We're not going to beat around the bush, here. BioShock Infinite is game-of-the-year material. The floating city of Columbia is one of the most evocative, intense, gorgeous environments I've ever seen -- but how much you like it may depend on what sort of visual wizardry you prefer. BioShock Infinite is built on Unreal Engine 3, and while it pushes that framework's capabilities into the stratosphere, there's a clear difference between BioShock Infinite and, say, Crysis 3.
It's a testament to Ken Levine and the artistic team at Irrational Games that the gap feels like a stylistic choice rather than a technological limitation. Crysis 3 is a triumph of texturing and structural detail. BioShock Infinite emphasizes light, color and motion.
The early game presents one motif, the late game uses another
This is what visual poetry looks like. Columbia's palette shifts with the game's mood, environments, and enemies. Then, there's Elizabeth.
Compared to Crysis 3's realistic faces, Elizabeth looks a bit like Mr. Game-And-Watch, but taken as a whole, she evokes far more humanity than any character from Crytek.
You can read what Elizabeth is feeling from her body language as much as her voice. It's a portrayal that's vital to her status as an equal partner rather than simply a damsel in distress.
The tomb of Lady Comstock
The soundtrack is similarly brilliant -- from out-of-time modern hits (partially explained by Elizabeth's unique abilities) to the use of Mozart's Requiem inside the tomb of Lady Comstock, this game is a visual and auditory feast. There is, however, a flaw in the game's audio -- Irrational Games confirmed to me that the audio bug we documented last week is very real.
Having now beaten the game, I can say that yes, you can absolutely finish -- but you'll occasionally lose the thread of conversation or get jumped by bad guys from a deaf corner. The problem, from the player's perspective, is two-fold:
1) Certain sounds are seemingly fired in a tight cone rather than spreading throughout an area as they would in real life.
2) Booker DeWitt is deaf in his right ear.
What this means, in practice, is that turning your head slightly to the left eliminates certain directional audio cues. In the real world, enough sound still reaches a person's good ear to allow them to reorient. In BioShock Infinite, sounds that play loudly when you face them may drop out entirely if you turn slightly left.
The team at Irrational Games is working on it, but had no fixes to report yet. The reason you'll see subtitles in many of our screenshots is because I continue to recommend turning them on in order to play. At times it keeps the game intelligible.