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“BioShock Infinite” is set in 1912 at the height of American exceptionalism. Booker Dewitt is sent to the city in the sky, Columbia, with the mission of retrieving a woman named Elizabeth from captivity amidst a civil war between two factions: the Vox Populi and the Founders.
Developer Irrational Games (the original team behind the first BioShock released in 2007) has been slowly, painstakingly slowly, building BioShock Infinite since 2010. Three years of “content in progress” videos, concept art, gameplay videos and most recently released the actual first five minutes of the game. Ken Levine, co-founder of Irrational Games, has been resolute in Irrational’s development of Infinite even as some employees left Irrational in the middle of Infinite’s development.
Despite setbacks, fans were still excited, that is until Levine discussed the target audience for BioShock Infinite. Apparently, Levine and his team intended the game to appeal to gamers who are fans of games like the “Call of Duty” franchise. Levine has interviewed these fans in an effort to understand what makes them play certain games over others. It is understandable that Irrational Games would want a demographic that is as lucrative as the young male demographic since they buy the same types of games over and over again. However, this means some things about the game will be tailored to that demographic; such as the protagonist, Booker Dewitt, being the only featured character on the box art. This is questionable because there are two main characters: Booker and Elizabeth. Irrational made an attempt to remedy this by having fans vote on a reversible cover.
In classic “BioShock” style, the player is aided by supernatural powers. These powers are gained by ingesting “Vigors” and grant the player control over elements such as electricity or even crows. Dewitt’s partner, Elizabeth, comes with her own power which only she has control over: the ability to summon objects through space and time to assist the player in combat situations. She brings objects called “Tears,” which can be determined from their gray, fragmented appearance over objects nearby. For example the player may come under heavy fire and may want Elizabeth to bring a cover into the space from another reality. She can do so only if a “Tear” allows her to. In addition, Elizabeth’s abilities cannot be overused as they require a cool down period, causing the player to think about every “Tear” they use.
Moreover, the actual gameplay is akin to a free for all, all out chaos with enemies shooting, tears being ripped open by Elizabeth, Dewitt being hurled from skyline to skyline while using his “Vigors” and guns to aid him. Such a dynamic combat system is overwhelming to watch and take in. However, when one has the controller in their hands they could become lost in the combat and feel more immersed in Dewitt’s role as the one who needs to protect Elizabeth and escape the madness that Columbia has become. The tag team dynamic that Elizabeth and Dewitt share can only give the player more choices on how to handle a particular fight, which in the end is a positive and intriguing aspect of the gameplay.
Another interesting aspect of “BioShock Infinite” is the “1999 mode” which is much more than a hardest difficulty setting. The player will need to plan out every single choice they make in order to survive. Ken Levine states on the BioShock Infinite website that “1999 Mode will demand that players pick specializations, and focus on them.” This mode promises to frustrate gamers, but in a good way. Levine advises to save often in result.
In the meantime, players who pre-ordered any version of “BioShock Infinite” can play the online flash puzzle game “Industrial Revolution.” In the game you are a worker in a factory and it is your choice whether you want to support the Vox Populi or the Founders. In line with BioShock heritage, the choice the player makes effects the story. The player is also able to unlock money and powers that they can use in “Infinite” when it is released.
Irrational has also jumped on the special edition bandwagon in which players have a choice of two editions: “Premium Edition”($79.99 USD) or the “Ultimate Songbird Edition”($149.99 USD). Both editions come with unlockables, an artbook, keychain, handyman figurine, avatars and themes for the Xbox 360 or PS3. The only major difference is the “Ultimate Songbird Edition” comes with a statue of the Songbird, the monster that holds Elizabeth captive. The player has a choice to make here as well: is a statue worth the price of $149.99? According to Ken Levine, it is. Moreover, in addition to all of these goodies, on January 22, 2013, Irrational announced an e-book, “BioShock Infinite: Mind in Revolt,” will be free for gamers that pre-ordered with Amazon.com. The prequel covers the lead up to the events in “Infinite” and delves deeper into the conflict between the Vox Populi and the Founders.
“BioShock Infinite” will finally be released on March 26, 2013. As one of the most highly anticipated games in the New Year, one can only hope Levine has not let fans down. As Levine said in an interview with Adam Sessler, “Columbia is the memory of America that people think existed that never really quite existed.” Just from viewing trailers from the game, Levine and Irrational have definitely brought to life a highly concentrated version of American idealism from long ago.