BioShock Infinite Preview (Xbox360)

Let’s just be clear – Bioshock Infinite is without a doubt one of the best games I got to see at E3 2011. I don’t mean to start my E3 2011 write-ups here on Strategy Informer with the show stopper, but Bioshock Infinite is just too damn cool looking not to gush about straight away.

I’m not even a real Bioshock fan – I thought the first game was enjoyable but overrated, and the second did a whole lot less for me – but to me this game seems to be shooting to live up to some of the hyperbole some people span about the first game.
I am a fire-starter
The demo was entirely hands-off, but if everything was all 100% under the control of the man in charge of the demo, the gameplay in Bioshock Infinite looks more intense, slick, fast-paced and exciting than anything the series has done before. You’re still fighting crazies, but this time in the sky, not underwater, and that change of scenery goes a huge way to making the game feel very different.

Whereas Bioshock took place mostly in networks of corridors undersea which looked incredibly beautiful but also extremely limited, Bioshock Infinite’s sky stretches out for miles before you, a seemingly endless, massive vista of airships and floating buildings. While of course you can’t, it feels like you can go anywhere.

Part of the reason for that is thanks to the ‘Sky Rails’ – rollercoaster-style rails that link the floating parts of the city of Columbia together. Lead character Booker DeWitt can hook onto these things and be dragged quickly from place to place – and it’s amazing how well the game draws in new locations moving at speed on the rails.

The rails come into play during combat sequences, too – how much of this was player controlled wasn’t exactly clear, but I was reminded something of Uncharted but in first person as Booker hooked onto a rail and zoomed away from danger, then jumped back to a different rail to sweep back around in a circle to come up behind enemies – if you can actually jump on any rail at any time, it could provide a whole new level of tactics to the traditional Bioshock combat.

The same old powers still put in appearances – you’re picking people up with crazy, drugged-up magic hands and getting powers that, for example, let you shoot angry crows at enemies, but everything looks better and seems to play tighter than it did in Irrational’s previous effort.

Not all characters in the world of Columbia are hostile, though. Unlike Bioshock not everyone you see is a drugged-up splicer, and so as a result you don’t have to fight absolutely everybody. It’s a city at war with itself, and so you’ll sometimes see horrible events or fire fights that you can bypass and stay out of entirely.  Given the chance to intervene in a public execution of a postman, a button prompt appears. Attempting to intervene sets off a huge fire fight, the angry mob turning on you now instead. Choices like this will be littered all the way throughout the game.
The other major difference in Bioshock Infinite comes in its story; rather than go with a silent protagonist barked at by audio logs and by a sidekick who lives down the other end of a radio Booker is a living, breathing, motivated lead character with his own mind. He quips to enemies, muses on the insanity of Columbia, and sometimes screams out in terror as he’s being whipped around on the Sky Lines.

The sidekick, too, has been pulled from the radio and into the real world. Elizabeth, your partner in this game, is a major plot device as well as your main point of reference for the world of Columbia. Held prisoner for years by ‘The Songbird’ – a giant mechanical bird that you might call this game’s ‘Big Daddy’ – she’s now trying to escape, and you’re helping her.

Still told entirely from the first person, there’s still no traditional cutscenes to speak of – though at times the game wrests control from you so the two can briefly interact from the first person. "Promise me, if it comes to it... you won't let him take me back," Elizabeth begs in the demo, grabbing Booker’s hand and wrapping it around her neck. There’s something incredibly expressive about that character model, the large, over-sized eyes managing to tell stories that many character models fail to.

As well as the traditional suite of Bioshock powers Booker has at his disposal thanks to tonics and the like, Elizabeth herself is also naturally very talented. In the demo we see Booker under fire and desperately needing help – and you can call out to Elizabeth and have her do one of a few things. She could summon a carriage into existence through a tear in time for cover, or summon something that might fall on or hurt the enemies – but if that fails, you’d have to fight them without cover.

Elizabeth’s powers are things you’ll have to make snap decisions on as she can’t use her powers as frequently as you can. Later, her powers are demonstrated in a little story sequence – and she somehow accidentally rips a portal in time to the early 80s, complete with a Tears for Fears song playing and a movie theatre advertising ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ – the portal is closed before you regain control, but that tease for an even stranger and more ethereal story made me very excited indeed.
Elizabeth's powers are tied into the story as opposed to gameplay
The demo culminates in a huge battle between Booker and the Songbird which Booker ultimately loses – and an emotional Elizabeth begs for his life and begs the Songbird to take her back instead. “I should never have left,” she sobs, and then she’s taken once more.

Booker’s quick to react, jumping up and hitting the Sky Rail above him to give chase. Once again, he’s flying through the air in pursuit, the vibrant world of Columbia whipping past him at a damn fine looking frame rate. Yeah. This should be good. Bioshock Infinite is due for release in calendar year 2012.


By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Jun 14, 2011
Great preview!!