Another Glimpse of BioShock Infinite

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Posted by Jeff (3580 posts) -
Comstock, leader of the Founders.

I'll talk about it at length during this Tuesday's podcast, but I want to make sure to call attention to BioShock Infinite. That feels a little weird, because I'm typically not the person to gush about trailers and carefully controlled demos, especially for games that are probably at least a year away. But after getting a second look at the game that focuses more on how the moment-to-moment gameplay in Infinite may unfold, it's been very easy to get excited. The characters and their motivations appear to be fascinating. The world, even though we've only been shown carefully selected portions of it, looks absolutely gripping. And the gameplay, rooted in at least some of the first-person shooter conventions that often feel like they're driving the entire industry these days, looks to offer some player choice and potential options that both fit with the core concepts of the game and could be a whole lot of fun, too.

Of course, I should take a step back and talk about exactly what we've seen so far. Both of the sequences that Irrational has shown have been live gameplay, but they're carefully planned slices of BioShock Infinite. They're idealized notions of what they're aiming for that, while planned for inclusion in the final product, might not work out quite as well as they appear. That's not unusual. Most games are shown off this way at one point or another. I guess I just need to try to keep one toe firmly planted, just in case it all falls apart in the end. Giving yourself over to unreleased products and polished-up demonstrations is a great way to find yourself disappointed by every game ever released. But let me get into the demo itself and stop wasting your time with all this hand-wringing. The bottom line is that if BioShock Infinite is as cool as the two demos I've seen make it out to be, it's going to be the sort of game that wins awards and is spoken of in hushed tones for years to come. But they're still scripted demos.

Part of the reason I feel so strongly about Infinite is the potential shown in the relationship between your character, Booker DeWitt, and Elizabeth, the girl with the otherworldly abilities that you're sent up to Columbia to find and extract. To hear Irrational discuss Elizabeth's arc, she'll grow over the course of the game, becoming more confident in her abilities and more powerful, too. But the E3 demo shows her in an earlier, more fragile state. She's still not entirely sure what her powers are, let alone how she can use them to her advantage. But that doesn't mean she's helpless. In fact, her specific brand of power seems to be one of the most helpful things in the entire game.

Randy Savage, another great Elizabeth protector.

To get specific, Elizabeth is able to call in things from other times or... dimensions? Planes of existence? It's hard to know the true extent of what's happening, but around the world, you'll see blurry, static-y objects that don't currently exist in your time, but you can get your little lady friend to call them in for you. So, in one encounter, you might whip around and see several out-of-phase objects, like a barrel full of guns, a mountable turret, and a sky tram car that's slowly making its way in your direction. Elizabeth's power isn't infinite, so she's probably only going to be able to open a tear and bring in one of those objects. This forces you to make a choice. Do you need more guns? Perhaps that turret would be good against the zeppelin that's currently firing tens of missiles in your direction, though. But the tram car--which is what was selected in the demo we were shown--warps into being just in time, causing it to slam into a few guys that are currently headed your way. Making these sorts of choices and selecting which tears to open and when seems like a key part of the gameplay.

The other thing that blew me away about how BioShock Infinite looks and behaves is the size of the environments and how easy it can be to get around them. There are tram rails running all around Columbia, and everyone seems to be armed with a handy hook that lets them hook up to the rails and scoot around the city. You'll be able to fight while on the rails as well as jump from one to the next. All of this happens at a breakneck speed, lending the action a much, much faster style than BioShock ever had. This bit also left me a little concerned, as it seems like it could be tough to keep track of where the rails are, especially when you're doing something like, say, hopping off of a burning zeppelin before it blows up or crashes. Little markers appear on rails and other surfaces as you look around the world, giving you an indication of where you'd land if you hopped off of your current rail. All in all, it looks like a really neat way to move around the city that also creates some exciting combat opportunities along the way.

Oh, and you can also totally launch crows out of your left hand. Tricks like those come from the consumption of vigors, which are Infinite's rough equivalent of plasmids.

But lets get back to the characters and the world that surrounds them. One of the interesting things I noticed in the demo is that every single citizen of Columbia isn't automatically looking to kill you. You're thrust into the middle of a brewing battle between the sky city's two factions: The Founders and the Vox Populi. The morals of the situation aren't especially clear, and Elizabeth doesn't seem to act as any sort of moral compass, meaning she apparently won't stand there and attempt to get you to do "the right thing." In the end, your goals are to escape the city. So when you stumble upon an execution that's just about to happen, you can stop it in a couple of different ways... or you might just want to keep a low profile and move on. In the demo, the player chose to shout out and call for a stop to the proceedings, which immediately erupted into the violent encounters and zeppelin fight I talked about earlier.

Just another case of "Horse meets Girl."

Elizabeth wants to understand her powers, and in the demo, the idea was that the duo was on their way to see Comstock, the leader of the Founders, with hopes that he'd be able to fill in some gaps. Along the way, you discover an injured horse. Elizabeth is convinced that she can use her abilities to open a tear and heal the horse, and this is where BioShock Infinite takes a wild, unexpected turn. She manages to open a tear around the horse that engulfs Booker and herself, as well, but the tear appears to be some sort of portal to the early 1980s. All at once, the characters were on a dark city street, with a movie theater on the right showing "Revenge of the Jedi" on its marquee while a Tears For Fears song plays. A cop car is screaming up the street in their direction, sirens blaring, and Elizabeth manages to close the tear before she and Booker are run down. What the hell, right? I mean, I saw it, and I'm not 100 percent sure what happened. But with the potential for time travel thrown into Infinite's list of tricks, it feels like anything's possible. And consider this: If Irrational is willing to tease that ability now, this far ahead of the game's retail release, what other left-field moments is it holding back?

When you encounter Elizabeth, she'll be escaping a tower, where she's been living out her young life in a Rapunzel-like fashion. She's compelled to remain there by Songbird, a big, mechanical-looking bird-thing that very much wants to put her back in the tower and kill Booker along the way. The demo ended with Songbird recapturing Elizabeth and flying off. Booker, naturally, jumps off of the building, catching a tram line and giving chase. If you had to start drawing comparisons to the original BioShock, the Songbird/Elizabeth relationship bears at least a superficial resemblance to the Big Daddy/Little Sister dynamic. The true nature of that relationship is one we'll have to wait to see.

I've reached a point with BioShock Infinite where I know everything I probably need to know. The game looks exciting and fresh, with good ideas about how to integrate conversations between Booker and Elizabeth directly into the game without breaking away for cutscenes. The action looks fast and wild, with the potential for a lot of different options and ways to approach combat and non-combat situations. Also, you can totally shoot crows out of your arm.

For more on BioShock Infinite, listen to Tuesday's podcast and check out this interview with Irrational's Ken Levine, which we shot back in September.

Staff
#1 Posted by Jeff (3580 posts) -
Comstock, leader of the Founders.

I'll talk about it at length during this Tuesday's podcast, but I want to make sure to call attention to BioShock Infinite. That feels a little weird, because I'm typically not the person to gush about trailers and carefully controlled demos, especially for games that are probably at least a year away. But after getting a second look at the game that focuses more on how the moment-to-moment gameplay in Infinite may unfold, it's been very easy to get excited. The characters and their motivations appear to be fascinating. The world, even though we've only been shown carefully selected portions of it, looks absolutely gripping. And the gameplay, rooted in at least some of the first-person shooter conventions that often feel like they're driving the entire industry these days, looks to offer some player choice and potential options that both fit with the core concepts of the game and could be a whole lot of fun, too.

Of course, I should take a step back and talk about exactly what we've seen so far. Both of the sequences that Irrational has shown have been live gameplay, but they're carefully planned slices of BioShock Infinite. They're idealized notions of what they're aiming for that, while planned for inclusion in the final product, might not work out quite as well as they appear. That's not unusual. Most games are shown off this way at one point or another. I guess I just need to try to keep one toe firmly planted, just in case it all falls apart in the end. Giving yourself over to unreleased products and polished-up demonstrations is a great way to find yourself disappointed by every game ever released. But let me get into the demo itself and stop wasting your time with all this hand-wringing. The bottom line is that if BioShock Infinite is as cool as the two demos I've seen make it out to be, it's going to be the sort of game that wins awards and is spoken of in hushed tones for years to come. But they're still scripted demos.

Part of the reason I feel so strongly about Infinite is the potential shown in the relationship between your character, Booker DeWitt, and Elizabeth, the girl with the otherworldly abilities that you're sent up to Columbia to find and extract. To hear Irrational discuss Elizabeth's arc, she'll grow over the course of the game, becoming more confident in her abilities and more powerful, too. But the E3 demo shows her in an earlier, more fragile state. She's still not entirely sure what her powers are, let alone how she can use them to her advantage. But that doesn't mean she's helpless. In fact, her specific brand of power seems to be one of the most helpful things in the entire game.

Randy Savage, another great Elizabeth protector.

To get specific, Elizabeth is able to call in things from other times or... dimensions? Planes of existence? It's hard to know the true extent of what's happening, but around the world, you'll see blurry, static-y objects that don't currently exist in your time, but you can get your little lady friend to call them in for you. So, in one encounter, you might whip around and see several out-of-phase objects, like a barrel full of guns, a mountable turret, and a sky tram car that's slowly making its way in your direction. Elizabeth's power isn't infinite, so she's probably only going to be able to open a tear and bring in one of those objects. This forces you to make a choice. Do you need more guns? Perhaps that turret would be good against the zeppelin that's currently firing tens of missiles in your direction, though. But the tram car--which is what was selected in the demo we were shown--warps into being just in time, causing it to slam into a few guys that are currently headed your way. Making these sorts of choices and selecting which tears to open and when seems like a key part of the gameplay.

The other thing that blew me away about how BioShock Infinite looks and behaves is the size of the environments and how easy it can be to get around them. There are tram rails running all around Columbia, and everyone seems to be armed with a handy hook that lets them hook up to the rails and scoot around the city. You'll be able to fight while on the rails as well as jump from one to the next. All of this happens at a breakneck speed, lending the action a much, much faster style than BioShock ever had. This bit also left me a little concerned, as it seems like it could be tough to keep track of where the rails are, especially when you're doing something like, say, hopping off of a burning zeppelin before it blows up or crashes. Little markers appear on rails and other surfaces as you look around the world, giving you an indication of where you'd land if you hopped off of your current rail. All in all, it looks like a really neat way to move around the city that also creates some exciting combat opportunities along the way.

Oh, and you can also totally launch crows out of your left hand. Tricks like those come from the consumption of vigors, which are Infinite's rough equivalent of plasmids.

But lets get back to the characters and the world that surrounds them. One of the interesting things I noticed in the demo is that every single citizen of Columbia isn't automatically looking to kill you. You're thrust into the middle of a brewing battle between the sky city's two factions: The Founders and the Vox Populi. The morals of the situation aren't especially clear, and Elizabeth doesn't seem to act as any sort of moral compass, meaning she apparently won't stand there and attempt to get you to do "the right thing." In the end, your goals are to escape the city. So when you stumble upon an execution that's just about to happen, you can stop it in a couple of different ways... or you might just want to keep a low profile and move on. In the demo, the player chose to shout out and call for a stop to the proceedings, which immediately erupted into the violent encounters and zeppelin fight I talked about earlier.

Just another case of "Horse meets Girl."

Elizabeth wants to understand her powers, and in the demo, the idea was that the duo was on their way to see Comstock, the leader of the Founders, with hopes that he'd be able to fill in some gaps. Along the way, you discover an injured horse. Elizabeth is convinced that she can use her abilities to open a tear and heal the horse, and this is where BioShock Infinite takes a wild, unexpected turn. She manages to open a tear around the horse that engulfs Booker and herself, as well, but the tear appears to be some sort of portal to the early 1980s. All at once, the characters were on a dark city street, with a movie theater on the right showing "Revenge of the Jedi" on its marquee while a Tears For Fears song plays. A cop car is screaming up the street in their direction, sirens blaring, and Elizabeth manages to close the tear before she and Booker are run down. What the hell, right? I mean, I saw it, and I'm not 100 percent sure what happened. But with the potential for time travel thrown into Infinite's list of tricks, it feels like anything's possible. And consider this: If Irrational is willing to tease that ability now, this far ahead of the game's retail release, what other left-field moments is it holding back?

When you encounter Elizabeth, she'll be escaping a tower, where she's been living out her young life in a Rapunzel-like fashion. She's compelled to remain there by Songbird, a big, mechanical-looking bird-thing that very much wants to put her back in the tower and kill Booker along the way. The demo ended with Songbird recapturing Elizabeth and flying off. Booker, naturally, jumps off of the building, catching a tram line and giving chase. If you had to start drawing comparisons to the original BioShock, the Songbird/Elizabeth relationship bears at least a superficial resemblance to the Big Daddy/Little Sister dynamic. The true nature of that relationship is one we'll have to wait to see.

I've reached a point with BioShock Infinite where I know everything I probably need to know. The game looks exciting and fresh, with good ideas about how to integrate conversations between Booker and Elizabeth directly into the game without breaking away for cutscenes. The action looks fast and wild, with the potential for a lot of different options and ways to approach combat and non-combat situations. Also, you can totally shoot crows out of your arm.

For more on BioShock Infinite, listen to Tuesday's podcast and check out this interview with Irrational's Ken Levine, which we shot back in September.

Staff
#2 Edited by Ooame (165 posts) -

Goddamn 
 
Wooohoo

#3 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1855 posts) -

Never had much interest in Bioshock, honestly. Hopefully this one is more interesting.

#4 Posted by TommyK (46 posts) -

I love Bioshock :D
#5 Edited by Ramone (2972 posts) -

I am not crazy about Bioshock but this is shaping up well

#6 Posted by memobarquero (1 posts) -

Nice

#7 Posted by Alphazero (1536 posts) -

So jazzed for this game. BioShock remains one of my tip-top favorites, gameplay and all.

#8 Posted by Chris2KLee (2336 posts) -

Had to get a Macho reference in there, didn't you Jeff?

#9 Posted by csl316 (8769 posts) -

Ninja Macho shout out, excellent.

#10 Posted by netfluffyG (65 posts) -

I'm pumped.

#11 Posted by Selken (6 posts) -

cant wait for this

#12 Posted by BooDoug187 (350 posts) -

Comstock, wonder if he will also hate porn and be aginst anything that teaches women about safe sex like the real Comstock.

#13 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

I wasn't really a big fan of Bioshock, but Infinite is looking pretty damn cool.

#14 Posted by wumbo3000 (979 posts) -

Have you had to played the original Bioshock or Bioshock 2 to understand this game?  I hope not because my copy of Bioshock 1 has this problem where the frame rate is so unstable it's unplayable :(

#15 Posted by rjayb89 (7724 posts) -

Horse meets girl? HOT

#16 Posted by Toxin066 (3291 posts) -

Jeff painted a fantastic picture of what the game is going to be. Oh man, I can't wait to play through it.

#17 Posted by cyraxible (688 posts) -

I fuckin' love Bioshock. It's one of my all time favorite games and I cannot wait for its true sequel. Ken Levine is a man I trust.

#18 Posted by damswedon (3195 posts) -

I hope the gun-play is better than it was in Bioshock because in 07 it was kinda passable but now it is assy.

#19 Posted by Dtat (1623 posts) -

Wow that actually sounds really really cool! I can't wait to get my hands on it when it comes out....when exactly? :(

#20 Posted by High_Nunez (218 posts) -

I don't know why, but the name Columbia bothers me. The game sounds interesting though. Steampunk cities in the sky sounds cool, but I guess the next step would be a giant city in space with some Zeerust design. I'd dig that.

#21 Posted by bass_hero (41 posts) -

I better be able to watch the whole of Return of the Jedi in this game...

#22 Posted by CrimsonNoir (402 posts) -

it looks like the changed elizabeth's hair, downgrade.

#23 Posted by Yummylee (21784 posts) -

The time travel mechanic has an incredible amount of potential. The pop culture references are a great touch; like a scene out of a Tarantino movie. Plus I imagine those inter-dimensional items you can have Elizabeth summon are environment specific? Otherwise never not summoning trams!

Online
#24 Edited by Cornman89 (1579 posts) -

Time travel? Parallel worlds? I don't know what the fuck's going on in Ken Levine's head, but I like it. E3 can't come fast enough.

#25 Posted by Vonocourt (2133 posts) -

First it was the ideologies Infinite presented that got me interested, now it's the fact that the gameplay seems kind of badass.

#26 Posted by benjo_t (152 posts) -

I can't wait until we're given some unscripted gameplay. Love all the Bioshock games, can't imagine this one being any different.

#27 Posted by kerse (2114 posts) -

You can shoot crows out of your arm? I'm in.

#28 Posted by Landon (4149 posts) -

Read the whole thing Jeff. Game sounds awesome.

#29 Posted by stringbacon (87 posts) -

What are the odds that Rapture makes a cameo in one of these time rift events?

#30 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19354 posts) -

Looking forward to the podcast. I'm really interested in this game and one of the major parts I want to know more about is the battle system. The fact that it has a fast pace sounds great compared to how BioShock operated.

#31 Edited by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -

I liked BioShock and BioShock 2... but this this seems a little desperate. It's good that Irrational have found their thing, remaking the same game over and over again. Good for them :)

#32 Posted by ShaneDev (1696 posts) -

I want to hear more on the podcast but this sounds very very good. I can't wait to play it.

#33 Posted by Floppypants (798 posts) -

One of the few games that can trample Mass Effect 3's chances at 2012 GotY

#34 Posted by Chuck_ (212 posts) -

Welp, looks like it's time for another run through Bioshock. 2012 cannot come soon enough. 

#35 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19354 posts) -
@Floppypants said:
One of the few games that can trample Mass Effect 3's chances at 2012 GotY
I wouldn't really say that (unless you're talking about yourself), but I'm sure it's going to be a great game.
#36 Posted by Beforet (2922 posts) -

I'll have to buy this right when it comes out. I waited far too long for Bioshock and had that spoiled for me. Hoping to avoid that this time.

#37 Posted by AngriGhandi (780 posts) -

Oh my god... that name totally makes sense now!
 
MULTIVERSE HOOOO

#38 Posted by admanb (225 posts) -

This could be real great.

#39 Posted by Grilledcheez (3949 posts) -

I'm glad this game continues to impress!

#40 Edited by bybeach (4848 posts) -

This rocks. Even if it has problems, this will  still be of interest to me. I'm getting the idea Levine and co did a whole lot of thinking about Bioshock, and the whole 'Shock' thing. When I was young There was this British spy series, quite decent, called Secret Agent. Whoever and whatever then  built on it, which then culminated in The Prisoner. I'll never forget that, and I get the feeling I may be seeing this adding of dimension creativity again.
#41 Posted by spilledmilkfactory (1880 posts) -

This looks like it's shaping up to be GotY material, for whichever year it ends up releasing in. Can't wait to get my hands on it

#42 Posted by transience (111 posts) -

why did that Randy Savage picture make me laugh so hard?

#43 Posted by jozzy (2042 posts) -

I thought this way just a trailer or something and skipped over it for a while, but it was actually a full fledged (and awesome) interview. 
 
I think you guys should change the title to reflect this is more of a feature, maybe add Interview or something to the title.

#44 Posted by Gerhabio (1977 posts) -

This sounds incredible, super excited

#45 Posted by Falconer (1691 posts) -

Tears for Fears? Fucking. Sold.

#46 Posted by DHunter329 (86 posts) -

Jeff, you got me hyped up again. Can't wait to pre-order and 2012 can't get here soon enough.

#47 Posted by HarkinNecro (81 posts) -

I wonder if they have diluted it again from System Shock 2. As someone who loved SS2, I enjoyed the amount of things you could do in the universe. I was disappointed with bioshock in some ways but enjoyed it in others. We'll see.

#48 Posted by Daveyo520 (6791 posts) -

I don't like that time travel idea :(

#49 Posted by siddarth0605 (124 posts) -
@Floppypants: if ME3 can be better than ME2 then I don't give a fuck as to what wins GOTY. I love that series and I want them to do right by it. I have to say though I am soooo excited for this game. Def a top 5 most anticipated game for E3
#50 Posted by Enigma777 (6074 posts) -
Too soon, Jeff. Too soon.

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