Bioshock Infinite (Or why I forgot about Rapture and learned to love Columbia)
It’s been more than a few days since Ken Levine and the boys and girls over at Irrational Games exposed their latest project, Bioshock Infinite, to the light. And ever since that fateful day I’ve been wrestling with just how happy, sad, confused, and/or frustrated I am with the prospect of moving from the dystopian depths of the sea to the utopian vision in the sky: Columbia.
When it came to the original Bioshock, the city of Rapture was unlike anything I’d seen before in a game. Sure, there was the occasional leaky faucet or two, the locals were pretty rowdy, the landlord was a colossal pain in the ass, and what was with those freaky kids? But Rapture had a lot going for it. The sea is one of the most alien worlds that we know of on this planet. And Rapture set the stage for creatures, encounters, philosophical arguments, conflicts, and experiences available in no other game (well…no game that didn’t end in ‘shock’).
Rapture had no equal.
But it was also a world that some people, including my fellow podcasters, believed had only one story to tell: the fall of Andrew Ryan. While I fully admit the second game failed to ignite the same level of shock (pun maybe intended) and awe in me that I got from the first game, I lean more towards the belief that more Bioshock is never a bad thing. And by that I mean having a second chance to dive into Rapture again, for the first time, was something I couldn’t pass up (Ken Levine game or no).
In Bioshock Infinite’s case, Columbia and the philosophy behind it: perfection, technological supremacy, and absolute dominance, allows for a whole new set of experiences. While mainstays like the Big Daddies, Little Sisters, Plasmids, Splicers, and Vita-Chambers may be gone, these omissions are what will make Columbia worth exploring. It is a blank slate (something every developer longs for), an unknown world, and a floating mystery whose secrets are waiting to be uncovered.
‘Who is behind the creation of this floating Utopia?’ ‘Why the constant push for perfection?’ ‘What role does Elizabeth play in all of this? ‘Why does she have these crazy powers?’ And, perhaps the most intriguing of all, ‘Will any of this lead back to Rapture’s icy depths.’
The possibilities are endless.
There is, however, one concern I must address. With all of these unknowns comes the possibility that Bioshock Infinite will be a very different game than what any of us are expecting. With the Bioshock name comes a few ‘give-ins’: strange powers, jerry-rigged weapons, colossal enemies, and a foreboding environment. If Bioshock Infinite turns out to be something that doesn’t retain the “Bioshock” feel, will it alienate people? Will it be “Bioshock” in name only? And if that is the case, should Irrational have simply called it “Infinite?”
The truth is we have a very long time to figure all of this out. Irrational has already stated that Bioshock Infinite won’t see the light of day until sometime in 2012. And Ken Levine has stated on the Irrational Games blog, quite succinctly,
“there are no sacred cows [with regards to Bioshock Infinite]. Everything else that people know or think they know about BioShock is open for negotiation.”
That is a very dangerous, risky, and awesome statement. It’s the kind of thing we’d expect to hear from Ken Levine; a developer who cares deeply about each and every game he has helmed.
My reaction: “Okay…it’s a Bioshock game…but really it’s a Ken Levine game. And that’s, potentially, a very good thing.”
Irrational Games has a tough job ahead of them. Despite what some may say about Bioshock 2, many people still think quite fondly of Rapture and its zealous founder Andrew Ryan. As such, Columbia is going to have to do a lot of things right to make people forget about the wonderful horrors that we bore witness to in Bioshock. But Irrational Games has one hell of a track record. And, in my opinion, I feel they have the ability to create a game that can bridge a very precarious gap: a video game worth of the Bioshock name, and a Bioshock game that retains the feel of the original whilst throwing us head first into a world like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.
If only we didn’t have to wait two whole years to see how it all turns out.
THE CRIB NOTES: BIOSHOCK INFINITE
WHO’S MAKING IT: IRRATIONAL GAMES
WHO’S PUBLISHING IT: 2K GAMES
WHEN’S IT COMING OUT: 2012
WHERE’S IT GOING TO: PC, PS3, 360