by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
Who doesn't know BioShock?
Walk into any frat house, university campus or youth hangout of any kind, mention BioShock and you'll have an hour-long conversation on your hands with pretty much everyone in attendance. Not everyone at Uni is as into video games as I am and they may raise an eyebrow when I ask them if they liked Braid. BioShock, however, is a title that echoes the video gaming culture of our time. I would therefore like to see the “product testing” results Ken Levine mentioned as his reason for the generic box art choice for BioShock Infinite. Results that suggest that fratboys don't know BioShock and thus justify placing the rugged looking male protagonist on the front, completely ignoring the game's female character, who just so happens to -BE- the plot.
As everyone (apart from the aforementioned fratboys) knows, BioShock Infinite is the third game in the BioShock series. It looks completely different, though, and the drastic change in art style is accompanied by a change in venue. As Booker DeWitt, the generic ruffian sporting the box, you are sent into the floating air-city of Columbia in order to find and rescue Elizabeth who possesses the power to manipulate space-time and has been held captive in the city for the past twelve years. The city is ravaged by rifts in the space-time continuum and a civil war between the elitist Founders and the Vox Populi, which means “Voice of the People”. Both factions appear to be convinced that Elizabeth is the key to the success of their cause and will stop at nothing to “possess” her.
Guns and psychics
The game features the same mixture of gunplay and psychokinetic powers familiar to players of the previous games, but one thing is drastically different: the powers not only affect your target, but you see their effect on you as well. When charging up a fireball, for instance, you see the flesh melt from your hands.
Mana is blue, everyone knows that. Salt, in BioShock Infinite, gives you the power to use your “Vigors”, and is for some reason also blue. You'll be able to pick up foodstuffs in the game which give you a health boost and charge your salt level. No salt, no powers. The Vigors you'll be able to use from early on are Possession, which makes an enemy fight on your side momentarily and then commit suicide; Devil's Kiss, which sends the aforementioned hand-melting fireball towards your target; Bucking Bronco, which launches your enemies into the air; and Murder of Crows, which summons a hoard of crows down on your enemy.
While many games fall into the trap of making the Non-playable companion character a nuisance rather than a helping hand, BioShock Infinite's Elizabeth promises to be helpful. She'll pick up ammo and items if you miss them and toss them your way. She'll also be able to create rifts in space-time, revealing things from other dimensions that you can use to overcome challenges in this one.
Considering Irrational Games' reluctance to take a risk with the box art, it is very surprising to see the amount of racism and religious preaching going on in the game. Historically, it would have been normal to see “white only” bathrooms around and hear everyone praising Jesus, and I commend Irrational for showing the world as it was (except, of course, flying). There appears to be a bit too much of it, however, as it was noticeably irritating in the part of the game we saw.
Huge, but is it also Polished?
Those who have played it have all praised its gameplay, handling, graphics and setting, but I for one can't help but wonder if it all fits together. Irrational Games has an impeccable record when it comes to gameplay, but multiplayer has been a touchy subject since BioShock 2's tacked-on modes. It is good to see that they've dropped multiplayer from this iteration as no multiplayer mode in a game that doesn't require one is better than a tacked-on one that completely fails to live up to the quality of the rest of the product. One has to wonder, though, if they dropped it because they didn't have time to polish it, and if so, what else did they not have time to polish? We all know that BioShock Infinite is going to be a huge hit. With all the hype around it and the huge fanbase the series has gathered, it's bound to be. Let's just hope they don't delay it ever further.