For all the talk of FlyoShock and AeroShock this is more than just Rapture in the sky. Much more. From what we've seen so far, Bioschock: Infinite promises to be a soaring, stratospheric masterpiece.
No, that's a ridiculous thing to say after a few minutes of gameplay footage. Forgive us. It's just that when something like this comes along, it's hard to stop your expectations rocketing up into the ether.
You are Booker DeWhit, not a cipher, but a character with a voice, a personality and a history. An ex-Pinkerton agent in an alternative 1900, DeWhit is a violent and dangerous man. A muscle-for-hire, he'll do anything. For the right price.
Approached by a mysterious figure, DeWhit is tasked with rescuing a girl, Elizabeth. A simple enough task, you may think. But the girl is somewhere that hasn't been seen in years. The girl is in Columbia.
As you'll know by now Columbia is a floating city, held aloft by zeppelins and propellers. Designed as an airborne World's Fair, it was intended as a flying example of the power of science and technology. But this is a Bioshock game. Of course, it all went wrong.
Columbia was turned into a Death Star, a heavily armed flying metropolis built to export American ideals on a global scale. A terrible mistake. The cause of a catastrophic international incident, Columbia disappeared, presumably never to be seen again.
But DeWhit's shady employer knows where Colombia is. He can take you there. The tricky bit will be getting back out alive with Elizabeth.
You don't have to spend long in Columbia to see that something is wrong. All the blue skies and pretty buildings in the world can't mask the fact that something is awry. The square is littered with xenophobic, Nationalistic propaganda.Odd mechanical inventions screech slowly past, broken and bizarre. A cathedral comes crashing down in the town square, toppling from its hot air balloon foundations. A horse rots, picked apart by crows.
It's testament to Irrational's skills that they can squeeze such an unsettling feeling from Columbia's bright, open spaces.
Before long the action commences, as the enraged xenophobe politician Saltonstall turns on you from his bandstand soapbox, unleashing bullets and a storm of crows. Yes crows. Rapture's plasmids exist here in a different form.
A battle erupts, with DeWhitt giving chase along a series of rails joining the individual floating islands that make up the city. Using hooks, the two men screech and swoop along, surprisingly nimble and swift, locked in battle. Saltonstall is strong. He gets the upper hand.
DeWalt seeks refuge in a bar. The change of pace is jarring. Men chat and drink and socialise. But their joviality doesn't last long. As soon as you are noticed, they turn, spilling out into the streets after you, screaming and shooting. There's far more of them than Splicers in Bioshock. It's a mob.
As the mob threatens to overwhelm you, Elizabeth appears. The damsel in distress has come to your rescue. Conjuring dark clouds from the sky, she soaks the men first then fries them with lightening. They fall to the floor, fizzing jolts buzzing through their bodies. She's hugely powerful.
There's no co-op in Bioshock Infinite. It's just you and the AI controlled Elizabeth. Such is your reliance on her capabilities, much will depend on how well she works. AI companions are notoriously tricky partners.
The mob safely dispatched your escapes continues. At one point Elizabeth melts cutlery from a passing cart into a molten ball and you fling it at your enemies, sending them flying.
And then The Handyman makes his first appearance. The trailer may suggest a lumbering Big Daddy clone, but this guy can move. Made from parts, a beating heart visible through his chest, The Handyman has a bearded, barely human face. He's a fearsome creature.
But he's no two-dimensional bad guy. You should know better than that by now. As DeWhit and Elizabeth combine once more to send The Handyman plummeting from a collapsing bridge, he grasps desperately at a ledge, his face flushed with fear. You may even pity him as he plummets thousands of feet below.
Grasping for breath, DeWhit asks, "Was that the thing that took you?"
"No," says Elizabeth, "It was that!"
A mechanical, clockwork beast leaps into view, winged with glowing eyes. It's like a robot Griffin, made from cogs and screws. It swoops towards the screen. Fade to black.
It's thrilling. Perhaps a little too scripted to represent precisely how the game will play, but thrilling nevertheless. And bear this in mind. Bioshock Infinite won't be released until 2012. How many developers do you know that release gameplay footage of this quality 2 years before release? Not many.
And there's plenty more to be revealed too. Irrational say what we've seen is just "the tip of the iceberg." We couldn't be more excited.