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Bioshock Infinite: The Next Link in the Great Chain

/ Nov 30th, 2012 1 Comment

Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite

Irrational Games’ most recent gameplay trailer for the upcoming Bioshock Infinite, appropriately dubbed ‘Beast of America’ given its glorious depiction of gritty politically-driven warfare in another crumbling Made-in-America wonderland, provides signs that the heart of the Bioshock franchise is alive and strong. Confirmed by the company’s other teaser releases, including an extended 15-minute gameplay demo, players can expect to explore a disturbing world of high-minded ideas corrupted by humanity’s eternal battle for dominance–along with a wide array of high-powered weapons and powers to make enemies’ destinies manifest.  Previews for the game promise the continuation of the franchise’s central conceit: surviving the fall of a unique utopia in which the unstoppable forces of divergent ideals meet the immovable objects of violent resistance to change. With guns.

Fractured Factions

Part of the alluring mythos of the Bioshock series is its fierce argument that any utopia is almost inevitably corrupted by internal power struggles between groups that each believe itself best suited to realize that utopia’s goals. Witness the power struggle between Andrew Ryan and Fontaine in the original game, would you kindly? The previous games excelled at thematically pairing rising zealotry with an explosion of self-interested violence.

From what has been seen so far in these exhilarating glimpses of the game, Bioshock Infinite intends to expand on that view, as represented by the monolithic (and xenophobic) Founders versus the catch-all nature of the Vox Populi alliance opposing them. Shifting loyalties and situational morality are the order of the day; everywhere the player turns an enemy from a different group can be found.  But in Columbia, despite the philosophical bedrock of American Exceptionalism that Irrational has built the game upon, the enemy of your enemy is most certainly not your friend.

And as the player is trapped here, high above the world, the only way out is through–and over.

Skyline to Nowhere

Space was at a premium in the original Bioshock. Air vents provided relief from the eyes of prying splicers and lumbering Big Daddies, corridors felt tight when alone and even more cramped when in the thick of combat, and dripping darkness hid many nasty surprises.  Though Bioshock Infinite is different than its predecessors in how the player will move within the game’s locations, battling through the decaying cloud-city of Columbia (and along its Skyline rail-transport system) appears to be an intense journey just as perilous and inescapable as Rapture. The sensation of being trapped, vital in lending an element of horror to the atmosphere, helps to elevate the nature of the combat and the franchise’s focus on contained mayhem.  Because no matter how far players fly, they’re stuck in Columbia until the mission is finished.

Bioshock Means More Than Just Rapture

Given how consistently terrific Bioshock Infinite looks, Irrational Games might do well to set each new Bioshock game in its own unique world to avoid the feeling of “already seen it” that plagued the original game’s solid sequel. Bioshock Infinite shows that Irrational has a steady direction in mind. The defining characteristic of the franchise is its ability to immerse the player within an interesting, disturbing universe. As long as the focus remains on exciting settings full of tense atmosphere, the series could spin new visions forever.

Matthew Allen
Matthew is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and likes games that are full of kinetic gameplay, great layered storytelling and innovation in the exploration of the medium and the genre represented.
Matthew Allen

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