’s barely recognizable from the character we first met, but it happens so naturally that you can’t question it. She’s more human that most video game characters I’ve ever seen.

Despite its short run time (it’s only about 10 hours long), Bioshock: Infinite is one of the most immersive, engaging games I’ve played in recent years. I would definitely recommend it even if you (like me) are not usually a fan of first-person shooters, as the combat mechanics make it so much more than your usual “aim and fire” shooter. The use of different Vigors in combat make things much more interesting, although I’ll admit I just used Possession on everything and turned my enemies against each other. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth a play, especially to see that ending.

Comedy Review- Katherine Ryan: In Trouble

Katherine Ryan is one of my favourite comedians of all time. I tell you this from the outset so you’ll know what to expect in the following post. This may be a review, but in this case, it’s mostly going to be gushing. I have nothing to criticize.

I first became familiar with Ryan on a panel show (I forget which one) on which she was by far the funniest member. Her wit and dry delivery made her an instant hit with me. And while she’s still a regular on these types of shows, she was also the second British comedian to get a stand-up special on Netflix, after Jimmy Carr (although Canadian by birth, she counts herself as a British comic as that’s where she’s based and where her career really took off).

I’m probably biased because I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, but honestly, In Trouble is just excellent. Not one joke fell flat. Ryan moves from topic to topic so seamlessly that you barely notice she’s doing it.

Ryan also doesn’t shy away from the tougher topics, from being labelled Public Enemy Number One in the Philippines thanks to an off-the-cuff joke she made on a panel show, to a joke about a Jewish man she dated which turned out to be a lot less offensive that it could have been. From being a single mother, to dating younger men, to giving a speech at her sister’s wedding, and of course taking pot shots at celebrities, nothing is off limits.

Some of you who have seen her clips on Youtube may be familiar with some of the material (spoiler alert: comedians don’t just say a joke once and discard it. Sorry to disappoint). However, her delivery in this special is a lot crisper and tighter, making her more well-known jokes feel fresh and new. Obviously, there is also a lot of new material to make it worth a watch even if you’re already a well-versed Katherine Ryan fan.

While I can understand that some of her jokes may make people slightly uncomfortable (there are some jokes that are not racial slurs in the slightest but could definitely be misconstrued), to me at least, Katherine Ryan didn’t stop being funny for a second. I’ve seen her special twice now and would definitely watch it a third time. Whether you’re familiar with her work or not, Katherine Ryan is definitely worth checking out. And In Trouble is a great place to start.