It's been a long time since we have had the pleasure of playing a BioShock title and now with BioShock Infinite's release finally on the horizon, it's time to get in some last minute speculation and some extra levels of excitement.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws to Infinite is the return of Ken Levine. He's created a new world, one with some pretty amazing new toys, and even that alone should make it difficult for fans of BioShock and even the System Shock franchise to not get excited.
It was certainly one of the first things that came to my mind when I heard about the next game in the BioShock series. Will Ken Levine be involved? Levine had been involved with the 'series' since BioShock's spiritual predecessor, System Shock 2. Although System Shock 2 didn't necessarily meet commercial sales expectations, it was critically acclaimed and eventually became a cult classic of sorts. Then in 2007, BioShock came along and Levine was noted as a genius storyteller of sorts. His work with the series did not, however, carry on in BioShock 2 and unfortunately, it showed quite a bit.
Now, Levine is back with BioShock Infinite and I couldn't be more excited. In interviews, Levine's discussed the massive new world he's brought us into which already seems to have a ton of depth. Basically, you're in a world named 'Columbia' that has taken 'exceptionalism' to another level. Unlike Rapture, which was a utopia that resided under water, this city has taken to the sky. Like Rapture, Columbia has a very shaky past. In the game's lore, it has recently been outed as a well-armed battleship of sorts, as it opened fire on a group of Chinese civilians during the Boxer Rebellion.
Its separation from the United States' government lead the city to its current state. In interviews, Levine has gone on to discuss the struggle between the two groups of people even inside the city itself; the Vox Populi and the Founders. This game just seems to be a fantastic playground and Levine's depth of story just seems like it's going to hit this one out of the park.
Since BioShock Infinite is a spiritual successor to BioShock, there's a lot of similarities. You have the plasmids and tonics which are now known as 'Vigors' and with that, you have all the awesome abilities including, but not limited to telekinesis and electricity manipulators. From the gameplay demos, there seem to be some new powers added like the ability to control animals such as crows. Unfortunately for us, we won't be able to trade out our vigors quite as easily as we did the plasmids in BioShock, but this definitely adds a bit of careful consideration when playing through this title.
In both BioShock and System Shock, the main character is reliant only on themselves, with occasional help from characters like Brigid Tenenbaum, genetic scientist and "mother" of the Little Sisters. From what it seems like in the videos seen so far, Elizabeth is a primary sidekick and helps you through a lot of the story with the use of her special powers. She has the ability to manipulate "tears", which can alter the world. It makes her a very integral part of the story.
The style of this title is described as "steam-punk", which is the combination of 1900s fashion with steam-powered inventions. It kind of looks like a massive anachronism, but its popularity is immense. The gameplay even wraps around this style with a new way to travel around the massive city called Skyline which has been described as a roller coaster, within a roller coaster, within a roller coaster. Aside from travelling around the area, you will also be expected to fight enemies while hanging on for dear life. It really coincides with the original launch trailer where we see Booker DeWitt (the main protagonist) travelling around Columbia. Stylistically this world just seems to be gorgeous, while also being slightly creepy even though it's much less like the graveyard that Rapture was.
Overall, this game appears to be very much in the BioShock mould, but with a very different twist. The designers have really done their research as far as making a game fans want, but have still made a game that has a lot of deeper meaning and originality. Hopefully it will be all that we are hoping for when BioShock Infinite releases on 26th March for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.