O Sing For Liberty!
BioShock Infinite should have been out by now since it was, at one point in time, slated for an October 2012 release. Of course, the folks at Irrational Games decided it needed a bit more work before it was ready. Even though we’re getting antsy to toy around with the final version of this one, we’re glad the developers are willing to take their time to make sure it’s perfect before it lands in our hands. See, BioShock Infinite has the potential to be one of gaming’s all-time great masterpieces. No, I’m actually not being hyperbolic here.
If you’re a gamer who has somehow not heard of Infinite yet, the word BioShock should sound at least vaguely familiar. Underwater city. Ayn Randian dystopia. “Would you kindly?” Big Daddy and Little Sister. You get the picture. The original BioShock created a wealth of unforgettable imagery and phrases that have become a permanent part of gamer culture. In fact, I’d argue that BioShock is one of the most important games of this console generation. Yes, I will fight you if you disagree with me on that.
But BioShock 2 left the extremely talented hands at Irrational Games and was outsourced to various 2K studios, as well as the folks at Arkane (who, as you might recall, developed the phenomenal Dishonored). While it was a welcome trip back to the city of Rapture, it didn’t really tick any checkboxes that the first game missed. Unless you want to put multiplayer on that list, but BioShock was never really meant to be a multiplayer experience in the first place.
Now, though, Irrational returns to the franchise, and they’ve decided to rebuild it from the ground up. In fact, a lot of people are confused as to what even makes this a BioShock game, since it isn’t really even set in the same universe/timeline as the original game.
Well, BioShock Infinite should be seen as more of a spiritual successor to BioShock rather than a true sequel or prequel. It takes concepts that we are already familiar with and puts an entirely new spin on them.
For example, the first game’s Rapture was a 1960 underwater dystopia that had fallen apart due to extreme ideologies. BioShock Infinite, on the other hand, brings us to the floating city of Columbia, which is in the process of being torn apart by extreme ideologies. Instead of failing due to Objectivist philosophies taken to their boiling point, Infinite’s world is caught in a civil war between the Founders, who want to preserve their rich, proud, American heritage, and the Vox Populi, who are fighting for civil rights, fair labor, and things of that nature. In fact, these factions almost seem like extreme versions of modern-day Democrats and Republicans, making this almost an eerily accurate parody of American politics.
And really, how many other video games can you name that almost read like a term paper on Political Philosophy? Probably just BioShock. With that in mind, slapping the BioShock label on Infinite isn’t as terribly misleading as you first thought, now is it?
And like Rapture, Columbia is a breathtaking marvel of human ingenuity. It’s an early 1900s American city that floats in the air, suspended by hot air balloons. From the gameplay footage we’ve seen, we’d be tempted to say it has a steampunk aesthetic.
While the environments are certainly brighter and more wide open than Rapture, that doesn’t mean this won’t be a complexly terrifying game. In fact, I’d say it’s probably safe to assume that Columbia will exploit players’ fear of heights in a similar manner to how the original utilized its tight, claustrophobic spaces. And if anyone can make a bright and colorful horror game, it’s Irrational.
One of the most interesting things about the original BioShock was the relationship between the Big Daddies and the Little Sisters. Infinite has its equivalent with a woman named Elizabeth and her robotic protector, Songbird. This time around, though, Elizabeth is trying to escape her protector, with the help of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt.
As far as combat is concerned, the original BioShock was hugely reliant on Plasmids, which could be almost seen as the science fiction equivalent of spells in a fantasy RPG. Essentially, Plasmids were powers that allowed you to do things like shoot electricity out of your fingertips or summon swarms of bees to attack your enemy. BioShock Infinite has these things called Vigors, which are basically the same thing, though the concept has been refined to better facilitate player choice.
And speaking of combat, the only valid complaint I could possibly make about the first BioShock was that gunplay felt far too loose and sloppy. In fact, it was enough of an issue that it could render certain combat situations entirely unfun. Plasmids were there to sort of put a Band-Aid on the situation, but it wasn’t enough to completely redeem the sheer awkwardness of firing a gun in the game. Though we haven’t yet actually gotten our paws on Infinite, the videos we’ve seen point to gunplay that is much smoother and more streamlined than it was in the original game. We’re reserving our final judgment for when we actually play the thing, but all signs are pointing to a much better experience, gameplay-wise.
Oh, and did we mention that both BioShock and BioShock Infinite begin with a lighthouse in the Atlantic?
Ultimately, those fans who are trying to claim that BioShock Infinite isn’t really a BioShock game are missing the point. Infinite looks to deliver a terrifying psychological thriller that thematically revisits a lot of what made the original BioShock such a landmark experience, while completely rebuilding the formula from the ground up to make it unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a video game before.
In fact, I’d be tempted to say that if you aren’t looking forward to March 26 (the game’s launch date), you probably hate video games.