Is it too much to say that BioShock was a revolution? Most critics out there seemed to think so, and they had a good reason to praise the work of Ken Levine and his team. You see, BioShock delivered its story like nothing else before it. Remember that twist? On top of that you had atmosphere, lore, dark themes and one of the most beautiful worlds in video game history. It wasn't flawless, but it was pretty damn good. Levine passed on 2010's sequel, and it was still successful without him, but now he's back with BioShock Infinite. So far, it's a radical departure from what we experienced in Rapture, shooting you up into the sky to fight in Columbia.
Despite being founded on American ideals, much like its maritime counterpart, Infinite appears to be very different. Out of the murky depths and into the blue heavens, the game sends you into the world of Booker DeWitt, a man who who has been hired to rescue a woman called Elizabeth from someone known as the 'Song Bird'. This person loves Elizabeth, but wants to trap her in Columbia forever. The first BioShock was shrouded in mystery, and was essentially a journey of discovery, whereas Infinite throws you straight into the chaos. Set in the middle of the Columbian conflict between the 'Founders' (Americans) and the 'Vox' (Internationals), Levine is undoubtedly delving into a narrative influenced heavily by social and political problems. The world is much more colourful than Rapture too, and noticeably improved, both technically and cinematically.
The relationship between DeWitt and Elizabeth is what sets Infinite apart from the two games before it. Feeling isolated is no longer an issue, this is more about being stuck in the middle of a tough situation. During the E3 demo, Elizabeth finds that she has some strange powers and is on her way to someone called Comstock from the Founders to try and find out more about them. DeWitt also has unique talents, the one shown was a shockwave that knocks enemies in the air but no further explanation was given. Many of BioShock's traits have been carried over; a lot of the weapons are essentially the same, and you can annihilate enemies with a combination of your powers and the environment.
When the initial reveal trailer was released last year, a striking new feature saw DeWitt travelling between islands via zip-lines. Aside from being the most convenient mode of transport, they're also vital during combat and will be helpful if you want to avoid enemies. The main difference between the first BioShock and BioShock 2 was combat, where the latter was far more determined to deliver an action orientated experience. Infinite continues on from that, heavily focusing on the combat, but also the interaction between DeWitt and Elizabeth. He seems to have a reputation among the people in Columbia as well, another mysterious aspect of what will surely be a gripping story. Don't expect Levine to say much about the plot before Infinite's launch next year; we're still not sure if this is the same universe that Rapture was based in, so you'll have to wait a little longer to uncover all of the secrets.
BioShock Infinite's presence at E3 2011 mainly confirmed one thing - the game wants you get stuck into the fight. There's going to be a large number of enemies trying to take you out, and even an entire zeppelin (which required you to make efficient use of the zip-lines to access it), so you really need to be prepared for plenty of shooting. The citizens of Columbia are unhappy, just like the folks in Rapture, so you won't be offered a drink at the local pub. Chances are that a gun will be pointed at your head, and the combat will take off shortly after.
The previously mentioned Song Bird will be your greatest enemy in Columbia, it's a monstrosity that comfortably outclasses the Big Daddies found in the halls of Rapture. DeWitt had a single encounter with the beast, and was easily overpowered, only to be saved by Elizabeth who sacrifices her freedom for you. A moral element will surely be squeezed in there at some stage, but there's still so much that remains unclear. The E3 demo ended with DeWitt pursuing the Song Bird by jumping off a platform after it, and then we were left to wonder. It looks set to be another lesson in design from Levine (unintentional rhyme), and we can't wait to get lost in another engaging tale.
BioShock Infinite will be available in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.