One week after its announcement, BioShock Infinite was exhibited at Gamescom 2010, where it received its first awards there, winning IGN's Game of the Show and Best Xbox 360 Game awards. It was nominated for Most Anticipated Game at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards, though it did not win. Infinite was on display for the general video game audience at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 (E3 2011), where it was heavily awarded, winning over 85 editorial awards, 39 of which were Game of Show. Most notably at E3 2011, the game won all four nominations it received from the Game Critics Awards for Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best PC Game, and Best Action/Adventure Game. For the second and third consecutive times, Infinite was again nominated for Most Anticipated Game by the Spike Video Game Awards in 2011 and 2012. The game also received two consecutive Golden Joystick Award nominations for One to Watch in 2011 and 2012.
GameRankings (PS3) 96%
Metacritic (PS3) 94/100
Game Informer 10/10
GamesRadar 5/5 stars
Joystiq 5/5 stars
OPM (UK) 10/10
OXM (US) 9.5/10
PC Gamer (UK) 91%
PlayStation Official Magazine - UK 6th best PS3 game of all time
BioShock Infinite received critical acclaim upon release, with reviewers particularly praising the story, setting and visual art design. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave BioShock Infinite an average rating of 96% based on 17 reviews for the PlayStation 3 version, 93% based on 39 reviews for the PC version, and 92% based on 27 reviews for the Xbox 360 version. Metacritic gave the game a score of 94/100 from 27 critics for the PlayStation 3 version, 94/100 from 68 critics for the PC version, and 93/100 from 33 critics for the Xbox 360 version, with all three platform versions of the game considered to be of "universal acclaim." According to Metacritic, BioShock Infinite was the third-highest rated video game of 2013 across all platforms, behind Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us.
Consensus among several critics was that BioShock Infinite was one of the best games of the seventh generation era of video game consoles, with IGN's Ryan McCaffery praising the game as "a brilliant shooter that nudges the entire genre forward with innovations in both storytelling and gameplay." Joe Juba of Game Informer stated that Infinite was among the best games he had ever played, while PlayStation Universe's Adam Dolge called it "one of the best first-person shooters ever made." Identifying it as a "masterpiece that will be discussed for years to come," Joel Gregory of PlayStation Official Magazine concluded that Infinite was the latest game to join the hallowed ranks of Half-Life, Deus Ex and BioShock as "the apotheosis of the narrative-driven shooter." Even the usually acerbic Zero Punctuation critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw named it the best game of 2013, saying that he was still thinking about the game's ending months after having played it.
Many critics favorably compared BioShock Infinite to the original BioShock, with some even believing that Infinite had surpassed it. Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich stated that "if BioShock was The Godfather, then BioShock Infinite is Apocalypse Now," with Adam Kovic of Machinima.com calling them "two similar-yet-separate games that can co-exist and remain equal in quality."
Wide acclaim was directed to the story, with several critics calling it among the best in video gaming. The story's exploration of mature themes was well received, with Time's Jared Newman praising its ability to prompt commentary and critiques from players as the game's true value. Several critics, including Adam Sessler of Rev3Games, also praised BioShock Infinite's storytelling, noting that its ability to finesse player agency and interaction resulted in a narrative that could only work in a game. The story's twist ending was mostly praised, with several critics predicting that it would provoke debate, and that it would leave a deep impression on players, prompting them to replay the game. It was also generally agreed that Infinite's ending was an improvement over the original BioShock's, with Gregory explaining that, unlike its predecessor, Infinite never lost momentum after revealing its twist. Some critics who overall praised the ending did concede that it suffered from plot holes and leaps in logic, with Edge calling it "a finality that doesn't make sense within the universe the game has created." Several articles have since been released attempting to explain the game's ending.
Critics particularly acclaimed the city of Columbia as the setting of the game, with Arthur Gies of Polygon stating that it was "one of BioShock Infinite's greatest assets." Columbia was praised by some critics as one of video games' best settings, with Destructoid's Jim Sterling explaining that, unlike BioShock 2, Infinite made a wise decision in abandoning Rapture "for an all new story in an all new setting, introducing us to the cloud city of Columbia." The setting's visual art design drew praise, with Columbia being described as beautiful and gorgeous. Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar went on to describe Infinite as "one of the most visually captivating games ever made." The setting's attention to detail was also well received, with critics impressed at how diverse the game's environments were, and how no two of Columbia's many different areas ever felt alike. Critics also enjoyed how the game encouraged them to explore more of Columbia, with Juba explaining "whether you’re looking at a piece of propaganda, listening to an audio log, or participating in a horrifying raffle, almost everything you encounter contributes to your understanding of the floating world."
Elizabeth's role in the gameplay and narrative received wide praise. Her implementation as an AI partner for the player-controlled Booker was described by Sullivan to be "downright ingenious," and was stated by some critics to be the main aspect that separated Infinite from its predecessors. Special praise was given not only to Elizabeth's ability to take care of herself in combat, but also for actively assisting the player by finding ammo and health, and opening Tears. Critics also acknowledged Elizabeth as not just a combat partner, but a companion that invoked an emotional response from the player. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell felt that the game "creates a familial bond" between Elizabeth and the player, with Sullivan stating that she felt like "a friend." McCaffrey explained that Elizabeth's presence in the game provided motivation and emotional depth, something he believed the original BioShock lacked. Edge called Elizabeth "a technical triumph, the most human-seeming AI companion since Half-Life 2's Alyx Vance," with Sullivan stating that her "behavior makes you forget she's a video game character." Several critics also praised Elizabeth's relationship and interactions with Booker, believing that they formed the core of the game's story. Mikel Reparaz of Official Xbox Magazine explained that "the evolving interplay between [Elizabeth] and Booker is the heart and soul of what makes BioShock Infinite such an involving, memorable experience."
The voice cast was well received, with Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper being particularly praised for their performances as Booker and Elizabeth, respectively. The audio and soundtrack also received positive responses, with Cheat Code Central's Josh Wirtanen stating, "from the absurdly talented voice actors to the so-happy-it's-actually-creepy music selection to set the mood, this game sounds fantastic from start to finish."
Although the gameplay's combat was mostly well received and praised, it was the most polarizing aspect of the game, with The Daily Telegraph's Tom Hoggins noting "the gunplay is far from Infinite's most satisfying component." Nevertheless, critics opined that the game's gunplay and shooting was an improvement over its predecessors. The game's expanded environments were well received, with Edge noting they encouraged the player to think more tactically and improvise. Tom Francis of PC Gamer and Hoggins felt that Infinite's overall combat was an improvement over the previous BioShock games largely due to the dynamism of the expanded environments. The addition of the Sky-Line received special praise from critics. Sullivan felt that the Sky-Line "delivers a new FPS experience entirely," while Gregory hailed it as a "real game-changer." Critics also enjoyed the Vigors, weapons, and upgrades, with McCaffrey praising the game's "myriad combat options."
In contrast, the gameplay was criticized by some as monotonous and repetitive, with VideoGamer.com's Steven Burns explaining the game's lack of real sense of escalation in either abilities or enemies made combat very tiresome and grating. Some also noted that Infinite had regressed into a simple shooter compared to the role-playing System Shock games, with Newman stating that "combat feels too constrained as a result." There were also complaints that middle portion of the game was padded by gameplay flaws. Critics expressed disappointment that the game limited the player to only two weapons, with Reparaz feeling that this, along with the lack of outlandish upgrades, made Infinite's "less inventive" combat "not quite up to BioShock's high standards." Criticism was also directed at the combat's "meager" death penalty, with complaints that this resulted in a less challenging game.
In its first week of release, BioShock Infinite was the best-selling game on Steam's digital Top 10 PC Charts. In the United States, BioShock Infinite was the top-selling console game for March 2013, with more than 878,000 units sold; these figures do not include digital sales such as through Steam. Take Two reported that the game has shipped 3.7 million copies to retail by their May 2013 financial report, and surpassed 4 million in late July. According to Take Two, the game has sold more than 6 million copies as of May 2014, and 11 million a year later.
During the first week of sales in the United Kingdom, BioShock Infinite debuted as the number one selling PC game, and the best-selling game on all available formats, topping the UK PC Retail Sales and the UK All Formats video games charts. In the game's opening week in the UK, its Xbox 360 version ranked #1, PlayStation 3 version ranked #2, and the PC version ranked #9 in the UK Individual Formats video games charts, due to 64 percent of its sales being on the Xbox 360, 31 percent on the PlayStation 3, and 5 percent on PC. As of April 2, 2013, it is currently the second biggest launch of 2013 in the UK after Tomb Raider, and is the biggest UK game launch in the BioShock franchise's history with approximately 9000 more sales than BioShock 2. During the game's second week in the UK, despite a 75 percent drop in sales, BioShock Infinite maintained its lead in the UK All Formats charts. In its third week, Infinite became the first 2013 game to top the UK charts for three weeks in a row.
Main article: List of accolades received by BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite received numerous year-end awards and nominations after its release in 2013. It won the Game of the Year award from 42 publications, including the Associated Press, CNN, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, and Games. The game also won Best Shooter of the Year awards from several publications, including The Escapist, Game Informer, GameTrailers, Hardcore Gamer, IGN, Official Xbox Magazine, and PlayStation Universe.
In 2013, BioShock Infinite won the award for Best Visual Design at the 31st Golden Joystick Awards, while also receiving further nominations for Game of the Year, Best Storytelling, Studio of the Year (Irrational Games), and Best Gaming Moment (Hallelujah); Ken Levine also received the inaugural Golden Joystick Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments in video gaming. The 5th Annual Inside Gaming Awards saw the game receive two awards for Best Art and Best Story, while also being nominated for Game of the Year, Most Immersive, Best Voice Acting, Best Additional Content (Burial at Sea - Episode One), and Gamers' Choice. At the VGX 2013, Infinite won three awards for Best Shooter, Best Song in a Game ("Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"), and Character of the Year (The Lutece Twins); it received six additional nominations for Game of the Year, Studio of the Year (Irrational Games), Best Xbox Game, Best Voice Actor (Troy Baker), Best Voice Actress (Courtnee Draper), and Best Soundtrack.
In 2014, BioShock Infinite won two awards at the 17th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards for Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition, while also receiving four more nominations for Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design, and Outstanding Achievement in Story. It won for Best Music in a Game at the 3rd Annual New York Videogame Critics Circle Awards, while receiving four more nominations including Best Game. The game won six awards at the 2013 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, and was nominated for six more including Game of the Year. It was also nominated for Outstanding Action / Adventure Video Game at the 18th Satellite Awards. Infinite won for Original Music at the 10th British Academy Video Games Awards, while also receiving three further nominations for Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, and Performer (Courtnee Draper). It won all two nominations it received at the 14th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards for Best Audio and Best Visual Art. The game won three awards at the 12th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards including Music of the Year, and was nominated for four more including Audio of the Year.
BioShock Infinite has appeared on several "Top Games" lists by various publications. In July 2013, GamesRadar ranked the game's story number eleven on its list of "The Best Videogame Stories Ever." In September 2013, Official Xbox Magazine included the game on its list of the "Best Xbox Games." That same month, IGN placed Infinite at number thirty-one on its "Top 100 First-Person Shooters" list, and at number twelve on its list of "The Top 25 Xbox 360 Games." In October 2013, WatchMojo.com placed Infinite's story at number one its list of the "Top 10 Video Games With Great Stories." In November 2013, Eurogamer ranked Infinite number twenty-five on its "Games of the Generation: The Top 50" list, while Hardcore Gamer ranked it number twelve on its list of the "Top 100 Games of the Generation." That same month, Complex placed Infinite at number twenty on its "The Greatest Xbox 360 Video Games of the Last Generation" list, while PlayStation Universe placed it at number eight on its "The Top 100 Games Of The PS3 Generation" list. In December 2013, PlayStation Official Magazine ranked Infinite number five on its "Greatest PS3 Games – The Best of the Generation" list, and praised its story as "perhaps the best narrative of the entire generation."