There is no exaggeration when I say that Bioshock Infinite is one of the most hotly anticipated games in the industry right now. It certainly commands attention within the hardcore gaming community. Many of the same gamers who are excited for this game loved and adored the first Bioshock games. Although, with its novel art design and spectacular setting, the game is likely to expand outside the realm of video game fandom and into the world of pop culture.
No doubt the anticipation for the game is matched by the anxiety of waiting for its 2012 release. So to ease my own anxiety, I’ve chosen to put together this unique post. I offer my reactions, thoughts, concerns, and predictions of the game following the viewing of the much lauded 15-minute E3 trailer. Formerly only viewed by game journalists, Ken Levine (the Creative Director behind the project) and Irrational Games answered the outcry for more footage and delivered this gorgeous playthrough below.
If you haven’t seen it already, borrow 15 minutes from your day and, as Gametrailers says, “lose yourself in the floating sky-world of Columbia”
The way I feel most comfortable approaching this is just to cover my thoughts as I best remember them. No particular order. (edit: I started writing this about a week before GameTrailers released their play by play so don’t hate) Onward!
I wonder if people are giving enough praise to this incredible logo/title transformation. Beginning as a pristine emblem, a rush of wind from the left (or is it right) slowly turns. The Bioshock letters rust, a sign of age or perhaps a bygone era. The stars and stripes become tattered and torn. Mixed and unintelligible radio signals crescendo to an ominous gong.
The transitions exemplifies two things. One, it keeps with the theme Levine holds regarding alternate realities and parallel dimensions within the Bioshock universe. Many elements seen in this trailer and the prior 10 minute trailer released last year, suggest the idea of interdimensional tears and characters dipping in and out of alternate personas (i.e. Saltonstall’s badge morphing). Two, it conforms with Levine’s interpretation of Bioshock as an idea. The Bioshock worlds (and maybe to a lesser extent, System Shock 2) are all about these utopias, grand enterprises, or big ideas that start out great but progressively fall apart, usually due to human nature.
Change in the skyhook.
This change makes me suspect that either the developers disliked the original skyhook design (see below), there are different kinds of skyhooks in the world of Columbia, or the skyhook you have is an upgradable device. Potential upgrades could include greater speed, greater lift upon jumping, or even melee attacks.
Look very closely at the Zeppelin/Airship that lifts off in front of Booker and Elizabeth during the evacuation from the Vox scene. Another testament to absolute badass ability of Irrational Games’ artists. The airship is a combination of styles from the era, most notably the Kitty Hawk (Wright Brothers), Zeppelins, Dirigibles and Hot Air Balloons (Henri Giffard), and even the tail design (Otto Lilienthal). The best part is that these are all names and inventions that are contemporary to the game’s setting.
Those of you who live in Boston, must be thinking how eerily similar the architecture in Boston is to the world of Columbia. No surprise. Many of those buildings you see around Mass Ave or Commonwealth Ave are over 100 years old. Some of the Columbia buildings are row houses, similar in style to the ones seen in San Francisco and D.C.’s Capitol Hill.
Holy crap. HOLY CRAP! The sound for this game is spectacular. There are certain sounds in this game that I believe will reverberate through gamers minds for many years. Songbird’s cry, which is a mix of shrieking and giggling is particularly frightening. Also, listen to the steam engine whoosh and bending metal as he twitches his elongated head. I could write a whole article about the sounds just in this one trailer, but let me encourage on your next view through the trailer to observe some of the quieter moments. When in the shop, listen to the light wooden clink of the marionnettes hanging in the back of the shop or when Booker and Elizabeth first step our of the sundries shop into the sun.
Vox Populi Thugs
Is that the Scout that I hear? -“I’m not even winded.”-
CONCERNS (or Things you should try to suspend your disbelief on)
Vigors and Nostrums
Are they cool? Yes. But where or how do they fit into this time frame? At a glance, they are nigh magical powers. Unlike the plasmids, which had a scientific genetic background, the vigors and nostrums have no prescribed history or scientific explanation. I could be jumping the gun here because this could end up explained in the game. Usually unexplained phenomena in games, movies or tv doesn’t matter to me but I feel they’re placed slightly unevenly in this game. It’s almost as if Levine and the team said, “oh yeah, those mutant powers you had in the last games were cool, might as well put them in this one.”
I pitched this before in a Reddit post and it did not go over well. Perhaps I did not give enough reasoning why I’m a little hesitant with all the time travel. The 1912 scenario is interesting enough on its own to me. When I play this game, I want to be as completely enveloped into this bizarre time frame as I can be.
It’s not that I don’t want to see the alternate 1980s, I’d just rather not experience it in game with someone who will be a fish out of water in it. Booker and Elizabeth are gonna be all, “Whu? What is that?” That transition does not interest me.
Also, I just don’t know too many games that have chosen 1912 as a setting. 1912 is such a foreign and strange time frame for videogames. It’s going to require the best world-building capabilities Levine’s team can offer.
Voice Acting, Dialogue and Writing
There might be fires and pitchforks for this one, but understand this: I’m only preparing you for this game. If you’re like me, you are experiencing max power in being excited for this game. I’m only helping you temper your expectations, just as I’m tempering mine.
So let’s take this piece, the whole tear sequence:
Elizabeth (hovering the horse) – “I can control it this time”
Booker – “It’s too powerful, you won’t be able to stop it.”
–Ok, so I guess Booker knows how the tears work?–
Booker (after the Fire Truck/1980s sequence) – “What was that? What…what was that? Talk to me Elizabeth!
Elizabeth – “You were right. I can’t control it….it…it’s not possible.
Booker – “Well with what just happened. You really want to take bets on what’s possible?”
What the heck Booker? First you’re telling her it’s not possible, then you’re saying anything could be. Quit messing with her mind dude.
Personally, I think the Irrational Games crew is amazing at bringing concepts to life, but I think they are a little hit or miss with their dialogue. My hope is that it is not too much like Bioshock where I had to scratch my head on what some of the characters said. Also, accents.
This shouldn’t be too much of a problem because Levine and Irrational are incredible storytellers and they’re even better world-builders. I can forgive the occasional weird dialogue tree as long as it doesn’t completely take me out of the setting and action.
You can see some buildings connected by giant chains. From what we’ve seen in the first demo video, it seems rather likely that buildings just drop out of the sky. Wouldn’t a lot of the buildings be ready for this and try and avoid being connected to one another in the event that the adjacent building begins plummeting? That goes into my next question, who actually makes sure the city stays flying?
These are merely strange elements I noticed while watching the demo. I still think this game is going to rock. The gunfights and sky-rail rides are going to be spectacular if all the demo and trailer video is any indication. Just got to roll with the concerns and punches and suspend your shred of disbelief.
PREDICTIONS (or Things I’d Like to See in the Game)
After visiting Fenway Park in Boston, I realized that a baseball diamond is the perfect venue for a location in Columbia. Fenway will be 100 years old by the time Bioshock Infinite is released, meaning a baseball diamond is not incongruous with the game’s setting. Baseball had actually been around for almost 30 years by 1912. In my mind, I see Booker and Elizabeth battling a crazy whacked out baseball team. Check out some of these classic baseball stadiums from the late 1800s and the early 1900s.
The people of Columbia need water and I think at some point they’ll reveal the source. While the idea of a giant reservoir sounds a little too far-fetched, perhaps they have a giant flying basin from which the city gets its water. On the other hand, they may have a device that converts all the moisture in the surrounding clouds into drinkable water. It sucks in the clouds and then condenses the water. When turned in reserve, it’s able to create fog or cloud cover, which is how Columbia disappeared for so long. Sound too crazy? Maybe not.
The people of Columbia have horses, surely they have cows. Let’s take it one step further. They have an entire floating platform covered with ‘amber waves of grain.’ Giant stalks of corn are on another. Since the idea of Columbia is that it’s a floating World’s Fair and an exhibition for American Exceptionalism, why wouldn’t there be some sort of platform to show off crop-growing capabilities? The ensuing gun battle allows you to duck in and out of the crops. Imagine what a change that would be from all the city streets, to actually having the wide open space of fields to cover.
Buffalo Bill Wild West Show
One of the most unique elements of American history and culture is the western migration. Cowboy and wild west culture were very popular all the up til the 60s and 70s. Heck, it’s still popular. But it was strongly built into the minds of young Americans then, just as comic book culture is so embedded in our youth culture now. This isn’t a very big idea, but it certainly fits well with the time frame.
Whatever Irrational Games puts together, I’m positive it’s going to be a superb product. I think the hype surrounding it is even greater than that for the original game. For good reason too. Bioshock Infinite is mind-blowing. Please feel free to comment or tell me how I’m wrong. Can’t wait to hear your comments and ideas as well.