What is the difference between a remake and a remaster?

There has been a lot of discussion about video game remakes recently. Final Fantasy VII Remake’s release is one of the biggest video game events this year, but then people realized it might not be the remake they once thought it was. Then Trials of Mana came out, and it WAS the remake that people thought that FFVIIR was going to be. Sakura Wars got a “remake” but it was nearly unidentifiable from its original IP. Meanwhile, Resident Evil III got remade and was somehow completely updated while remaining faithful to the original.

How are all these remakes so different from each other? Well, we use the term “remake” for a lot of things in the gaming world, but we are really describing different practices. Some remakes will barely update anything from the original IP, when some will gut it completely and change everything you know and love, sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse.

To help you get a grasp on all these different design philosophies, we have attempted to categorize the many different styles of video game remake in order from least changed to most changed. Here’s what we came up with.

Rereleases

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Rereleases are simple. They are the same game released again. All of those Game of the Year editions? Those are rereleases. Sometimes rereleases will come with new content and when this happens it kind of blurs the line. Persona 5 Royal is a good example. Is it a release or is it a…

Rebalances

Rebalances are a rerelease of a game, but with new content specifically meant to refine the experience of the first game. Sometimes these are bug fixes but most of the time these are thorough balance reworks. These were very common in fighting games in the era of Street Fighter II, where a million new editions of the same game would come out, each with a few new pieces of content along with a major rebalancing update.

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Rebalances have largely become obsolete in the age of online patching, however, every so often you’ll still see some games come out with a rebalance alongside a patch, like Skullgirls: 2nd Encore or Street Fighter V: Champion Edition.

Ports

Ports are, once again, relatively simple. They are a rerelease of a game to a new platform. There are really two major types of ports. The first is intragenerational, when a game gets ported to another platform in the same technological generation. When a console game comes to PC or vice-versa, that’s an intragenerational port. An intergenerational port is when a game is ported from devices of one generation to another. All these Wii U games coming to the Switch are intergenerational ports.

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Sometimes ports will include new features or new content, but most of the time they are pretty minor. Some of the best ports will add extra gameplay onto the end of the original game. Atlus is well known for these. There’s no particular name for a type of port that just tacks on extra game to the original game, but it’s a practice we would like to see more of.

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It’s also worth noting that all those “collections” of older games that you see on newer consoles are also ports. The Mega Man Z/ZX Legacy Collection is really just a bundle of several ports.

Remasters

For the most part, all the categories we have discussed so far re-use assets from the original release. Even if they don’t, whatever new assets are included are not particularly better than the original assets.

Remasters attempt to change that. The focus of any remaster is presentation. They seek to update the graphics and sound of any older game. Remasters will present the player with smoother textures, updated models, re-recorded voice tracks, new soundtracks, and more. They are also usually intergeneration ports, as it’s exceedingly rare for a game to need to be remastered in the same generation.

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If your game comes with “HD” at the end of it, it’s probably a remaster. Some remasters barely update anything, simply running the original game through a texture filter of some sort, while some are massive undertakings to completely update older games for modern hardware, such as the Crash and Spyro collections.

Retranslations And Rescripts

Every so often a game will be rereleased with a brand-new script. The gameplay stays the same, and sometimes even the graphics stay the same, but the text, and in modern cases the voice actors, are completely different. This is a rescript, or as we more commonly call them, a retranslation.

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Why do we more commonly call them that? Well it’s rare (but not unheard of) that a game gets rescripted in its language of origin, but games often get rescripted when they are getting translated for new territories. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is a very good example. Its entire script was redone from the ground up to more accurately represent the story that the original Final Fantasy Tactics was trying to portray.

It’s rare that a game is just a retranslation. Retranslations are usually tacked on to ports or otherwise released as patches. That means that retranslations usually bundle a lot of other extra content alongside them. Still, you’ll find games classified as retranslations when their new scripts are the main selling point.

Updates Or Classical “Remakes”

This is what we usually mean when we say the word “remake.” In these games the general plot, characters, setting, etc. from the original game are retained, and the general idea of the gameplay from the original is retained as well, but everything is rebuilt from the ground up. That means new assets, new control schemes, maybe some new content, new rebalancing, so on so forth.

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Trials of Mana is a good example of what we consider to be a classical remake. Its original version was a 16-bit SNES game. This new version is a modern action RPG, but so much of it has stayed the same. The script is the same, even though it’s voice acted now. Character appearances are basically the same, even though they are HD models instead of sprites. The battle system has changed quite a bit, but you face the same enemies, use the same spells with the same effects, gain the same XP, and so on. For all intents and purposes, it is just a modern version of a game we had played once before.

Note, that “demakes,” ironically, also fall into this category. Taking a modern game and making all new assets for it to play on a lower technology platform still kind of counts as “remaking” the game.

Reimagining And Adaptations

Here is where things get a little sticky. In the movie world, the line between a remake and a reimagining is clear. If the script and plot is basically the same, but with new actors, it’s a remake. If it’s different, then it’s a reimagining or an adaptation. In short, reimaginings are the original property, but with a “what if” thrown in. What if this element of the story were different? What if this character were different?

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In games, it gets a bit more complicated because you can change a lot about a game without changing its story, and it will still feel like a completely different game. Changing a game genre, for example, would be an adaptation as much as changing a game’s core cast of characters. You could argue that the jump from the original Wolfenstein to Wolfenstein 3D and then to the modern Wolfenstein series all consist of reimaginings and adaptations. Of course, you could also argue that they are…

Pseudo-Sequels

These are rare, but an interesting type of remake. While they appear to be one of the other remakes on this list, eventually it’s revealed that they are actually taking place in the original game’s universe. Final Fantasy VII Remake is actually a pseudo-sequel, as is the modern Star Trek movie franchise, and arguably the modern Doom games (though it’s pretty clearly revealed that you are playing as the original Doomslayer early on).

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At their best, pseudo-sequels are brilliant acts of narrative subversion. At their worst, they are hokey gimmicks that seek to please fans but end up pleasing no one.

Reboots

Now we are getting to the far end of the remake spectrum. Reboots throw out, well basically everything except the basic concept of the original IP. Sometimes they will reuse names or familiar elements of the original story, but for the most part you are getting something completely new.

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DMC, the much maligned Devil May Cry reboot is an example of a… well… reboot. Sure, you still played as a half-demon named Dante, but for all intents and purposes he was a different character than the Dante we knew and loved. The villains were different, the locales were different, and even the battle system was different.

That being said… it wasn’t as bad as people remember it being.

Spiritual Sequels And Inspirations

Finally we have the furthest end of the remake spectrum, where literally everything is thrown out including the original IP! These games are basically recognizable as similar in formula to other games we know and love, but otherwise have nothing in common.

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Many classic designers ditch their original companies to create spiritual sequels to their original games. Bloodstained, for example, is a spiritual sequel to Symphony of the Night. It plays like SotN, but has no characters in common. In fact, the only thing it has in common is the mechanics, and even then the mechanics have been extensively updated.

However, there are lots of other games that count as spiritual sequels too. One Step from Eden is a spiritual sequel to Mega Man EXE, but had no staff in common. 20XX was the same for Mega Man X. The main change here was that both of these spiritual sequels are also rogue-likes.

So there you have it, the many types of remakes in the video game world. Does this change anything? Will it make you look any more favorable on games such as Final Fantasy VII Remake? Probably not, but hey, people like to put things in categories. So have fun!

My BioShock Infinite review:

BioShock: Infinite is a new first-person shooter from Irrational, creators of BioShock, System Shock 2 and SWAT 4. It’s set on a flying city in 1912, where racism and religious fundamentalism dictate society. You’re up there, wielding guns and magic, to bring someone the girl and wipe away the debt. Here’s what I thought, spoiler-free.

The thing about fantastical fiction is that you’re completely at the mercy of the author. You’re paying for them to share the contents of their head with you, and in any setting not bound by the rules of our Earthly existence, they can do and justify whatever they want. The right buzzwords, pseudoscience and space-magic, and anything can be achieved, any discrepancy simply waved away.

That’s something the consumer of such tales must be prepared for, and will so often feel let down by, but conversely the author has to deal with the fact that the offerings of their own imagination may not possibly be able to satisfy someone who’s become invested in the tale they began. That must be a bitter pill to swallow: how can they possibly meet such an undefined expectation? I doubt that someone who took issue with the ending of Battlestar Galactica or how Stephen Moffatt often papers over Dr Who’s many plot holes with the loosest possible interpretation of temporal causality knew quite what it was they wanted to hear and see instead – they only knew what wasn’t it.

Right now, still trying to absorb the giddying clusterbomb of condensed exposition, subtle emotional clout, incredible spectacle and get-out-of-narrative-jail-free cards which hits in the final minutes of BioShock: Infinite, I just don’t know how people are going to take it. I don’t quite know how I feel about it, either: some aspects work very well and demand further analysis and retrospection, a thoughtful piecing together of what led up to it and dawning realisation of how everything connects; others are frustratingly the result of deus ex machinas and quasi-magical convenience. I can’t imagine there won’t be shouting. Then again, the shouting is arguably as component a part of a BioShock game as is the success. I think, though, that BioShock: Infinite might be a victim of its storyline to some degree: though more complete than BioShock’s, and far more fleshed out than Dishonored’s, it’s in the way of the game, this fantastical movie plot and its rollercoaster spectacle arguably transforming the mechanics of combat and exploration into something just to be got through in the hungry pursuit of Finding Out What Happens.

That wasn’t the case with the original BioShock, where the narrative, its twists and its statements almost arrived as a surprise part-way through a strange, only-in-videogames world we’d primarily plunged into because of that tantalising underwater setting and its curious denizens. The backlash that hit after the last hours of the game didn’t live up to the powerful twist beforehand seemed to be a surprise even to game director Ken Levine, who initially claimed that most players didn’t care about story and that was why the game ended a little incoherently. With Infinite, he seems to have changed his mind – story is all here, a finely-crafted web which spans from the very first second of the game to its very last, with strands reaching out to the many audio diary-based vignettes to the sides. I went into this game expecting a mystery from minute one, and craving answers to it, and that’s a very different state of affairs to Rapture’s initial tale, where the sense of mystery was initially built from atmosphere rather than brazenly teased exposition.

Here too, the mystery is corporeal, all contained within the alternately fragile and powerful form of sometime damsel-in-distress Elizabeth. Who and what is she, what can her reality-bending powers do and why can they do it? What does the floating city of Columbia want with her, and who sent you, as guilt-wracked private investigator Booker DeWitt, to retrieve her for them? What’s with that thimble on her finger? Why does she get a new haircut part-way through? She is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, occasionally wearing a low-cut dress. I notice Ken Levine occasionally shows Twitter-frustration at how many story spoilers fans ask for, but frankly he’s only got himself to blame for making Elizabeth so evidently intrigue incarnate. Like watching a movie whose poster bears a quote from some rent-an-endorsement reviewer screaming “look out for the killer twist!”, here you go into the game actively searching for narrative duplicity.

Elizabeth is a highly likeable, compelling, well-performed and human character despite being the game’s primary mouthpiece for exposition, and I did find myself sincerely missing her during those times when, for various reasons, she took a hiatus from her role as AI-controlled sidekick. She deftly avoids many of the irritations we’ve come to expect from such NPCs – no escort missions, no getting in the way or stuck on scenery, no robotic repetitions. The game’s animators have done great work with her, bringing her to life in ways both overt and subtle, though oddly some of the facial expressions she pulls make her look like someone’s been mucking with her eyes in Garry’s Mod.

That aside, she can certainly be hailed as one of the game’s greatest successes and perhaps the best FPS companion character since Alyx Vance. At the same time, she just might be Infinite’s greatest shortcoming. She, and the halo of mystery she wears, stands in the way of Infinite’s other main non-player character – the City of Columbia. Despite being an ever-present and visually remarkable – stunning, even – backdrop, its airborne nature and the society it holds is given shorter thrift, because Elizabeth and the quest for answers she represents steals so much focus.

For much of the game, I held in check my worries about why civilians were so few in number, why they’d suddenly disappear entirely, why so many of them share the same faces, why we’re given little sense of where they live, why we see or hear almost nothing of how the practicalities of living in the clouds work. So evident it was it that something strange was going on, that there was far more here than met even a far more credulous eye, that I couldn’t rule out the whole city being some character’s flight of fancy, or an elaborate hoax. But Columbia is, it transpires, very much a real place, at least as far as the game’s fiction is concerned. In terms of being a real, or at least convincing, place in a more external sense, it’s no more so than Rapture was. This is despite its still being a functioning society as the game begins, as opposed to Rapture’s post-collapse ruination-in-progress.

There are alternately wonderful and chilling scenes of this society in action, before the bubbling anger caused by the open racism its leaders mandate inevitably boils over into civil conflict. From the family funfair (very cleverly holding an optional tutorial) shortly after the game begins, to the Victorian beach-in-the-sky a few hours later, to the racially-segregated toilets and the distressingly servile attitudes its subjugated black population are ordered to demonstrate to their white ‘masters’, and to a harrowing visit to the poverty, fear and resentment Columbia’s underclass lives in, we definitely get the greatest hits of the both idealised and oppressive America the leaders of the real-world Confederacy hoped to create if they won their Civil War. I’m just not sure we get the detail, at least outside an abundance of wry, careful details in the scenery and those convenient audio diaries wherein characters both encountered and never seen share their thoughts, secrets and outrages.

The choice to include civilians who cannot be interacted with in any way, aside from occasional opportunities to murder them for no reason and without real consequence, does wind up dragging us on a visit to the uncanny valley. There they stand, doing their little routines, paying little or usually no attention to the man with the enormous gun and the hand surrounded by magical crows who’s jumping up and down on things and rummaging through the bins for coins.

Perhaps it’s a statement on how the far reaches of the upper class treat anyone who isn’t like them as too far beneath them to warrant even recognition. But I think it’s just because they’re glassy-eyed automatons sharing a surprisingly small handful of faces and voices – very much at odds with the luxuriousness shown in the rest of the game’s art – and who are conveniently made to vanish immediately and without trace as soon as the game decides it’s time for the shooty-bang-bang. And that is the truth at the heart of BioShock: Infinite: whatever it’s trying to say, whatever else it hopes to be, it ultimately speaks in the language of guns. I’d anticipated and accepted that long before going in and so was never going to complain that a first-person shooter was a first-person shooter, but I did feel frustrated that these hints of the game being something more don’t bear out.

Infinite offers long moments of observation when you can’t shoot, and shorter moments of navigation when you can choose not to shoot. Even if you do choose not to, guards will often spring into action anyway if you get too close, at which point most of the civilians pull a Batman-style disappearing act and you’re forced to fight. Columbia’s social tale, meanwhile, happens around you, regardless of you, as you wander through it, flitting between superhuman combat and hands-off sightseeing.

There are extensive scenes of society, yes, and engrossing ones at that – but they are only scenes to be seen, glass cases in a sprawling museum, and they are all too easily and all too often replaced by sudden ghost towns haunted only by men (and women) who scream blood and fury as they aim their guns at you. Enemies are Splicers without the masks, essentially – and sometimes with them, in one of many, deliberate examples of resonance with BioShock. With just a few scripted exceptions, a convincingly human policeman, soldier or guerilla rebel you will not find here: they are bellowing monsters, without the excuse of backfired genetic experimentation.

Between this and the casting of lead antagonist, Columbia’s self-deified ruler Zachary Comstock, as an out-and-out villain (unless your sympathies lie with racists and/or people who imprison their children, at least), there’s a little less nuance to this society than I’d hoped for. Rebel faction the Vox Populi, determined to free the city from its racist shackles, don’t wind up faring much better despite their cause being an infinitely more sympathetic one than Comstock’s prejudice-led despotism. It continues BioShock’s tradition of trying (not always successfully, of course) to avoid moral black and white, but at the same time there is something odd about making people with an overwhelmingly correct grievance as monstrous as those they oppose. It’s balance, yes, but almost artificially so.

I fear being guilty of an If Only You Could Talk To The Monsters moment here, but the degree to which the city’s non-military inhabitants are phantoms and its military ones psychotics is consistently distracting. I absolutely appreciate Infinite for striving to add life and depth to its battle arenas, and without a doubt there’s much there to burn itself into the memory and emotions in ways that other shooters don’t even begin to, but there’s a real frustration in being teased with a city that appears to offer interaction only to prove simply a spectacular veneer.

Let’s talk about that spectacle though. Infinite is a game ruled by artists at least as much as it is by its writers. It’s the ultimate answer to the question of whether art or technology is the most important part of creating a visually excellent game – Crysis 3 might have far more going on under the hood, but its uninspired paintjob makes it seem so dull compared to Infinite’s vaguely Pixar-esque fusion of the photoreal and the colourfully unreal. Much of its magic is conjured by backdrops and other disguised static elements, smoke and mirrors are often employed to make what are ultimately enclosed spaces feel like dramatically larger, open ones, and close inspection of textures will cause grumpiness for some, but to me it didn’t matter what trickery the conjurer behind the curtain employed. Put together, and clad in all that lovely soft lighting, this Oz is a truly beautiful one to behold.

Some of the scenes it offers are outright majestic, catnip for any game photographer, and even had me nodding appreciatively at my screen, convinced they were the finest sights it had ever held. Characters are perhaps the sacrifice made to achieve these superb environments: as well as their non-interactive nature, I’d encounter oddities such as a group of three chatting women all bearing exactly the same face. It all adds to that nagging sense this isn’t a real place. But the architecture is magnificent even if the population isn’t.

Areas which aren’t, if drawn on a map, anything much more than a collection of corridors and plazas with a few offshoots and loops, are here bounded by towering buildings and open skies, and an almost overwhelming barrage of visual flavour that helps to flesh out Comstock’s creed and the exaggerated 1912 aesthetic. While a certain commonality of art style, especially in terms of characters, and the use of another pre-digital era means it certainly reminded me of Rapture, the preponderance of brass and wood, stone and sunlight and the judicious use of vibrant red gives it a very different feel. If anything, it can all be a little too much at once, with wonderful elements risking being overlooked because the eye’s trying to take in so many things simultaneously.

What’s odd is how often I almost forgot that Columbia was a city in the sky. Yes, huge roaring engines, balloons and the regular, sudden appearances of the horizon at the end of a street meant the proof of the city’s improbable nature was ever-present, but strangely I felt no sense of the vertigo I got from, say, those initial outdoor forays in Half-Life, I saw surprisingly few scenarios where either an enemy or myself was hurled into the great beyond, and I experienced little that made the way this floating metropolis’ function feel different than, say, Dishonored’s Dunwall or Thief’s City. There are the Skyrails, but I’ll talk about those, and combat in general, shortly. There’s something to be said for the comparatively buttoned-down nature of Rapture, where pipes, glass, gloom and water kept things kept things stylistically contained, all cleaving closely to that one single idea of being underwater – here, the airborne concept is almost drowned out by the barrage of spectacular architecture and colour.


The same might be true of Infinite’s enemies – there’s so much going on, both ornate and strange, that even a 10-foot robot George Washington or a guy with two huge trumpets for a head somehow doesn’t stand out as much as he should. By contrast, that first encounter with a Big Daddy, amidst the solitude, the silence and the murk of Andrew Ryan’s mouldering utopia, was an instantly arresting one which deftly established that character as iconic. I’m not sure Infinite can generate such enduring figures – Elizabeth maybe, but its monsters perhaps seem a little contrived, too look-at-me in their oddness. It’s also less clear what role they serve in Columbia – where Big Daddy was a janitor with a tragic backstory as well as a fearsome fighter, Infinite’s odder foes are largely teleported-in freakshows there purely to present heightened challenge. Even then, the significantly more open spaces mean they can’t manage the sheer terror of being trapped in a claustrophobic corridor with an enraged Daddy. In fairness though, this is a game which shoots for spectacle rather than scares, so it’s unfair to judge it by BioShock’s more horror-inclined yardstick.

What is a far less ambiguously excellent achievement is Infinite’s level design. This is a broadly linear game, in terms of events and the sequence you encounter Columbia’s various areas in, but there’s so damn much packed into its areas. They are timesinks in the best possible way. The relatively small number of loading screens is as much to do, I think, with not an inch of virtual space being wasted as it is the actual size of the maps, and what I suspect from very occasional juddering is some degree of background streaming.

Multi-tier buildings, multi-tier roads and the skyrails which oddly infrequently thread over the rooftops make these maps into generous lasagne-layers of exploration and action. That I spent so much time rooting through trashcans for coins and ammo, or breaking into offices in search of audio diaries and secret health/mana/shield upgrade-potions, is because so much of that sort of thing abounded thanks to the wealth of digital real estate on offer, and not purely because I’m a packrat and kleptomaniac.

There’s a particular level about three quarters of the way in, and coming off the back of a few no doubt carefully-sequenced smaller, more indoor-centric maps, that’s so wonderfully enormous it’s almost exhausting to traverse. It can be roamed out of order too, raided for secrets and supporting cast backstory before being revisited later in the narrative’s more fixed progression, by which point it’s been repopulated with new foes and a sort of roaming bossfight.

Combat, then. Infinite is a game with two brains – one the virtual tourism of this lavish setting and the ever-present, ever-teasing narrative, and the other the loud, explosive and highly violent action. It alternates between these rapidly, as and when it feels like it, and in a way that can often feel disjointed or even like the non-sequitur events of dream logic, but the fighting is thrilling, highly customisable stuff. Oddly, it reminds me more of the original Doom than the tense, slightly clumsy back-against-the-wall skirmishes of BioShock or even the ratatatat man-popping of a Call of Duty. These large, multi-level spaces, the amped-up colours, the preponderance of explosions which could level a house, the veritable armies of freaks and fanatics you face: it’s much more cartoon absurdity than it is macho fantasy. That said, the gore of melee kill moves and the fire-based Vigor is pretty extreme stuff, of the sort you wouldn’t find in cinema outside of the most malevolent grindhouse flicks.

The gun in one hand, magic power – here named ‘Vigors’ in the other system is extremely similar to Bioshock 2’s, though the sense of impact and destruction is amped up to almost Itchy & Scratchy levels even though enemies take an FPS-standard amount of battering before they fall over. There’s an odd lack of distinction many of the weapons and even some of the Vigors – while there are getting on for a dozen guns, there isn’t much to distinguish between them on a level beyond long range, short range and rapid-fire explosions. Granted, the waters were muddied in my review copy by the Industrial Revolution DLC throwing even more variations on the few themes in there, but even so the bulk of the arsenal comes off like general purpose killing tools rather than distinctive, specialist devices.

I always hung onto the sniper rifle, partly because I prefer to pick enemies off from a distance and partly because, once upgraded via the in-game vending machines, it can basically operate like a shotgun too, but other than that I didn’t much care about which other weapon I carried. I suspect the strange homogeneity between weapons is a response to grumbles about the wrench being so overpowered in the first BioShock – here, everything is overpowered. This is reflected in the enemies, who gradually start donning helmets and armour which require a little more precision or a lot more pummelling to take out.

As for the Vigors, they too are faintly absurd in the level of devastation their animations imply, even if the reality of their damage output isn’t quite so devastating. The pure damage powers – fire, electricity, crow swarm – seemed a bit much of muchness, but my suspicion is they’ll be more individually useful at harder difficulty, or the 1999 mode unlocked upon completion (or with a cheat code), where the odds against you are higher and you’ll need to make much more use of the flammable oil slicks and pools of water scattered about, or kite enemies over careful networks of ‘traps’, Vigors’ in-situ, mine-like alt-fires.

My Vigors of choice were Possession, initially able to temporarily convert turrets and robotic defenders to my side, and then humans once upgraded, and Charge, which hurls me and my Skyhook into the nearest enemy at high speed and high damage. In combination, I felt that much more in charge of what were often very busy battlefields – some mind-controlled guy keeping one side of this pocket war pinned down for me while I hurtled fatally around the other. There’s none of the hacking minigames of the earlier BioShocks here, so Possession was an instant effect, in keeping with the general frantic pace of combat. I suppose I miss the slightly more tactical, slower-paced fights of Rapture a little, but for all-out, adrenalised spectacle Infinite knows exactly what it’s doing. It feels so flexible too: bodies to be managed and mangled in a manner of your choosing, approaching the conflict from multiple angles of attack in what are often sizeable, open battle arenas and very rarely corridors with pop-up monsters.

Two new elements make this stuff even more flexible – Elizabeth, and the Skyrails which loop over the top of some areas. The plot hinges around Elizabeth’s ability to access alternate realities, and in combat this plays out as summoning up cover, turrets or ammo and health drops into places where before there was nothing. It can feel a little too restrictive – impossible not to hunger for a game where you could essentially assemble the ad-hoc battlefield of your bloody dreams – but it’s a welcome and suprisingly natural addition. Like the Vigors, it’s about flexible fights and maintaining high-action at all times.

Being able to summon up a pile of health kits in a particular spot, for instance, makes a big difference from rummaging desperately through crates while bullets fly and your HP meter blips ominously. Elizabeth also lobs any health or mana (‘Salts’) she finds at you unbidden as she skips between cover, and the attempt to make her believably alive is bolstered by small touches such as her apologising if she’s not found anything in a while. As I said earlier, I missed her when she wasn’t there, both as a combat aid and as convincing companion through an unsettling world.

As for the Skyrails, though their purpose in navigation is strictly an A-B one, with a few optional stop-offs to pick up audio logs and other secrets, in combat they essentially add a revolving Z-axis. Height is so rarely used in modern shooters, a sad side-effect of their usually being made with sluggish gamepad sticks in mind, but Infinite finds a high-speed compromise. You can shoot from the skyrails, you can drop onto enemies from on-high for insta-kill melee attacks, you can get to high-up cover or out-of-the-way ammo caches, or you can just zoom around frantically while Possessed foes and summoned turrets clean up the mess for you. Unless there’s a Handyman around, Infinite’s rarely-seen Big Daddy analogue.

They’re the game’s fiercest foe (there’s no direct conflict with the more terrifying, more mysterious Songbird I’m afraid) despite cartoonishly yelling about how unhappy they are to have been made into Frankenstein’s monster, and as well as being able to soak up all the bullets in the world they can also electrify Skyrails, forcing you to get off them unless you fancy becoming a kebab in a waistcoat and spats. There are surprisingly few Skyrails or Handymen in the game, it generally preferring ground-based combat against traditional human foes, but the upside of this is that they’re a real pleasure/terror when they appear rather than becoming routine.

In any case, like everything else in the game they’re increasingly sidelined by the plot. The compellingly dark race issues, civil war and discomfiting politics of Columbia rather fades away in the latter half of the game, as a more overt vein of fantastical science fiction and cutscene-based super-event takes hold. Obviously I can’t say much, but the reality-shifting stuff escalates in ways both intriguing and narratively convenient, while the supporting cast almost evaporate in favour of the plot’s singleminded obsession with Elizabeth.

While there are a handful of decisions to be made earlier in the game, these are really only about salving your own conscience or indulging your own bloodlust – the plot tells itself regardless. Player agency is heightened in terms of the fighting, but in terms of the storytelling you’re a mere witness to fixed events, and that does feel at odds with the BioShock series and its heritage.

It’s not for me to judge the denouement – as I say, there’s something deeply peculiar about offering a verdict on the consciously fantastical offerings of another human being’s imagination – but I will say that involves 15 minutes in which you can only walk, the game’s most stunning environments by far and a reveal that initially made me feel hoodwinked but later had me thinking back at length on the 15 or so hours which led up to it, how carefully it had all been arranged and also how meaningless the game’s entire events could potentially be interpreted as being in light. But it had me thinking, speculating and deciphering, and I value that enormously. I guess, personally, I’d have preferred more sustained world-building and less mysticism-tinged science fiction, but the wikis and armchair theorists are going to go nuts chasing all the permutations and interpretations which spin out of what happens and what’s implied.

By the standards of mainstream first-person shooters, I’m not sure what there is to rival BioShock: Infinite. It’s a true giant among story-based games which revolve around targeting reticules, and I’m going to have an exceptionally hard time getting much out of one of those grimly photoreal, tiresomely macho-posturing gun-worlds after the soaring colours, explosive combat and impossible structures of Columbia. By the standards of BioShock, and by the standards of what Infinite teases but doesn’t quite deliver because it’s so caught up in telling its fantastical, reality-distorting tale, I’m not quite so agog. Despite being first encountered on the other end of a civil apocalypse, Rapture was a place first and foremost, but despite its initial hours of compelling social politics and religion-led villainy, Columbia winds up feeling more like a construct to house an elaborate sci-fi auto-mythology.

While the links between BioShock and BioShock: Infinite are thematic rather than narrative, this game makes no bones about the fact that both revolve around a man, his city, and how it all went wrong – indeed, it winds up lionising this concept, this self-made archetype arguably at the ultimate expense of tackling the darkness in Columbia specifically. Elizabeth is fine company indeed, but the burning desire to find answers to her riddle incarnate both disrupts and railroads our journey through BioShock’s remarkable worlds of skyscraping ambition and ocean-deep folly. I much preferred the smaller stories of unseen Columbians’ tragedy and ambition, told richly in background detail and audiologs, but perhaps left a little disconnected from the main game.

Infinite’s a triumph in terms of fantasy-architecture spectacle and bringing superb flexibility to the modern rollercoaster shooter, but in other respects it’s a small step down from the player agency and even the singular aesthetic of BioShock. Not that it necessarily needs to, as it is most certainly a high-aiming game in its own right rather than mere offspring, but I’m not convinced it will live quite as long in our collective memory as did/does its parent. It sure does make me want to use superlatives like ‘majestic’, ‘lavish’ and ‘spectacular’ over and over again, though.

My BioShock 2 review

It doesn’t have anything to match the first game’s memorable twist, but in all other ways BioShock 2 is the best of the three BioShock games. It returned you to the underwater city of Rapture as a prototype Big Daddy, one of the drill-handed protectors you spend the first game hunting. It had better fights, better or equally as memorable world design, and never hits any of the low lows of its predecessor or sequel. (E.g. it doesn’t end with you fighting a big blue man.) We rightly champion games which undertake the heavy work of creating something new, as the first BioShock did, but moment to moment, BioShock 2 is simply more fun.

I feel like I’m supposed to get fancy and start talking about how BioShock 2’s exploration of collectivism is more nuanced than the original’s objectivism, but it’s not the skewering of political ideologies that makes my Big Daddy heart pump. I’m more interested in the game’s rivet gun, which with its default ammo lets you skewer splicers to Rapture’s damp walls. It’s the closest the series ever came to giving you a bow and arrow, which is every game’s best weapon. The rivets kill most enemies with a single headshot, and you can even pick them up again after they’ve done their work.

They also have an alternative ‘trap’ ammo, which lets you place them against walls like tripwires to further nail passers by. This is useful because the game follows a similar structure to the original, in which each area built towards the moment when you decided to take down the patrolling Big Daddy or Daddies. The problem with BioShock is that the Big Daddy fights could never live up to your expectations of them: they were like tense and difficult the first time or two, and trivially easy by the time you were pumped with plasmids or grinding them out via the vita chambers.

The Big Sister looks and acts like a more agile version of the Big Daddy, diving helmet included, but the fights against her are the best fights in the entire BioShock series. They are difficult every time, meaning you never stop being tense in the build up to them. You will want to prepare as much as possible, lay down rivets and other traps wherever you can, and being the lumbering hulk facing down a faster, hoppier opponent feels like a reversal of the first game.

If BioShock 2 was just better fights in some re-treaded locations, it’d still be a good if forgettable game. It’s better than that though, and still worth revisiting today because a lot of its level design lives up to the first game. An early highlight for me is Ryan Amusements, which features animatronic Andrew Ryans introducing you to Rapture and its history. Except, of course, this is not the actual history, but the version Ryan wants its residents to believe. It’s level design which delivers backstory, character and criticism all at the same time.

Another area explain the process by which Big Daddies are made, while the best of all is a brief section during which you play as a Little Sister. Little Sisters, it turns out, see the dirty and decaying world of Rapture as a gold and satin paradise. The dead are angels, flies are butterflies, blood smears are rose petals. Reality only snaps back in during the moments when you drive a syringe into a corpse’s neck to suck out what’s inside.

These moments and more are on a par with the first game’s standouts like Fort Frolic. Maybe that’s because BioShock 2’s director was Jordan Thomas, the designer of the Fort Frolic (and of Thief 3’s Cradle). Or maybe it’s because they had so many decisions made for them by the first game that they could focus more on doing interesting things within the template laid down.

For my purposes, the why doesn’t matter. I hear regular complaints about how many games released each year are sequels to other work, but BioShock 2 is a strong argument for every game to have a second go around.

My BioShock 1 review

OverviewBioshock is a semi-open world FPS set in the 1960s, inside an underwater city called Rapture. As the only survivor of a plane crash, you barely make your way to this surreal city, only to find out madness and carnage reign supreme all around. Guided only by your friend Atlas on the radio, you’ll have to make your way through the ruins of Rapture, fighting insane citizes and mechanical monsters, while finding out the truth about many things, yourself included.

🟩 The Good Side

  • By this beauty I was enraptured
    Bioshock created one of the most iconic, original settings of all gaming history by forging the city of Rapture. Aside from the amazing aesthetics, it is rich in allegories, symbolism and implicit meanings that perfectly incorporate with narration, context. Each area is markedly unique, dotted with indirect narration and regular lore pieces to immerse yourself fully in its events, which can be only understood fully by the methodic, thorough player willing to explore everything.
  • Homo Homini Lupus
    “Man is the predator of other men”. An old Latin saying that perfectly encompasses the nature of Bioshock’s story. More than a simple tale of survival, this title creates a deeply layered narrative aimed to showcase both best and worst of human nature. To what extent is freedom justified? How far can science go before becoming immoral? Is free will real or an illusion? These are only some of the themes covered by this masterfully crafted story.
  • A Man Chooses
    There are many gameplay styles, all equally viable, when approaching situations. From stealthy tricksters turning machines and men onto one another, to armored brutes powering through with heavy weapons, or genetically superior casters using advanced powers – anything is possible in Bioshock with the proper build. The great variety of weapon types, powers, passive abilities united with endless secrets and alternative ways create a huge array of possibilities.
  • Genetically Enhanced
    The remastered version not only improves visuals significantly, but also adds new content such as Challenge Rooms, a new hardest difficulty to truly test yourself, and extras such as developer commentaries, other than fixing issues the original version had.
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2211554974

🟥 The Bad Side

  • Technical problems
    The remastered version also does add some inconveniences, such as UI scaling problems, audio glitches and bad rendering of cutscenes. Luckily the Community did make fixes for these problems, and you can find them in the Hub, under the Guide Section. After using those, this isn’t an issue anymore.
  • Peak of Human Evolution
    Even on the hardest setting, balance in late-game favors the player too much, as the ability to stack multiple passives together, along with some quite too powerful weapons and Plasmids, will make you an unstoppable force. For most part of the game challenge balance is alright but does degrade in the latest 2-3 chapters. Also, there is no penalty for death.
  • How do I read this damn map again?
    Bioshock has one of the ugliest maps I have ever seen. Instead of a normal multi-layer map of the level, you will have a bunch of rooms linked by inaccurately drawn arrows, all scattered randomly on the same sheet. This creates confusion as to what is higher or lower, and what leads where – especially in more complex levels.

Rating: MasterpieceClick here for the complete Rating Chart
It took me around 15 hours to complete the game on Survivor difficulty, while exploring each level thoroughly and taking time for secondary tasks. For the current price of 20€ and exceptional quality, I can recommend buying for full price.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2211555067

In-Depth Breakdown🎮 Gameplay Analysis
Gameplay is divided into Exploration, Combat, Hacking and Quests.

Exploration
Is performed on foot, roaming the vast and intricate areas of Rapture, ranging from market districts to engineering rooms. There is a myriad of rooms, ducts, offices and locations to explore, most having items hidden in many places. Lore diaries, documents, codes to open doors and new powers are only some of what you’ll find by being attentive and looking behind every corner. The game is structured to heavily reward exploration, rushing is instead penalized.

A handy map will already show all the level’s layout, albeit in a confusing way. Most of the time your objective is also marked, but on occasion you’ll have to figure it out yourself. Each level is often a one-way drop when leaving for another major area, and there is no major backtracking. Each level has a certain number of Sisters, each guarded by a powerful Boss, which can be saved or killed for ADAM, a unique currency used to buy critical upgrades.

Combat
Plays out in FPS fashion, with the option to use ADS if needed, which sadly does not improve accuracy in the slightest. Weapons range from old-fashioned machineguns such as M1919 Thompson, to more exotic ones like Chemical Throwers spewing out napalm or nitrogen. Each weapon can be upgraded twice at specific stations, improving damage or other stats significantly.

Plasmids are genetically-engineered powers, both active and passive, progressively gained, crafted or bought. They enable you to consume EVE (mana) to shoot lighting bolts, become invisible, hypnotize enemies – and much more. The amount of builds you can create to suit any playstyle is great, and adaptable since plasmids can be switched at Gene Banks anytime. Enemies also have such powers, and become more mutated – and dangerous – as you progress.

Hacking
Is an optional but highly rewarding puzzle minigame, which entails using the correct pieces to flow liquid to a destination. Being successful in this reduces vendor prices, opens locked doors, and permanently turns security machines into your allies even. Failing means damage, death or more enemies! Needless to say doing so is very profitable in the long run, so you’ll find yourself hacking a lot, ideally.

Quests
Are main only, and generally entail finding a specific item, or several ones to combine together. Other times you’ll need to photograph certain things, or complete other assignments depending on the situation. Objectives are not always indicated and sometimes it may be needed to listen again to diaries you found, to know what to do.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2211555021

Technical BreakdownPC Specs: RTX2080Ti, Ryzen 3900X, 32GB RAM DDR4

  • Critical Problems
    None.
  • Optimization
    Good. Normal usage of resources.
  • Performance
    Runs without issues in 1440p, 85hz.
  • Bugs
    Some, detailed above.
  • Other Issues
    None.

Why I stay away from r/pcmasterrace

This is the reason I stay away from r/pcmasterrace. 
 

Bunch of 11year olds going on about how ‘PC is better’ and ‘consoles suck haha haha’. 
 

Just let the person play their games on the damn place where they want to play them. Yes pc is better, but does not mean you have to make fun of them for it. I do think, the Pc community, can be elitist sometimes.