Before I stepped inside the room hidden deep inside 2K Games booth at E3, I hadn’t seen much of Bioshock Infinite. I had barely seen anything besides the first trailer actually. After seeing this demo, I was wondering why I wasn’t looking at every corner of the internet trying to find tidbits on it. I’ll just start this preview off by saying that Bioshock Infinite makes me rethink about all of the other games which I saw at E3 and what I thought made them great. Infinite has a certain fluidity to it that you don’t see in many games today. There is always this sense of “can I do that?” then just going for it and having it work perfectly. While we weren’t able to play the game ourselves, watching the game was just as enjoyable.
Timothy Gerritsen, Director of Product Development at Irrational Games, stood before us and gave us a little idea of what the game was all about. The player fills the shoes of Booker Dewitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent. The game takes place on Columbia in the early 1900’s. Columbia is a floating city that started as the floating world’s fair before everything went bad. The demo that we were given is about a third of the way through the game and was just deep enough to reveal some things that show just how crazy the story is going to get. Columbia is in a state of emergency as a faction of enemies called the Voxpopuli have taken over the city and put it in a state of civil war. The main point of the game is not fighting the Voxpopuli though; it’s freeing Elizabeth from her captor, the Songbird, and escaping Columbia with her in hand. The Songbird is a huge mechanical bird that, during the demo, flew across the city searching for Elizabeth with its eyes that shoot beams of color. That whole statement may have sounded crazy, but that’s just something that you are going to have to get used to when reading anything about Bioshock Infinite.
One thing to remember is that the world of Columbia has so much going on that it is crazy talk to think that Booker could make it out with Elizabeth without running into a few problems. There are a few moments during the demo where moral choice comes into play and the outcome changes significantly depending on if the player chooses to intervene. At one point the player has the choice to intervene at an innocent man’s hanging. If he does, the crowd realizes that it was Booker who called out and turn their attention – and gunfire – to him. He must then fight off the attackers while still trying to protect Elizabeth. The shooting and combat in general seem to have smoothness to them that just looks natural and unlike any game before. Defending Elizabeth doesn’t take much, especially after she starts to discover that she has powers. She can’t control these powers yet though and it is a huge risk to use them. This leaves a huge “what should we do” feeling between Elizabeth and Booker. Elizabeth tells Booker not to let the Songbird take her back and if it got to the point where that was going to happen, to kill her. The emotional connection between Booker and Elizabeth is strong and is conveyed perfectly between the two. I wasn’t even playing the game and I felt like I was a part of their relationship.
As Elizabeth is starting to use her powers, she accesses tears in the reality that, from what I understand, brings them into an alternate reality of the same place. This is shown best when there is a dead horse lying on the ground and Elizabeth wants to heal it. She tries shifting it to the alternate dimension where the horse isn’t hurt. This works for a short period of time, but she can’t control the timing of it and it fails. This is when Booker decides that she isn’t ready to be using her powers like this. He quickly changes this when they are attacked and she must open the tears in order to protect them. Here is where this already crazy concept hits mind-blowing levels. *SPOILERS* Elizabeth opens a tear and they find themselves in the middle of a street. It looks like something that you would find in typical downtown America. The idea of location-travel is already insane but then this is where this gets yet even crazier. There is a sign behind them that is for the local cinema, it reads “Revenge of the Jedi”. They are in the 1980’s. WHAT. Not only can she manipulate her location, reality, but also time frame. Time travel. This leads to thoughts of limitless possibilities of her powers. */SPOILERS* The demo doesn’t stop there.
Booker sees that someone took off to the Voxpopuli zeppelin flying in the sky around the city. He starts to make his way there but since he is under attack, this task seems even more impossible. Booker then fought his way through enemies while navigating a system of rails used for transporting storage crates. Even with the rail system, getting from the ground to a blimp isn’t an easy task. He must take leaps of blind faith hoping that the rail that he jumps to will lead him where he needs to go, all while being attacked by enemies utilizing the same rails. As Booker starts to near the blimp, it fires dozens of rockets at him. This leads to one of the most bad-ass action sequences in videogame history. Booker must then quickly move from rail to rail as rockets collide with them. Keep in mind that this is done over the edge of a FLOATING SKY CITY. To keep me from stopping writing this preview and thinking about that moment all the time, I’ll continue. He finally lands on the platform of the zeppelin, takes out the guards inside, preps the blimp for EXPLOSION and jumps straight out of the bottom. If that doesn’t sound a synopsis for the most exciting James Bond movie, then I don’t know what does. He leaps out without a plan, it just so happens that he latches onto a rail near the bottom of the city. The screen fills up with red, I can imagine that would be from his shoulder coming square out of his socket but we’ll try to ignore that for the moment. Even after all that, the demo still doesn’t stop there.
Elizabeth and Booker reunite and just when they think that it is finally time to escape and get off of Columbia. Songbird appears, attacks Booker, and takes Elizabeth in spectacular fashion. Booker must then get her back, but that is something that we will have to wait for the full game to experience. As soon as the demo ended, the room filled with both “AWW MAN, ITS OVER?” and resounding applause.
After seeing the demo for Bioshock Infinite, I feel like all games that I play should have that amount of depth to them. The way that Infinite presents itself is like no other game before. It almost needs to be experienced to be fully comprehended. Look for more coverage of the game as we approach its 2012 release date.