The Bioshock franchise is well known for the incredibly unique setting of Rapture and the innovative gameplay spurred by the use of plasmids to place extraordinary powers in players’ hands. The third title in the series, Bioshock Infinite, intends to continue the trend of bringing top notch gameplay and story telling to the masses, but this time is set in the floating city of Columbia.
The year is 1912, well before the events of the first two games, but much like Rapture was found we encounter Columbia in the midst of a civil war. For the moment, the war is not our concern, and only the safety of Elizabeth matters. Our demo starts with us in the shoes of former Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt, who has been hired to extract Elizabeth from Columbia. At this point DeWitt has already met up with Elizabeth and they have begun making their escape, taking temporary shelter in a small shop full of various trinkets and propaganda posters. This makes for the perfect time to notice the incredible level of detail in Bioshock Infinite. Not only does every item graced with wonderful looking textures, but the team at Irrational Games has taken the time to make sure this is a fully fleshed out world. Intricate labels, slogans, and posters show you that these were all intended for sale to the people, and some of these items may even come in handy for yourself.
As Booker looks around and picks up different items he makes various comments regarding them, like when he finds money and says “Ah some scratch, that could come in handy.” Turning around we see Elizabeth dancing around in an over sized novelty Abe Lincoln mask, saying “Four score and seven years ago.” The peace of the little shop is short-lived as we hear a loud screech, the shop shakes, and “It’s coming!” Our characters take cover behind book shelves, as an enormous eye the size of the window it’s looking through shines a beam of light in, clearly hunting for them. Luckily the search is short-lived and it flies away, but our characters realize they must move while they can. Clearly this is an enemy to avoid, whatever it is. Before we make it out into the streets though, Elizabeth makes it clear she would rather die, wrapping Booker’s hands around her own neck. “It won’t come to that,” he promises, and they embark out into the city.
As they make their way across the city it’s impossible not to notice the ravages of war occurring all around us. People are beating each other up, gun fire can be heard all around, muggings are rampant, and citizens beg for help as we pass by. DeWitt knows better than to stop and get involved, lest he risk the capture of himself and Elizabeth. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if we could stop and try to help at the risk of a bigger fight, and perhaps some unseen rewards.
It isn’t long before Elizabeth runs ahead, and calling out to her we come upon a dying horse with a gaping hole in its midsection, which is clearly fatal. Booker tries to convince her to leave it, but she says “No, I can save it. Here, I see a tear.” Reaching her hands into something unseen, she spreads them, pushing open a circular power, which seems to have sent the effected area through time, or perhaps another dimension. Regardless of the explanation, the horse is briefly restored, before the circle slams shut. Elizabeth tries again, this time spreading it further, and suddenly we see modern paved roads, a sign saying “Revenge of the Jedi,” and an oncoming truck. As fast as it was there it all disappears again, a split second before Elizabeth would get run over, and with both characters utterly confused about what they just saw. Elizabeth apologizes, stating she thought she could control her but she can’t yet.
Our characters decide to move on. Clearly Elizabeth needs help to get her mysterious powers under control, and hopefully the man they are heading to see can provide just that. Eventually the turmoil leads us to a large stage where a public execution is taking place. DeWitt can take no more and calls out to put a stop to it, but he is immediately recognized and the executioners begin firing on him. The intense shootout gives a glimpse of the weaponry in Bioshock Infinite, which is so far standard fare, with a shotgun and machine gun leading the charge. Booker summons a flock of crows to distract and damage his enemies, but it’s not quite enough. However, it is here that Elizabeth becomes particularly useful. Various objects around the area shimmer with a washed out gray color. They’re not quite there, but Elizabeth is giving us the option to have her pull one through the tear to assist in the battle. Choosing a small building we suddenly have cover from a lot of fire power, and Booker then uses one of his unique abilities to levitate multiple enemies in the air. After dispatching the attackers Booker and Elizabeth move on, but the breather is short-lived.
Rounding the corner into an open plaza we find not only more enemies, but a huge zeppelin in the sky raining down a barrage of rockets on us. Booker needs to act quickly, and telling Elizabeth to take cover and stay put, he hops onto one of the many skyrails zig-zagging over head. The action gets really intense here, with Booker swinging throughout the huge city on a rollercoaster of death, he hops from rail to rail to rail all while shooting at pursuers who are riding the rails as well. Here a special circle shaped reticule can be seen, which clearly designates where Booker is jumping to and assists in keeping pace with the high-end action. At one point Booker lands on a platform, levitates a group of enemies, while Elizabeth tears a hanging tram-car into the world that slams into the floating foes. Blasting a few more shotgun rounds into angry faces, Booker keeps moving and hops back onto the rails. While making a few laps around the plaza the zeppelin continues to rain rockets, and Booker eventually manages to ride a rail close enough to hop on. Levitating the enemies inside, his shotgun makes short work of the engine, and Booker dives out, falling about 10-15 stories before latching onto a rail, and taking some damage in the process. “Now that was impressive!” Elizabeth exclaims as the two meet up. Impressive indeed, as I’m pretty sure my jaw was touching the floor by the end of this.
Their reunion is short-lived, as the real foe to fear swoops in, knocking Booker through a roof into a nearby building. The assailant is a giant mechanized bird like creature, called the Song Bird. It’s the size of a small building, and clearly pissed off. We can hear Elizabeth in the background shouting for it to stop, but it pays no head and draws back a man-sized fist, ready to pummel Booker into a bloody pulp. A split second before the swing would connect Elizabeth shouts, “I’m sorry!” The fist stops mid swing. The Song Bird faces her, clearly now listening, and clearly somehow emotionally tied to the girl. She continues, saying she should have never left, and she’ll come with if it doesn’t hurt Booker. Snatching her up it flies away, with Elizabeth reaching out to us, tears streaming down her face.
I immediately want to go rescue Elizabeth, but the demo is over and we must depart. Bioshock Infinite is still almost a year away, but every aspect of it looks incredible. Between the gorgeous scenery, mysterious plotline, insanely hectic battles, and depth of character seen in only a matter of minutes, it’s easy to tell that Bioshock Infinite is well on the way to becoming and instant classic. If big daddies were scary before, the Song Bird makes them look like twerps, and I can’t wait to try to take that thing down, sky hooking it all along the way. We’ve also just confirmed that Move will be available to use when the game releases in Q2 of next year. Even though this preview demo has shown quite a lot, it’s such exciting stuff that we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled throughout the next year for any more tidbits on Bioshock Infinite in the mean time.