"The true patriot has nothing to fear from the Songbird."
-Columbia propaganda poster
What is it?
Bioshock Infinite is the spiritual successor to the spiritual successor of System Shock. This one takes us to turn-of-the-century Columbia, a floating city built on the dream of American exceptionalism…but incorporating a few very American nightmares as well.
Since the world discovered Columbia is fully armed (it destroyed a helpless town to prove that), the city's become a boogeyman, appearing and vanishing like the wind and terrorizing those beneath it. But now someone's hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to rescue a young lady named Elizabeth, and they've dispatched agent Booker DeWitt to Columbia to get the job done.
I don't understand your art!
The only problem is that Elizabeth's been the captive of a monstrous mechanical creature called Songbird for the last 15 years…and it wants her back.
Why is it cool?
Everything you loved about Bioshock is gone…but still here.
Translate Bioshock's dark, enclosed spaces to a bright, wide-open city full of period details, spectacular draw distances, torn banners wafting in the distance, and people doing their own thing. Substitute Ayn Rand objectivism for ultra-nationalism, then throw in several different versions of ultra-nationalism fronted by several different factions tearing Columbia apart. Replace one-note moral choices (kill/don't kill Little Sisters) with situations that aren't so clear-cut. Euthanize a dying horse? Elizabeth wants to try saving it with powers she can't control yet. Stop a public execution? Sure, and start a firefight you don't need.
I claim this land for Spain!
The moment it won E3 for me
Every single minute of their hands-on demo. I'll reiterate: Every. Single. Minute.
A few highlights:
- I'd describe Columbia's fast-travel system, the skyline, as a personal roller coaster minus the cars. You hook on, and you go. Fast. But it's also a core combat element. During a firefight with Vox Populi fanatics (as opposed to the Founders, another set of fanatics run by a man calling himself Comstock), enemies shoot at you from a nearby building top. Rails run by their position. No problem: You hook on, zip right up there, and kill 'em all dead. Later, more Vox skyline in or just strafe you as they zoom past. But the big show comes when you have to take out their zepplin, which has you leaping from rail to rail to get where you need to go. "Exhilarating" barely even covers it.
- Elizabeth won me over as a character several times over, and her interaction with Booker – who talks, a first for Irrational — gets very deep very quickly. She's smart, but Songbird's been her only contact with the outside world for 15 years. It's charming that she mistakes a shiny tourist trinket for real gold or clowns around with an Abraham Lincoln head as she enjoys her first taste of freedom, well, ever. That turns on a dime when Songbird shows up peering through the windows; the sheer terror on her face tells you everything you need to know. She'd rather die than go back to Songbird…so the tears on her face when she voluntarily does just that to save your life tear the heart.
Oh, the humanity!
- When you busted Elizabeth out of the cage Songbird kept her in, you also unlocked her new time-displacement powers, which she can't fully control yet. You'll see distorted "tears" around you…objects from a another time that Elizabeth can sometimes bring into the present, such as a wagon coach that gives you cover during a gunfight. But when she tries to save that dying horse, something explodes inside her, and you're both suddenly on a street in 1983. How do I know this? Because a nearby movie marquee reads "Return of the Jedi."
And I wonder if maybe a similarly brief visit to Rapture might happen down the road.