Mecha Patriots: All We Know About BioShock Infinite

By Craig Pearson on March 8th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

George Washington is going to kick your ass
BioShock Infinite is by far the game I’m most excited about this year. I’m torn between wanting to know everything, and wanting it to be a surprise, but that plan was somewhat undermined by being sent to New York to cover the reveal of the game. My attempts to wipe it from my brain by drinking lots of vodka and dancing with Kieron (we linked arms and kicked legs) around a restaurant failed. Instead I’m burdened with The Knowledge, and an insatiable desire to know more. Last night’s reveal of the Motorised Patriot, part a new class of enemy called Heavy Hitter, I added to my Levine Shrine. He talked to G4 of how the Patriot is a fearless killing machine, and how the Heavy Hitters “… are enemies that are used to not just be more powerful, but to augment the abilities of the more traditional BioShock enemies. You’re going to come across them in certain areas of the game, and they’re going to provide a really unique challenge.” Everything we know about the floating World’s Fair, including footage of the patriot in action, is below.

He’s the perfect enemy for Infinite’s setting, Columbia: a city in the sky, held on the wind by balloons and blimps, draped in the Stars and Stripes. It’s yet another place cut-off from the real world, which makes it the ideal place for an idea to contort. Columbia’s a floating World’s Fair, set to the skies to show the growing strength of the American nation. But it was a ruse, the city was revealed to be a battleship after firing on Chinese citizens. After that it vanishes, the USA not wanting any part of it.

People are terrifyingly aware it’s out there, and it goes into hiding for years before you, former Pinkerton Agent Booker DeWitt, are hired to go there and rescue Elizabeth, a young girl with unimaginable telekinetic powers. The isolation has bred a civil war. Two sides have formed on Columbia: The Founders and the Vox Populii, both looking for control of the city and both hoping to use Elizabeth’s powers to do so. I’m fascinated by the political machinations: the snobbish Founders are sickening racists and xenophobes. The strength of the propaganda that puts their position over genuinely made me feel uncomfortable when it was unveiled in New York: a reveal that showed snivelling racial caricatures cowering at the feet of George Washington. The first words I saw in Colombia were “It is Our Holy Duty To Guard Against The Foreign Hoardes”. Their counterpoints are the Vox Populii. As with everything on Colombia, their position of antagonists elevates them from the protectful resistance to extremists in their own right, eventually brutalising the citizens in a similar fashion. It’s the sad tale of the twisting of America’s foundation, interpreted as the abusers see fit.

Columbia is obviously no ordinary place and when Booker finally arrives there’s a far more magical air to it than expected. The city is broken, politically, physically, and in space and time. The streets are empty, buildings are on fire and there are strange flickers that distort the world. These are rifts from other worlds and they clot the streets. Elizabeth is able to manipulate them, pulling objects from the other worlds into Columbia, or moving into those worlds. It’s her power to do this, that makes her special enough to fight for and to cage. She’s both an asset and a powerful enemy.

It’s a BioShock game, so Irrational still want the player to build up a character on their own terms. In addition to the Steampunk-inspired weaponry there are Vigors and Nostrums. Vigors are limited powers that let you interact with the world through telekinesis, etc. Nostrums are permanent character changes, like additional strength, that you have to apply more thoughtfully as they can’t be undone. They also come in stable and unstable varieties: the stable set cost more but you’re aware of the effect; unstables require the player to select from a randomised list of four powers to apply. I’m more of an RPG-ish player, so it’s a system that suits me: simple choices that expand on the character rather than xp tweaking.

But so far so BioShock, which I’m not knocking at all: just more BioShock is something I’d be immensely excited about. But what’s really got me up in the clouds is the Skyline. People move through Columbia on the Skylines, an old freight system that’s also being used by the populous. They pull the player all over the world, enabling vast distances and impossible heights to be scaled by hooking onto them with a special wrist attachment, the Skyhook. They’re much more than a transport system, though: fighting under the network of rails gives the player the scope to zoom all over the world, to better make use of the open spaces, zipping from ground level to Zepplins in seconds. The dynamism it brings to fights, as Booker shoots people on the move and leaps from rail to rail, and the combination of this with them and Elizabeth’s powers, is the most interesting part of the game for me. I’m already considering if it’s possible to specialise in a Skyhook combat set-up. Obviously there are plenty of inside and ground-based fights to think about, but the speedy rail-based fights are the first thing that pops into my brain when I start pondering the game’s potential. It’s like jetpack combat, but without the frustration of having to keep making minute changes: the rails are designed to give a certain amount of freedom, they pile track upon track upon track, snaking around the space enough to provide plenty of positions for the player to exploit. Just watch.

I actually think I might skip 1999 mode. It’s the game as Irrational would have made it before the turn of the century: brutal, unforgiving, requiring the player to specialise to be able to fire certain weapons, to conserve ammo, to take cover. I don’t know it it’s possible to fit that and the joie de vivre that the Skyline seems to imbue in me. Maybe after a few playthroughs.

If it didn’t have the dynamic combat, I’d still find the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth fascinating. She’s a companion, but there’s been nothing to suggest that her presence is a burden. Unkillable, sweet, powerful: I’m starting to view her as a potential benchmark. Heck: I already care about her and her race from Colombia and from the creepy Songbird that’s chasing her. No-one should have the pressure of a city fighting over them, but especially not when there’s an emotionally crippled robotic bird in pursuit. Even then, my sympathies are tweaked: that thing that’s after her was programmed to feel betrayed by her if she should ever leave. It has an emotive drive the flip-side of the Big Daddy’s parental love; it’s a confused, brutal, steam-driven child.

Honestly, I could keep going, delving deeper into the raft of information that Irrational have revealed, but the broad strokes are enough. Yeah, they’ve ruined the discovery of a lot of elements of the game, and I’d happily wipe from my brain, but with each revelation they’ve managed to make Bioshock: Infinite the most exciting game on the horizon.

, , , .

37 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. McCool says:

    As the dust settles from the last few big releases we’ve seen, this really is the game standing, looking the most special. Getting rather excited about this, despite myself. That said, the majority of this article did read a little IGN-press releasey, but I suppose that is just the hype getting to everyone.

    The question is, are they going to marry the aesthetic of the artwork with the gaming aesthetic itself? Bioshock was gloomy and oppressive, but it was set in an under-water city. If they can make Infinite play like it looks then we are in for something very special indeed. Hell, even if they don’t: STEAMPUNK!

    • Geen says:

      If it’s steampunk, I’m in.

      • Brothabear says:

        meh if i want steampunk and older world weaponry ill stick with getting Gettysburg-armored warfare

  2. Squire says:

    The art, animation and scale of this game look amazing but every demo shown so far just reeks of scripted linearity, I understand the pressure to show the perfect/canon playthrough for all the journos and people at E3, GDC and the like. So your game looks great but I can’t help but feel the game will be exactly the same, with lots of fake scale like it the long E3 demo, your jumping on these rail things and shooting people but iyou can only jump on them when your told to or the camera zooms in to show something in the distance, THEN you can use the rail, but you can’t ride it back.

    You have to keep progressing linearly, WHEN your told to, and that, for me, is getting pretty old. Also the demo moment when Liz brings things in from the other dimension or whatever, its “Shall I bring a big wooden thing to block the gunfire we are receiving or a barrel full of grenades/guns to fight back” Yawn, even when this develops later in the game [hopefully, that could be another problem, that the choices dont even become unexpected] its always going to be 2 or 3 arbitrary choices of how the enemies up ahead die or are evaded.

    As in, if it evolves thoughout the game as stated above, it might be impressive looking but ultimately abstract events, why even have the choice if its just gonna be some “cool-looking” thing happen, both choices giving you the same outcome, not dying. This is a super-inelegant comment and I dont think I’ve even explained what I mean correctly but regardless I think its going to be a let down.

    Edit – Also I love the design and animations of the motorized patriot enemy but he’s supposed to be a heavy enemy? “Levine – These guys don’t go down easy” while we watch a clip of one being taken down with a couple heavy pistol shots, thats not easy then….yeah it certainly…looks difficult.

    • bob. says:

      I do agree, but the thing is: if it wasnt as linear as it is, it wouldn’t be able to be so great-looking and action packed. In this case it is really a trade-off, and to be honest I prefer it more like it is right now. Maybe I am in the minority with that, but I think this is best – for shooters.

  3. caddyB says:

    It does look like a lot of fun.

  4. Trent Hawkins says:

    As awesome as that is, I’d hate to be redoing that rail intro every time I want to re-play the game.

    Those will get boring fast. Otherwise, I’m much more impressed then I was with the other Bioshocks, looks awesome.

  5. Njordsk says:

    Georges Washington with some kind of saber-gatling? Sounds good.

  6. engion3 says:

    This is the exact reason our forefathers founded America. There better be an Abe Lincoln that launches rockets from his hat.

    • Sentient Waffle says:

      Haha, exactly what I thought :D

    • Premium User Badge

      Rikard Peterson says:

      I’ve already defeated robot Abe Lincoln in a game.

      • RakeShark says:

        I once created Former President Zombie Lincoln as an arch-nemesis in Champions Online. I so wished there was more customization for that system, I had so many catch-phrases he could have uttered.

  7. DK says:

    Wow talk about swallowing the hype wholesale. Please don’t worship at the fake altar of Levine again, like you did with Bioshock, and actually look at what they’re claiming – and see that they’re blatant lies.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I agree. It’s impossible that someone could actually be excited by the sequel to one of the most acclaimed games of all time. Clearly someone has been paid off. WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR, PEARSON!?

    • DK says:

      You mean sequel to one of the most hyped games. Bioshock was all talk and very little walk. Especially the claims of “System Shock but even better” which quickly disappeared the moment the game hit shelves and it became clear that none of their claims were actually true.

    • sky_in_flames says:

      SO true… Bioshock was such a disappointment for me. I avoided Bioshock 2 completely. Not sure what to think about Bioshock Infinite… I’m very sceptical.

    • Stupoider says:

      Bioshock was the first and last AAA title I ever preordered. The only areas it really scored in were setting for me- the story quickly became silly after an interesting premise, the shlocky PC controls and the also the lack of non-linearity (which was one of the selling points in the early walkthroughs) were just too disappointing. I skipped Bioshock 2 altogether.

      Bioshock Infinite looks to be another grand setting and another grand premise, but I can’t trust that either will come to fruition in the game itself. It’s coming across that they’re trying to go for sweeping socio-political commentary with each of their games, and it ends up being pseudo-intellectual harping with shooty-shooty in between. Very much style over substance.

      Maybe I’ll pick it up when it’s in the bargain bucket. Maybe.

  8. Wreckdum says:

    I can’t watch the trailer because of the slow ass analog turning from their controller. I hate when trailers are shot from the console POV. It’s like watching a movie in slow motion.

  9. Treebard says:

    I, for one, have elected to take the “be surprised” route and have been more or less on media blackout since announcement (I didn’t read the rest of this article – sorry!).

    I was therefore a little sad that the image used at the top of this article was something that would have overjoyed me if I hadn’t known it was going to be in there.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      There’s a point on the ‘no spoilers’ scale where you should probably consider not reading games-news blogs.

  10. Fumarole says:

    George Washington already kicked your ass.

  11. deanimate says:

    Most anticipated game for me. I do think the combat will be very similar to Bioshock and while I enjoyed that I would like to see some evolution.

  12. int says:

    Wooden teeth. He will consume you!

  13. Flint says:

    For every bit of that 15-min gameplay video that seemed good there was a bit that didn’t quite gel with me. Looks like there’s a chance that this could be something interesting but I’m wary about being excited.

  14. nyarlathotep-88 says:

    Looks pretty good IMO. Now, how about a System Shock?

  15. Eddy9000 says:

    That was a great intro video though eh? The transition from the watery premise of Bioshock’s 1 & 2 to the aerial setting of infinite.

    Anyone?

    Anyone?

    Bueller?

  16. wodin says:

    Looks great. I understand people wanting open world all the time. However alot of open world games feel empty and sparse. They can also lack in something most likely because of the open world aspect, our PC’s aren’t yet powerful enough to populate them enough and with enough variation that Open World games to me feel to empty.

    So if a game comes out with a superb story, engaging gameplay, looks great and has alot of content but linear I’d take that anyday than 90% of the open world games out there. Even Skyrim has supposedly Cities\Towns with about 20 or 30 people that live there, which is just about a tribe. Also those hundreds of quests are the same quest really over and over again. In twenty years time I bet Open World games will finally feel like a highly populated Open World with oodles of varied content and if I’m still around I will certainly be playing them.

    Until that happens I don’t see linear being an issue aslong as it fulfills my requirements as mentioned above.

    • engion3 says:

      EXACTLY. I wayyyyy prefer linear games. It’s like Grand Theft Auto 3 just came out and everybody still has a boner for open world. I’l take a HL2 linear adventure everytime.

  17. pierrot says:

    The Patriot thing seems to owe a lot to the clockwork robots from Doctor Who episode, The Girl in the Fireplace.
    You have a clockwork robot dressed in fancy 18th century clothes with a porcelain mask which is removed to reveal the robotiness beneath. It’s a good concept.

  18. Oof says:

    So excited about this.

    (I do wonder how Dishonored will fare against it… )

  19. Solidstate89 says:

    Many people don’t know, but that is the rare lost image of George Washington single-handedly defeating the British at the battle of the Alamo.

  20. Adventurous Putty says:

    A rare missed opportunity for the alt-text of the first screenie. Should have read: “GEORGE WASHINGTON WILL MAKE YOU HIS BITCH.”

  21. YourMessageHere says:

    Is anyone else feeling the ‘this was made for the US and, frankly, fuck everywhere else’ vibe? I liked Bioshock for its non-national aesthetic, and the game looks very good, but the super-overt americanness of this is just turning me right off. Sorry, but I’m just not interested in the US. Maybe it is a comment on the nature of US patriotism, or indeed on patriotism generally – but I already understand that particular bit of folly, thanks.