BioShock Infinite is such a weird game in a way that I wouldn't have expected. It's a very good first person shooter, don't get me wrong about this, but some of the choices they made, both in design and the use of tech here and there are turning me off a bit from it. That being said, the story is way too interesting for me to stop playing the game even with valid design complaints. I played a few hours of the first BioShock and while I can see how the game's beginnings are similar, I'm not sure of the recurring themes that I would've been looking for as I played Infinite.
The save system is weird.
A small design issue I'll agree, but it decides on the pace of the game, how you handle puzzles and how careful you have to be before turning the game off. BI does this the weirdest way, with pre-defined checkpoints and no way to save in-between, and I do mean no way. It doesn't save after you bought items or upgrades, acquired new powers or spent lock picks, it only saves when it feels like it. You're not supposed to be dying all the time in BI, I agree, but if you're not very good at FPSes or play on very hard difficulties, it might happen, and then you're going to make a mistake if you restart from the checkpoint. You'd better lose some money and restart at almost the same spot.
How I would fix this
Manual saving seems like it would do the trick, I'm not sure what it means for the game in general but I'm positive that it wouldn't mess up with that many systems and it would prevent frustrating situations.
I'm confused by the way some systems are used.
I'm not sure BioShock Infinite needed to be a 'loot game'. I really love seeing little numbers pop up when I hit things and that's a pretty nice touch (even tho it's mostly useless) but there are a few things here and there that would've been done differently.
First of all, you get random guns from the environment and your enemies, either be a shotgun, carbine, machinegun, pistol or rocket launcher, you'll either pick up randomly or on the corpse of your enemies, and you can carry only two weapons at once. In games such as Halo and uh, Duke Nukem Forever I suppose that it's fine, but not in a game like this where you have no reason to be restricted by the guns you have, especially if you can upgrade them and if they only drop randomly.
No need for me to ever use something else than the guns I'm currently upgrading, what if I buy tons of upgrades for the shotgun and never find a shotgun again? I know that it's a ridiculous example, but what if there was only one copy of the Heater in the whole game? If you happen to find it and might like it after a few upgrades, you can't sell it and you've only one spot left for your other guns.
Another aspect of BI is the vigor system where you get new powers that you also can use and upgrade as you see fit, and it costs quite a lump sum so you can't go and upgrade everything right away. At least you can keep all of the vigors at once and scroll between them at anytime you want, this was probably done so you can solve puzzles in the game. They are pretty interesting and I'm sure the usage will vary from person to person, that being said, each vigor as an 'alternate fire' mode which is pretty much the same thing in trap form, instead of shooting fireballs at your enemies, you place a trap that shoots fireballs when it's triggered, and I never used them.
Lastly there is the "Gear" system where you can equip four pieces of gear, which is randomized through the game. It's an okay idea where you get passive boosts such as bonus damage to headshots or making the enemies you hit burst in flames. Their use will vary greatly on your playstyle and you might get really good gear upfront or randomly pick it up in the last hour of the game. I really loved how you find potions that either increase your maximum health, shield or salt meter (basically your magic meter), these little choices are neat.
How I would 'fix' this
Most of these ideas are interesting but they feel a bit out of place. First of all, the weapon system shouldn't restrict you to carrying two guns at once if you can upgrade them as you play through the game because you can't buy everything at once. Or maybe it should let you do that but you could get access to all the weapons you own in weapon closets or boxes or whatever.
The vigor system should offer more than traps as the alternate fire, there's got to be a way to make these powers different and interesting. Instead of a possession trap, you could have a shield that possesses enemies that hit you. Instead of a crow trap, maybe you could channel crows that deals more damage to enemies but force you to keep casting the spell, instead of a levitation trap, you could have the reverse effect - slamming down the enemies you just levitated to the ground.
The gear system needs to be re-thought. Either you give the gear in a set order, or you leave some choice to the player as which gear he's going to get, or give players gear based on what they actually do.
The world is vast and interesting.
Especially at the beginning of the game, I felt like money and lockpicks were pretty scarce, especially if you were trying to lock things that needed five picks for some reason. I don't remember where that safe is anymore, I don't even know if I can get back to it and uncover its secrets.
The world of BioShock Infinite is really big and interesting, there are people around, you can search pretty much every container, there are audio logs and little video clips here and there, the skylines are amusing, the different zones are interesting enough, but at the end of the day, this is a first person shooter where you could theoretically follow an arrow that tells you where to go all the time. It's almost weird how fast you could blaze through these amazing environments and locales if you didn't pay attention to all of it.