Is Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth the best AI companion ever?

The first reviews of Bioshock Infinite are rolling in, and it’s a landslide of praise – from the combat to the setting to the narrative, series creator Ken Levine and Irrational Games have literally blown Rapture out of the water with the  floating city of Columbia, a seething sandbox of patriotic zealotry and idolatry where Levine and company can explore themes of racism, religion and rebellion. But as amazing as its thought-provoking setting is, it takes a backseat to its emotion-provoking characters, namely Elizabeth.

Booker DeWitt might be the hero, but Elizabeth is the game’s heart. There’s no arguing that in Elizabeth, Irrational has created one of the most likeable and lifelike non-playable characters in gaming. But is she the best AI companion in gaming?

Let’s see what the critics have to say:

 

GAME INFORMER

“Booker wanders Columbia alone at first, but once he saves the young woman named Elizabeth from captivity, the adventure begins in earnest. Elizabeth is with Booker for most of the events that follow, and she is among the best AI companions I’ve ever had.”

KOTAKU

“Elizabeth alternately wants to impress Booker and run away from him. They need each other and she never feels like a stack of AI scripts walking alongside you. When she throws you a health pack in a firefight, her need for you to survive is palpable. She’s haunted by a lack of a past while Booker is chased by a history too full of blood. Together, their shared journey moves from wariness to warmth to resolution with real poignancy.”

IGN

“Once she’d established herself at my side, any period of separation was noticeable. Not only does the action revert to feeling very much like BioShock 1, but it made me feel as if something was genuinely missing: emotional depth. Over our time together, Elizabeth’s expressive performances elicited everything from sympathy to fear and even guilt. She provides motivation and moves the story forward, and like the clear bond the Big Daddies and Little Sisters had in the first game, I was compelled to protect her. And from a purely mechanical perspective, it’s a half-miracle that she never gets in the way – but she doesn’t. What’s great about Elizabeth is that her presence always adds something, and never takes anything away.”

DESTRUCTOID

“Elizabeth feels like a real partner. She becomes an impeccable example of how gameplay can be used to further the narrative. She is as crucial to the player as she is to the story, and both aspects of the character work together in harmonious synchronization.  It helps that the game’s animation brings her to life in wondrous ways. Effortlessly proving you don’t need photorealistic graphics to sell an endearing character, the exaggerated expressions in Elizabeth’s face, and the way she walks with hearty skips one moment and nervous footsteps the next, brings her to life in ways I’ve seen few other characters come close to approaching.”

GAMER LIMIT

“She is, quite simply, the best escort character in all of videogames. Period… She actually runs at your speed, spouts relevant banter, and never gets in your way, despite the fact that she’s with you most of the game. Irrational has eliminated the “annoying escort” trope altogether, and lets you empathize with Elizabeth that much more.”

EDGE

“She’s a technical triumph, the most human-seeming AI companion since Half-Life 2’s Alyx Vance. She’s always a presence, yet never obstructive, and it’s a rare occasion when you catch her acting like a machine. Explore an uninhabited location and she’ll do the same, reading over desk work while you rifle through the drawers, providing incidental details or amusing herself by investigating whatever she’s found. Even when she can’t find something to do, she has a very human way of being idle: sitting down on some upturned rubble, say. She’s good company, in short, and you’ll miss her during the rare sequences when she’s not around.”

 

But the critical circle jerk, like any circle jerk, must to come to an awkward end at some point…

 

EDGE

“That said, there are times when all these incidental character details can bump up against Irrational’s more overt attempts to make a useful AI companion. At unpredictable moments, she’ll toss coins she’s scavenged at DeWitt, her canned call for your attention puncturing the quietness of a scene. Her role as the pair’s lockbreaker, meanwhile, can sometimes pick at the illusion of her autonomy, since she instantaneously and cheerfully responds to DeWitt’s beck and call. This responsiveness makes far more sense on the battlefield, where she can pull aid (cover, mechanised allies or guns) through tears at the press of a button, and where the urgency of her unpredictably tossing potions, health and ammo your way never strikes a discordant tone.”

VIDEOGAMER

“As for bringing items in through tears: it feels gimmicky almost straight away. Surely, if Elizabeth can open up doorways to other worlds, we could have had some delicious set pieces: trucks bursting out onto enemies, planes crashing through. Instead we get the same combination of sniper rifle/ a bit of cover/skyhook/robot auto turret, like the only place Liz can look into is an under-construction Skynet HQ. Infuriatingly, you’re locked into most encounters via sealed doors that only Elizabeth can open. Kill rooms, essentially, and far too many of them at that.”

ROCK, PAPER, SHOTGUN

“Elizabeth is a highly likeable, compelling, well-performed and human character despite being the game’s primary mouthpiece for exposition, and I did find myself sincerely missing her during those times when, for various reasons, she took a hiatus from her role as AI-controlled sidekick. … At the same time, she just might be Infinite’s greatest shortcoming. She, and the halo of mystery she wears, stands in the way of Infinite’s other main non-player character – the City of Columbia. Despite being an ever-present and visually remarkable – stunning, even – backdrop, its airborne nature and the society it holds is given shorter thrift, because Elizabeth and the quest for answers she represents steals so much focus.”

 

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Author: Kristen Spencer View all posts by

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