The original Bioshock put players in a beautiful yet horrendous setting. A fabulous underwater paradise surrounded by the open ocean, Rapture was the epitome of perfection. That perfection became twisted and warped, leading the citizens to either kill each other, or become the victims themselves. The strong survived and fed off of the losers. The sick and demented citizens that once had been some of the most intelligent and high class people, had become obsessed with physical manipulations through plasmids, a chemical that could alter a person’s genetic makeup to allow them access to great power. Power such as shooting lighting from their fingertips (a la Emperor Palpatine), or blast fire from their palms, even teleportation and kinetic abilities. The underwater setting with the crushing water leaking in through the windows and cracks in the architecture only instilled greater fear in us as we scurried through darkened corridors and half destroyed rooms.
Developed by Irrational Games, Bioshock Infinite takes place about 50 years or so before the original Bioshock and Bioshock 2, but in a location far removed from a sunken underwater city. In fact, it is far removed from everything as the city of Columbia hangs suspended in the air using giant balloons and blimps to carry it along. Portrayed as a gigantic World’s Fair that would travel from city to city, the true purpose of the floating city was that it was in fact a well-armed flying battleship. The city was disavowed by the US Government and the city became lost to all those on the ground.
The story revolves around the arrival of an “outsider” who players take control of, and the rescue of the damsel in distress, Elizabeth. Soon after rescuing Elizabeth we realize she is guarded by something extremely powerful, known as Songbird. An enormous, robotic bird-like creature, this friend and warden of Elizabeth has kept her contained for 12 years. Feeling betrayed, Songbird seeks to recapture Elizabeth and destroy the outsider (you). While most games have a “follow” character that needs to be protected (anyone remember Natalya from Goldeneye?), this time around your compatriot is a definite badass. Partner who controls time and space? Uhhh yes please?
The other part of the storyline revolves around the two warring factions on Columbia, each seeking power. One group to retain it, the other to wrest it away. The arrival of the outsider complicates and upsets the balance both sides had against each other. Where one group decides you need to die, the other wants you to lend them a hand. These are minor however, when compared to the gigantic robot after you. Another issue residents of Columbia seem to be thrown into are tears in space and time. Possibly related to Elizabeth’s powers and presence, these tears cause major confusion among the population.
The gameplay acts the same as the previous titles, mixing FPS with RPG. The same features you had before allows you to modify your body and gain special abilities. Unlike previous games though, is that Vigors (aka plasmids in the previous games) loadouts are permanent. You will have to consider carefully as you are limited to a certain number and there are no options to change them throughout the game. Which Vigors you decide to imbibe will determine how the game plays out for you.
Bioshock Infinite launches March 26 for Microsoft Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360