E3 2011: BioShock Infinite (Impressions)

by: John -
Game: BioShock Infinite
Developer: Irrational Games
Release Date/Window: 2012
What's polished: The system to jump and ride the rails, Elizabeth's expressions, the colonial environment
What needs polished: Some minor clipping, bugs

In the city of Columbia, built in the skies, there's a girl named Elizabeth who is a prisoner. She's held captive in a tower by the Songbird, a giant mechanical bird like creature with some Big Daddy stylings. As Booker Dewitt, you're hired to help her escape and survive the conflict that's currently happening between the Founders and Vox Populi.

Thus begins the story of BioShock Infinite, the next game in the BioShock universe from Ken Levine and Irrational Games. The demo showed off what you can expect about a third of the way into the game.

While Rapture was a marvel to behold underwater, Columbia is such an impressive looking city built in the sky with a very colonial theme and a truly impressive rail system that factors heavily into the game.

The story so far has Elizabeth discovering some powers she has. You see, she's able to open these tears in the world whereby objects and places are brought forth to replace what was there. It's almost like an overpowered Portal. As you are wandering around, you can see these flickering images of objects and you can ask Elizabeth to bring them forth through the tear. Some she can do now, some she can do later on as she gets more comfortable with her powers.

One of the coolest sequence was with Booker levitating a few of the enemies into the air under a rail. Elizabeth used her power to bring forth a rail car that crashes through the enemies and taking them out in one shot. I can see a lot of possibilities in taking advantage of Elizabeth's powers to help you out during the game.

By far the highlight of the demo was how Booker and the people used the rail system to fight and fly around. You and others have a "grapple" on your arm, which you can use to attach to a rail and ride. With Columbia being in the air, there's a lot of vertical action going on from both riding around on the rails and reaching high places. The action is so fast and it's such a contrast to the slower paced fighting in BioShock. Just seeing everyone glide through the air on the rails was exhilarating.

As mentioned before, the environments with its patriotic themes scattered about the world look amazing. The level of detail and usage of colors and design really make the city of Columbia unique. Unlike BioShock, there are plenty of non-threatening NPCs and you'll see a lot of scripted events showing off the conflict around the city.

Irrational Games also did a great job with Elizabeth and her expressions. You can really sense the dread, sadness, and happiness she exhibits just by watching her face as well as her actions. I have a feeling that you'll really connect with Elizabeth as you play BioShock Infinite from how she expresses herself.

All told, BioShock Infinite looks like it's going to really up the ante for a BioShock universe game. It's got loads of great set pieces, fast action taking place in all directions, and unique and interesting characters that should give Irrational Games another huge hit on their hands. I was skeptical when they took BioShock to the skies, but I am not anymore. This is a definite day one buy for me.
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