June 12, 2011 by Paul Curtin
Remember that nostalgic feeling you had when playing the first BioShock? Rapture was a new world that seemed like nothing else we had ever seen in a video game before. While BioShock 2 was a good sequel, it just didn’t have that same feeling that you got from the first. Well, get ready to have your mind blown and relive that first experience with 2K Games’ latest installment in the series, BioShock Infinite. The developers behind the original BioShock (Irrational Games) are back and taking the series to new heights… literally.
It seems like Irrational Games also felt like the series already needed a change of scenery. Unlike the last two games which were set in Rapture under the sea, Infinite takes place in Columbia, a massive city that is held up by blimps and balloons, which keep it constantly floating in the sky. Although there are a lot of big changes to the series, the core concepts are still the same. Like Rapture, Columbia is a dystopia, but instead of arriving late to rebellion and wondering what’s happened, Infinite‘s story takes place during the political uprising as Columbia begins to fall, putting the player right in the middle of the chaotic action.
In addition to a different location, Infinite takes place in the year 1912, 50 years before the events of the first two games. You’ll assume the role of Booker DeWitt, a former member of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, who has come to Columbia in order to infiltrate the city and rescue a woman by the name of Elizabeth, who has been held captive by the leader of the city for years and plays a vital role in the rebellion. Once finding Elizabeth, you’ll learn that she has mysterious powers that allow her to manipulate space, time, and life itself.
The preview we saw started off with Booker and Elizabeth in a supply store searching for important items. As Booker finds a bottle of Bucking Bronco vigor (vigors replace plasmids in Infinite), Elizabeth jokingly grabs items like a giant Abe Lincloln mask that she puts on and recites “four score and seven years ago.” She then picks up an item that she thinks is gold and yells to Booker to show him what she has found, with him replying back, “That’s gold like I’m the king of England.” Just as we started to get a sense of Booker’s seriousness and Elizabeth’s innocence, a massive quake shakes the building and a screech is heard with a bright beam of light shining through the windows. As both characters quickly take cover to hide, it’s clear that something big is searching for them.
Once the light went away, signaling that whatever is searching for them has moved on, the two make their way out of the store, but just before exiting, Elizabeth grabs Booker’s hand and puts it around her throat. “Promise me that if it comes to it, you won’t let him take me back,” she says to Booker with him replying, “It won’t come to that.” As the two make their way through the town, Elizabeth finds a horse lying in the streets in pain and on the verge of death. There’s the option for Booker to euthanize the horse, but Elizabeth makes it clear that she wants to save the horse and that Booker doesn’t have a say in the matter.
As Elizabeth leans down and puts her hands on the horse, she begins to conjure some sort of healing power that begins to bring the horse back to life and sprout grass and flowers on the ground around them, but before she can finish bringing the horse back to life, she loses control of her power and the horse falls back down. Elizabeth proceeds to give it one more shot but obviously tries a lot harder this time, resulting in her losing total control and both she and Booker being teleported to what looks like an American city in 1983 with a movie theater that has “Revenge of the Jedi” on the marquee. With no explanation of what happened, a car begins to speed down the street directly at the two. Booker starts yelling to Elizabeth to “Take us back!” as she screams in return that she’s trying. With the car’s lights getting closer and closer, Booker continues to yell for Elizabeth to bring them back. At the very last second her powers go off and the two are brought back to Columbia right before the car hits them. And I thought Inception was wild… I got goosebumps.
After being teleported back to Columbia and leaving us dying to know what the hell just happened, Booker and Elizabeth come across an imminent public execution in the middle of the city. Once again there is the option to interfere and stop the execution; Booker does so, which leads to the bloodthirsty citizens now coming for Booker and Elizabeth. This is where one of the new features in Infinite is shown off as you control Booker in first-person mode, but also have Elizabeth fighting alongside you with her own powers that let her teleport objects and use them as cover or to take out enemies when she wants. Elizabeth yells to Booker questioning what she should do, and he directs her to use a nearby train car as a weapon, which she teleports through the air and throws at the enemies. Once again, I thought Inception‘s train scene was wild…
Just when you think the game can’t get any crazier, rockets begin to crash around you and more enemies begin sliding down what’s being referred to as the “Sky Line”, a system of rails that looks like a roller coaster built throughout the entire city. Booker uses a hook in his hand to latch onto one of the lines and begins riding in the direction of the where the rockets are coming from. We see that there’s a massive zeppelin higher in the sky, which Booker slides towards, all while killing enemies who are also sliding around on the lines. After a crazy ride around the town that showcased Booker jumping from one line to another, he finally makes it high enough to board the zeppelin and destroy it. With the ship exploding, Booker skydives out of the zeppelin and falls hundreds of feet back down to the city and once again latches onto one of the rails and rides it back to the ground, reuniting with Elizabeth, who comments, “Booker, that was amazing!” You’re telling us… it was easily one of the craziest and best action scenes I’ve ever seen in my life.
Before we could finish chuckling at Elizabeth’s remark that summed up what we were all thinking, we hear a high-pitched screech as a massive steampunk-looking bird crashes into the ground and throws Booker through the wall of a nearby building. As Booker tries to get up, the mechanical big-daddy-looking bird (Big Bird? lol), which is actually being referred to as a Songbird, gets ready to crush Booker. Before squashing Booker, Elizabeth yells to the Songbird to wait and that she’s sorry and should have never left. As she pleads with the bird to take her and spare Booker, the bird’s eyes turn from a bright glowing red to yellow (similar to the eyes of a Big Daddy in previous games, showing a change in emotion), and the bird grabs her and flies away. Booker gets up and chases after the bird by jumping out the hole in the wall and the trailer ends. Talk about a teaser that leaves you questioning everything you just saw and needing to know more.
All the events that I just listed above that we saw in the preview happened in real time with no pre-rendered cutscenes or jumps in gameplay. With jaw-dropping previews like this and Irrational Games not commenting on the relationship between Infinite and previous BioShock games, you can bet that there will be tons of mysteries throughout Infinite that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen next. I could have sat in 2K’s theater room all day and watched Irrational play through the entire game, which is why BioShock Infinite is easily our E3 2011 Game of the Show.
You can check out in-game footage of some of the events talked about in this preview below in the E3 teaser trailer. BioShock Infinite is set for release in 2012 and we can’t wait to get our hands on the latest and what looks to be best game in the series so far.