by Ben Lelievre
previewed on PC
More Than A Franchise, A Legacy…
When Irrational Game’s BioShock hit retail in August of 2007, the gaming audience was already sold to the concept. Billed as a spiritual successor to the cult hit System Shock series, it proposed an adventure in the failed underwater utopia of Rapture, inspired by universes of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Better yet, it was one of the few First Person shooters since Half-Life 2 to focus on a satisfying single player campaign, rather than complex multiplayer.
The 2010 2K Marin’s sequel BioShock 2 was received with great praise despite using the same formula than the first while adding a multiplayer component. Critics praised the superior writing and the compelling characters. Though it was less memorable than the first, it was still a damn good game. Last summer, a reveal trailer was released that left the gaming community slack jawed with admiration over a new game. The world had its first peek at BioShock Infinite.
Columbia, Not Rapture
All-Star game designer Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games are back behind the wheel and it shows. BioShock Infinite is already beaming with originality and frantic pacing. The fans of the franchise will recognize a Big Daddy-like creature that takes your character and literally hurls him out the window… and into the sky. That’s right, for its third installment, BioShock moves from the deep sea to the heights of the celestial void.
Columbia isn’t anything like Rapture. It is in the air and it isn’t the lair of a secret elitist society. In fact, one of the big questions that have been on every journalist and gamer’s lips since the reveal of BioShock Infinite is whether or not it’s happening in the same universe of BioShock and BioShock 2. Ken Levine knows the answer, but for now he is keeping it to himself.
The action is situated in 1912, forty-eight years before the discovery of Rapture and you’re Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton (detective agency) hired to find a mysterious girl named Elizabeth, who’s been a captive of Columbia for the last twelve years. The city was built and launched by the American government in 1900’s with great fanfare. The early 20th century was the peak of modernity, American exceptionalism and scientific triumph. Mankind thought there would be no stop to what it could accomplish.
Before the events of the game, it is revealed that Columbia is a well-armed floating device that gets involved in an international incident. Soon, its location becomes unknown to the people below. You are hired by somebody you don’t know, who knows exactly where Columbia is, to find Elizabeth and bring her back down to earth.
Thinking Outside The Box
There is the word “origin” in “originality.” and Ken Levine and his team are aware of that. While BioShock Infinite stays within the mechanical boundaries that made its success (First Person Shooter, laced with some Role Playing Games elements), it is incorporating some new elements to the mixture that add up to an already rich universe that borrows from Steampunk, film noir and classic literature.
The new setting of a flying city brings an obvious platforming element to the franchise. Whether or not it’s going to be utilized to its full potential remains to be seen, but with the mile-high pitfalls, it is unlikely that the gamers will go through BioShock Infinite without having to use their imagination and the environment to prevent falling to their death.
There is a new rail system also that will allow the players to go from one part of Columbia to the other. The idea, as seen in the 10 minute gameplay clip that later surged on the Playstation web site, is similar to the rail system from the Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction game. It is that kind of creative liberties that Ken Levine and Irrational Games take with their games that made their reputation. By throwing some elements of platforming and some vehicle sections in a First Person Shooter, BioShock Infinite opens up new possibilities and widens the playground of video games designers.
The Mystery Remains…
Despite the massive hype that is already surrounding BioShock Infinite (which is slated for an early 2012 release), there is still a thick cloud of fog surrounding the game. Almost nothing has been said about Vigors and Nostrums, the power ups that replace plasmids from the first two BioShocks. There is also little info on Elizabeth, the mysterious girl that you, Booker DeWitt, have to save.
It is known that she has impressive powers and she uses them in a rather helpful way (lifting Booker up and saving him from his freefall). Other than that, viewers are left in the dark. Will there be a new array of weapons? Will there be technology similar to that found in BioShock and BioShock 2? A year away from the shelves, BioShock Infinite already succeeds in raising as many questions as its trailer give answers.