Bioshock Infinite is available for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. $59.99.

Life-changing events are rarely foreseen. There may be a hint at something on its way, but the reality of the situation doesn’t become clear until after the fact. We all knew that Bioshock Infinite was on its way. We all knew that it would be great (because we are prescient and have played the original). What we didn’t count on was how mind-bendingly amazing it is, and what that means for game standards going forward.

Bioshock Infinite takes place in a world much like our own — a country in disarray, divided by deep chasms in religious and political thought, separated by zealotry and an unflinching bias toward being right all of the time. The only difference being that instead of going on Fox and complaining loudly, the zealots have taken to the sky aboard a floating city named Columbia, a steampunk’s dream come true, made of brass and cogs and clockwork robots, themed after the World’s Fair of 1912.

We’ve talked about this before, when the game’s glory was a mere twinkle in the sky, kind of like how you were before birth. Studio Take 2 delivered, and rewarded us handsomely for trusting its judgment and believing it, even after the game had a few setbacks. For any other title, this would have spelled trouble, but for Take 2 it was a pass.

Infinite plays in a fashion similar to its predecessor’s (and we’ll ignore Bioshock 2, which was not made by Take 2 and is completely forgettable). Your character is Booker DeWitt, who is distinctly not you, much in the same way Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye isn’t you. He’s his own man with his own reasons for being on Columbia. He uses “Vigor” to create supernatural-esque powers to shoot from his left hand while using his right to operate a boomstick.

Combinations of vigor-power and fire-power can be used to unique effect. Float an enemy into the air using telekinesis and set him aflame using pyrokinesis and then rip him a new corn hole. Corn hole is a term from the early part of the last century, right? I believe it is.

Most of Infinit is an escort mission — the loathed escort mission. Imagine the film Kindergarten Cop and then toss your assumptions out the window. Infinite is more akin to Terminator 2 in the hierarchy of Schwarzenegger escort missions. Elizabeth, your princess locked in a tower, is wanted by Booker to settle a debt back home, but her ability to tear open space-time is a sought-after trait for the founder of Columbia, who plans to use her powers to bring about a biblical apocalypse in the world below.

Over the course of the game, the story changes from personal gain to humanity. Booker becomes a character with depth and flaws, that while he still isn’t you, is very empathetic. As he zips about Columbia on the skyline tracks of the mass transit, we come to realize the scope of Infinite that makes us stand back in awe.

Infinite is the first game in a long while to balance story, action and innovation in such a way that games following in its footsteps had better take note. The world of Columbia isn’t just a sandbox open for mass exploration but with little implications (à la Grand Theft Auto), but what occurs on each individual floating island happens in real time and is affected by what you do. The world shapes to your style and thus makes for a more personalized experience.

Is Bioshock Infinite all that it was meant to be? Yes, yes and more yes. Double yes. Infinite is already Game of the Year, a prediction much easier to make than was gauging the quality of an unreleased game. If anything, Infinite is the game that might finally be considered ‘art’ from an artist’s perspective.

Own a little piece of history with Bioshock: Infinite.

Chris O’Neal is an English major with several issues regarding Catcher in the Rye. Follow him on Twitter@agentoneal.