BioShock Infinite Benchmarked
For the original German review, see here.
"Freedom must be limitless above the clouds." These lyrics by the German artist Reinhard Mey come relatively close to the current work of Irrational Games, but are not quite correct. On the one hand BioShock Infinite is set inside the clouds rather than above, and on the other hand the freedom does not go as far as some fans would have wished for. Wait a second, inside the clouds? For everyone who has culpably ignored this action title so far: In BioShock Infinite we embody the Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt who sets forth for the cloud city Columbia in 1912 to rescue the mysterious Elizabeth. It is no surprise to shooter experts that this job is no picnic and the path is paved with danger.
Just like in the first BioShock, the game starts in a light house. But this is the only similarity between the two games concerning atmosphere. Unlike the first BioShock, BioShock Infinite unfolds a picturesque idyll at the beginning of the game. However this misleads extremely. The "steampunk-like" cloud empire is dominated by a man named Comstock. The ubiquitous propaganda posters praise Comstock as prophet and religious leader. Attentive players will notice quickly that not everything runs smoothly behind the curtains because, just as in reality, there are some citizens who exaggerate with their faith and piousness. Differently put: Columbia is ruled by racism and fanaticism. It is no surprise that the main character soon spoils things with the citizens and heads for a confrontation.
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This brings us to the main part of this action representative: the fights. In comparison to its predecessors, the developer has pepped up the gunfights significantly. Weapons, shooting sounds, and hit feedback do not have to shy away from other ego-shooters. The players who have already played parts of the BioShock series will quickly get comfortable with the underlying mechanics. Despite of diverse renaming (e.g. the magic skills, which you achieve along your way, are now called vigors instead of plasmids) nearly every familiar element is easy to find.
Irrational Games has even installed a few innovations. Articles of clothing, which are mostly well hidden in the levels, give Booker DeWitt several extras. Needless to say weapons and special capabilities are upgradable as well. Additionally, every few meters you are illuminated by a vending machine. There you can buy vital energy, salt (the mana of BioShock Infinite), and ammunition for hard cash.
Speaking of cash: Besides money, countless snacks like chocolate bars and fruit are distributed all over the magnificent surrounding (they affect the vital energy or the mana stock). For our taste though the developer has overdone it with the collectable objects again because if there is one thing missing in BioShock it is difficulty. As a halfway experienced gamer you will rarely get into trouble on the normal level of difficulty. Thanks to the vigors and the sumptuous ammunition and health supply even larger groups of enemies should not present themselves as a problem. The average AI, which often shows drop outs, does not help to increase the difficulty. Many times we could shoot ourselves thoughtlessly and without any tactics through the varied areas. In a word: The character is a little bit too powerful.
"Powerful" also fits for the atmosphere of the game. It borders to insanity what Irrational Games has delivered in this category. We have not seen such harmonious design and attention to detail in a long time (Dishonored was one of the last highlights). We have to pay the developers respect for their unbelievable effort. Nearly every screenshot could be a wonderful poster, wallpaper or picture in an art-book. The game world nearly explodes because of all those objects, be it flowers, candles, market stands, balloons or flags. Atmospherically speaking, BioShock Infinite is the new reference.
The terrific atmosphere is accentuated by a no less than superb soundtrack (20’s style). Especially in the first two hours you practically would like to dive into the screen. The wonderful melodies, which were partly interpreted by in-game choirs and orchestras, cause goose bumps. Even the voice-over suits very well.
Irrational Games does not only indulge the gamer optically and acoustically but also historically – in the true sense of the word. Despite the rather simple main quest (find Elizabeth and care for her) BioShock offers quite a bit content wise. Those who do not simply run through are confronted with lots of US history: the period of slavery, war of independence, political and religious questions – the range is huge. Theoretically you can spend hours just with the unimportant details. The people of Columbia are set somewhere between the Ku Klux Klan and naive idealism – a rather unconventional topic for a computer game.
The architecture of the levels is also quite unusual: Via grab hooks we sometimes hook ourselves up to the rail system of Columbia and speed through the area (incl. change of rails and death-from-above option). Even though the surrounding was mainly linearly designed you often discover alternative routes which reveal new audio books, secrets or side quests. The overall impression is topped off with a thought out and smooth control.
With the exception of the low level of difficulty we could not find any serious flaws. The ego shooter only allows itself a few minor ones:
- Theft is rarely punished. You can basically steal everything that is not nailed down.
- The progress is automatically saved at certain spots. A quick-save option is missing.
- Many characters look extremely alike or are completely identical (clone enemies).
- The title is very action-packed. A few more riddles and moments of rest would have suited the game well.
- Most of the objects do not react to exterior influences (no physics).
- Some textures look mushy at close-up.
BioShock Infinite holds an integrated benchmark which is offered directly at the beginning of the game. With a graphical plain command line (rather unsuitable for laymen) you can adjust the setting and resolution. After a short loading sequence several scenes from the beginning of the action title appear. The complete benchmark takes about 1.5 minutes (see video). At the end BioShock Infinite gives out a detailed .csv file, which you can also obtain through the personal Windows folder (C:\Users\Name\Documents\My Games\BioShock Infinite\Benchmarks). You can find the average fps at the second spot in line "Overall".
As a general rule: While the processor is barely loaded, the graphics card works up a sweat. Due to temporary performance break-downs, which also affect stronger GPUs, the refresh rate should be set above 35-40. Sad to say, BioShock Infinite is not optimized perfectly at the moment. During the game – autonomously from the used hardware – we sometimes experienced some low frame rates.
In every aspect the technology works fine. The modified Unreal Engine 3 shines amongst others with high quality reflections and light effects. The color was also carefully chosen. The unique style and high level of detail help to overlook the existing texture weaknesses. Beside the screen mode, the aspect ratio, and the resolution you can also change the graphics quality and the brightness. With the option "Lock Framerate" (Irrational Games' VSync counterpart) time lapses are eliminated if needed.
The presets Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Very High, and Ultra help to adjust BioShock to the performance of your system. Great: No restart is needed after changes. Since the title only supports DirectX 10 and DirectX 11, owners of DirectX 9 computers (Windows XP) are left outside. As our screenshots prove, the action game still looks acceptable at medium details. Only the preset Very Low really pulls the graphics quality downwards.
Due to the benchmark results it is not very noticeable that BioShock Infinite belongs to AMD’s program "Gaming Evolved". On the contrary: With the brand new ForceWare 314.11, which underlies this article, Nvidia models score higher by tendency. Slower GPUs at the level of the Intel HD Graphics 4000 can handle the preset low or very low at the most (1280x720). Potent representatives of the middle class like the Radeon HD 8750M or the GeForce GT 640M run also smoothly at medium to high settings (1366x768). For very high details and a 1600x900 resolution you need a high-end model like the GeForce GTX 660M. 1920x1080 pixel and maximum graphics options demand one of the current front runners (GeForce GTX 675MX, GTX 680M, or Radeon HD 7970M). If you exclude the DirectX 11 mode, the hardware demands are not that high though.
BioShock Infinite turns out to be an impressive roller-coaster ride. Every once in a while even hardboiled shooter experts will sit marveling in front of the screen to enjoy the unique atmosphere. The artistic qualities are nearly unrivaled. Those who are even remotely interested in the action genre should definitely try out this title. BioShock Infinite already ranks among the best games of the year.
Most of the results were taken from devices provided by the company Schenker Notebooks (mysn.de):
- XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M(X), GTX 680M, Radeon HD 7970M & HD Graphics 4000)
- XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M)
- Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000)
- Each with 8 GB DDR3-RAM (2x 4096 MB @ 1600 MHz), 160 GB SSD (Intel 320 Series) & Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit
GPU drivers: Nvidia 314.22, AMD 13.3 Beta 3 & Intel 126.96.36.19932.