BioShock Infinite seems like a brave step to me. It’s the second BioShock game to make it into our top ten though, so perhaps Irrational know just what they’re doing. This third game in the franchise moves out of the dank, underwater setting of the first two and takes palce among the clouds with a bright and breezy backdrop.
Columbia, the floating city that now plays host to BioShock’s action, was launched by the US government in 1900 as a show of their exceptionalism. It was originally thought to be a kind of travelling showcase for the shining achievements of American technology, science and manufacturing but was soon discovered to be a disguised battleship. The US government soon cut all their ties with the city and its location was lost to all. Columbia became a kind of graceful menace that moved from place to place, oppressing the populations below.
And so it is, twelve years after Columbia’s launch, that you find yourself in the shoes of Booker DeWitt. You’re recovering from a murky past and trying to forge a future as a mercenary or private detective by taking a job searching for a young woman called Elizabeth. Throughout the course of the game you must use powers, acquired via vigors in much the same way as the previous BioShock’s plasmids granted supernatural powers. There will also be a healthy element of cooperative play.
In the past, BioShock games’ strongest point has been their fiction and their atmosphere. Infinite seems to have the fiction pinned down pretty well, with cue taken from real world social and literary movements and conspiracy theories. This time around, we also seem to have some sci fi elements at play. There are shimmering tears in the space time continuum that DeWitt will fall through. These areas use completely different assets, allegedly from a previous game Irrational were working on which was cancelled, and seemingly change the entire look of the environments at times.
Emblematic of Irrational’s exceptional ability to ground their fiction in subverted cultural references is the fact that DeWitt himself has a past with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a kind of shadowy personal detective and security agency that functioned throughout the US civil war era and later became a high end security firm.
Infinite will also introduce new gameplay mechanics to the series, with an AI partner who can use complimentary powers to help you overcome foes – at the expense of taking damage. BioShock has never been a series that shies away from moral decision making either and it will be the player’s choice whether to risk hurting their vulnerable partner in exchange for the extra power wielded.
BioShock Infinite is shaping up to be one of the biggest videogaming events of 2012 and with the information flow from Irrational gaining momentum, we’re sure to hear a lot more about it as the year begins.