This is my first review for CSM and I'm not really sure how I'm going to do it. I think a good starting point would be to describe what families should know about the game.
Bioshock: Infinite deals with some very strong themes: racism, patriotism and religion being the biggest. In the world of Columbia, white Americans rule the proverbial roost. Black people, Asians and Irish people are all seen to be mistreated in one way or another, from torture to separate bathrooms to shanty towns. The reason I've put all this under positive messages is that none of these things are ever presented as good. Our main character, Booker, is not from Columbia and does not share its racist views, and the second protagonist, Elizabeth, is hugely opposed to them (Booker doesn't particularly care, he just wants to get the job done).
I should note that violence in the game is presented from Booker's point of view as something that is sometimes necessary; he engages in it frequently yet takes no pleasure in it.
Positive role models:
Elizabeth is very much a moral compass for Booker. She is a very strong female character, something that is happily becoming more common in video games, with some very strong opinions that are tested as the game goes on. She is horrified at Booker's approach to violence - he treats it as something that he'll partake in to get the job done, whereas...
...she kills a single person in the whole game (as far as I am aware, I have completed most of the story), with a very good motivation for doing so (her victim was about to murder a young boy), and is horrified at herself afterwards.
I'll say it now: Bioshock: Infinite is a very, very violent game. This cannot be denied. Booker shoots his way through enemy after enemy to complete his objectives. The primary weapons are firearms: blood is seen when enemies are hit, and a headshot with a sniper rifle will result in decapitation. However, this is commonplace for a First Person Shooter: the melee weapon is not.
There is not much emphasis on melee in B:I. A single button is dedicated to it, for when enemies get a little too close. Booker's melee weapon is a metal gauntlet covered in spinning hooks. Normally, a press of the melee button will have Booker swing his arm at the nearest enemy. A quick splash of blood and they are wiped off the screen. However, holding the melee button when facing an enemy on the verge of death will bring a different result: Booker will execute them in gruesome ways using his gauntlet. He may trap their head between two hooks, then spin them, decapitating them, or twist them, breaking their neck. He may plunge the hooks into their stomachs and then spin the hooks, resulting in blood spattering the screen (I infer that he is grinding up their insides, but this is never stated or shown). This is just a sample of the melee finishers you'll see in the game. However, it is also worth noting that the opportunity to use these attacks is very rare and completely avoidable if you wish it.
Booker's first kill, perhaps the most unpleasant one in the game, also involves this gauntlet. A police officer holds one over him threateningly, clearly about to kill him with it, at which point Booker grabs another officer's head and pushes his face onto the spinning hooks, something that, in reality, would grind his face into mincemeat. The man's head is shown from behind as this done to him, and blood is seen flying from the attack. After the fact, the man's face can be seen for a split second - it is covered in blood, but, as I would expect, no other injury is visible. Let's put that down to video-game logic.
In short, the game has a lot of very bloody violence, but no gore can be seen - no guts are visible at any point.
No sex scenes take place. The only remotely sexual thing I've seen at this point is a dress Elizabeth changes into (you do not see her change) at one point, which displays ample cleavage. Nothing to worry about here.
Ahahahahahaha, I'm so funny. There is a small amount of swearing in this game, but if memory serves me correctly there is nothing more offensive than 'sh-t'. Swearing is sparingly and realistically, not tossed about willy-nilly like in certain games I could mention.
No product placement at all. As it is set in a city, there are some advertisements for fictional products, but no real-world products are seen in any capacity.
Drinking, drugs and smoking:
The player can eat and drink various items throughout the game world. This includes alcohol, but it is in no way necessary or encouraged. The alcohol has the exact same affect as other food and drink, except for one humorous detail I noticed: collecting several bottles of alcohol within a short space of time results in the screen going blurry for a few seconds.
Several characters can be seen drinking in bars.
Safety and privacy:
Bioshock: Infinite is an offline and fully safe game.
Now that all of that is out of the way, here's my actual review.
Bioshock Infinite is, first and foremost, beautiful. There is no denying that. The world of Columbia is a well-crafted and lovingly detailed city, and one of my favourite parts of the game is the first hour, which is mostly spent exploring a large part of the city which has similarities to, oddly enough, Disney Land. This sounds odd, but it works perfectly once you're playing the game.
Of course, just as we don't judge a book by its cover, we don't judge a game by its graphics. Bioshock: Infinite has a story that is very well told and well written. You won't find a character more honestly likeable than you will Elizabeth, and, unusually for an FPS, the player character is actually a character, rather than a floating head with a gun attached. The writer does a good job of surprising you, too. First, the player is presented with a beautiful city that seems more like a Utopia, but soon the rug is taken out from under you and you discover the horrific truths behind it. There is some padding in the middle, but sometimes this is necessary if you want a game of decent length.
The gameplay works perfectly, too. Gunplay is simple and easy to get to grips with, and Elizabeth is the best sidekick you could ask for: she stays out of the way, doesn't steal your kills like a certain follower I could mention *cough*Lydia*cough* and throws you helpful items as required, all while moving the plot along. It's rare to see a character like this in a video game.
In summary, Bioshock Infinite is an excellently crafted masterpiece with an intriguing and thought-provoking story. I would say that it is fine for ages fourteen and up, as long as you can stomach some of the bloodier moments.