‘Bioshock’ sets bar high

Nevin Jones | writer

Creating a sequel to one of the highest rated first person shooters of all time would be a daunting task for most studios, but Irrational Games is not most studios.
They have once again created something phenomenal.
“Bioshock Infinite” is a game that, like the fictional setting of Columbia, raises itself above the rest in order to achieve newfound greatness.
You are Booker DeWitt, a former member of the Pinkerton Detective Agency with a haunted past. After partaking in horrible events at The Battle of Wounded Knee, he picks up a life of drinking and gambling to wash away the guilt of his past.
Now indebted to the worst kind of people, Booker receives one last chance to clean his slate. He must infiltrate the floating city of Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth and wipe away his debt.
Upon entering this “Atlantis of the sky,” he finds Elizabeth is the center of a conflict much bigger than he could possibly imagine.
Columbia stands as one of the most fascinating video game worlds ever created. The divided social classes, the religious and racial undertones, and the spirit of American exceptionalism all give Columbia unique themes that put the ugliest side of humanity on display.
The discovery of the city’s past comes in the form of propaganda videos and hidden audio logs, which reveal the social unrest and shady dealings of prominent figures.
All of these things build an unparalleled atmosphere that hooks the gamer before any conflict actually begins. By the time Booker finally gets a gun and starts zipping around the gorgeous skylines, you’ll want to figure out what keeps this city stuck in historical social taboos afloat.
While the design and setting are top-notch, the graphics can’t always keep up because of the aging hardware. Be prepared for some screen tearing, muddy textures, and framerate drops when things become hectic.
The most integral part of the story arrives in the form of Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship. Watching their faith in each other build as their situation constantly worsens keeps the player invested throughout the narrative’s twists and turns.
Possibly the part of Elizabeth that mesmerizes the most is the fact that she never burdens the player. She accompanies Booker almost the whole game, and not once does she hinder progression. On the contrary, she transforms into the most useful asset by providing a steady stream of supplies and back-up with her dimension tearing powers.
Bioshock’s signature gameplay returns with ample improvement, featuring more fluid combat and better encounter design. Plasmids and tonics are now called vigors and gear, respectively, and switching between vigors and the abundance of available weapons never allows combat to become stale.
Vigors also can be chained to lethal effect. For example, levitating someone in the air with Bucking Bronco, and punching them out of the sky with Charge combine for utmost satisfaction, and interplay like this promotes experimentation.
The ability to hop on the skyline located around levels gives a thrilling mobility to combat that offers various approaches to each encounter.
When the credits rolled, I was floored. Irrational Games has crafted a masterpiece that yanks the floor out from beneath the gamer and forces them to stare in gaping wonder. If you have any interest in this game, then buy it before some worthless lowlife ruins the ending for you.
With unparalleled production in all departments, “Bioshock Infinite” sets the bar for what we should expect from a video game.

‘Olympus’ falls on top

Logan Qualls | writer

Director Antoine Fuqua takes the audience out of the frying pan and into the fire again and again with his new action-thriller.
In the Parthenon of “Muricah”-themed popcorn flicks, “Olympus” isn’t necessarily groundbreaking. However, it stands as a solid film in an overused genre thanks to the tense plot and a strong performance from Gerard Butler (“300,” “Law Abiding Citizen”) as former U.S. Army Ranger Mike Banning, the head of the presidential security detail.
The movie begins at Camp David, a retreat for U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart; “The Dark Knight,” “Thank You for Smoking”), where the president is spending the Christmas holiday with his family and security detail. While driving to a dinner, the car with the president and his wife, Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd; “Kiss The Girls”), crashes. Banning is able to save the president, but despite his best efforts, the first lady dies.
A year and a half later, the president is back in Washington, D.C., and Banning has been removed from the presidential detail. He now works for the Treasury Department. Growing tensions between North and South Korea urge a vital meeting between the president and the prime minister of South Korea to try to reach a solution.
Everything seems to be business as usual, but events quickly take a turn for the worse. A team of Korean-led commandos attacks and captures the White House using a ground and air assault.
Inside the White House, the situation is dismally bleak, as the president and his staff are taken hostage by the prime minister’s head of security: actually an ex-North Korean terrorist. Mike Banning manages to infiltrate the White House during the attack, and all hopes of saving the president rely solely upon him.
Fuqua’s emotive direction gives the audience an immediate picture of the strong bond between the first family and Banning, their protector.  The music throughout the film supports the growing suspense. The film’s score, composed by Trevor Morris, gives “Olympus” the extra push it needs to keep building the intensifying action.
Alongside Butler, both Eckhart and Morgan Freeman (“The Bucket List,” “Invictus”) deliver solid performances as the POTUS and Speaker of the House. Butler brings plenty of swagger to his role, and will have audiences cheering his character on as he attempts to save his president and country. Angela Bassett (“What’s Love Got to Do With It?”) and Melissa Leo (“The Wrestler”) round out the cast.  
The film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, by any means, but stands on its own as a damn good out-of-season summer blockbuster. With explosive action and escalating tension, “Olympus Has Fallen” grips the audience and does not let go until the credits roll.

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