I Ain’t Afraid Of No God: BioShock Infinite’s Liz Unbound

By Alec Meer on February 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

Grr!

As we all know full well and is entirely obvious, BioShock: Elizabeth is a straightforward damsel in distress with a pretty face and a nice dress, and there’s nothing more to her than that. There definitely isn’t anything surprising or sinister about her: she will be rescued by the big man with the big gun, the mean nasty boss will fall to his doom and everyone will live happily ever after.

Or maybe there’s some massive twist at the heart of the game and she’s not what she seems to be at all? Nah.

Bearing in mind Big Blue Mangate I should probably try a lot harder to not let my urge to speculate and decipher get the better of me. Having played a few hours of the game I must admit that I’m highly intrigued by its plot-brew of magic, technology, alternate reality, old-timey style and American racism, however. It’s also fascinating how engrossed we – and I use that to encompass both games press and games players – are in the character of Elizabeth. Who is, lest we forget, an NPC none of us have spent much time with. It’s odd to feel we care so much, isn’t it?

We’ve pinned high hopes on her oft-changing sleeve, and is that because of canny marketing, deft design or both? No-one wants to be a hype-victim, and it does feel as though we’ve been teased for long enough now, so I’m very glad the game’s just five weeks away. Soon, the beast of speculation can be slain, and we can all start writing our hysterical editorials about what x means and why y was a disappointment, whatever happened to character z and why must there be guns in this gun game.

, , .

56 Comments »

  1. sbs says:

    Can this game please come out already! I’m tired of ignoring all the coverage on it but I really want to read all of it too.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      You are a lucky guy also because RPS decided to exert their no freedom of speech policy and delete my post here while yours remains. A post that dared question the importance of this article. Oh my god! What have a done?

      RTPS likes to discuss civil rights but has a no freedom of speech policy. Thumbs up.

      I’m off to other places. Won’t be missed, won’t be missing.

      • The Random One says:

        Goodbye!

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        YAY!

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        You are a lucky guy also because RPS decided to exert their no freedom of speech policy and delete my post here while yours remains. A post that dared question the importance of this article. Oh my god! What have a done?

        RTPS likes to discuss civil rights but has a no freedom of speech policy. Thumbs up.

        I’m off to other places. Won’t be missed, won’t be missing.

        A shame. Not that having more people around creates a better atmosphere for discussion and criticism. It’s more that it’s good to have a place for people who do not necessarily see things the same way. And people to express those.

        Of course a blog where the creators can censor at will may not always be the best place for such, but I do not know what occurred and as such will refrain from speculating.

  2. Bhazor says:

    Wow. Spoilery.

  3. Inigo says:

    I’m glad they’ve told me there’s going to be a twist so it doesn’t come as a surprise or anything.

    • RandomEsa says:

      Hey remember when in Bioshock we had this big twist that everyone liked? We are going to do it again and nothing will go wrong.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Elizabeth is Shodan, and/or Teddy Roosevelt.

      • solidsquid says:

        Elizabeth is GLaDOS, Comstock is Chel. When you help Elizabeth escape to New York, what you’re actually doing is helping GLaDOS leave the Apeture Science facility so she can turn the world into one massive testing facility

    • woodsey says:

      What, you weren’t expecting them to make anything of the woman who can rip holes in space-time? I don’t think they’ve hinted at any more of a twist than what you’d naturally be wary of.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      I’m expecting the patented Bioshock Twist: force us into a protective role, and then mock us for being protective.

    • The Random One says:

      Video games are so awful at plot twists, that building a story around the fact that there will be a plot twist (and/or informing the player beforehand of what it will be) is probably the safest way to pull it off. See also: Driver San Francisco.

      (The best way would be to telegraph a twist and then the twist is that there is no twist, but video games keep disappointing me on this matter.)

      • Premium User Badge

        VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        The problem with plot twists is that they exist only to recontextualise everything that leads up to their reveal to make the audience go whoa—and then they’re done. Whereas stories that use whatever-it-is as a premise instead of a twist, like Driver: SF, are all about the interesting things that can be done with it. Which makes for a much more engaging experience.

      • Hazz-JB says:

        The effectiveness of most plot twists is half-ruined as soon as the audience is aware that there’s going to be one in the first place. If you don’t work it out beforehand by guessing what it is, you’ll still be “braced” for whatever it is, and it will generally fail to effectively shock people. Simply being told there IS a twist is a spoiler in its own right.

  4. McDan says:

    I’ve not gone to “Don’t really care what else happens I just want this game already” mode. Despite all the changes or not-change elizabeth has gone through I still think she looks very interesting, and that extra footage of stuff that (I haven’t anyway) hasn’t been seen before gets me even more hooked.

  5. Cryptoshrimp says:

    Man, I’m sure this will be a good (linear shooter) game, but I doubt it’ll be the messiah that brings change that some people think it will be. The Bioshocks weren’t, this probably won’t be either.

    • Jockie says:

      Probably not if you’re looking for something that innovates with new mechanics ,it looks virtually identical to Bioshock in that respect.

      But Bioshock has offered us the one of the best mainstream narratives certainly from an AAA blockbuster game in the last few years. I don’t see why Infinite can’t do the same.

      • Ansob says:

        That Bioshock is considered “one of the best mainstream narratives” of recent years speaks volumes for the appallingly poor quality of video game narratives, really. :(

        • Jockie says:

          It does, but it’s still light years ahead of the usual shit sandwich of a story we’re served up and expected to devour.

        • Reynard says:

          Ansob says:

          That Bioshock is considered “one of the best mainstream narratives” of recent years speaks volumes for the appallingly poor quality of video game narratives, really. :(

          THIS.
          Long time reader ie. old enough to appreciate as-yet finer methods of humans telling each-other stories (theatre, cinema, literature etc) but first time poster – just had to agree with this.
          I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll actually live long enough to witness the reappraisal of Bioshock.

          Funnily enough, computer games generally are the ideological opposite to modern conceptual art, I think. All pure technique and specialisation with no innner meaning (with the sorts of exceptions like Proteus and so on). Yet the medium is still clamouring to be called Art.

          And by the way, excellent site.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            “…old enough to appreciate as-yet finer methods of humans telling each-other stories (theatre, cinema, literature etc)…”

            It’s interesting to consider what you’re offering as “finer methods” here: Just like gaming, they all encompass projects ranging from mainstream create-by-numbers drek to work so far out of the mainstream that it won’t be on the map for several generations.

            IMO Bioshock is the Avatar to CoD’s Transformers. It aspires to some sort of meaning, and is certainly more thoughtful than its neighboring Big Dumb Blockbusters, but is still penned in by its commercial concerns (can’t rock the boat too much lest it alienate some of the all-important mass market).

            And just as Avatar exists in its own area of cinema, distinct from Citizen Kane and Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Bioshock’s quality doesn’t say anything about storytelling in games like Analogue: A Hate Story or Lone Survivor or even The Witcher.

            EDIT: Sorry, also wanted to say “welcome to the comments!” Good first post, it’s a fascinating point to contemplate.

          • Bhazor says:

            Ahh yes Cinema. Such soaring works of art as Freddie Got Fingered and Troll 2.

          • f1x says:

            I can’t remember whats so bad about storytelling or narrative in Bioshock, it must be that:
            -I should play it again to refresh my memory?
            -I have low standards?

          • Xocrates says:

            @f1x: consider for a moment that the setup for the big “hugely clever” twist in Bioshock required you to *SPOILERS* be the mind controlled, growth accelerated, illegitemate son of the bad guy, with fake memories, and was asked to crash a plane – from which he was the sole survivor, no less – in order to help a bad guy who had faked his own death.
            *END SPOILERS*

            Bioshock had plenty of big interesting ideas, and was well presented.
            Well written, however, it was not.

          • f1x says:

            The twist was lame yeap (didn’t annoy me tho, found it correct)

            but the rest of the game and the back history, etc, I think they were quite decently written

            guess I’ll have to wait until a game is born which pleases the high elites of narrative art in order to say “ah, so this is what they call well-written”

            not that I’m saying that Bioshock is a masterpiece in terms of history telling, or that games cannot improve, I’m just not sure what is exactly the aim that people is suggesting when they talk about other “finer” medias, when they say Cinema or Literature, which cinema? the one you hate or the one you praise? your favourite cult author or that author you hate because now is mainstream and sold to the man?
            Because in the end, it feels like the argument is simply about personal taste and something so abstract as artistic quality

          • The Random One says:

            I agree entirely. Bioshock had a bad twist, its entire world is based on editorial cartoon levels of political analysis, and I’m not yet convinced its commentary on player will was deliberate. It’s only considered so good because videogames are so bad at storytelling. But it’s still better than most games offer us, and so I’m hoping that the next one will be genuinely good and build on its foundation to something actually smart.

            I will be very disappointed if it’s still the same.

        • Very Real Talker says:

          Ansob, you say that because you are an insecure man who has nothing in his life except videogames. You cannot enjoy them as a normal person, you enjoy them as an obsession. And you subconsciously feel bad about that, so you want to appear as a mature individual concerned with videogames being accepted as a new, respectable art form, so you will finally not feel like a 40 year old weirdo whose main passion in life is video games. This is true all the other idiots that are overly concerned with videogames growing as “narrative experiences” or as an “art form”: Vidyas are just pleasant things to be enjoyed normally (not as a religion like many nerd do), and focusing too much on narrative is probably self-defeating

          Having said that bioshock was a decent game with an impressive setting and a nice, interesting plot.

          • Yargh says:

            I really hoping psychology isn’t your day job. You’re pretty wide of the mark there.

  6. JoeGuy says:

    I quite liked the vid. Felt like a Summer Blockbuster type trailer. If I hadn’t already pre-ordered it or was an on the fence type this would help.

  7. ninjapirate says:

    Who ya gonna call?

  8. Premium User Badge

    elderman says:

    The pretty, immersive, and narrative aspects of this game look really cool. The running-shooting bits a lot less. All things considered, I regret that it’ll be years before I own a computer capable of running it, assuming it ever plays in Wine.

  9. caddyB says:

    “BioShock Infinite’s Liz Unbound” reads like an erotic fanfic title.

  10. DXN says:

    [grump mode engaged]

    The whole “woe is me, I’m a living weapon/science experiment” angle is kind of played out to me — too many B-movies and bad fanfics along those lines — but the surrounding story looks interesting enough to counteract that, I’m sure. She seems like she could be an interesting character.

    But man, her visual design is still just weird to me. She’s way too small! It makes her fulsome figure, low-cut clothes, and general adult demeanour, which would be fine otherwise, look totally out of place. And yeah, kind of creepy too? Like one of these girls.

    If that’s supposed to be some kind of comment on the representation of women in games, I suspect they’re going to fall into the Far Cry 3 trap of really just serving as an example of what they’re supposedly satirising.

    [/grump mode]

  11. Michael Fogg says:

    Not buying unless
    – weapons decay with use
    - enemies respawn infinitely (it’s called Infinite, right?)
    - in order to do absolutely anything skill points need to be spent first
    - when killed you respawn at nearest respawn station… no scratch that!
    I want a real game for Real Gamers, not some emotional experience nonsense!

    • KenTWOu says:

      You know, this game has mysterious 1999 hardcore difficulty mode.

  12. El_Emmental says:

    I guess that the trailer for the character of Elizabeth is better than I expected…

    Minus the tendency to rely on the “mysterious powerful witch” trope a little too much. I hope the game is more subtle about it.

    5 weeks…

    I expect an interesting environment/backstory not explored enough, “okay” main story execution with a few flaws, and dull combats.

    The boring (one-trick-pony) combats and the necessity of providing a delirious firework spectacle for the fratboys audience will prevent the story and the characters from properly unfolding, and we’ll hope the 1 or 2 DLCs will fix that.

    Sadly, they’ll barely scratch that itch and will instead focus on a new gameplay mechanism (powerful tool), more co-op stuff with Elizabeth and a side character/enemy we previously met/fought in the original game.

    In the end, Bioshock: Infinite will show (once again) that video games can tell an interesting story, can be “art”, can be meaningful and profound, but that the commercial constraints are preventing such things by shoehorning the same over-gratification and simplification in the game, for the sake of appealing to a broader audience only looking for a stress relief and effortless entertainment after a hard day at the office.

    Temporary verdict: Steam Christmas sales (sadly).

    *edit* If I hadn’t so many games in my backlog: Steam Summer or Fall sales.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      /Thumbs up

      I wonder if it will do the FC3 thing all over again? You know, spawn several blog posts and hundreds of angry comments arguing over sexism and racism in games, all capped off by an awkward interview with Mr. Levine. I think the odds are good, but the game doesn’t seem to be relying on “turning it up to 11″ to make its point like FC did, thankfully.

      We shall see. I never picked up Bioshock 1 and 2, but this one looks more interesting to me. If it’s reviewed well I might even grab it at full price, I’m just not expecting much.

      • f1x says:

        Nowadays you can expect angry blog posts all over even when a Lego game releases

    • StormTec says:

      You’re that guy that posts reviews of games that aren’t released yet, aren’t you?

      • El_Emmental says:

        I write them weeks in advance after getting an “exclusive” preview of their art assets and game design prototypes, send a copy of the initial draft to the publisher (through my editor), get the non-express greenlight.

        I then proceed to coordinate my part-by-part release of my “preview” and other vague articles on the game, during the week preceding the avalanche of advertising all over the websites and magazines leading to the launch day.

        And on the day the game is released, tadaam my review is perfectly crafted to fit the expectation of my readers, editor-in-chief and the game’s publisher, and is ready to be published.

        If the game ends up being vastly different (in a negative way), I just remove it from front page and pretend it doesn’t exist, until people makes too much noise about it so the website release a statement from my editor-in-chief warning about the review’s particular “subjectivity”, and edit the review (or release a second review) to confuse people who aren’t spending enough time online to notice the dishonesty behind this.

        I’m still employed and can feed my family, thank you.

        More seriously, the day publishers will stop spending millions in marketing prior to the game release, or at least set up a beta availability for reviewers (ALL reviewers, not only the indirectly-corrupt-by-the-system reviewers), gamers will stop judging a game before its final release.

        Oh, and how about ceasing the pre-order exclusive DLC shoddy business practice ? By buying after the release day (but not more than 6 months later for the GOTY edition), consumers are penalized for making a purchase decision before the game is even released.

        Yes, you are punished for making a though-out purchase using sources of information actually capable of being accurate and fair. Not judging a game before its release is exactly the opposite of what the publishers (and more than half of its budget allocations) want.

        Publishers want to play the information asymmetry war to milk their customers ? We’re happy to play that game too, it’s simple as that.

        Common consumers get screwed up because they don’t have the time to counter-balance the asymmetry, dedicated gamers (and consumers who were previously screwed up) screw the publishers back through early judgements (with or without proper data gathering and analyzing) and piracy.

        The publishers caused that cycle, they want that cycle, as that cycle is profitable for them so far.

        *** If they want fair reviews, they need to start having fair business practices. ***

        They think that ethics, respect of the other party and the fairness of a deal are wasted opportunities to make money.

        If no one is teaching them the basic rules of a healthy capitalist economy, then 1983 happen and we’re all sorry for what happened.

        Regarding Bioshock: Infinite, using all the data gathered during the previous PR material releases and unintentional “leaks”, all the data gathered during and after Bioshock 1 and 2 releases, the developers and publisher’s history, the current state of the industry and the current state of the market…

        It’s very unlikely that they won’t follow the same “not so like CoD combat, but kinda like it because we’re too afraid of risking not meeting the expectations of the millions of CoD players out there”.

        Irrational Games and 2K Marin are smart and very skillful people, and 2K Games (as a whole) is far from dumb, they won’t take “unnecessary” risks just for the sake of it.

        That’s why they’ll sacrifice the combats (hoping the co-op part with the super powers of Elizabeth and the rail movements can add some spices to the dull meal) but save the most precious element, in which they poured their hearts and souls: the game’s universe/environment, and to a lesser extent the main story.

        There’s also a logical reason to that choice: fratboys will only see the combat, while the more dedicated gamers will pay more attention to the world around it, to the story and the characters.

        Like a movie has its gratuitous “sexy time” scene, gratuitous action-explosions scene, AAA games have their main gameplay playing like the most recent commercial success of their genre (in 2013, for the FPS, it’s still CoD).

        That’s why the game will be interesting in terms of a world design, scene design, environment design, why the main story will be okay, and the combats will be the same reheated soup with a single leaf of persil on it.

        It happened before, it’s currently happening, and will happen in the future.

        If Irrational Games and 2K Marin don’t follow that pattern and refuse to sacrifice the combat, the game will tank in sales and a third of the developers will be laid off.

        That’s why I can say the combats will be dull and actually hope they will be dull – I don’t care that much about the Bioshock series, but I do care about their devs because they’re always trying to make interesting worlds/environments despite the trends in the AAA market to not make any effort in terms of risk-taking. I hope they’ll do that sacrifice. Hopefully, the changed cover (and the alternative covers) are a good sign.

        ps: Opinion, away !

        ps 2: My initial post was regarding that amusingly so accurate part of the article -> “Soon, the beast of speculation can be slain, and we can all start writing our hysterical editorials about what x means and why y was a disappointment, whatever happened to character z and why must there be guns in this gun game.”, just so you know.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        We ALL spend our time giving opinions about games that haven’t been released yet. Just look at this very site.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Well said. Pretty much my expectation. Although one can hope.

  13. almostDead says:

    I feel kind of bad for saying this, but the actual Elizabeth-involving gameplay I’ve seen so far, reminded me of the allies you have in the latest MOH, i.e., she just threw you guns and ammo (maybe just ammo) when you needed it.

    I will certainly play this, I won’t pay full price (unless GMG has a voucher), I don’t think, and I don’t have the self-control not to read all about it here before I play. Sigh.

    Unless it pulls a Colonial Mahreeens job on the public.

  14. adonf says:

    What’s the Big Blue Mangate ?

    edit: I’m guessing it’s related to ME3

  15. Yosharian says:

    No no no I am NOT going to watch any of this!

  16. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Totally saw a porn the other day with a girl that looked exactly like Liz.
    True story.

  17. fish99 says:

    Please not the same SS2 plot twist *again*. I think that’s the point where I stopped giving a cr*p about the Bioshock story.

  18. Jamesworkshop says:

    I hope with all our lofty narrative expectations of a Bioshock game, Levine trolls the entire industry and just makes the twist the fact that Elizabeth has a penis.

  19. 11temporal says:

    I for one find her annoying at best. For one she looks like weird cross between a child and a woman that makes me uncomfortable. Second she seems to have a big impact on the plot and the player will likely be forced to deal with her and I often find such plots unbearable.

    The world visuals I find more appealing.