Game Preview: BioShock Infinite [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]
BioShock Infinite springs open a whole other world, with political corruption, brutal powers, travelling through the sky and not forgetting a mechanical George Washington! If that alone doesn’t sell it to you, then you better keep reading…
When looking at BioShock Infinite it’s easy to see that Bioshock has changed and we will no longer be in Rapture. The world is different; it’s more open, more colourful, more vibrant and alive. During our demo session, we started to sail towards a light house. Sound familiar? However, this lighthouse had something even more mysterious about it. As we climbed the stairs and reached the top, we took a moment to look around and take in our surroundings. Suddenly, a red mist over the ocean crept up on us as we banged on some bells to open a door. This is where the real adventure begun! We sat in this peculiar looking chair, and headed off to the sky.
When we reached the top, we were welcomed by a stunningly beautiful church, with some of the best lighting and water visuals seen in a long time. We stood for a moment and just looked around before following the path that would activate the events needed to proceed. BioShock Infinite, at this point, is already a visually impressive title in its own right, but just in this moment of entering such a sacred place, you can truly see how much work has been put into the detail. We continued to follow the well-lit path towards a baptising priest, christening us into the new world of Columbia. It was an intense baptism, with cult members watching on eagerly. After nearly drowning in the process, we emerged to the surface where we were confronted with giant statues of America’s founding fathers, George Washington, Benjamin Franklyn and Thomas Jefferson – a stunning sight to see! Already we felt on edge; confused, but intrigued to see how Columbia unfolded. Fans of the previous titles in the series will know how heavily detailed BioShock is in terms of clever scripting, fantastically creepy characters and incredible atmosphere. Those features all remain, and it’s easy to tell that even though we’re not in Rapture, we are, in fact, in a BioShock game.
The core game is still here but in a new setting; a paradise that is idolised by all, the land in the clouds, a new Garden of Eden, but one that is decaying and breaking away as we speak. Columbia honestly doesn’t feel as scary as Rapture, but this is no issue as the game offers a lot more visually and with its story line; the game constantly keeps you fascinated about the events of the crumbling Columbia. The game is very unusual, however, and you will constantly have to watch your back as anything can happen as the people of Columbia descend into madness. It’s worth it, at moments throughout the game, to just slow down and check out your surroundings, as there are some really interesting interactions unfolding between the people of Columbia. So many things will be going on in the background that, on your first play through, you may miss a lot of them; this will hopefully provide a replay incentive.
The streets of Columbia will have you mesmerised for hours, making you feel that you are in the 1900’s. From all the classic advertisements on billboards, to the toys in stores, it has everything that you can imagine, and more! BioShock Infinite takes a huge step into a topic that really hasn’t been highlighted much in games, racism, and will probably cause some stir in some of the mainstream press. As some of you may already know, during this time America was still heavily involved in the slave industry. It does add to the realism of what the world was like back then, and the game isn’t scared to confront the tougher implications. You will come across a lot of references to slavery when you enter the carnival in the game, with slaves cleaning floors and many signs discriminating against other ethnicities.
The racist remarks also turn into amazing well-crafted propaganda when you enter the “Hall of Heroes” where you will have to battle your way through racist dioramas of Native Americans and references to the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. It’s a pretty intense situation to be in, but we can’t ignore this part of history and I give my respect to the developers for bringing up such a controversial subject. Similar to previous BioShock titles in the series, audio recordings are still present around the world, with many of them conveying freedom and mentions of America being the superior country. The main protagonist, Brooker DeWitt, is an interesting character, and it is nice, for once, to have a main character that has better interactions with other characters in the game. Not only do you sometimes catch a glimpse of his face, you also will hear his comments; you get to experience flashbacks and see his relationship unfold with Elizabeth. The combat in BioShock Infinite is actually very different from BioShock and has improved on a lot of the issues that were present in the previous game. There have been changes made with the plasmids and vita chambers, which are now replaced by tonics and a healing ability, which is a big difference! However, this is due to the fast paced nature of BioShockInfinite.
Enemies fight in larger groups, so you have them flinging in from every corner, and thanks to the ability of the Sky Hook and Sky Rails you will encounter many enemies on the ground and in the air. The enemies are also much smarter in certain situations and don’t give up so easily; waves of enemies are present at times and this does produce a challenge, and via the ability to use sky-lines, a whole new depth to the combat is revealed. Melee combat is also executed by the sky-hook, and in many situations it will come in handy when low on ammo or when you feel the need to cut someone in half… (Yes, the sky-hook has a chainsaw equipped). The weapons and the tonics do feel very similar. That said, there are some interesting new tonics at your disposal, including the ability to send a flock of birds to kill enemies.
Some tonics also have two variations. For example, one of the fire tonics you pick up early in the game has the ability to send out a fireball blaze or set up a trap, it’s a nice option to have, giving players various ways to approach a battle. Lastly, before I forget one of the main features in the game; for the first time you have a female companion named Elizabeth. She is also the reason that you’re in new Columbia in the first place. Elizabeth has been captured and is being used for scientific experiments, but has no idea she is being watched, monitored and studied. The reason for her capture is simply because she has the ability to open ‘tears’ into alternative universes. After you free her from captivity and she is done with being distraught about being a test subject, she becomes a very handy companion to have! Elizabeth brings you ammo and health kits when needed, and often points out things in the environment that would be of use to you. She has the ability (using her powers) to bring objects up in battles including turrets and even secret entrances, as well as being able to revive you when you die. As we progressed through to the end of our preview, we unfortunately did not get a chance to fight any of the unique enemies that include Silent Boys and a robotic George Washington.
We did encounter George Washington, but at that point the preview ended. It’s a shame as he was looking to be a fantastic boss fight. However, we did come across one of the Handy Men and battled with two of them. They’re not as difficult to fight as some may think, but they are very strong and can take a chunk of your health down. However, there will be tonnes of soldiers after you during the game, with some moments slowing the game down. At points, you face hiding away from the Song Bird that is trying to bring Elizabeth “home”. After finishing the preview, we walked out of 2K’s offices scratching our heads at some of the moments in the game, making us wonder what some of the phrases or situations meant. BioShock Infinite left many unanswered questions during out preview.
What I really want to know is, “why are we known as the ‘Black Sheppard’?”, “what does the ‘A.D.’ mean on Brooker’s hand?” and “why is he feared by all?” Elizabeth also brings up many questions, but I guess we will have to progress even further to have them answered. BioShock Infinite releases worldwide on March 26, 2013.