[WHAT DID YOU DO AAA?] Bioshock Infinite. Terrible combat :(

edited in General
I've realised that I don't post on here enough. Let's see how long I can keep topics like this going :P

So Bioshock Infinite, if you haven't played it, probably stop reading right here, as I assume there will be


With that out of the way, what was wrong with Bioshock Infinite, I hear you ask?
Well, the combat was completely schizophrenic in it's design. And here's why.

1 - You can only carry 2 guns at a time, but you can collect ammo for all the other gun types.
2 - Enemies drop guns when you kill them.
3 - You upgrade a specific weapon type, and somehow, all the guns of that type that you find are magically better.

Now, 1 and 2 could play really well together. You could keep your player switching to 'found' guns and stop them becoming complacent with any particular weapon. Having the ammo for other gun types still be collectable makes it even more compelling to switch guns all the time!

Then you have 3. You don't *want* to switch guns, because you just sunk $3000 into upgrading your shotgun. Upgrades that, towards the end of the game, feel necessary to progress properly. If you drop that shotgun, you might not find another one for a good 45 minutes (though you will, infuriatingly, fill on up ammo for it in about 5 minutes!).

Bioshock 1 gave you a very personalised set of weapons, where you were carrying them all with you the entire time. Not to mention that they all had multiple ammo types that you could load into them. Infinite feels like they broke the combat from 1, and replaced it with a simplistic, modern-day-shootery mess :/

But man .... how cool was that story!

P.S. Discuss! We can talk also get into how 'Vigors' are completely inferior to 'Plasmids'
P.P.S watch this video from extra credits, where they talk about some related stuff


  • Bioshock Infinite is full of plot holes. Especially when it comes to weapons.

    I was rather confused further on in the game, when there is an oversaturation of machinegun type weapons. I didn't even bother trying them out, as I had upgraded my own one, and there was ample ammo around for me not to change.

    That being said, I never felt the need to keep swapping weapons. I felt more confortable with the machinegun and shotgun I had from the start of the game.

    And yes, wow... what an amazing story. Kept me glued the entire time, much like Bioshock 1 and 2 did :D.
  • I forgot to mention that I played it on Hard. I frequently found that I'd run out of ammo before too long, and be forced to switch. I've heard that on Normal, you could stick to 2 weapons.

    I'd say that is a pretty bad design idea too, since weapons encountered early had the most chance of being upgraded, which meant players would be less likely to try out other weapons.
  • I played it on normal as well and just like the in BS 1 and 2 I found sticking to my machine gun/shotgun was the best option.

    That being said I felt their was a bit of an over saturation of weapons. Having a variety is fine I suppose, but some are just redundant and do not seem to serve any purpose aside from adding variation.

    Most of the game is absolutely amazing though, and the story... it is done masterfully, think we can assume Ken Levine wasn't working on the combat design team :P
  • Here's a dumb question... would you guys suggest picking up Bioshock Infinite even though I haven't played BS1 and BS2?
  • @Aequitas, do you have a theory of why this happened? I haven't played any bioshock yet so I can't tell you what my experiences are, but it almost seems to me like a case of : "The trend in FPS games is 2 weapons and people like upgrading stuff...so we'll just put it in as well." I can just hear someone saying something like that.

    Also, (as a design exercise) how would you have fixed it? I haven't played the games so I can't really give an example, but maybe they would have been better off keeping the combat exactly the same as the first one and focusing on the story aspect instead. I have heard it said that the main reason to play bioshock is for the story anyways...
  • @escapecontrol Actually the third on isn't related to the first two at all, so yes you can :P
  • @Rigormortis I think the upgrades were there to 'service the brand', while the two weapon limit does seem like a 'modern FPS' trope.

    Personally, I could go one of two ways with this type of combat. Either I'd add an 'upgradable' element, that makes sense to hold on to, and can be switched between various weapons. So for instance, a 'fire' mod that you could attach to 30% of the weapons, and you can upgrade the fire mod. It could even do different things to different guns. Some it could increase their fire rate, others it could add burning damage, etc. And have a variety of different mods.

    The other route would be de-emphasizing combat/upgrading, and probably do away with ammo carrying entirely, making weapons only usable with the ammo you find in them. Make them much more powerful, so switching mid-combat is *necessary*. This would also create much less combat, but the game is so narrative driven, that the combat often feels superfluous anyway.
  • Thanks @Adonais! Will have to check it out then :)
  • Cool chat on this last night - every time I read the topic header though I read it as "what did you do AAAAAHHH"... it amuses me
  • I must say I really enjoyed this conversation starter last night - Great way to get us all bouncing ideas and solutions off each other (and seeing how we all can think of different ways to solve the same problem) rather than just having a talk.

    I hope there are more of these in future :)
  • I will see if I can keep coming up with them. But there's nothing stopping others from doing the same :)
  • Just echoed what @dammit said on the event thread...
  • I like the idea of having to toss your gun to pick up new ones, limited ammo makes having different weapons make so much sense. How about upgrading your character to affect the weapons in different ways, and make it so you can only have 2 upgrades at a time?
  • That would certainly be interesting. Almost every suggestion has had some sort of twist on this theme, where you upgrade something that isn't just 'this type of gun'
  • edited
    I finally started playing Bioshock Infinite. Previously I'd stopped reading at the *Spoilers* point.

    Now I don't play a lot of AAA. I try to play the ones that do something interesting, and I rarely finish those (I'm prolly not going to finish Bioshock Infinite for instance). So I'm not really aware of AAA conventions... Also I've only played about 6 hours.

    Nevertheless I'm a bit surprised that the 2-guns-among-many-and-upgrade-gun-type is the only combat/gameplay being critiqued here (maybe there was more critique in the talk?)

    Maybe it's implied in this conversation already, but don't the vigors share the same problem (to a lesser degree as the vigor upgrades are more interesting/expensive) ? (and have other problems as well)

    Also, the choice of the vigor special ability basically doesn't matter, beyond that you use one. After a while I just stuck to shock and chucked a few of them if there were more than two enemies on screen. I could have done the same thing with crows or flame (and only didn't because shock seemed to affect more enemy types).

    Also, hard resistances for attack types. Surely that's just outright unquestionably weak design? Limiting player choice doesn't add strategic depth and never has. Switching from crows to lightning when faced with a crow-immune enemy doesn't take much thought and produces as much of a reward (my crows were denied the chance to face off against that machine arbitrarily is what I felt at the time, changing to always using lightning instead didn't add depth to the game). I'm not against theming enemies, but theme didn't seem to be the design intent for the resistances.

    It was nice to have fancy abilities, and shocking a bady until his head pops was certainly a lol, but there was very little depth to the abilities. Either I threw the ability at an enemy's feet, or I missed (or used the wrong ability). And what really mattered was that I was consistently shooting the bady's while whatever vigor effect was distracting them.

    Also, what about the constant foraging? This isn't a survival horror game like Metro where every little bit counts, but I found myself scrounging almost constantly, at least padding my play time by an extra third, if not more, entirely occupied with rote.

    (To be fair, foraging in other AAA's I've played, like Fable, have been worse).

    What about the sky rails being basically a waste of time in combat? (certainly up until the point I played). Because most of the enemies have hit scan weapons, and because you have regenerating health, the best strategy in every situation is to hide behind cover (despite how badass it would feel to drop on them from above).

    And what about the first person melee combat? I like that it's so visceral, but it's only really interesting if you've stunned an enemy already (as a finisher move for enemies that get close). Close range fights with un-stunned enemies were just flailing-fests. I'd think close range vigor abilities would have been far more interesting.

    For the first few fights, before I received the shield, I had fairly high hopes for the combat. The enemy AI really didn't suit the tone of the game (they don't coordinate and they have zero awareness that you've just exploded the heads of all their friends with lightning fingers for instance), but at least all the foraging I was doing felt like it mattered, and then I got the shield and it didn't. And then I got a companion who started throwing health kits at me...

    The story is good, and so I'm tempted to play more. But beyond the story and the pretty sets I'm not having a very good time.

  • I was waiting for someone to talk about the Vigors in this thread... They really didn't feel anywhere near as interesting as they could have been. The previous Bioshock games really differentiated the abilities the player could use and even made them work together in interesting ways - you could electrocute water that enemies were standing in, or set fire to puddles of oil. I feel like one of the largest issues that started the vigors out on their path to basically being nothing more than interchangeable enemy stun buttons is the sheer size and scope of the combat arenas.

    Bioshock 1 and 2 had very tight, compressed combat happening in often claustrophobic areas of the game. It made sense for these access corridors to have oil and steam vents and metal debris all over them, it made sense for the undersea walkways to be prone to leaks and be covered in water puddles. That meant that each of the different plasmids and tonics created interesting choices for the player.

    The combat in Infinite happens in these universally similar open environments. Everything you have has to be effective over these stupidly variable distances, so there's little scope for actual variance in the effects of vigors and weapons themselves. That's also why melee combat is so useless in Infinite: In the first 2 games it was bloody necessary! You ended up close to enemies pretty damn often. But in Infinite, most combat happens at mid- to long-range anyway, why bother trying to melee something when you have to walk up to the thing, taking fire all the while, to do so? Yes, a couple of the vigors you get late in the game are actually different and expose some usefulness, especially the ones that make melee feasible again, but by that point the game has trained you to fire your enemy-stun-ability and shoot enemies while they can't move for hours and hours. For what it's worth, I found the crow-nest-on-death upgrade the best bang for buck: It stunned enemies the longest, provided one of them died while stunned.

    So yeah, vigors are rather crap. And yes, the rails are rather annoying too. The worst part is that they become almost essential later in the game if you keep your difficulty up because enemies come at you from above, meaning you have to keep running instead of hiding and regenerating health. Rails mean you can escape from handymen, which are universally annoying to fight against. I'd have loved something neat like magnetising a metal enemy with a vigor so you could shoot at it around corners... Or spring-loaded quantum monofilaments that would hurl in-game physics objects at the point you anchored them to in the world geometry when triggered. Imagine "stapling" an enemy to a wall, then another enemy crosses that tripline and both of them are flung into the wall? Then you cover them in bees.

    Aw man, now I miss Bioshock 2.

    I fucking hate the foraging in Infinite. It was annoying in the first two games, but at least there it made sense to root through the debris-choked access tunnels and alleyways of a place that's falling apart in search of a couple of extra bullets or a can of food... Infinite is all about these huge vistas and sweeping views in the clouds, but you end up fucking sliding around the walls and edges of everything, hoping for your magical interact button to light up so you can dig in a trash can for money that these rich bastards just throw away. Yay?

    I really wish first-person games would just zoom back and go third person when you held down a "scrounge" button, showing you everything you could pick up nearby and letting you highlight stuff and collect it super fast. Why force me to stare at the walls and floor for ages, hunting knicknacks that aren't even useful most of the time? But you have to keep doing it, otherwise you might miss that hidden recording device!

    And what the hell is with those useless telescopes?
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky: I started the topic on the gunplay, because it's the most egregious of the problems. But I think talking about all the problems has more than enough merit, so please continue.

    The Vigors are a real problem, since the crowd control ones come in quite late.

    Another very real issue is that of the random equipment. The pants/hats/shirts that you find, the ones that can radically change how your combat experience flows, are random. Yes, you always find them in the same places, but if you were to find one, and didn't like it, you could re-load your save, and go find it again since you'd get a different piece of gear.

    ... they actually created a 'scumming friendly' linear game ...
  • edited
    I think, Re the expansive distances that make combat a hide-in-cover-and-point-and-click affair, they must have intended that the player run around jumping from rail to rail and dive bombing enemies.

    but, assuming that is what they were trying to achieve (which their early trailers do suggest):

    A ) their level design is shitty.

    There should be more rails/hooks early on and player teaching. e.g. There are enemies firing at you from behind an armored front (or siege weapon). Use a hook or rail to smash them from above and then use that siege weapon against other enemies.

    And the angles in the levels are all wrong. The way they are designed gives the player great views of all the enemy entrances from the player's origination point. i.e. the levels are designed as shooting galleries. There is no advantage in leaping into the middle of the enemies as that would leave you more surrounded than when you started.

    There aren't situations, as far as I could tell, where because of the level design you start off vulnerable to attack but can use rails to get to a better position. As far as I could tell you always start off in a good spot, hanging from a hook is always worse, and diving into the middle of the fight is to your disadvantage.

    Although in truth I haven't tried leaping on rails a lot in the few places where that was an option. I'm sure later in the game it factors in more.

    B ) The enemies aren't well designed for making mobility advantageous in combat.

    Hit-scan enemies and machine-gun turrets. Meh.

    Making big guys that force you to get onto the rails isn't a bad move, but it does speak to a failure to incentivise their own most appealing gameplay mechanic through actual fun. (And instead they need to build enemies that are almost guaranteed death when a player is not on a rail in order to get players off the ground) What should have been a cool strategic option for players instead becomes a necessary escape from certain death.

    This is mostly going by what @Dislekcia said about there being lots of handymen later on. I've only fought one handyman during my play session.

    C ) The AI is shitty.

    The AI cannot be surprised or lose track of you. Interesting situations where you leap onto a roof to avoid gunfire and your enemies become uncertain as to where you are cannot happen (as far as I can tell).

    As a player I was quite able to lose track of the enemies that flew in or out on rails, but my enemies behaved like cyborgs.

    The AI also don't do fun things like clump together or cower or surrender. Several times I was forced to hunt down a single wayward measly enemy before I could progress in the story. Having a surrender that neutralizes enemies would have wasted less of my time.

    Also, I still don't get how these ultra conservative/racist military men were so okay with me throwing lightning at them. It really broke my immersion. But that's more a ludonarrative dissonance issue than an issue of gameplay.

    I mean, how does that briefing go:

    "Okay men, you've got to hunt down this dude that can literally throw balls of blue crystals that permanently electrify the ground under your feet and also spawn crows that tear off your flesh. He's killed about 1000 of you so far, so to fight him we're going to send you in in groups of 7 or 8. Does that sound alright?"

    "The usual then?"

    *Jolly laughter*
  • Now I want to make a game that's all about putting together those briefings.
  • But haven't you just described the same briefing that's gone out to just about ALL shooters' AI enemies? I can't think of a single shooter where that situation isn't true in one form or another :)
  • In Bioshock 1 and 2 you weren't being attacked by an organised, military force. You were being beset by insane drug addicts with superpowers and armored genetically-manipulated guardians of tiny girls. No briefings required!

    Good games with organised military intervention often don't need to have those sorts of briefings, OR they scale their responses accordingly. In Halflife Freeman is just a guy that gets lucky, the soldiers actually talk about that before you ambush them. If your justification for having a constant stream of bussed-in enemies is "The military is trying to stop you!" and that's it, you're not world-building, you're rationalising crap AI and encounter design ;)
  • Good point :) I'm thinking of Killzone 3, Bulletstorm, Vanquish (I love how I forgot the name and googled "sliding ps3 game shooter 3rd person epic" and found it), and a whole bunch of similar games I can't remember off-hand now cos I don't play them anymore :)

    And I have to admit I haven't played any of the Bioshocks ever so I'm just butting in where I probably don't belong :P
  • I don't think you're butting in ;)

    In a way, what you're saying just underlines how much more solidly the gameplay was integrated into the world in Bioshock 1 and 2 and how far it's slipped in Infinite. It really feels like they got to a point where they felt they had to keep combat encounters going and so they just threw in the towel and went with constantly respawning military meat-grinder fodder.
  • Yeah it's sounding pretty teh suck from what you guys are saying. When AAA gives up and neglect entire tracts of the game it makes me sad. So much time and so much money for meh-ness.
  • edited
    Yeah, any zombie shooter or post-apocalypse shooter can get away with bunches of disorganized fodder for enemies. But that wasn't the enemies were described in the Bioshock Infinite narrative.

    I think Bulletstorm's gangs of mutant thugs were fine for the most part as adversaries, whereas the military in Bioshock Infinite behaved like military when they weren't fighting (they came in in apparently organized groups yelling things like "We've got you surrounded" etc), and then after they saw you they behaved exactly like mutant thugs.

    Though I do feel, even in games with mutant thugs, that more believable/variable/reactive behaviour would benefit the games. Particularly because AAA games are going so hard in on believability in other areas (like graphics).

    But yeah. I'm keen to play The Last Of Us sometime soon. From what I can gather they've put a lot more effort into making their enemies respond appropriately (and responsive in general).
  • Yeah Bulletstorm was a good fit, I was actually more referring to Vanquish and Killzone 3, though they did blabber a bit (the Killzone guys), in general they felt like endless hoards, like pretty much any other shooter.

    Also I think I wasn't sensitive enough to that kind of stuff before, but now I'm more likely to pick up on the dissonance. (but I seldom play those now... Am playing Metal Gear Revengence though, that's been quite fun, they do quite fun AI things, though still silly-mercenary-like in many ways. At least they are aware and look for you, etc.)
  • edited
    Other things that bother me now that I've tried the game on hard:

    Because of the recharging shield, in order to maintain "hard" difficulty they have balanced three or more enemies to be able to deplete you shields within a few seconds. So combat involves showing you face and trying to kill one or two enemies and then hiding again.

    Then, because more time is spent hiding than shooting in many encounters, and because their enemies arb around during combat, they have the problem that player lose track of where the enemies are. Apparently this is such an issue that they are forced to place icons that float on the hud indicating where the major threats are.

    I guess they decided that was a better solution than making the enemies move predictably (or maybe not move in some cases) or designing their visuals so that the enemies would be easy to identify.

    Speaking of poorly designed combat visuals, the first time I encountered those hanging chain rocket launchers I had no idea what was shooting me for about 10 minutes. Because they shoot out 8 or so rockets one after another that move drunkenly while spewing black smoke they are more often than not unseeable, and this is exacerbated by having to regenerate one's shield half the time, and this is exacerbated by them not even looking like a weapon (they're textured murky brown with no highlights or insignia) and as most player weaponry (and most vigors including the machine possession vigor) are useless against them even after I'd identified them I wasn't certain whether I was meant to be killing them or not.

    And for a game where hiding from enemies is required, why is the cover so unreliable. Just being slightly visible (like a corner of you showing) can mean taking a hit which delays your shield regeneration or which might even kill you, and it's not always possible to know whether a particular piece of cover will work because the enemies move unpredictably and you're hiding half the time.

    While I'm not the biggest fan of the Gears of War franchise (mostly just because it's a shooter on controllers, not because I think it's designed badly), the fact that cover is reliable there makes fighting enemy hordes vastly far more enjoyable (because you can make meaningful decisions about advancing and hiding). (Obviously there are other good things about Gears of War combat as well, but in this particular aspect it owns Bioshock Infinite almost embarressingly).

    I felt like all the decisions in "hard" difficulty were designed around expecting more caution / patience (rather than skill). Waiting for enemies to show themselves (or come closer) from where I knew was safe (a place with few angles of attack) would have worked best in most cases. I'd certainly feel it more accurate if games like Bioshock Infinite term their skill levels "Easy", "Normal" and "Tedious".

    Sort of. More caution would have helped certainly. But I guess what bothered me most is that I died a few times and didn't know what I was doing wrong. I felt like it was handing me cock deaths, and sometimes when I was winning I'd be winning because of flaws in its AI (I killed a handyman because he failed to path-find around a corner and just stood there instead).

    (f.y.i. I played Bullet Storm on hard and super-hard and didn't feel it was punishing me for being aggressive and when I died I always felt like it was fair)
  • @Merrik That video is pretty amazing :D. I particularly enjoyed how he compared the combat to other classic FPSes in order to show where Infinite went wrong.

    He also addresses the exact same reasons I feel that Infinite's story is quite forced and poor. The original Bioshock had complete synthesis - almost every element: levels/enemies/combat contributed to the narrative. In Infinite, this is not the case - in some ways the entire plot is fabricated to tie it weakly to the Bioshock universe.

    Honestly, I feel the only way the gameplay could have matched Infinite's story is if you played as Elizabeth. It would have been much more interesting and had much more relation to the narrative premise. They would have had to rework some things, but it would have been more interesting than Infinite's weak combat :(.
  • Bensonance said:
    Honestly, I feel the only way the gameplay could have matched Infinite's story is if you played as Elizabeth
    It would be pretty interesting if you had to try prevent your AI partner, Booker, from rampaging around the city and murdering everyone like a lunatic.
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