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BioShock Infinite First Look Preview
Post by Dan @ 01:46am 13/08/10 | Comments
Irrational Games, creators of the acclaimed BioShock and System Shock 2 have at long last lifted the veil of secrecy from their current project - BioShock Infinite.

It's been almost three years the release of the original BioShock (BioShock 2 was developed by other 2K studios Marin and Australia) and it's frankly amazing that the Boston crew at Irrational and publisher 2K Games have both managed to remain so tight-lipped for so long without a single credible rumour finding its way online.

At an exclusive event in the heart of New York city, the project previously teased as "Icarus" has now been revealed as "BioShock Infinite". AusGamers was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the occasion and in addition to the teaser trailer that you can now watch, we were also treated to a detailed introduction by Ken Levine followed by a generous helping of actual gameplay action.

BioShock Infinite departs from the underwater city of Rapture into another new environment potentially as wondrous - the open skies, in a floating metropolis known as Columbia. The year is 1912 -- decades before the events of the previous two games -- and once again it's not exactly history as we know it. The early 20th century is still when the United States became a major player on the international stage, but with the technology in a BioShock world that means they built a frikken sky city.

There is an overtly political overtone to the game and the New York presentation was decorated with fictional US war propaganda posters such as "For God and Country - It's our job to guard against the foreign hordes".

In contrast to subaquatic Rapture, Columbia is no hidden secret. It was constructed as a demonstration of American industrial might and is not only a bustling community, but also heavily armed and fortified. The story of BioShock Infinite begins with Columbia having been predictably corrupted, then getting involved in some manner of international conflict, after which it flies off into hiding - and this is where our player character enters the scene.

Unlike the previous BioShock games where the player was a nameless vessel, in Infinite you play a fully fleshed out protagonist named Booker DeWitt, a former (since disgraced) agent of the powerful Pinkerton Agency. The game's objective is set when you are contracted to rescue a woman named Elizabeth from Columbia only to find once you get there, that there's much more to Elizabeth's situation; with powerful supernatural abilities, she's not exactly a helpless damsel and you'll need to work together to stop the malicious forces that control Columbia.

Gameplay kicks off walking through the streets of Columbia and the environment design -- much like the previous games -- is a mixture of fantastical technology and period-relevant architecture. Instead of the Art Deco style of the 60s, everything is turn-of-the-century industrialised. To brand it simply with the "steampunk" label would not really be giving enough credit to its uniqueness, but perhaps think of the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and then add more techno-fantasy.

A cart driver rolls past pulled by an iron steam-powered horse and industrial cargo crates whiz by on an extensive system of rails. We continue past the carcass of a dead regular horse and other signs of disarray until reaching the first point of conflict. Harsh words ensue and suddenly the opponent strikes us with a face full of ravens; birds commanded with some form of psychic ability not unlike Rapture's plasmids, but not quite the same either.

In this section of the demo, the first weapon is revealed as a sniper rifle which nicely illustrates the increased environment sizes this game will have, and of course the ever-present danger of falling to your death over every ledge. The animations and design of the weapon itself still look distinctly BioShock but the game has purportedly been completely built from scratch, with not a single line of code or art asset from the original game used.

Here we also see both our opponent and player character able to use a hook like device to zipline along the cargo system's railings and get a forceful sense of vertigo while free-falling between the tracks. Elizabeth is then introduced with the game during the course of the skirmish and busts out some psychokinetic of her own. Then we discover a bottle of tonic labelled "Murder of Crows" which (as you can probably guess) is the secret to crow mind control.

In the next scene we find ourselves wandering into a bar. As mentioned earlier, Columbia is a populated city and this bar, seemingly filled with blue-collar types, isn't immediately hostile. Ken explains how this air of neutrality is very much deliberate. Like BioShock's Big Daddies, not every inhabitant of the city is out to get you - as long as you don't step out of line, that is. After an altercation with the tavern authority, the other patrons appear to react to the use of supernatural abilities and spring from their chairs in a riotous stampede towards us.

Our player is suddenly being attacked by more opponents than were likely ever on screen at once in the previous games, but never fear, crows are here. As the crows swarm in, the mob is disabled and easy pickings for another weapon reveal - the trusty old shotgun. This illustrates the continuation of BioShock 2's ability to use both a conventional weapon and plasmid-type power in tandem.

BioShock Infinite, however, takes things one step further as we are then shown a scene where Elizabeth uses a magnetic power to gather scattered scrap metal objects from the environment into a giant, hovering molten ball, then instructs the player to use their own psychokinetic ability to launch it at the foes. Wherein the previous games the variety of weapons and plasmids often degenerated into just using your favourites until you ran out of ammo, the increased number of opponents and environmental scale in Infinite aim to make the player act more strategically with their combos and use "the right tool for the job".

As the demo nears its climax, we're attacked by a steam-powered cyborg, half man, half cast-iron machine that, while clambering wildly around like good cyborgs do, demonstrates its power by hurling a horse carcass in our direction. Once again working combos with Elizabeth fends off this beast, but during conversation following the fight her nose is bleeding - a noticeable limiting effect of overusing these supernatural abilities. After explaining that, that wasn't even the big bad nasty that she has been running from, roaring from the sky swoops an even bigger nasty. I'm sure we'll get a proper name for it soon, but for now it's most easily described as a flying dragon big daddy - a metallic, hulking winged beast with the characteristic diver's helmet hemispheres as it's two bugging eyes.

Needless to say the audience reception was overtly positive, particularly when the lights then flicked on and a curtain dropped to reveal a hotel ballroom decorated to look like an interior in the game.

There're a lot of questions still to be answered; even basic ones like what does the title "Infinite" even refer to? Will it have a multiplayer component; Cooperative (perhaps plausible with the new system of character combo attacks)? But I can confidently say that nothing shown so far gave even the slightest sour taste. Those critical that the underwater tales were a little too derivative of System Shock 2 should be pleased to learn that BioShock Infinite at least kicks off with a significantly different plot.

It's obviously far too early to call it a success, but this is undoubtedly one of the strongest reveals for a new videogame that I've witnessed. Perhaps that has to do with such a long period of secrecy and the amount of substance that has allowed them to serve up to us, but at this point Irrational's track record of narrative strength deserves our cautious optimism that this could be another first-person shooter to remember.

BioShock Infinite is currently due "during calendar year 2012" for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For more juicy details, check out AusGamers' day one developer interview with Irrational Games' Tim Gerritson.

Latest Comments
Posted 07:55pm 17/8/10
A fascinating glimpse into the new game for sure. But 'Art Deco style of the 60s?' A little off there Dan...
Posted 08:38pm 17/8/10
A fascinating glimpse into the new game for sure. But 'Art Deco style of the 60s?' A little off there Dan...

He was clearly referring to the original game.
Posted 02:57pm 20/8/10
I'm disappointed we have to wait until 2012.
Posted 02:11pm 04/9/10
He was clearly referring to the original game.

I just meant Art Deco is a movement of the 1920s & 30s, not the 60s. But yeah, no one likes pedantry.
Posted 02:45pm 04/9/10
I just meant Art Deco is a movement of the 1920s & 30s, not the 60s. But yeah, no one likes pedantry.
The Art Deco movement was popularised during the 20s and 30s yes, however the original game BioShock takes place in the 60s - a little confusing the way i wrote it I suppose, but hey it was probably about 3am the night after the event when I got up to that part :P.
Posted 03:00pm 04/9/10
How about a submit to reddit button ? Or, posting these in /r/gaming and letting us upvote them.
Severus Justicia
Posted 09:33pm 04/9/10
I love it's look. I'll be keeping an eye on this; looks cool!
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