Bioshock Infinite (bioshockinfinite .com), the latest installment of the Bioshock franchise, is set in the year 1912. Players assume the role of Booker DeWitt, a former special investigator sent to rescue a woman named Elizabeth. Booker’s mission is complicated by the fact that Elizabeth is being held prisoner in the “flying city” of Columbia. Flying city? Obviously, this is not our grandfathers’ (or greatgrandfathers’) 1912!
Columbia is a city of pristine architecture constructed in the late 1800s to showcase America’s technical prowess. In many ways, it appears to be a dream municipality; however, all is not as it seems. Led by its idealistic leader, Father Comstock, Columbia seceded from the Union and formed a government based on racism and religious righteousness. The city is able to float from country to country, thus it is difficult to locate. Against this backdrop, Booker must carry out his mission.
Bioshock Infinite is a firstperson shooter at heart. Booker engages his enemies (human and robot) with a variety of typical weapons, including rifles, shotguns and machine guns. In addition, he learns to use “vigors” against them. For example, he might fling a bolt of electricity at his opponents or slam them against a building with a shock wave. Meanwhile, Elizabeth assists Booker by providing him with health packs and other helpful items she pulls through “tears” in reality.
Bioshock Infinite is an amazing game that tells a riveting story. It is well worth the price of admission.
Gears of War: Judgment (gearsofwar.xbox .com) is the fourth title in the Gears of War series, yet it serves as a prequel to the original trilogy. As with the previous games, this one is a cover-based shooter – rather than sighting down the barrel of a weapon, the player sights over his character’s shoulder, and a quick press of a button snaps the character behind adjacent cover.
The game’s new “declassify system” allows players to add handicaps to make their missions more difficult. For example, they can choose to restrict their visibility with dust, or they can make only specific weapons available to themselves. By adding these difficulties, players can increase their scores, which are shown via a new scoring system.
Judgment also offers a robust multiplayer suite, including “overrun” and “survival” modes, that completes the package.
Panzer (gmtgames .com), a redesign of the venerable Yaquinto board game by the same name, depicts tactical combat on World War II’s Eastern Front. The game is resplendent with beautifully drawn T-34, Panther and Tiger tanks and well-illustrated counters representing German and Russian infantry squads, mortars, machine guns and anti-tank guns.
During each turn, players receive secret orders in the form of facedown chits placed next to the ordered units. Units can fire or move, or a combination of the two. But there is a catch: There are not enough orders to employ all units and thus players must pick and choose. Combat is table based and incorporates weapon capabilities, armor thickness and direction of shot.
Panzer is a solid game that is fun to play. However, it has more detail than some people might care to wade through.
Mark H. Walker is a retired U.S. Navy commander and veteran electronic entertainment/ IT journalist who designed the critically acclaimed board games “Lock ‘n Load” and “World at War.” He has authored or contributed to over 40 books, including his novel “Everyone Dies in the End.”
Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Armchair General.