Bioshock Infinite Hands-on (PS3)

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There are some games that can have a very personal connection to a player. The themes and events that may put off and even actively repulse one group of players could be the selfsame accoutrements that forever endear themselves to someone else. Visual direction, atmosphere, gameplay scenarios, character design, scale and intensity… all of these elements and more may simply be dismissed outright by some, but for others, these touches could be seen as intricate weaves in a much larger, much more impressive tapestry full of vibrant visions.

After only a few hours of play, Bioshock Infinite has endeared itself to me and I would like to tell you all about just some of the incredible sights, sounds and scenarios I’ve witnessed so you too might find yourself similarly rapt in its brilliance.

Bioshock Infinite Screenshot 7

As in the original Bioshock from Irrational Games, my adventures began just barely above sea level, this time gently rocking in a rowboat slowly making its way to a mysterious structure sitting sullenly in the middle of the ocean under the gloomy cover of heavy clouds, and with a simple mantra echoing in my mind: ‘Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt.’ Who is this girl and what is this debt?

Nothing is explained, but as I inhabited the role of Booker DeWitt I explored the peculiar building and discovered the gravity of the situation, I very soon found myself blasting off into the air high above the clouds with bright, warm sunshine radiating over the hidden, floating city of Columbia. A vast change from the world I left behind at sea.

Bioshock Infinite Screenshot 2

Columbia is a world like no other, acting as a polar opposite to the rancorous underwater city of Rapture seen in the original Bioshock, and Bioshock 2. Where Rapture was dark, dank and foreboding, Columbia is bright, breezy and welcoming. Where Rapture was hideous, twisting and claustrophobic, Columbia is beautiful and open and free. Citizens speak with a quick laugh and an easy smile and children play in the streets, while the excitement and pomp of passing parades, celebratory fireworks and upcoming special city events is disarming.

But. There are of course all of the undertones of darkness and deceit that you would expect from a world brought to life by creative director Ken Levine and the dizzyingly talented design team at Irrational Games – traces of unease that sit just beneath the surface of a seemingly idyllic city with rich history to absorb. Originally launched by the United States in the early 1900s as a display of power, Columbia eventually seceded from the union to become its own privately governed entity floating high above the earth out of the reach of meddling hands.

Bioshock Infinite Screenshot 2

Bioshock Infinite also wouldn’t be a Ken Levine game without a fair amount of political intrigue and a dressing down of severely flawed idealism, and the extremist ideals that lead to Columbia parting ways with the US prove to be a sticking point amongst a portion of the city’s citizens, too. Citizens who, during the early 1900s in the US, held only limited social standing and were thought of as little more than slaves. A clash of societal ideals has led to a civil war breaking out under the banners of the city’s conservative Founders behind one Zachary Comstock and the liberal Vox Populi, led by Daisy Fitzroy.

Even as I explored the early areas of Bioshock Infinite and its grand vision of Columbia, whispers and secrets floated to my ears and I learned more about the crumbling face of this cheerful fa