BioShock Infinite Preview - February 28th 2012

A person with a limited imagination might think that there was only so much that could be done with the BioShock franchise. The game is set in a ruined underwater city, so surely any continuation of the story will inevitably no longer be viable and feel forced? Well, someone at Irrational/2K took on that challenge and said, "Who says it needs to have the same setting?"

BioShock Infinite is the culmination of that idea, taking many of the prior games' reoccurring themes and motifs and giving them an entirely different spin. BioShock Infinite, ostensibly, is an entirely new game, having absolutely nothing to do with the previous two games in the series. It is a change that could be compared to the games of the Final Fantasy series. At least, the ones that aren't direct sequels.

There is a much greater NPC presence in Infinite, which should keep you on your toes.

Infinite takes place within a city floating amongst the clouds called Columbia, kept afloat by a fleet of blimps. The game's setting has a very steampunk feel to it, taking place in the year 1912. Like those that came before it, the game seems very dystopian, with the once grand city falling into a state of unlawfulness as a result of a corrupt government's actions. Players take control of an ex-detective by the name of Booker DeWitt, who has been contacted by mysterious sources to travel to Columbia and 'rescue' a woman by the name of Elizabeth. Booker finds her soon enough, but getting her off the city turns out to be more complicated than it first appears. She plays a pivotal role in the war between the two major factions left within the city.

Unlike previous protagonists in the series, Booker isn't silent throughout the game. He will parrot objectives and clues for the sake of the player, which is something that gives the game potential to be far more "hand holdy" than I would like. This also gives Infinite a completely different story telling dynamic, with the voiced protagonist being accompanied by another character throughout much of the game. While Elizabeth will spend much of the game following the player around, the developers have insisted that gameplay will in no way resemble the dreaded escort quest. After the negative reactions to those parts of the previous game, Elizabeth has been designed be able to hold her own using some mysterious power she is endeavouring to understand throughout the story.

You should never piss off anyone with a hook that pointy or a moustache that sharp. Never.

Speaking of the combat, it looks to be very similar to previous BioShock games. Through the first person viewpoint, players will have a variety of firearms to use that will, most likely, become more "steampunky" as you upgrade them. Not only that, the players will have access to what are essentially plasmids. Only now, they're called Vigors. Some powers will seem very familiar, like telekinesis, while others are brand new, such as the ability to hurl flocks of nearby crows at enemies. Abilities can also be used in conjunction with one another; electrifying someone with a bolt of lightning is always fun, but Infinite lets you take that a step further by allowing you to combine your abilities with those used by Elizabeth.

Developer Ken Levine has spoken about the character of Elizabeth at various press conferences, and he has described her as a reactive companion, comparable to something like the A.I. Director from the Left 4 Dead series. Rather than follow you around dumbly and only do as you say, she is able to react to what you do and adapt to your play style and strategy. For example, she can do things like create a small raincloud over enemies that you can then zap with a bolt of lightning... You can guess what happens from there!

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2K Games
Irrational Games
PC PS3 360