After a long period of silence following their last project, Irrational Games, the team behind BioShock, have finally let the world know what they've been working on - a continuation of their critically acclaimed franchise, BioShock: Infinite.
This news comes after years of rampant debate as to the identity of Irrational's next game. Everything from a new X-COM, System Shock, Thief, SWAT and Freedom Force title was considered - a new BioShock was the last thing most people were expecting. Why? Because BioShock 2 was developed by another studio, without input from Irrational's creative director, Ken Levine. Meanwhile, Levine was seemingly done with Rapture and onto his "next big project."
With that in mind, BioShock: Infinite came as a surprise to many, an unpleasant one to those expecting a new IP from Irrational. However, it's important to look past the name in this case, as Infinite appears to be a very different game, while still retaining some of the series' core foundations. It's this balance between the known quantities of BioShock, and the promise of fresh ideas that makes Ken Levine's latest offering so intriguing.
While it's immediately clear Infinite is a BioShock game - there's a fantastic yet somewhat realistic city to explore, strange powers at your disposal, and a sense of dread all around - the game does much to set itself apart. This time around the setting, "Columbia", is a giant metropolis in the sky (as opposed to beneath the sea), there's a defined character with a backstory and motivations, and the inhabitants don't always react with hostility, some of which appear to be civilians.
Infinite is BioShock branded, but at the same time separate from its predecessors. The new definition of the BioShock universe feels much more akin to something like Final Fantasy or Team Ico's work - games connected by certain basic principles and philosophies, but unique in many of their mechanics and plot lines. This newfound flexibility bodes well for the future of the series, no longer constrained to a single premise or idea.
With all the new features shown and discussed at Infinite's unveiling, one has to wonder whether this project originated as a BioShock game. It's quite possible Ken Levine and the folks over at Irrational developed a core concept that slowly evolved into something loosely resembling BioShock over time. There's also the chance the game's publisher 2K demanded Infinite receive the franchise tag to ensure widespread appeal.
Hopefully this wasn't the case, as too much publisher interference can quickly lead to problems - the seemingly forced sequel in Rapture, for example. BioShock 2, by most accounts, was an unnecessary expansion to an already complete package. Perhaps Infinite can recapture some of the magic lost since the series' 2007 debut. All signs are positive, and I'm willing to give Ken Levine the benefit of the doubt.
BioShock: Infinite is set for a 2012 release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.