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Irrational Games

Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite's new DLC, Burial at Sea

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
Ken and his team have built Burial at Sea from the ground up, including the objects and assets. This was surprising to me seeing as it's only DLC, but Ken explains, "it was a huge undertaking and I’m not exactly sure why we do things that take so much time, but we thought this was our last chance for a while to give our fans a love letter so we decided to do it.” This method seems to pay off -- when Ken describes the game to me, I can already tell how unique it will be compared to previous installments. He continues: “It’s basically two parts -- [the first episode] takes place in sort of the pristine Rapture, and that’s very much like being in Columbia at the beginning. There’s a hubspace that’s pretty…I think actually one of the best BioShock spaces that the team has ever built in terms of what I like to see. "I look at levels like the medical level in BioShock and Fort Frolick as sort of the right structural layout of things because they’re less linear, they’re more sort of the center. They feel organic to me, [but] buildings are designed in a hierarchical fashion […] where the more big action stuff tends to push you down a single corridor. It is a constant struggle to get the team around that non-linearity. We’ve definitely done a better job I think in this DLC than we did in Infinite." When I asked about the story, Ken didn't want to get too much into the specifics so as not to spoil it, but he did say that everything ties together and certain characters will make appearances. "We’re fans of integration, we’ll put it that way. We want to both give people a chance to see characters from BioShock before they splice up as much as they do and what they were like beforehand. There is a very well known character in BioShock who will be involved substantially in the story [...] It is connected to the larger story.” Ken also touched on a few themes from the original BioShock, and mentioned that this DLC will dive a bit deeper into the intricacies of Rapture. "You see this opening part which is in pristine Rapture and there’s this whole quest there that doesn’t involve combat and your journey takes you to […] a department store that’s now a prison that you’re there for a reason, you’ll find out. That’s a very traditional BioShock experience with all the fucking crazy splicers down there and the place has gone to shit. So you get both -- you get the pristine Rapture and the ‘gone to shit’ Rapture in the same package.” I prodded about the second episode, in which players get to experience everything through the eyes of Elizabeth. I was particularly interested in Booker's role, but it hasn't been fleshed out completely so Ken was hesitant to share a lot of information. However, he has an outline of a story in mind and wants it to have a different combat feel than the other games. “We’re in relatively early stages of the third part of the DLC [Burial at Sea Ep 2]," Ken told me. "It’s something that we wanted to do, we didn’t know if we could or had the time or resources but finally we decided it was important that we did it. It’s funny, each of the DLCs are a different combat feel, the first one [Clash in the Clouds] is very much like Infinite. The second one is much like BioShock, we reintegrated much more of the player-initiated combat notions of BioShock. In the third one, it’s almost like survival horror. Elizabeth is not like Booker, she’s not a huge tank. We’re still figuring out the details, everything is open to change, but we want her to feel like she’s always on the bleeding edge of resources and decisions and even push the stealth mechanic." Ken continues, "We also have this notion of grifting from the original game that we didn’t have time to do, and I wanted to show that side of Elizabeth and her saviness through her wits to get the things she needs done, done.” When I asked about everyone's favorite characters, the Luteces, Ken said that "I'm not only a huge fan of writing them but I'm a huge fan of working with Oliver [Vaquer] and Jennifer [Hale] on them, and I'll leave it at that." For now, Ken seemed excited about the future and about what fans will think of Burial at Sea. He explains, “We never know what we’re doing next but I think if we knew… it wouldn’t be surprising because we’d have to surprise ourselves. I’m just curious to hear people’s reactions. We know people were frustrated by how silent we were and how long it was taking, but at the end of the day we’re always going to make the choice to present things in a way to actually give people a sense of what we’re doing and do the thing that we think is right for the gamer in the long run, not in the short run. So they’re frustrated that they haven’t gotten the content yet, but we could have done something quicker but it wouldn’t be this. People get anxious but I think they’re going to be pretty happy.”
BioShock interview photo
Returning to Rapture on the eve of its downfall
Irrational Games, and Ken Levine in particular, have been known for creating games with innovative narratives and unique gameplay. BioShock Infinite is no different, and we expect the same for the remaining downloadable cont...

Return to Rapture photo
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea set on the eve of Rapture's downfall
Irrational Games revealed the intentions for their remaining BioShock Infinite downloadable content plans to follow up the Clash in the Clouds DLC: Burial at Sea, a Booker and Elizabeth tale set on the eve of Rapture's down...

BioShock Infinite's first DLC is out on Steam today

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: July 30, 2013 (PC) / August 2013 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Clash in the Clouds does not tie into the storyline specifically but rather is a standalone arena-based combat game. You continue to play as Booker Dewitt with Elizabeth at your side, tearing the fabric of space and time to obtain useful items in battle (as usual).  The DLC consists of four maps (The OPS Zeal, Duke and Dimwit Theater, Raven's Zone, Emporia Arcade) with each containing 15 encounters, or waves, of enemies. The waves get progressively more difficult and sometimes require a lot more strategy vs combat in the main game, especially as the enemies grow in number. The beauty of Clash is that it can be fun for both hardcore arena players or for gamers who want a bit of challenge without the need to be ranked. If players can successfully beat all 15 waves without dying, they'll be placed on the glorious leaderboards for all to see. If the player dies at any point, they can resume the game to continue collecting cash but won't make it onto the rankings. Extra lives can be purchased at the office door in between waves, which allow players to spawn at the door with no penalty and at full health. Players earn Silver Eagles at the end of each wave, and can also get bonus Eagles by killing enemies in various ways (headshots, vigor combos, etc). "Blue Ribbon Challenges" can also be attempted to earn cash bonuses throughout each wave. For example, a few of mine were to defeat enemies only with the hand cannon, or defeat enemies only using the skyline. At the end of each wave, health and salts replenish and you have the opportunity to stock up on new guns or buy upgrades with your money. Silver Eagles can also be used to purchase artifacts from the Columbian Archaeological Society, a really neat-looking atrium with a giant bronze statue of Songbird hanging above. This was actually my favorite part about the DLC -- you can buy character statues, individual songs playing on their own phonograph, Kinetoscopes, Voxophones, and concept art to fill out the space. There's even something waiting for you when a certain duo is unlocked ... but I won't spoil the surprise. Overall I enjoyed my time with Clash in the Clouds. For $5, or included in your Season Pass purchase, you can't really go wrong. It's honestly worth it just to unlock some really cool story items from Infinite and test your combat skills when shit hits the fan.   Clash in the Clouds is coming at you later today on Steam, and will be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by the end of the week. Burial at Sea, the next two downloadable content packs for BioShock Infinite, were also revealed to us, and this will be story-driven content that is set on the eve of Rapture's downfall. Rapture being the setting of the original BioShock. You'll even get to play as Elizabeth here. Check out the trailer and our impressions of that here.
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
Clash in the Clouds is an arena-based combat game
We're here folks! Breathe that big ol' sigh of relief because by midday you'll see BioShock Infinite's first piece of downloadable content, Clash in the Clouds, available for download on the PC through Steam. Clash in the C...

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Super Best Guide is the best guide to super games!
Happy Indie Pendants Day! Your ol' pal Jim Sterling is British, which means he has to hide indoors today, lest the Americans find and murder him. Fortunately, it's allowed me time to polish my ultimate guide to BioShock Infinite, the hot new game everybody's talking about.  Learn the best tactics, the most useful skills, and the weapons you'll need to blow Columbia up! What a lovely time.

BioShock Infinite DLC photo
BioShock Infinite DLC

Find out about the BioShock Infinite DLC later this month


Late-July announcement confirmed
Jul 01
// Jordan Devore
With the lack of specifics on Irrational Games' first major DLC for BioShock Infinite, I had almost forgotten it was happening, but then again, I'm not a season pass holder. For some of you, "Columbia's Finest" was an unpleas...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite releases 'Columbia's Finest' DLC pack


This is NOT part of the Season Pass nor is it story related DLC
Jun 26
// Chris Carter
While we sit and wait patiently for the Season Pass story DLC for BioShock Infinite (despite zero updates from Irrational), Steam has launched a new add-on for the game, titled "Columbia's Finest." Essentially, this is a $4.9...
Logan's Run movie photo
Logan's Run movie

Ken Levine will write the new Logan's Run movie


Welcome Humans! I am ready for you.
Jun 18
// Joshua Derocher
A remake for Logan's Run is in the works, and it's surprisingly going to be written by BioShock Infinite's master guru, Ken Levine. He isn't leaving Irrational Games or anything like that; he is just writing this as a side pr...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite's alternate ending is less depressing


Alternate reality that is, har har har!
May 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Are we past the point where I can stop warning people about spoilers? Well just in case, don't watch this if you haven't beaten BioShock Infinite yet. Actually, this won't even make sense until you have gotten all the way th...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

You can now get your very own BioShock Songbird plushie


NECA Toys making huggable Songbird
May 07
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Irrational Games has teamed up with NECA Toys to produce cute little Songbird plushies. The plushie comes in at 7" tall, has an outstretched wingspan of 14" from tip to tip, and is going for $55. The design was created by sen...
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
BioShock Infinite DLC

BioShock Infinite DLC appears to have a new AI companion


A 2K employee's LinkedIn page outs the info
Apr 29
// Brett Makedonski
Not much has been said about post-release content for BioShock Infinite to this point, but some juicy morsels of information may have dribbled out today. If a 2K employee's LinkedIn page is to be believed, the first DLC ...
BioShock board game rules photo
BioShock board game rules

BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia rulebook posted


Read how cardboard Columbia will function
Apr 24
// Darren Nakamura
We first heard about BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia just a few weeks ago, and this week, Plaid Hat Games has released a PDF of the game's rulebook for your perusal. Board game geeks may want to read it from cover to...

What BioShock Infinite could have been

Apr 24 // Taylor Stein
As a spur-of-the-moment present (my friends are amazing), I was given The Art of BioShock Infinite, an art book showcasing a collection of illustrations, concepts, and ideas crafted throughout the game's development process. I'm not a game designer or an artist, and as much as I admire the aesthetics of a game as beautiful as BioShock Infinite, I didn't exactly jump for joy at the sight of a book full of drawings. That is until I took the time to flip through each page, examine every picture, and peruse all the hand-written annotations. You would be quite surprised to discover just how different Infinite was in its early stages. A city of fragile perfection, the Columbia that we know floats in-between heaven and Earth, residing amongst the cloudy skies of idyllic wonder and concealed malevolence. Serving as a symbol of righteousness, the prophet Comstock's vision of religious purity and American ideology conceived a metropolis more picturesque than nature, seamless perfection in stark contrast to the Sodom below. Before humanity's palace of excellence was stained in the blood of Dewitt's increasing body count, it was pristine, tangibly unspoiled despite the ethereal philosophies of overt racism, sexism, and classism.Derived from the essence of its predecessors, BioShock Infinite embodied many of the series' thematic aspirations: questions of self-determination, pursuit of sovereignty, persistence of greed, and the nature of choice, all while deviating from the atmospheric spirit personified by the underwater city of Rapture. Despite the many differences between the newcomer and the previous installments, the three shared quite a few similarities during the infancy of the project from ambiance and landscape design, to enemy types and other conceptual elements.Before the sky-city of Columbia was born, developers explored the sensibilities of brainstormed elements inside a vacuum. Unhindered by receptivity of a narrative outline, many ideas would surface, but only a select few would color the final product. As expressed by visual depictions and accompanied footnotes within the art book, multiple environmental concepts emerged as plausible settings for Infinite. From an Art Nouveau world inspired by the unruly aspects of the natural world, to a derelict utopia far past its prime, the main aspect of the game, the hovering aesthetic of Columbia, was surprisingly absent during the early stages of conceptualization.From a collection of disconnected ideas to the final product, the most dramatic divergence in the evolution of BioShock Infinite undoubtedly resides with the enemy design. Capitalizing on the essence of dimensional rifts, early renderings showcase a slew of bad guys that harshly contrast the normalcy of the opponent types in the completed game. Man-eating brutes who morph into more monstrous forms after feasting on human flesh, a little girl with a face caged behind torn bloody bars, and numerous other gory, creepy, and lurid imagery tint the pages of  the illustrative collection. Borrowing from Andrew Ryan's aquatic landscape, Vigor junkies also make an appearance in the art compilation, bearing the drastic physical effects of vigor addiction similar to the splicers of previous games.One notable example is an adversary fused together by quantum rifts. These grotesque monstrosities reflect different instances of a person together in one body, the merging of realities in the faces of enemies. Drawings depict a man with features of both an infant and an elderly gentleman sprawled haphazardly across a nightmarish face. If you thought the splicers from the original where menacing or plain ugly, they're nothing compared to the eerie visuals left on Infinite's editing room floor. Besides being a pretty cool book, The Art of BioShock Infinite showcases the creative process of the game's development in a hands-on, artistic medium. Blending the boundaries between old and new, borrowing from early elements in the franchise while crafting something unique, BioShock Infinite truly epitomizes a hodge podge of symbols, aesthetics, and atmospheric clout that has evolved drastically from beginning to end. While the book can only represent a microscopic fragment of the overall design process, viewing step by step as the Songbird transformed from an off-putting Big Daddy with wings into a hulking yet emotionally-compelling beast is an experience that necessitates respect for the characters, the story, and the world of Infinite. If you're curious about the visuals of BioShock Infinite and all of its intricacies, definitely check out the art book at your leisure. If you are looking for more of a detailed background you might be a bit disappointed by the few contextual annotations present, however. Image Source: [1]
BioShock Infinite Art photo
Art book shows a new perspective of Columbia
Almost a month after its release, BioShock Infinite is still on my mind, but not for the reasons you might suspect. If you grow tired of seeing the game plastered on just about every gaming website, magazine, and TV comm...

BioShock Infinite's problem is not violence

Apr 17 // Daniel Starkey
In the grand scheme of things, what is the point of art? Or media at all? The trashiest songs on the radio, the most beautiful opera you’ve ever heard -- they are experiences; experiences that over time help build up who we are. The Autobiography of Malcolm X might very well be my favorite book. It came, for me at least, at the right time in my life. It helped teach me the importance of perspective, about how the lives we live shape us and define how we’re seen and remembered. After reading it, I was so amazed that a few hundreds sheets of paper could contain so much wisdom, so much potential for discussion. I turned to the internet, scouring forums for others that were eager to talk.  That tends to be what I do with anything I play, watch, read, hear, or taste. When I find something new, something special, I am driven to find others who might like it. I'll share it and dissect it with them. Inevitably, they will notice things that I don’t; they’ll have a different interpretation. That dissection, that step-by-step scrutiny of something that someone else made is the fuel for a huge portion of every interaction we regularly have as people. Everything from chatting with coworkers, seeing movies or concerts with friends, or a real connection with someone you’re dating comes from a reflection upon and discussion of mutual experience. It’s so fundamental it’s odd that I haven’t seen it come up before. One of the things that’s been bothering me about games recently, and also one of the reasons I’ve come to love Journey so much, is that games can’t be shared in the same way as other media. Games, especially the more “core” games, have this notion that they should be arbitrarily hard, that they shouldn’t hold your hand -- and that the ensuing exclusivity is a good thing. That’s bullshit. Over time, we’ve come to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves in the strange position of locking away the secrets of gaming knowledge from those who aren’t physically capable of playing them. While it is true that a blind man will never be able to see a film in quite the same way that most can, or that a deaf woman will not ever be able to hear a song, those experiences aren’t locked away by choice. I’ve never seen a book printed with obnoxiously small font just to keep people from being able to read it at all. This is something completely unique to videogames, and even there it’s far from universal. As games begin including better dialogue, better stories, and more complex themes, we are rapidly approaching an era where they will be culturally relevant, where they will be scrutinized and analyzed by academics. We’re already seeing the explosion of relatively simple, easy-to-play games via mobile phones and Facebook. People largely incapable or unwilling to take the time to learn more complicated games are finding plenty of fun with simplicity and accessibility. Traditional games, however, haven’t seen the value in adaptation. I have plenty of friends and family whose opinions I deeply respect and value, but because videogames are inaccessible to those who haven’t been playing for a good chunk of their lives, or those who have a disability, I can’t share all of the great stories or experiences games have to offer.  More and more core gamers decry the fact that the casuals are playing simple games instead of the big beefy manly ones that they happen to think are intrinsically superior. At the same time core gamers howl at the idea of “easier” modes or options that remove combat entirely. Instead of encouraging broader options for new players, we’ve collectively continued to wall ourselves off and push potential fans away. A while back, I wrote a little piece about how my mom’s rheumatoid arthritis kept her from being able to ever play Mass Effect. I called her last week to talk about some of the games I’ve been playing -- Antichamber, Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite. With each one I was as descriptive as possible because I knew she wouldn’t get the chance to experience these games for herself. No matter what, some narratives are locked away; forever lost to her. She’s not the only one either; especially when we start thinking about everyone in our lives that we care for. Friends, family, lovers -- they will never know the depth of our medium, unless we start opening it up. This isn’t about being taken seriously by the outsiders, this is about connecting with the other people in our lives. BioShock Infinite nags at me, tears at me because it’s one of the most fascinating games I’ve ever played -- despite its many faults. I feel compelled to share it with everyone I know, just so we can discuss it. For me, BioShock isn’t so much too violent as it is a game that falls into what the general public expects. Allistair’s mom, herself a gamer with a decent enough background, dismissed it as just another shooter. Even more than that, while violence is -- I would agree -- vital to the game, its combat is so often unnecessary and left without reasonable context. Throughout, there are powerful narrative arcs that are broken up by needless and excessive combat. For about week now, I’ve been itching to take another trip to Columbia, but it’s packed with so much filler that I’ve been avoiding the gratuitous time sink. I’m not so foolish or naïve to say that Infinite would be better as a movie. Quite the contrary, interactions with Elizabeth and the openness of the early stages as well as the claustrophobic design of some of the later ones, is absolutely essentially to mechanically communicating some of the game’s best messages. What I would have liked to see, however, is a mode that makes losing impossible and cuts back on gameplay that might be enjoyable for those of us more accustomed to the tropes of gaming. All of this does bring up a growing fear of mine, though. Sooner or later gaming will reach a point where we will need to begin giving greater consideration to how play interferes with narrative structure. If we want to take the next step, to move forward and mature as a medium, then we need to demand games that don’t sacrifice story for gameplay or gameplay for story. It's not a lot to ask.
More accessible BioShock photo
It's accessibilty
Last week, Jim and I were both on Destructoid’s new video series The Question. We took opposite positions of a question that seems to be tearing through a lot of the game world right now: “Is BioShock Infinite too...

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Game Debate to the Death! Favorite BioShock game?


"Would you kindly?"
Apr 16
// Tom Fronczak
In the previous debate we welcomed the new Tomb Raider installment with a debate against its predecessors in the series. Every single game in the series received at least one vote, so it was fulfilling to see it be a close ra...

BioShock Infinite is the history lesson gamers deserve

Apr 15 // Allistair Pinsof
Great science-fiction, from The Twilight Zone to Star Trek, provides commentary on the state of our society through the lens of another, offering an outlandish world that parallels ours in ways subtle enough to be lost on the greater populace. Instead of focusing on the present, Infinite focuses on our overlooked past, exploring a history in miniature that isn't talked about much. It's the forgotten history of our country. America never floated away or invented sky-hooks, but the majority of Columbia's history is not so unlike our own. Columbia isn't a complete fantasy and that's what makes Infinite such a brilliant, disturbing, and emotionally complex adventure at times. Before going further, I must warn that there will be early-to-mid-game plot spoilers. I also recommend reading Rober Rath's excellent historic look at Infinite on The Escapist. I will not go as into depth, but I owe his history lesson a great deal as it opened my eyes to what makes Infinite such a smart game. Booker DeWitt, Infinite's anti-hero, is the embodiment of America's ills of the time that it wished its citizens would quickly forget, ignore, and move past. Booker served at Wounded Knee, where 150-300 Native Americans were slaughtered, many of which were unarmed women and children fleeing. After that, he became an agent at the government funded Pinkerton Agency that hunted down and armed union leaders that protested for fairer treatment at factories and other industries. Whether Booker is a willing participant in 20th century America's deplorable acts or a victim of being part of a country that would ask him to do these things is something that is left to the player to decide. Perhaps, a closer look at Columbia may guide your feelings. While Rapture was an outlandish social experiment populated by cartoon psychos that embodied unrestrained Objectivism, Columbia explores unrestrained Capitalism that mirrors America in the early 20th century to a surprisingly accurate degree. Columbia has three leaders that progress the story throughout Infinite: Fink the industrial leader, Fitzroy the anarchist leader, and Comstock the spiritual leader. To tax the black more than the white, is that not cruel? To forbid the mixing of the races, is that not cruel? To give the vote to the white man, and deny it to the yellow, the black, the red, is that not cruel? Hm. But is it not cruel to banish your children from a perfect garden? Or drown your flock under an ocean of water? Cruelty can be instructive. And what is Columbia, if not the schoolhouse of the Lord? - Comstock Comstock's pursuit of spiritually cleansing the world (via fire and brimstone) makes him feel it's okay if the lower class and minorities are treated like caged animals as long as the true men of worth (read: wealth) live honorable lives. Comstock's philosophy and actions reflect those of the Third Great Awakening ministers of the mid-to-late 19th century. Comstock's take may be a bit more extreme, but it's a fair comparison, nonetheless. These beliefs and leaders also made their way into colleges, industry, and political offices. That Comstock is a spiritual leader who also runs the city is not so far fetched. It's this philosophy that allows a man like Fink to exist. The truth is, I don't have a lot of time for all that prophecy nonsense. I tell you, belief is...is just a commodity. And old Comstock, well, he does produce. But, like any tradesman, he's obliged to barter his product for the earthly ores. You see, one does not raise a barn on song alone, no sir! Why, that's Fink timber, a Fink hammer, and Fink's hand to swing it. He needs me...lest he soil his own. - Jeremiah Fink Discovering Fink and his hellhole factory Finkton is one of the most interesting parts of Infinite, as it lets the player see what really goes on below the realm of shiny happy people. There are parts of Finkton that seem far too extreme to have ever been part of American history, but it's really not. Paying employees with time tokens? That happened. Having laborers compete at work auctions? Yes. Threatening unhappy work forces with hired military force? It didn't stop with Booker leaving the Pinkertons. In fact, most of these awful conditions continued until the 1930s. You ever see a forest at the beginning of a fire? Before the first flame, you see them possums and squirrels, runnin' through the trees. They know what's coming. But the fat bears with their bellies fulla' honey, well--you can't hardly wake them up from their comfortable hibernation. We're going to Emporia. And then, we gon' see what it takes to rouse them from their slumber. - Daisy Fitzroy And then there is Fitzroy, who went from Comstock caretaker to being wanted for assassination attempts against the Comstock house. In our history classes, we like to pretend that progress was made in the treatment of factory workers, minorities, and lower class through discussions on Capital Hill. As Infinite so aptly demonstrates, it's through bloodshed that these discussions were ever even raised. Horrific acts of terrorism, that led to public bombings and the death of innocents, were done on the part of unhappy workers who demanded change, even if it meant death must come first. Fitzroy may be a monster but her environment made her that way. If these class terrorists never acted, would America be what it is today? This is what I love about Infinite. It demands you to look at America's history and not ignore the hard truth. Great force is necessary to incite great change. There will always be a janitor to clean up the upper classes' mess. And unrestrained capitalism can create a society in unrest. But maybe you got something else out of it, because Infinite is so subtle in its delivery that it never tells you what to think. It only asks you to look. Science fiction serves as a conduit to serving the player a history lesson in condensed time, Wounded Knee, zealots, and worker retaliation all fit on the same platter through the game's use of science fiction. It paints a much clearer picture of American history, since it is taken out of context and exists in its own little floating utopia. To say that you disagree with Columbia's actions is to say you disagree with America's actions of the time, but you likely wouldn't know it. It's unfortunate then that all the interesting ideas, characters, and places of Infinite get thrown out in the final act, as the narrative turns the lens off its world and onto its protagonist. Much like the original BioShock, it's the world that I invested in and fell in love with so the finale felt like a distraction. So much of a distraction that it seems like the only thing I see people discussing when there is a much more interesting dialog to be had about the game's representation of early America. From the abandoned Six Days in Fallujah to the lukewarm Spec Ops: The Line, we've often been let down by game developers' reluctance to provide commentary on America, industry, war, and politics in the way that great films like Apocalypse Now and There Will Be Blood have done. BioShock Infinite is the first game to really put the lens on our country and dare to have us ask ethical questions. If the downloadable expansions to come don't further explore the world of Columbia and its combating leader's ideologies (or explore new ones), I'll be disappointed because science-fiction is only the tool that gets us to the point of introspection. It is a means to an end, but never the actual end. So, let's observe, continue this dialog, and hope another developer comes along that is as daring and smart as Irrational. We could use another, but that we focus so heavily on violence and science-fiction logic makes me worry that we may not be mature enough an audience to deserve one.
BioShock Lessons photo
Made in America
According to Google, "Boxer Rebellion", "Pinkerton" and "Wounded Knee" have been trending lately. BioShock Infinite is teaching gamers about the American history that often evades classrooms, churches, and homes. After years ...

Science of BioShock photo
Science of BioShock

BioShock Infinite vs. quantum mechanics


Schrödinger's cat: dies, died, will die
Apr 15
// Darren Nakamura
First off, there are major BioShock Infinite spoilers in the above video. Don't watch it if you haven't finished the game. While playing through BioShock Infinite, I wondered how well researched the science was behind some o...

Why does BioShock Infinite need to be non-violent?

Apr 12 // Jim Sterling
BioShock Infinite is a game about violence. It's not just a game about racism, or religion, or any of the other "heady" themes it touches upon. The floating city of Columbia is a city steeped in blood, visited by a protagonist with a past of brutality, rescuing a woman who is, in many ways, a product of humanity's most selfish and oppressive traits. Like BioShock before it, violent acts are a key, fundamental, crucial part of the experience. To demand the option of sidestepping such a thing is to miss perhaps the strongest narrative element of the game.  Ludonarrative dissonance is brought up in discussion, as if the gameplay and the story are somehow conflicting. This is so far from the truth, I have to believe those using the term don't understand the game at all. There's no dissonance, not like there potentially was in the recently released Tomb Raider. In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is presented as an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, as vulnerable as any of us would be -- traumatically wounded in cutscenes, nowhere near as strong and experienced as the vicious inhabitants of the island she's stranded on. The gameplay contradicts this by way of violent empowerment, giving players access to machine guns, fire arrows, grenades, and a plethora of excessively nasty stealth kills. There is a very clear difference between Lara's story, and Lara's interactive behavior. This is ludonarrative dissonance.  By contrast, Infinite's Booker DeWitt is a war veteran, whose activities at Wounded Knee were excessive even by the generally horrific standards of the massacre. Though he feels guilt for what he did, he's a violent man at heart, who inescapably resorts to butchery to solve his problems, and he's in a city that, while beautiful and charming at first glance, soon bares its teeth and reveals a world ruled by a man whose acclimation to force rivals that of the protagonist. It's violence meets violence, and the result can only be more violence. This is quite the opposite of ludonarrative dissonance -- it's an integration of story and gameplay rarely seen in even the very best videogames. Ludonarrative dissonance does not, by the way, mean "violence." The term has been bandied about a lot lately, and I'm growing more convinced that many people using it do not appreciate what the term means. If they did, they wouldn't use it as an interchangeable term for "combat" like they do. The violence does not contradict the story in any way. The excess of the violence is not going against the narrative established. It sounds smart to use the term, but only if you misunderstand BioShock Infinite's plot. Misunderstanding it is the only way you could believe there's any dissonance at play.  The violence witnessed in Columbia is excessive because it has to be -- when his blood is up and enemies are at their weakest, Booker carves them up in unbelievably horrific ways. He expresses a dissatisfaction with his history of combat, and yet is frequently reminded by other characters that, deep down, he's a cold-blooded killer. Even as Booker protests, he's being fed victims by the likes of Slate and Fink, who set out to prove he's exactly the man he claims he's not. Booker's claims of regret ring hollow when he's mashing faces to pieces with his whirly claw of death -- and they're supposed to. His entire story is one of denial, of claiming he's better than those around him, and ultimately, devastatingly, being proven wrong. That first time he gladly grinds a spinning metal claw into somebody's face is the first clue that Booker's claims of putting his past behind him are bullshit.  In fact, giving Booker the option of non-violent discourse would in fact be the very dissonance some people claim to dislike. That goes against everything natural to Booker, and everything natural to Columbia. This is not a world of reason, and the "peace keepers" of Father Comstock's oppressive will are not rational individuals, out for a debate. They're fanatical, paranoid, dangerous people, and stopping to have a chat with them would simply not make sense. Likewise, the hero is a man who kills, who does stupid things without thinking them through, and ultimately proves everybody right when they say he's a monster. His story would not work if he reached the conclusion with nothing but speech checks to his name. Furthermore, though some may think it a "shame" that the otherwise beautiful environment of Columbia gets torn apart by conflict, the downfall of the city is crucial to the story. Columbia is Stepford -- a smiling, bright, utterly artificial society, based upon the visually resplendent but cheaply contrived White City of Chicago, built in 1905. Like White City, Columbia is a place of surface-level beauty with a dark side (the cheap plaster buildings of White City looked gorgeous, yet were stalked by the sadistic serial killer H.H. Holmes). We're supposed to realize that Columbia is a fake, a sham, with an atmosphere of horror under its manufactured surface. In reality, the city is a heavily armed, potentially apocalyptic weapon. We're introduced to this fact early on in the game, and we're supposed to realize that underneath the gloss, there's nothing but sheer ugliness.  It strikes me as wholly ironic that we're picking on BioShock Infinite to make our point about violence, when it's more justified here than anywhere else. Even the brilliant Half-Life 2 has to ignore its own backstory to make sense as a game. Gordon Freeman, as pointed out by the antagonist Dr. Breen, is a theoretical physicist. He's not a super soldier, he's not magic, he's just a doctor -- yet the only evidence of this ability is his plugging a machine into a wall socket. The rest of the game is about firing rockets, smashing zombies with crowbars, and sucking up dead bodies to throw at brainwashed soldiers. Similarly, the Uncharted series is borderline creepy when you stop to consider how Nathan Drake is just looking for treasure, yet guns down hundreds upon hundreds of human beings while making wisecracks. We have to compartmentalize a lot when we play story-driven games -- and yet BioShock Infinite is one of the few (outside of war games) where we don't, and here we are singling it out as the example of why violent gameplay doesn't work. Talk about a total misfire. Those asking for a non-violent BioShock Infinite are asking for a different game entirely, an issue made doubly silly when you realize such games already exist. If you want a shooter with more player choice, with less violent options, with chances to talk down the antagonists, you have Deus Ex. That kind of player agency is something Deus Ex excels at, because that's part of the series' core philosophy.BioShock has never tried to do that, never led anybody to believe it would do that, and I don't understand where people suddenly started thinking it would. BioShock's core philosophy does not include that level of player agency, that level of non-aggression. It never has. It wouldn't work for Infinite's story if it did.  Not every game needs player choice. Not every game needs a non-violent path. To ask for such things in a game designed entirely around violence is to ask for yet more homogenization in games, to want every single game to cater to everybody at all times. That's the same attitude that sees multiplayer options shoehorned into otherwise excellent solo experiences. You may believe your motives are more high-minded, but the result is the same. You want to crack and break a game to fit your one template for creative success.  Gaming pundits have a history of insecurity. We worry what "they" will think of videogames, we fret over what "they" will think of gamers. I'm not sure who "they" are, these ever-faceless societal judges who apparently witness and condemn every little thing we do, but we need to get over our fear of them. People saying the violence in BioShock Infinite is "embarrassing" betray their own lack of esteem for the medium, concerned as they are with what other people might think, and disregarding the fact that many of humanity's greatest artistry -- from the plays of Shakespeare to the many paintings depicting Jesus Christ's death -- are soaked in and driven by violence. We're a violent species, and that is reflected in much of our art. That's not say all art is violent, but it does say that, if you're reading Sophie's Choice and wishing it was a choose-your-own-adventure, you're looking for the wrong kind of art in the wrong kind of place.  BioShock Infinite is not your game if you want a non-violent exploration of its themes, because Infinite's themes revolve around violence as a core concept. It may not be to your taste, and you may have many other issues with BioShock Infinite's story, but to complain about its violence, as if only non-violent art can credibly explore "mature" ideas, makes you sound less mature than you think you sound. Your argument is shallow, hinged upon the idea that violence in art is simply wrong, and automatically undoes anything else such art tries to do. That is not true. Violence may be all-too prevalent in videogames, but that doesn't make it bad, it doesn't make it pointless, and it doesn't undo anything -- especially when it's thoroughly justified.  So why does BioShock Infinite need to be less violent? It doesn't. It simply does not. Not for the game it successfully manages to be, and the story is expertly manages to tell. I am glad the conversations about game content are finally happening ... but pick an actual good example, people!
Violent BioShock Infinite photo
'It always ends in blood'
"I want a BioShock where we have the OPTION to resolve confrontation without the use of guns," said one gamer to me today. As I consider his comment, I can't help but think more and more it's like saying you want a Metal Gear...

Minecraft Infinite photo
Minecraft Infinite

BioShock Infinite's Columbia recreated in Minecraft


On voxel cloud nine
Apr 10
// Tony Ponce
What!? WHAT!? A mere two weeks in the public's hands and already someone has recreated BioShock Infinite's floating city of Columbia in Minecraft!? What madness! Actually, this project was completed three months ago. For a mi...
Infinite covers photo
Infinite covers

These BioShock Infinite alternate covers rock


Even more to choose from
Apr 08
// Jordan Devore
Are you using the standard box art for BioShock Infinite, the reversible Songbird cover, or something else entirely? Developer Irrational Games has provided even more custom covers should you want to go the latter route, and ...
The Question photo
The Question

Is BioShock too violent?


We answer The Question
Apr 08
// Conrad Zimmerman
[Every week, Destructoid will pose topical a question to the community. Answer it if you want!]  The BioShock franchise is lauded as having some of the most intelligent narrative in all of videogames, but is that quality being overshadowed by its extreme violence? Answer The Question for yourself in the comments.
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

Take a look at some of BioShock Infinite's concept art


Witness Columbia come to life
Apr 06
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
BioShock Infinite is without a doubt a great looking game. Fact. The concept art is no different, and artist Ben Lo shared a bunch of concept pieces he created for the game over on his personal blogspot. Most it involves the ...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

There's a secret in BioShock Infinite's ambient noise


What's it mean?
Apr 06
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
This isn't really a spoiler, but you're probably better off avoiding whatever this is about anyway. I imagine we're going to be discovering a lot of hidden secrets in BioShock Infinite over the next few months. The latest di...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

We got our first taste of BioShock Infinite 7 years ago


Don't watch this if you haven't beaten the game yet!
Apr 05
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
DON'T look at this until after you've beaten BioShock Infinite. Seriously, come back after you have. For the rest of you that have cleared the game, you're about to have your minds blown.
BioShock board game photo
BioShock board game

BioShock Infinite goes cardboard in The Siege of Columbia


Pre-order now for a $25 discount
Apr 02
// Darren Nakamura
The Internet is abuzz about Irrational's long-awaited BioShock Infinite. Amidst all of the discussion and praise for the videogame, Plaid Hat Games has announced BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia, a board game adaptati...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

Enjoy all of BioShock Infinite in this 3.5-hour movie


Would you kindly give it a view?
Apr 02
// Jason Cabral
Just this past weekend I finished BioShock Infinite, and as a huge fan of the original BioShock this game did not disappoint. I'm still thinking about the story and making new revelations -- and it's been two days ...
XCOM photo
XCOM

Take-Two possibly reworking FPS XCOM as new title


Get your suspenders ready
Mar 29
// Jason Cabral
2K Marin may be reworking its 2010 first-person shooter XCOM into a different title entirely. Just last week, Take-Two Interactive had registered three domain names; thebureau-game.com, thebureau-game.net and whathappene...

BioShock Infinite and my mom don't get along

Mar 27 // Allistair Pinsof
It’s awfully strange to picture it, but that may because I never actually witness it: My mom was a gamer before I even picked up a controller. On my family’s Atari ST, she played adventure games like The Colonel’s Bequest, and many years later, Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village (DS). Currently, she games more than I do, playing Facebook games with friends and family all morning and night. Though she never took to The Sims, Tetris, and SimCity as my aunt once did (be careful what you wish for; do you really want your system taken away from you by an obsessed relative?). We all have that one game we want to show off to our parents in an ill-advised attempt to share the magic of videogames, the new media that they only hear about in terms of child murder and outdated pop culture references to Pac-Man and Mario. For me, that game was Final Fantasy IX. Yes, Final Fantasy IX. Hardly my favorite in the series but it was a very exciting release for the time, one that boasted a lush soundtrack, visuals, and a light, fantasy story that lacked the macho qualities of action games and the overbearing angst of FFVII and FFVIII. Perhaps it didn’t help that she joined me halfway through the game -- at a point where even I couldn’t follow the story -- but she didn’t have much interest, looking at it as merely cute. I thought, “If only they talked in these games!” In reality, that’d probably make the situation worse. But it’s 2013 and motherfucking BioShock Infinite is upon us -- yes, Ken Levine’s epic is permitted to fuck my mother. Yet, she had no interest in taking this skybird home. At first, she excused the awkward beats in action (waiting for a door to open, characters disappearing from a scene), but once the game presented itself as a first-person shooter instead of the adventure she suspected it may be, she lost interest.“It has taken a gruesome bloody, twisted turn … and I was just enjoying the serenity of it all,” she wrote on the laptop I gave her. The rich visuals and detailed art direction continue to carry her interests, but the gun fights continued to bore her. Yet, this is supposed to be the crossover hit that would get everyone’s Grandma to buy an Xbox 360! Ok, Levine and Irrational never said that but BioShock Infinite may be the closest we ever get to a first-person shooter that is about more than just the shooting -- yet having the shooting (and so much of it) is enough to turn away my mom. No mystery, story, or visuals can ever be enough to get away from the inherit disgust and boredom that prolonged firefights summon in her.I went into this experiment suspecting this would be the case. I’m hardly disappointed in her, the game, or Ken Levine. Most of all, I’m not disappointed in myself because I don’t need my mom to validate my gaming interests nor any other adult, especially as that desire in so many consumers has brought about an industry where every major franchise must imitate The Dark Knight in a boring attempt to be more mature and realistic. Why so serious? Because moms. Did I pick the wrong game? Of course. I can see her enjoying Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire, but I see little point in uncomfortably shoving her outside her comfort zone of Facebook games and TV. I used to judge her and put an effort into getting her into “better art,” never realizing how much of a jerk I was, especially since she never did that with me and my videogames. "I ALSO READ BOOKS MOM!!!!! TAKE THAT MOM!!!!" says the game journalist.Must we always be so self-conscious and defensive about our favorite hobby, hoping for games that present real emotion (lol Journey lol) and narrative (lol Dear Esther lol) when these things mostly just make for a dull game? We are an industry that constantly wants to appease our mothers, afraid to admit our arrested development instead of embrace it. This is a large part of why I love Japan, a country where gaming doesn’t occupy the same divide between gender and age. While people bemoan Metal Gear Rising’s eccentricities over here -- “Ugh, why can’t we have an emotional meaningful Metal Gear story, guys?” some may type on Twitter -- in Japan, they celebrate these goofy moments that throw all good logic and sense out the window. They don’t care what their moms think, or maybe their moms are just cooler than ours. Now, I got a BioShock to play. Alone, happy, and conscious-free is how I will do so.
BioMom Infinite photo
Why do we care what our mom thinks about videogames?
It’s ironic that I once wanted games to be validated by my mom so badly, since now I give her worrisome glances as she cycles through her reality TV programming. I think we all have that one game that we think will b...

BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

How to play BioShock Infinite's 1999 mode from the start


Using the Konami code
Mar 26
// Jordan Devore
Those looking for a heightened sense of challenge from BioShock Infinite will want to give the game's 1999 Mode a look. Although most players will gain access to this difficulty option by clearing the game normally, it can al...
 photo

Reviews Elsewhere: BioShock Infinite


Ken out of Ten
Mar 25
// Jim Sterling
BioShock Infinite reviews finally went live across the board today, and while I'm sure we all expected a positive showing, we maybe were not quite prepared for the veritable outpouring of critical acclaim.  Of course, De...
Female protagonists photo
Female protagonists

Jimquisition: The Creepy Cull of Female Protagonists


Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Mar 25
// Jim Sterling
The game industry doesn't want female characters. That is allegedly the message publishers have been sending to developers. As female characters get hidden from the front covers of games and projects with leading ladies are ...

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