[See the reveal trailer here.]
At the turn of the 20th century, America was in the midst of asserting itself as a major power on the world stage. By that point, the national consensus had shifted from isolationism to imperialism: the United States had expanded outside the borders of the North American continent, and the nation’s business barons sought new markets for their industrial and agricultural exports.
[image credit: Smithsonian Institution]
BioShock Infinite (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
The ten-minute demo that Irrational showed at last night’s event looked like, well, BioShock -- at least from a gameplay perspective. Infinite is a first-person shooter in which DeWitt is imbued with plasmid-like powers; if we’re talking in terms of the first two BioShock games, I saw abilities that looked like Electro Bolt and Telekinesis. So I asked Tim Gerritsen, Irrational’s director of product development, how the studio is differentiating the gameplay in Infinite from that of its predecessors. Elizabeth is the key, he explained, saying that she “creates so many new opportunities for you as a player.” She can be a part of your arsenal, but she isn’t a mere tool; the way powers work in this game ensures that. “She’s not just this drone who comes along and, you know, ‘Press A to use Elizabeth.’ That’s not what she’s about.”
Elizabeth is the catalyst for the power-infused gameplay, but you’ll certainly have your own weapons and weapons to mess around with. “We’re not just going to do the radial dial, where you have eight selections of this, and eight selections of that, and that’s it,” Gerritsen told me. He also explained that Irrational has designed Infinite in a way that forces you to constantly change up your tactics, since that wasn’t necessarily the case in the original BioShock. “You got to the point where there was this weapon, this plasmid, and you could just keep using them for the rest of the game once you got them,” he acknowledged. “We wanted to change that up and make a new game that’s much more about, ‘What am I dealing with right now? How do I get through it? The thing I was using before doesn’t work anymore, so now I have to change it up.’ ”
The gameplay demo began with DeWitt regaining consciousness in front of a framed mural featuring two banners: one at the top saying “For God and Country,” and the other at the bottom reading “It is our holy duty to guard against the foreign hordes.” DeWitt soon came upon a grassy area with a man and a flock of crows milling about in front of a gazebo. Inside the structure was a politician, Saltonstall, stumping for his imperialist agenda:
And if our guns thunder, then I say, ‘Let them thunder!’ The needs of our great city of Columbia must come before the needs of any foreigner, whether they be enemy or friend. For I have looked into the future, and one path is filled with amity and gold, and the other is fraught with the perils of a hostile and alien world.
DeWitt grabbed a rifle from the barrel of guns in Saltonstall’s gazebo, and at that point, the hatless Uncle Sam look-a-like rounded on him, demanding, “Who are you?!” Immediately afterward, he shouted, “Charles! Attack!” Charles, the other man in the courtyard, sicced the crows on DeWitt. He quickly shot at Charles, and eventually kicked him off a ledge. The gunplay looked tight; presumably, we can expect better weapon combat than in BioShock. Once Charles was dead, the crows left DeWitt alone, and Saltonstall made a getaway. DeWitt then looked down to Charles’ corpse, which was stuck on scaffolding below. He used telekinesis on the body, and picked up a bottle labeled “Murder of Crows” (which happens to be the proper term for a group of crows).
The ticked-off saloon-goers followed DeWitt outside, where Saltonstall and his cannon fired upon DeWitt again. This time, he was ready: he plucked the cannonball out of the air with telekinesis, and hurled it back from whence it came. After destroying the cannon, DeWitt ran away from the area, and eventually found Elizabeth. By the time they had conquered the second living machine a few minutes later, they were both winded and ready to rest. DeWitt, wanting to make sure they could take a breather, asked Elizabeth, “That was the boy who was chasing you, right?” “No, that wasn’t him. That wasn’t him.” And then she saw it: “THAT’S HIM!” A giant mechanical crow, perched on a building, stood out against the darkened sky. Then it pounced... and the screen cut to black.
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