It is deja vu the moment you start Bioshock Infinite, the third installment of the franchise.
As in the first Bioshock, you are out at sea heading towards a lighthouse. But instead of swimming to the lighthouse after the plane crash, you are now ferried there.
But instead of sinking into the 1960s dystopia of Rapture, you are catapulted up to the floating city of Columbia set in 1912.
Although this game shares the Bioshock name, it does not share the storyline of the previous titles.
As Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former private investigator, you are tasked to find Elizabeth, a young woman who has been held captive in Columbia for the past 15 years.
Unlike the Claustrophobic drenched Rapture, Columbia feels like Utopia, with children playing, adults attending carnivals and people greeting you in beautiful gardens and lush open spaces.
Neo-classical buildings built on giant reactors and suspended by self-sustaining are set against a vivid blue sky dotted with pearly white clouds.
A network of metal rails, known as Sky-line, connects the buildings and districts, adding to the dramatic landscape.
Columbia is one of the most stunning worlds ever created in the world of electronic gaming.
I spent more time exploring every corner of Columbia and admiring the scenery than in finding Elizabeth.
From an early battle with some policemen, you obtain a melee weapon called a Sky-Hook. It’s three rotating scoops provide a ghastly way to kill enemies. It also allows you to latch onto the Sky-Line and glide around the city.
You fire weapons with your right hand and unleash magic abilities or Vigor with the left,such as throwing a jolt of electricity at an enemy.
Only retro guns are available, including a C96 Mauser lookalike pistol and machine guns that resemble MP18 and M1 Carbine.
Combat is intense and haunting, with realistic sound effects and some memorable enemies such as the Motorised Patriot, a robot with George Washington’s face; who carries a huge Gatling gun (Pepper mill). And the Fireman who unleashes fireballs from a boiler on his back.
But it is Elizabeth who makes this game unique. Once found, she will be your constant companion. She never gets in the way and never needs protection. Under fire, she will hand you ammunition, health kits and other supplies.
She also has a special ability to open Tears, or alter space-time continuum to summon turrets and other help. She is the key to the story and as it progresses, she changes – from the way she looks at you to the emotion in her voice.
All the voice actors deliver splendid performances that make this game feel like an epic movie.
With it’s originality, gorgeous graphics, intense combat and innovative art direction;
Bioshock Infinite is simply the best game for me this year.