Irrational Games has released the official PC system requirements for BioShock Infinite - and perhaps the biggest shock, given the current trend toward nailed-down console ports in the PC gaming industry, is the sheer wealth of options available to gamers.

BioShock Infinite, a reboot of the BioShock franchise which was in turn a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, will be launching on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows later this year - which, in today's gaming market, usually means PC gamers will be treated to a locked-down console port with little control over graphical settings. Except, refreshingly, that's not to be the case with BioShock Infinite.

'Fifteen years ago, Irrational Games got its start making PC games, and the PC gaming experience has always been near and dear to our hearts,' begins a post on the Irrational Insider by Irrational's technical director Chris Kline. 'But it’s been a long time since we released the original BioShock, and PC gamers have come to expect a lot more for their money. So it’s understandable that you might be wondering: Will BioShock Infinite treat you right?'

That's a very good question: when the original BioShock launched for Windows, it came with a serious hitch: a locked field of vision that meant widescreen gamers weren't seeing the full picture. The same problem cropped up in BioShock 2, although both games would eventually receive patches to address the cropping problem.

Irrational Games clearly wants to avoid the BioShock franchise being three-for-three, and Kline's post goes quite some way to detailing the ways in which the Windows port of the game is superior to the console releases. Controls, Kline explains, will be completely remappable through the options menu, while high-end gaming mice aren't hindered by artificial smoothing and both sensitivity and mouse acceleration are adjustable. Those who prefer a console controller - 'don’t worry, traitor, your secret is safe with us,' Kline quips - will find three controller configurations and options for aim assist, sensitivity, vibration and look inversion, as well as four analogue stick configurations for left- and right-handers. All user interface elements are also controllable via the keyboard and mouse or game pad - and you can switch between either input methods without even pausing the game.

Kline's explanation of the graphics options is where things get interesting: six presets ranging from Very Low to Ultra will be included, while a custom configuration menu provides access to anti-aliasing, texture detail, texture filtering, dynamic shadows, post-processing, light shafts, ambient occlusion and object level of detail controls - many of which include special modes only accessible under DirectX 11, for which Kline promises full support at launch including contact-hardening dynamic shadows, diffusion depth of field, high definition ambient occlusion and specially optimised anti-aliasing. Support for V-sync control and in-game field of vision adjustment are also included.

Impressively, Irrational Games will also be providing full studio-resolution textures on the game discs, allowing those with enough video memory and compute throughput to enjoy pixel-perfect renditions of the games' various sky-borne environments. 'You may not enjoy the three-DVD install,' Kline admits, 'but we hope you will appreciate the jaw-dropping detail our amazing team of artists lavished on the game.'

As if that wasn't enough, Kline has also revealed that the widescreen SNAFUs of BioShocks past won't be repeated. 'This time around, we’ve fully embraced widescreen gaming. With our implementation of “horizontal plus” widescreen support, the wider you go, the more you’ll see of Columbia’s gorgeous vistas.'. That widescreen engine also extends to multi-monitor configurations, Kline explains, with out-of-the-box support for AMD Eyefinity, Nvidia Surround and Matrox TripleHead2Go hardware, while also providing separate controls for aspect ratio, resolution and a choice of fullscreen, windowed and fullscreen-windowed display modes. Support for the Big Picture mode introduced in Valve's Steam digital distribution service is also included - as is support for Steam Cloud.

But what sort of a rig will you need to play this wonder-game? Kline claims that his company has worked hard to ensure the engine scales up and down the hardware spectrum, making it compatible with mid- to high-end gaming rigs. The minimum specification recommends a 32-bit install of Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 running on an Intel Core 2 Duo at 2.4GHz or better or an AMD Athlon X2 at 2.7GHz or better, with 2GB of RAM, 20GB free hard drive space and an ATI Radeon HD 3870, Nvidia 8800 GT or Intel HD 3000 Series graphics chip and 512MB of video memory.

If you want to see what the high-resolution textures and DirectX 11 support can really do, you'll want to check out Irrational's recommended specifications: a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 64-bit install on a quad-core processor, 4GB of memory, 30GB free hard drive space and an AMD Radeon HD 6950 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 with 1GB of RAM or better.

'We’re incredibly excited about the quality of BioShock Infinite on the PC platform,' claims Kline in conclusion, 'and we can’t wait for you to experience it for yourself on March 26th.'

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