SEEING IS BELIEVING
To know these things hungers us to know more, and Levine is very specific about what gets told and when. Of the 15-minute E3 trailer he explains: "We always have elements that sort of edify. We had a nice one in the last demo with the New York street scene, the movie theatre, the Revenge of the Jedi thing... it sort of put some of the things we've been talking about in context. Describing it never would have worked."
It's a familiar BioShock - its open spaces and highfalutin decor might shine in the midday sun, but its corners are still as dark
The scene in question sees a headstrong Elizabeth, determined to use her powers to revive a dying horse, opening a portal to 1983 instead, into the path of an oncoming truck. "You can't explain why these things are fun or why they're interesting," says Levine, "They either are or they're not. So I loathe to tell people what they've missed or if they've missed anything at all, because I don't think that's how it works, or how it should work."
Don't ask him, then, about what happens next. Don't ask if there'll be twists, or a level where one of the city's towers turns into a rocket ship and flies into a black hole, emerging in a small flat in Richmond where someone's carving a Rapture-shaped pumpkin. That may well be what happens, but you won't hear it from Ken Levine.
And besides, there's so much else to query in that dazzling, vertigo-inducing trailer that often literally plays like a rollercoaster. The tangled weave of 'skylines' that somehow strings Columbia together is a lot less intimidating than it appears, we're told, and not just because the trailer occurs several hours into the game. A Dead Space-style 'pinger', suggests Levine, will keep you on the right track - whether it's towards an objective or a user-defined point of interest.
There's a point in the trailer, furthermore, when a button prompt labelled 'FALL AND SURVIVE' - you're jumping off an exploding zeppelin into thin air at the time - makes clear that Infinite is often simpler (and safer) than it looks. Don't be surprised if its more rambunctious moments turn to QTE-style inputs to keep you in the game.
"It seems quite overwhelming but there are a couple of things that you're not seeing there," says Levine. "The fact that we've had several skyline sequences before, each one adding a layer of skill to it. The first skyline is basically just 'jump on this thing'. Generally, what you do is balance the amount of narrative going on; when you're not presenting a lot on the game system side, you present more on the narrative side. BioShock 1 is an example of that: the opening level doesn't have a lot of tools but has a very heavy narrative push."