BioShock Infinite: Dissected
22nd Jul 2011 | 11:27
Keeping our anticipation for BioShock Infinite at a socially acceptable level is proving pretty difficult.
That genius Ken Levine and his Irrational devs aren't making it any easier either, sauntering in and dropping 15 minutes of undiluted BioShock Infinite gameplay on our laps.
That's like sprinkling salt on the tongue of a recovering alcoholic, sitting him next to a crate of beer and turning up the heat. Have you no compassion Levine, you monster?
We've come up with a great way to control the urges though. The perfect antidote when faced with a long, enduring wait until a must-have release date.
When developers tease us with beautiful gameplay, we dabble in a bit of dissection and all of a sudden our thirst is quenched, if only for a while.
That doesn't sound too serial killer does it?
Anyway, here's our look at BioShock Infinite through the most powerful magnifying glass we can afford.
The first thing the E3 demo establishes is that Infinite is going to have just as much atmosphere as any other BioShock game to date. In fact, we might go as far to say it has a tad more.
From the pristine, sun-drenched streets of sky-high Columbia, protagonist Booker DeWitt and companion Elizabeth enter into this dark, abandoned novelty store, which is full of hints towards past-lives.
Everything from the discarded mattresses on the floor, the eerie bird-cages hanging from the ceiling and posters for 'Lil Miss Columbia' give the whole scene a sense of life and history. And that's just a souvenir shop.
We also get a very quick glimpse of the kind of items we'll be offered in the game. A looting system that's similar to previous games throws up a 'Winter Shield', which is categorised under 'Skyline' an item called 'Spring-Heeled' carrying a 'Movement' tag and the 'Executioner', under 'Melee'.
We'll get different items that can be used in specific situations then. Most interesting is the Skyline category, which we'll get on to in a bit.
Then things start to kick off as the store rumble and items start to fall of shelves. Elizabeth freaks out and hides while the room starts to flash orange and green, a light show accompanied by a deafening squark.
We can't see what's going on but once the chaos has died down Elizabeth begs DeWitt not to let whatever it was that interrupted take her back. When we move outside we can see that a pretty sizable crater has been left in the road.
Once we're outside there's plenty going on and a lot pointing towards tension and violent conflict between The Founders (the, um, founders of Columbia) and a revolutionary movement known as Vox Populi (The Voice of the People).
We'll stick closely to points of in-game mechanics though, since there's plenty to be going on. Like when Elizabeth comes across a dying horse, for example. Players get the choice to euthanize the animal - which could point to similar decision making mechanics throughout the game - until Elizabeth shows herself to have a particularly strange talent.
She notes "a tear" before summoning what can only be described as 'something' which changes the colour of the horse. Then she seems to rip a hole in the space-time continuum transporting us to a completely new world temporarily.
It's exciting stuff and suggests all kinds of potential for plot twists and strange new worlds being slapped in front of us in an instant, but it's also the basis for a simpler, but just as interesting mechanic.
Once DeWitt is rumbled by the Vox Populi and all trigger-happy hell breaks loose, Elizabeth is actually shown to be more than just a damsel in distress. While you're fighting ghosts of objects that don't exist in Columbia appear and Elizabeth can use her powers to bring them into reality.
The first instance gives the choice of a stage coach, a barrel or a door (presumably if you just want to leg it) and our demo man asks Liz to conjure the coach from the other dimension to provide a bit of extra cover.
DeWitt has some powers of his own though. In the souvenir shop he picked up a canister of 'Bucking Bronco Vigor' - Vigors being the equivalent of plasmids - which seems to allow him to suspend anything that's in front of him in mid-air, including people.
Booker comes across a 'Murder of Crows' Vigor later on as well, which he uses to spew - you guessed it - a murder of crows from his hand as a distraction (good spot ianson).
We also noticed (pre-gunfight) that when DeWitt and Elizabeth were getting a bit of hassle from a Vox Populi goon, the player pulled his gun on him to make him walk away. We hope we'll be able to interact with every passer-by in Columbia in a similar way.
On to DeWitt's other show-stopping trick; being a bit of a devil on the Skyline, Columbia's rollercoaster public transport system that sees 'passengers' latch on with a small handle device (pictured) and fly all over the place.
Most impressive is that it looks like players will be able to jump on and off the rails - and between lines - whenever they wish and regardless of height. Of course it's crucial that you're on target with your jump but Irrational has provided as small circle icon on bits that can be latched onto to assist you.
Most of the Skyline travel during the demo is accompanied by rapid cross-fire without DeWitt throwing anything back in return. At first we thought that Irrational had missed a trick by not providing some sort of Skyline combat system but, if you remember the Winter Shield that could have been picked up earlier and was for specific use with the Skyline, it could be that only certain weapons can be used during travel.
Either way, the Skyline looks like one of the coolest modes of transport since Spider-Man found he could do a whole lot more than stick to walls.
Zipping about the skies also gives us a look at the kind of environments we'll be playing in. Levine has said that Infinite isn't an open-world game but this area at least looks detailed and incredibly vast. We don't think we'll be pining after an open-world in the strict sense at any point.
We also get a look at the standard of the epic set-pieces that will happen in real-time, such as a great big zeppelin dominating the sky and raining bullets down upon us.
Finally there's the point at which the beast that spooked Elizabeth early on is revealed. We'll let you see that bit for yourselves if you haven't already. Even if you have, it's worth another look.