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Friday August 13, 2010 3:10 pm

Bioshock Infinite Takes the Battle to the Skies

Watching the Bioshock Infinite trailer for the first time you would think that another underwater outing is in store for the next serious installment of Bioshock. And that’s exactly the effect desired by Irrational Games. While in the midst of this underwater backdrop, the size scale is disrupted when a seemingly enormous fish encircles the perimeter, prompting a very warranted “huh?” from the viewer. Instantly the carpet is pulled from underneath the audience as the scene is revealed to be from the perspective of an unknown victim who just went face diving in a fish tank. This, courtesy of a menacing giant with a visible beating heart sporting a very Bioshock look. The antagonist then tosses our unlucky friend head first out of the window. As the glass shatters we get our first real glimpse at the setting of Bioshock Infinite - above the clouds. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

“The time for silence is over,” said Ken Levine of Irrational Games, finally unsealing his lips on the game they’ve been developing for the past three years. The last Bioshock released was heralded not by the original team behind the groundbreaking Bioshock, but by several different sister companies. However, this time Irrational Games is back behind the wheel, and is striking with a vengeance. However, no word on whether or not Infinite has a connection with the first Bioshock world, and Levine is remaining mum on the subject. “I don’t want to think about that…I don’t think it’s particularly constructive to have that conversation,” said Levine in reference to the narrative connection in Infinite. He did, however, nod that the Infinite part of the title “[has] meaning”.

Bioshock Infinite is set somewhere around the beginning of the second decade in the 20th century, on a strange floating city known as Columbia. This odd city floats across a developing America by way of balloons. In good ol’ story telling fashion, “something terrible happens” to the floating community of Columbia. “This is not a floating world’s fair. Columbia is a Death Star,” Levine narrates. That terrible incident is one of international mystery that sees Columbia vanish further into the shrouding of clouds. This is where the protagonist steps in. His name is Booker DeWitt, and he has been contracted to rescue a woman named Elizabeth from the city in the sky gone awry.

Elizabeth will be a main cog in not only the story of Bioshock Infinite, but in the gameplay as well. “She is there to enable things that are of a scale that you just couldn’t do in BioShock 1,” stated Levine. While Elizabeth is also the one in need of saving, playing the typical damsel in distress role, she is also capable of kicking some major butt. But beware, as her help “takes a toll” on you. “You’re not a super hero and she’s not a super hero, and you’re both up against a very difficult challenge that pushes you to the extremes,” states Levine.

The character of Booker DeWitt will be different from the hero played in the original Bioshock in that he is an identifiable character with a history. “[Booker DeWitt] will feel like a specific guy with a specific story…He’s known as a man who gets things done… for a price” said Levine of DeWitt.

Pushing the boundaries of character relationships and development even further is the interaction from the people that populate the wonderfully strange city of Columbia. Unlike many games where you walk into an area and are greeted with gunfire immediately, therefore knowing who the enemy is, Infinite seeks to humanize this a bit by adding a sort of “neutrality”. Levine had this to say on the subject:

“When you walk into the bar, the guys there just look at you. They don’t attack right away, which is very deliberate… [W]e thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if you walked into a room in this game and you didn’t necessarily know the dispositions of the people in it? Are they going to sit there? Are they going to attack you? What might set them off?’ We really wanted to have a notion that not everyone in the city was automatically hostile towards you. Instead it has more of that ‘Wild West’ feel where you walk into a bar with your hand on your pistol and you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you.”

This new aerial world of Bioshock echos familar to the classic aesthetic and symbolic style prevalent in the first Bioshock. However, with an all new playground to run amok in, Bioshock Infinite has infinite potential to be the blockbuster game of its year. Get ready to save Elizabeth from the crumbling world of Columbia and uncover other terrible mysteries in 2012 on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

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