By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Provocative, violent shooter tackles complex ideas.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
While elements of BioShock Infinite focus on thoughtful examination of fringe ideologies and cultural issues, we don't recommend it for learning because of its graphic violence.
Complex and mature messages concerning race, religion, consumerism, and American Exceptionalism (a philosophy that holds that the United States has a unique responsibility to spread freedom and democracy to the rest of the world). Keep in mind, though, that there is an unabashedly glamorous element to the game's violence, which sensationalizes brutal killing.
Positive Role Models
From kids who smoke to religious extremists to the game's violence-prone hero, none of the personalities here are the sort most parents would want to see their children emulate.
Ease of Play
Standard first-person shooter controls make this game easy to pick up and play for genre veterans. Multiple difficultly levels allow more inexperienced and hardcore players to find a suitable level of challenge.
Violence & Scariness
This extremely violent game involves plenty of gritty gun violence against humans. Players use pistols, rifles, and shotguns, as well more fantastical abilities that see players summoning fire and crows to burn and peck enemies to death. The most brutal sequences, however, involve melee attacks, which show the player's character putting a handheld grinder to enemies' bodies that rips into their flesh and can even decapitate them. Blood spurts in great gushes from defeated foes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some statues and carved figures on bottles depict what appears to be the naked female form. Dialogue contains mild sexual talk, including references to fornication and the clap.
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The word "s--t" can be heard several times during play. Also expect multiple ethnic slurs, including words like "chink," "negro," and "Injun." (The game is set in an alternate version of the early 20th century.)
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players can make their avatars smoke cigarettes and drink beer, whisky, and wine to gain or lose health. Children can be seen smoking, and there are fictional cigarette ads in the game that target kids.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that BioShock Infinite is an extremely violent game that contains several mature ideas and themes intended for adult consumption. Action sequences see player avatars dismembering enemies in gruesome fashion, drinking and smoking to restore health and special abilities, and occasionally encountering citizens discussing matters of sexuality. Challenging narrative scenes, meanwhile, involve depictions of racially charged situations, such as a crowd of white people cheering the torture and humiliation of a black woman, and two non-player characters chatting about buying black convicts from a corrupt politician in Georgia. The racial imagery (and religious criticism) are not intended to offend, but instead to provoke thought and discussion. Mature players should be able to discern the criticism and gall inherent in these scenes, but younger players may get the wrong message.
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Based on 21 parent reviews
INNOVATIVE, BUT VIOLENT SHOOTER...
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What’s It About?
The setting is the sky above the United States circa 1912, where a mechanical floating city called Columbia is inhabited by citizens overcome with religious devotion to an enigmatic man known as the Prophet. Welcome to BIOSHOCK INFINITE, a game that tackles cultural issues and ideologies of the past and present, ranging from racism to religious extremism. Players take on the role of Booker DeWitt, a man who unexpectedly finds himself in this strange dystopia on a mission to rescue a woman. The city's inhabitants see him as a long-prophesized antithetical figure come to destroy their community and attempt to kill him. Employing both traditional firearms and a selection of chemically induced abilities known as \"vigors\" -- think fiery grenades and blasts of electricity -- DeWitt does his best to fend off his attackers while learning more about the bizarre world in which he finds himself.
Is It Any Good?
Few games are bold enough to take on the controversial subjects that BioShock Infinite tackles head first, and fewer still are those that manage to do so with maturity, intelligence, and even a bit of wit. Alternating with impressive agility between thought-provoking ideas and visceral action sequences, the game engages players on emotional, intellectual, and gut levels, resulting in a heady experience difficult to compare to anything else (save perhaps the original BioShock, which managed a similar feat back in 2007).
Even the presentation is something unique. The world of Columbia is a clearly fantastical -- yet weirdly believable -- mechanical marvel. Early 20th century architecture is covered in old-fashioned posters and billboards as traditional music -- such as the classic folk hymn "Down to the River to Pray" -- emanates from phonograph horns throughout the streets. It's a full and beautifully realized environment, the likes of which have not been seen before. Every last brick and stone simply begs to be explored. Its graphic violence and decidedly mature themes may make this game unsuitable for kids, but BioShock Infinite will prove a rare and satisfying treat for grown-up gamers looking for a shooter with substance.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the depiction of racism in games. Are games, as a medium, ready to thoughtfully tackle this difficult subject? Do you think games can affect change in players' thinking on controversial subjects, for good or for ill?
Families can also discuss religion in games. Would you play a game that calls your faith into question? How about one that creates a fictional religion to serve as an analog for real-world faiths?
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
- Subjects: Social Studies: cultural understanding, government, history
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: strategy, thinking critically
- Available online?: Not available online
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Release date: March 26, 2013
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mild Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
- Last updated: June 25, 2022
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