I’ve never made it a secret that the BioShock series hasn’t appealed to me. Perhaps it was something with Rapture, or perhaps it’s simply the gameplay that was on offer in the first two games, but not only did they not manage to get hold of, they pretty much actively pushed me away.
BioShock Infinite, however, is having the opposite effect, with my interest well and truly piqued. While Rapture certainly had its share of mysteries, the tone didn’t really click with me. Columbia on the other hand seems more mysterious still, and with a brighter tone to the game’s world.[videoyoutube]If you haven’t seen much of Columbia, it’s pretty much the exact opposite to Rapture. Instead of being below the waves and somewhat in a state of disrepair, Columbia flies above and is full of life. It’s an entire city supported by balloons and seeming innocent enough on the surface. The whole place is in fact a flying battleship constructed by the United States, although its been disavowed by them and its location has been lost to most by the time the game starts.
So while the city may be the opposite to Rapture in many respects, there are underlying similarities in elements of its history. In a similar turn Booker DeWitt, the game’s male lead, has some characteristics that strongly resemble Jack from the original BioShock. Much like Jack he’s an outsider, although unlike Jack’s apparently “accidental” discovery of Rapture, Booker is explicitly tasked with heading to Columbia and retrieving his companion for much of the game, Elizabeth. Of course it’s never quite as simple as it seems, and Booker quickly becomes embroiled in the internal troubles of Columbia.
Lets pause on Elizabeth for a moment though. She’s more than simply someone you have to look out for, being perfectly capable of helping you out when you’re in a tight spot. As teflon discovered in his recent preview, she’ll help you out by picking locks, tossing you ammo and reviving you should you fall. It’s worth noting that she won’t be confident enough to do all of that off the bat, having become timid after twelve years in captivity. However, as the game progresses so will Elizabeth, and she’ll also come to grips with her powers.
You see Elizabeth isn’t exactly normal, she has the ability to create rifts in space and time. These play a major part in the game’s plot, and are presumably the reason that Booker has been sent to retrieve her from Columbia. As Elizabeth gets to grips with her powers she’ll start to assist you with them in combat, providing you with portals to equipment and weaponry.
One of the other interesting elements in the game is the Skyline system, the main transportation system in Columbia. These are a series of rails that you can use for zipping between the sections of the flying city, and come in handy in combat. Not only do they let you run when you’re confronted by overwhelming force but they also open up new angles in combat and give you different approaches when you need them.
Taking different approaches to situations seems to be a big part of the game, with you having the ability to approach a situation by stealth if you don’t feel like getting into too much trouble, something that may come in handy when approaching the game’s “Heavy Hitters”. These are similar to the Big Daddies from earlier BioShock games, although provide more variety as they come in four flavours.[drop]For example, in teflon’s preview playthrough he was confronted by a Handyman, huge monstrosities that can toss you about like a rag doll and jump a huge distance. There’s also the Motorized Patriot, robot-like creations that were created as tour guides but now spray you with machine guns instead; the Boys of Silence, humans who have been blinded but had their hearing enhanced and act as a security system; and the Siren, a female figure who can revive enemies on the battlefield. With four of these mini-bosses on offer the game looks like it will be packed full of variety, and offer more choices than earlier BioShock titles.
You’ll obviously need weaponry to take on these new enemies, although you no longer have Plasmids. Instead you can pick up vigors, which serve a similar purpose. However, these are a more permanent choice than Plasmids were, and you’ll need to think carefully about selecting them and how you choose to upgrade them.
If you think BioShock in the skies is your sort of thing then the game is due for a world-wide release on March 26th.