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Well, that was the intention in the first place with the game. They wanted to show a city falling to pieces rather than being the carrior picking at a barely breathing carcas.
Just, I don't think they got the levels and narrative progression to work with that. The first few levels were ok and more so since we didn't have the abilities and gadgets to travel the landscape and could just get hints at the future open freedom.
But, after the first level or two, that starts to get harder to justify. The first level and Booker's public execution of a cop seem to justify why you never really encounter civilians, even if its still a bustling metropolis. NP Cs just disappear the second you get into combat. This falls apart later on as we get a couple diarama scenes of NP Cs escaping Colombia or picking at the stuff left behind, but its not particuarly pertinant or interesting.
And then you have the level design. The first level sets the stage for some really cool ideas and concepts. Above-rail trains and cargo cars that transport across the city, buildings that can simply fly in and connect or disembark from larger street corners, and other inovations to make a flying city work logistically. Look at how AMAZING the Liberty Island escape sequence is. It honestly built the idea of a larger connected city.
But once the levels open up more, a lot of that disappears. Streets become linear, buildings all connect to eachother despite how implausable it is with no other possible directions to take, cargo rails connect in little loops around a small area with no practical function like a child's toy trainset.
I get to an extent why they need to do this as they need to keep the narrative moving and also can't have the player get sidetracked into going to the wrong locations. However, the illusion doesn't get maintained to even a base level. Rapture could easily design levels to be more open and then place rubble and destruction to cover the linear progression. Sure, I realize how linear it is, but its still plausable in universe why that's so as the city is falling to pieces.
But Columbia is too open. Or too open from a logistic standpoint. I think its either clear the designers were too used to Rapture's clausterphobic and tight linear levels to deviate from it to do the EXACT opposite, too uncomfortable with that kind of challenging work, or too constrained by the technology available. Admitedly, Infinite IS a game that should have probably been called Icarus outright if for the fact that it reaches beyond its grasp. I don't know if it was mismanagement of the development or the technology shown in the demos just wasn't there or what, but the problem is that Infinite has a severe disonance between the world building in narrative and the world building in gameplay and they thematically fight at each other frequiently.
Yeah, come to think of it I do think they probably could have made this work. Though I think the issue is that Bioshock's level design benefits from being a tad labyrinthine and going at a somewhat slower pace. Thinking about the level design and how to use it your advantage is a big part of that game and zipping through the level in Infinite doesn't have the same effect.
A related issue to that, actually, is that to my knowledge there aren't any enemies like Big Daddies that I can recall. No enemy you have to go out of your way to hunt. Big Daddies actually are pretty core to Bioshock's gameplay IMO-that and hacking. Essentially in Bioshock you have three "factions": The Splicers, the Security System, and the Big Daddies. You can play them off of each other with the right skills. Infinite is less obviously systemic. A key, interesting feature of Bioshock is that you're not necessarily encouraged to just run in and shoot enemies.
Having said that this might be me misremembering things. I haven't played Infinite in a while-and despite how often I complain about it I actually do think of it as good. And I was playing it on easy, and apparently the game's a lot more fun on hard mode (because it gives you a motive to try more complex strategies).
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