Publisher:2K Games Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Release Date: 2012
There’s one niggle that continues to bother us about the BioShock franchise, and that’s that it shouldn’t really be a franchise at all. Part of the joy of the original was that playing it felt like exploring a world that was unique and wonderful, so by the end of it we felt like we’d seen all it had to offer. BioShock 2, on the other hand, felt like a commute through familiar territory rather than uncovering something alien and new. It’s a feeling Irrational Games is obviously keen to address, as Infinite moves about as far away from Andrew Ryan’s Rapture as it’s possible to get; Columbia.
Built as an example of America’s superiority and strength, Columbia is a floating city that somehow went missing in the clouds after a ‘political incident’. It’s been lost for the last 12 years, which is made even more worrying by the fact that it also houses some hugely powerful weaponry and technology. It’s a steampunk cross between the Mary Celeste and the Death Star, basically.
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It’s at this point that the protagonist, the hilariously named Booker DeWitt, steps onto the scene as a Private Eye hired to locate a missing woman, Elizabeth. It turns out, though, that getting on to Columbia is the easy part – it’s finding a safe escape route that’s the hard bit, as Elizabeth is a highly prized individual to the various factions who have torn Columbia apart through civil war.
If all this talk of civil war and unusual ideologies sounds a bit too familiar, then, well, get used to it. Not only does Infinite put players in a roughly similar sort of situation as its predecessors, but it puts similar tools at their disposal too. Rapture’s Plasmids and Tonics are back, for example, though in Infinite they're labelled as Vigors and Nostrums. What’s more, most of the abilities that have been unveiled so far seem to tread along similar lines; the electrocute and telekinetic attacks are definitely back, while the Bee Swarm ability is updated to feature crows.
Thankfully, not everything is just a repeat of old ideas, and Infinite is set to add plenty of new features too. Columbia is, for example, much more open than Rapture, and players can use a skycoaster rail system to easily jump from one blimp to another. This means there’s not only a greater sense of freedom, but also the potential for exciting, airborne chase sequences.
Combat is livened up and made more dynamic too, with Elizabeth able to wade into the fray with attacks and Vigors of her own, although using them will injure her. Certain powers can then be combined with Elizabeth’s, such as turning her rainstorms to lightning strikes or throwing around debris that she has superheated. Irrational claims that mastering these dual-abilities will be vital at the later stages of the game, when Columbia’s strongest denizens come out to play and players will no longer be able to rely on the steadfast electro-shock and shotgun combo.
On the other hand, though, it’s the presence of some of these stronger baddies that have us worried about how new and interesting BioShock Infinite might actually become. DeWitt and Elizabeth are pursued through Columbia by, you guessed it, big robotic baddies. We still only know little about them, but even the suggestion of a Big Daddy analogue has us concerned that Infinite isn’t the step forward it seems to be at first.
BioShock Infinite is set for a 2012 release date on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It will be published by 2K Games.