By now you’ve played through at least some of Bioshock Infinite, I mean c’mon it’s amazing, and you’ve probably read some articles on how everyone is praising the main female character, Elizabeth, as having been one of the most amazing A.I. companions in video game history. Some people have even gone so far to say that Elizabeth is one of the most empowering females in video games. Most people claiming she’s a great A.I. are basing it off their experiences with escort missions from past games that have been horrible. And we’ve all been there, you’re going through amazing missions in the game and suddenly you have to escort some feeble NPC across battlegrounds ensuring their survival in the biggest warlike moments of the game. It’s always a hassle and the NPC does absolutely nothing to help you along the way, instead they usually end up wandering right into the line of fire and die, thus ending your mission and causing you to start over.
Here in lies why Elizabeth is a phenomenal AI. She never really gets in your way, when you’re low on items she throws them to you (including health, ammunition for the weapon you are using, Silver Eagles, and Salts), and she doesn’t need to be protected. All of this combined makes her a joy to have around, furthering the argument that she is the best companion and an exemplary female character in a video games.
I, on the other hand, had a much different experience with Elizabeth. I enjoyed her contribution to the story immensely, but as far as being a companion I found her to be clunky and in my way. She took away from scavenging and made the game a million times easier than the previous Bioshock games. There was also something just off about her that I couldn’t put my thumb on. Thomas Ella at GamesBeat also had a slightly different experience with Elizabeth saying that her being a great companion tricks you into loving her character; the Elizabeth presented prior to the games release was much more involved with the combat and was treated much more like an interactive character than just an A.I. companion. And then he pointed out the exact thing that irked me so much about her character, “It’s disappointing that BioShock Infinite chose to play it so safe by letting you treat Elizabeth like a tool rather than a person.” A tool. Elizabeth is nothing but a means to an end for most of the game. She is used by Comstock to attain a greater purpose, she is used by Booker to get through the game (handing him items, picking locks, opening tears), and she is stuck in this role until the very end of the game. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but trust me even her actions at the end don’t really exonerate her from this “tool” status.
What troubles me the most is not that she got turned into this tool, this means to an end, but that people (you’ll have to read to the end of that article to get what I’m talking about) are actually praising her as being one of the best female characters in video games. I get it, the story is great and the gameplay is phenomenal but what does Elizabeth really do that makes her such a great female character? I’ll give you that she doesn’t need to be protected and actually holds her own in certain circumstances and that she isn’t afraid to stray from Booker, but after thinking about it for some time and reading other people’s articles on the same subject I still don’t see any other value that she adds as a female character. She’s powerful, but even that’s not by her own doing. She doesn’t even get the chance to take control of her own life except through the actions of a man. I may be picking at small things here, but without looking at her as a whole I can’t honestly say that I even considered her to be a role model female character. Especially after playing through the new Tomb Raider and putting Lara’s character through the grind, it is very difficult to put Elizabeth on the same page.
A great companion, sure! A great female character to be praised as one of the best? Surely not.