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Out Of The Sea, Into The Clouds
A young girl named Elizabeth was whisked away to a faraway city and locked up in a tower. Confined to a single room, a hulking beast guarded her for 15 years until a brave man came to her rescue.

This premise sounds like a fairy tale populated by idyllic characters and unambiguous intentions, but it serves as the narrative core for the next BioShock – and the situation is more complex than it seems. The minds responsible for Rapture’s flooded corridors, Andrew Ryan’s twisted ideals, and the Big Daddies’ fatherly instincts wouldn’t be content to tell a simple fairy tale. With BioShock Infinite, Irrational Games returns to the series it created, leaving the ocean behind and turning its gaze toward the sky.

Elizabeth isn’t a typical damsel in distress; she has latent, dangerous special abilities that are slowly awakening. The faraway city where she is kept is called Columbia, a world-famous floating metropolis and one-time testament to America’s power and industry. While the hulking beast is Elizabeth’s jailor, it is also the only friend she has known during her long years of captivity. And the brave man who saves her – that’s where you come in.

Starting Over
The city of Rapture defined the identity of the BioShock series when Irrational Games released the original title in 2007. The ruined underwater utopia was more than just a collection of tunnels and rooms for players to shoot splicers – it became another character in the story with its own dark secrets. Given the popularity of the setting, gamers weren’t surprised to learn that the sequel (developed by 2K Marin) returned to Rapture. The art deco paradise and its iconic denizens – Big Daddies and Little Sisters – seemed to be inextricable aspects of the BioShock brand.

You won’t see any of them in BioShock Infinite.

“When we started working on this game, we decided that even though it’s a BioShock game, there are no sacred cows,” says Irrational’s president and creative director Ken Levine. In other words, everything gamers associate with BioShock was up for assessment. This process began shortly after the first game’s release, and resulted in a comprehensive look at its strengths and weaknesses.

“If you’re not the most critical person of your own stuff, you can’t progress as a game developer,” Levine says. “For us, we have this game that gets great reviews, and this great Metacritic average. But, it’s not about continuing what we did. It’s about saying, ‘Where are the opportunities?’”

For Irrational Games, finding opportunities isn’t simply about adding a few new weapons and characters. Three years after the project’s inception, the Boston-based studio has a brand new game engine, a visually stunning setting, a multifaceted story, and deeper gameplay – all while retaining the core of the BioShock experience.

“For us, BioShock has never been about a city,” Levine says. “It’s been about an idea. It’s about going to a place that’s mysterious and strange and learning about that place and the powers you can use. It’s about how you interact with that environment, how you interact with those characters.”

Even without the trappings of Rapture, fans will still see thematic and gameplay connections to the previous two games; this is still BioShock, but any lingering homesickness you may have for Andrew Ryan’s failed experiment will fall away the second you lay eyes on Columbia.