Gamers were already excited for BioShock Infinite, but after it raked in the awards at this year’s E3, the buzz around Irrational’s latest project is more intense than ever. Anyone following the game knows the major features: the floating city of Columbia, the extraordinary woman named Elizabeth, and the flying beast called Songbird. While these are the elements that tie BioShock Infinite together, the gameplay demo from E3 reveals plenty of small-yet-interesting details to fuel speculation.
Despite the fact that it floats in the sky, Columbia doesn’t exist in a completely fictional world. Its history is rooted in reality. Figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other prominent American leaders are legendary in Columbia. The souvenir shop that Booker and Elizabeth visit sells various masks, busts, and other memorabilia commemorating these iconic figures. Did history diverge at some point, creating parallel realities, or is the world of Columbia vastly different with a few similar faces?
The weapons and powers you use in combat help make your experience with BioShock Infinite unique, but Irrational has developed another way for your choices to impact the game. Citizens of the city can see tears in reality, fuzzy images of objects that exist in other versions of Columbia. However, only Elizabeth can manipulate these tears, pulling in elements from other realities to hers. She can’t use the power endlessly, so the things the player has her materialize – like a crowd of warriors or a turret – could make a single encounter play out in many different ways.
The BioShock Connection
For our original cover story, we asked Irrational Games’ creative director Ken Levine whether BioShock Infinite was set in the same timeline as BioShock 1 and 2. He replied: “We’re leaving it up to people for now to draw their own conclusion on this…” Considering Elizabeth’s reality-altering powers, even if Rapture and Columbia exist at different places in time and space, Elizabeth could possibly bridge that gap.
A Long Way Down
The high-flying combat on Columbia’s skylines looks exhilarating, but what happens when you want to get off or transfer from one rail to another? Rather than perform tricky first-person airborne platforming, you can easily see your destination thanks to an onscreen indicator. The circular guide shows you where you will land or which rail you’ll hit, so you won’t need to worry about falling to your death every time you hop on the rollercoaster-like skylines.
The hulking mechanical beast hunting Elizabeth doesn’t have an expressive face, but it still has a limited ability to display emotion. Like the Big Daddies in Rapture, the eye ports on Songbird change to indicate a particular attitude. Red appears to be aggressive, orange is wary, and green is non-hostile. We’ll just have to wait to see more of Songbird in action to determine the other points on its emotional spectrum.