Gamescom 2010: BioShock Infinite First Impressions – Stop What You’re Doing! Read This... Now!
Written Friday, August 27, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
The general rule is that very few games at Gamescom truly wow us to the point that we’re literally lost for words. I know! Mr Webb, lost for words? That’s got to be impossible! But after seeing most of the triple-A games at E3, it’s just the way Gamescom usually is. There is however usually the one exception. The one that stands out and makes its debut at the show. Last year Rage wowed us, and this year it was Irrational Games and their latest BioShock title that completely knocked us off our feet.
Moving from the moody tubes of Rapture, Infinite heads to the skies and takes place in Columbia circa 1912. No, we don’t mean that drug lords were adventurous in 1912 and attached billions of helium filled balloons to make a flying drug ship out of the South American drug state. This is something entirely different. It’s essentially a floating World’s Fair, yet there is something truly sinister about it.
“You wouldn’t have to go to the World’s Fair, it would come to you,” said Tim Gerritsen, Director of Product Development at Irrational Games, as he introduced this new setting. “It didn’t take long for a lot of people to figure out you could do a lot more with a floating city than just turn it into a World’s Fair.”
“Eventually there was a violent incident and it was revealed that Columbia was more than just a World’s Fair,” continued Gerritsen, “It was indeed a battleship. A sort of floating Death Star. It was taking American progress, but also American will and forcing it upon people whether they wanted it or not.”
After being disowned by the American government, Columbia was left to float away and operate to its own devices. It almost became a myth of sorts, popping up in various places all over the world, but never for too long.
Taking on the role of disgraced former Pinkerton agent, Booker Dewitt – who was described by Gerritsen as the “ultimate fixer” – your next job is to head to Columbia to retrieve a young girl called Elizabeth who has been held captive there for 12 years. But wait... Columbia is supposed to be a myth, is it not? Correct, but the mysterious gentlemen who gave you the job not only knows where it is, but how to get you there.
The live demo picks up the short passage of play on the surface of Columbia itself and it’s a far cry from the dark dingy environments of Rapture. Instead, you’re welcomed by beautiful blue skies, the delicate chorus of the Columbia’s local bird life and a whole host of soft fluffy clouds. Still, there is something very eerie and off about the new setting. If it’s not the anti-foreigner signs that welcome DeWitt to Columbia or the two-wheeled cart being dragged down the cobbled streets by a horse so oblivious to the sparks it’s kicking up, it’s the woman sweeping her porch while a fire blazes behind her and the signs that glimmer as you walk past them. It’s almost surreal and very dream-like. Of course, the crashing bell-tower doesn’t help create a perfect picture of Columbia, but that commotion soon dies down after it nearly ends DeWitt’s adventure before it starts.
As DeWitt crosses the deserted, but equally as epic floating city, passing huge sprawling statues and a bizarre monorail system, the Pinkerton arrives in a park area where the distant yells of a preacher of some sort hang in the otherwise hauntingly silent mecca.
Crossing the park to where the passionate gentleman preaches to his heart’s content to seemingly no-one, DeWitt passes an elderly gentlemen covered in crows as he sits perched on a bench, whilst passing various obscure propaganda signs pitched on the lawn. “They’ll take your wife,” one of them boldly claims.
“Who are you!?” screeches the preacher as he breaks his stride, his voice taking on an almost evil overtone. Seconds later the preacher fires a murder of crows at DeWitt, stunning him ever so slightly and knocking him back. DeWitt quickly responds and dispatches his supposed bodyguard over the edge of the floating island as he rises to his feet.
“Chhhaaaarrrleesss,” the preacher screams, as the protagonist takes no chances and instantly opens fire on him using his sniper rifle and his telekinesis powers to get the better of him. It’s not long before the unknown local makes for a quick getaway, gripping onto the monorail system’s tracks and escaping to another of Columbia’s distant platforms that you see in the distance.
“Woah, would you look at this!” says DeWitt, as he picks up a bottle of blue tonic that he finds lying around the park area. Without questioning its contents, the gruff speaking fixer drinks it all up. Moments later the screen’s colour suddenly fades away to monochrome, leaving only the crow that now sits on DeWitt’s arm in full focus, while the crimson red worms that hang from its mouth are the only thing that manages to maintain their deathly colour.
As DeWitt gets his senses back, now obviously possessing the power of the crows that the preacher just used against him, the Pinkerton has to think quick to avoid the mortar fire that the escaped evangelist decides to use against him. Quickly sniping a couple of his henchmen that occupy his side, DeWitt makes a snap decision and grips on to the wacky monorail track and makes his way down to him. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” he chirped as he grabs on.
Momentarily losing his grip and having to latch onto another track meant the ride over for DeWitt wasn’t easy as he had hoped, and as he touches down, he dashes for cover in what looks like one of the local bars.
Walking into the almost Wild West-esque bar, the locals seem none too bothered about the arrival of this unknown traveller. To the right of DeWitt, a local takes occupancy at a grand piano; to his left, a gramophone entertains those who congregate round the bar. Nothing out of the ordinary here it would seem, even the guys at the bar nonchalantly clink their glasses together and make a toast. All of a sudden everything stops; the music, the chatter, it’s as if time stopped still for a moment and all DeWitt could see was the burning eyes of over a dozen locals.
“WE’RE CLOSED!!” one of them shrieks, as they all descend upon the newcomer with shotguns and a look in their eyes that doesn’t quite seem normal. Using the crows and the telekinesis though, DeWitt takes a few down and makes a run for the outside.
At this point, ten or twelve flood onto the street, with DeWitt making short work of them thanks to the help from an unknown associate. Hang on though, there’s still the matter of the crazy preacher firing mortars at DeWitt. Fear not, DeWitt reacts quickly, using the telekinesis to turn and return the mortars to where they came from, seeing the old man off, once and for all.
The female assistance happens to be Elizabeth, DeWitt’s rescue assignment, but before the pair could settle, there was more heat to contend with. Perched behind cover, Elizabeth preps a devastating attack on the locals that have them pinned down. With electricity bolts flying everywhere, Elizabeth uses her powers to manipulate the weather, with rain clouds and whirlwinds swirling close by the pair. After creating a huge fireball, with which DeWitt throws at the rest of the locals using his telekinesis, the danger looks to have subsided... for now.