To Infinite and Beyond
The Wright brothers captured the world’s imagination when they tirelessly strived to soar amongst the clouds. While their attempts were honorable, if Orville and Wilbur got their heads out of the clouds and read a newspaper, they would‘ve realized that somebody beat them to the punch. Three years before they “made history“ by taking to the air in an engine-powered flying machine in 1903, the American government launched Columbia, a floating city, into Earth‘s atmosphere. Needless to say, this tears a large hole in the Wright brothers’ wings, but it makes us the giddy beneficiaries of BioShock Infinite.
- We can't wait to take to the skies in a brand new world -
We’ve marveled at Irrational Games’ Rapture, the underwater dystopia from the first two BioShock titles, but it’s time to leave the drippy halls of Rapture for the open airs of BioShock Infinite. Never heard of Columbia? That’s because the U.S. cut all ties when they found out it was a floating war machine that happened to be part of an international “incident.” Left to its own vices, chaos ran amock, and several factions had an old-fashioned, bloody power struggle. At the time of Infinite, only two groups remain: ultranationalists who want to restrict Columbia to American citizens, and the Vox Populi who fight for equal rights.
Thrown into the middle of this political and moral conflict is Elizabeth, a dough-eyed damsel who’s been locked in a tower for 15 years. Her unique telepathic abilities are coveted by both parties, and it‘s up to you to rescue her. In BioShock Infinite you’ll infiltrate Columbia as discharged Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, who’s commissioned by an unknown employer to abscond with Elizabeth out of Columbia. Finding Elizabeth in her one-room tower is simple enough, but getting her off the floating islands is another story entirely.
BioShock Infinite wants you to interact with the world using discretion or straightforward, impulsive killing. There will be plenty of dynamic encounters with Columbia’s citizens, allowing you to calmly observe townsfolk to pick up nuggets of information, or you can shoot and loot. In other instances, somebody will recognize you or simply not like you and set off a hornet’s nest of trouble. Splicers from the first two BioShock games would charge automatically, so it’s great to see a fresh approach from low-level enemies. Alphas, however, will attack you like a raging silverback gorilla. Alphas are strapped into powerful mech suits and will take some strategy to defeat. From what we’ve seen from Infinite so far, Elizabeth will help open up kill opportunities using the environment or by combining her powers with your own. The greatest enemy revealed so far is Him, a 30-foot monster who resembles a giant man-hawk. He has been the sole creature responsible for keeping Elizabeth detained, and He wants her back. As her only connection to the outside, Elizabeth actually loves Him, so taking down this juggernaut may call for more tact than usual if you want to stay in good graces with Elizabeth.
In typical BioShock fashion, expect to wield plenty of superhuman abilities along the way. Unlike plasmids from prior BioShock games, vigor grants temporary powers. Though fleeting, vigor offers variations to the strength of a given power. Basically, some vigors will grant weak powers that can be used repeatedly, while other vigor vials will function like power weapons that have limited use but bring devastating power. You’ll also have nostrum (passive) powers that you can customize to suit your play-style, and BioShock Infinite will even cater its vigor drops to suit your custom nostrum powers.
- Elizabeth might have needed rescuing, but she's no pushover -
BioShock Infinite toes the thin line between resembling other games in the series and changing things up. The biggest change is the traveling system, which includes skylines (think zip-lines meet the fastest and most unsafe rollercoaster ever). You’ll be able to zoom between Columbia’s islands on these tracks, and you’ll even have to defend yourself while dangling from the skylines. Irrational Games promises that skylines won’t be a major source of instant deaths, but rather a compelling, adrenaline-fueled way to commute throughout Columbia.
With gorgeous graphics, a new setting, and a great story, it looks like BioShock Infinite will bring us back to the glory of the first BioShock while introducing great new game mechanics. The moral and political landscape is frothing with questions that beg answering, and we can only assume that Booker will need to make some major decisions about his own political and moral standpoints while he’s treading the floating streets of Columbia. Of course, we’ll have to wait until its 2012 release to find out.
John loves gaming and loves writing about games. He wants to become a known voice in the gaming community and a game designer one day.
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