previews\ Dec 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Preview: BioShock Infinite soars above the rest


It's been a while since we've last seen BioShock Infinite. Since its delay back in May, Irrational has kept the game hidden and locked away from the general public. It's only fitting that now, on the eve of the VGAs with a big BioShock Infinite reveal planned, Irrational has lifted the veil for its highly anticipated game, giving us and several other outlets a fresh, lengthy look at what the game has to offer. Take it from me, you won't be disappointed.

The preview kicked off with me, as ex-Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, slowly floating towards a lighthouse. The entire set up is similar to what we experienced in the original BioShock only this time you don't plunge into the depths of the Atlantic, but rather you soar into the skies above towards the floating city of Columbia.

Columbia is chalk full of detail, filled with towering turn-of-century-style buildings. It's marvelous to look at. Levine has stressed that Columbia is a "living world". He couldn't be more right in that Columbia has plenty of things to do and explore. It's the exploring that will land you in some hot water, however. 

BioShock Infinite Columbia

You get the sense, as you explore its vibrant streets, that something isn't quite right about the city of Columbia.  You see, despite its angelic appearance, something unsettling remains . It's as if you are transported to Pleasantville; on the outside everything seems great, but beyond the surface something evil stirs.

That evil briefly reared its head as I continued to explore. I learned that to enter Columbia, you must first be baptized in front of dozens of blonde haired, blue eyed true believers dressed in white robes. Immediately, you can tell that Irrational has a much deeper, twisted story to tell.

It's a story that seemingly revolves around a mysterious, young woman named Elizabeth. This is why you are sent to Columbia, to rescue her. Columbia exists during an ongoing civil war between the Founders, led by a prophet named Father Comstock, and a group of violent insurgents known as the Vox Populi. There's a sort of religious undertone that exists beneath the surface that I hope will be expanded upon throughout the game.

BioShock Infinite

As I explored the city, I noticed that lining the streets were posters warning against the false shepherd who will come to lead the lamb of Columbia away from the city. This shepherd, according to the posters, will be recognizable by a brand on his right hand, "AD". As you can probably guess, Booker happens to have that same brand on his right hand.

After spending much of my time exploring the city, I encountered a carnival. To sum it up, I was presented with a pretty disturbing decision that ultimately led to the brand on my hand being discovered. Needless to say, all hell broke loose.

Combat in BioShock Infinite should be familiar to players of the original. The weapons feel unique enough to provide a decent amount of versatility. BioShock Infinite has switched to a two-weapon system, but you are still able to upgrade your weapons through vending machines scattered around the city. 

Although combat remains largely the same, the introduction of sky-lines, elevated railways that you can hook onto and ride, open the game up to an entirely new vertical approach to situations. While on these you can fire at enemies, change your speed, or even go in reverse. The skylines are a great addition that really quicken the pace of combat.

BioShock Infinite Skylines

Additionally, the use of Vigors, powers similar to Plasmids from BioShock, offer another layer of depth to the combat. You can use these Vigors either offensively or defensively. For instance, using "Possession" will remotely take over an enemy turret. "Devil's Kiss" meanwhile sets up a fire trap against a teleporting enemy.

Things get even more interesting with the addition of Elizabeth. Irrational Games has really done a great job incorporating her into the game. Her inclusion opens up an entirely new gameplay experience as she encourages you to experiment and explore Columbia in ways you might not otherwise would have.

As far as combat, she can hold her own. Not only does she not get in the way, but the enemies don't appear to have any interest in her which seemed a little odd considering I'm there to rescue her. In certain instances, she will even help you by tossing ammunition your way. In the early levels it wasn't too noticeable, but I'm sure she'll play a bigger role as the game progresses.

BioShock Infinite Elizabeth

Overall, despite yet another delay, BioShock Infinite is shaping up to be quite the adventure. If the entire game is like this, BioShock Infinite may just be the best installment we've seen yet. The attention to detail coupled with the fluid combat has created a perfect blend of exploration and action. 

Having played the game for a few hours, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of BioShock Infinite. What I have scratched, though, makes me eager to want more. It looks like all of the "polish" that keeps getting thrown on has paid off as BioShock Infinite could be one of the standout games of 2013.

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