Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tru Next Gen Game: Bioshock Infinite

Much like the first entry in the series, BioShock Infinite will make gamers remember why strong story telling still matters in video games. As the industry moves towards more multiplayer and online focused gameplay, a game that solely has a single player mode is becoming, to some degree, extinct. Like with any tru next gen game, it’s a collection of many elements that makes the game stand out from its peers. The next Bioshock looks follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and do it all over again.

The original Bioshock was released in August 2007 to much acclaim. It was one of the first Xbox 360 games that could be called “tru next gen.” It was a game that wouldn’t have had as big of an impact on less powerful hardware from the previous generation. The Xbox 360 and PS3 allowed developers to create a fully-realized world unlike anything gamers had seen up to that point (and some would still say now). Take a quick look at the opening minutes of the original BioShock to see what we mean.

Bioshock Opening Sequence

The first Bioshock went to become one of the most critically acclaimed games of this current generation on consoles.  It’s Metacritic rating in 96 out of 100. EGM, Eurogamer, Game Informer and Official Xbox Mag gave it a 10/10, GameSpot 9/10, IGN 9.7/10 and Game Trailers 9.5/10 just to name a few. The mainstream press also hailed the game. The Boston Globe called it “a beautiful, brutal, and disquieting computer game ... one of the best in years.” The Los Angeles Times declared, “Sure, it's fun to play, looks spectacular and is easy to control. But it also does something no other game has done to date: It really makes you feel.” The New York Times professed, “BioShock can also hold its head high among the best games ever made.”
Unfortunately all of this praise wasn’t bestowed upon its sequel to the same degree. Although many claimed the game’s storytelling to be still better than most other Xbox games, much of the game retreaded on the same territory as the original and felt less novel and innovated. The inclusion of multiplayer also didn’t help matters. 

Thankfully the developers appear to have learned from their missteps, because Bioshock Infinite looks to be everything of the original and more. Behind closed doors at E3 2011, the gaming press was shown a 15 minute preview of Bioshock Infinite that garnered universal praise. That demo has finally been released for public viewing and is a must see.
Bioshock Infinite E3 2011 Behind Closed Doors Demo

Below is Wikipedia’s summary of the setting and plot in Bioshock Infinite. It’s once again quite a bit more of an in-depth story than gamers usually sees in a video game. That is the reason Bioshock has been one of the tru next gen games of this generation of consoles. Its developers have created a fully-realized world with unforgettable characters, original settings, and an atmosphere that is heightened by countless surprises and intense action. Its provocative, morality-based story line, superb art direction and first-rate voice acting rounds out an incredible game that looks to once again strike gold.

The primary setting of BioShock Infinite is a city suspended in the air by giant blimps and balloons, called "Columbia", named in homage to the "female personification" of the United States. Unlike the secret development of the underwater city of Rapture, Columbia was built and launched in 1900 by the American government to much fanfare and publicity. The city was meant to symbolize the ideas of exceptionalism; the reveal trailer for the game alludes to the 1893 World’s Fair which is historically considered to be the emergence of American exceptionalism. On the surface, Columbia appeared to be designed as a floating "World’s Fair" that could travel across the globe; however, sometime after its launch but before the game's events, the city was revealed to be a well-armed battleship, and became involved in an "international incident" by firing upon a group of Chinese civilians during the Boxer Rebellion. The city was disavowed by the United States government, and the location of the city was soon lost to everyone else. The city became, as described by Nick Cowen of The Guardian, "a kind of roaming boogieman moving from place to place and imposing its will on people below".

As a result of the city's isolation, a civil war eventually broke out on Columbia between different factions of citizens, each trying to seize control of the city from the powers-that-be. At the time of the game's events, only two main factions remain. One group are the Founders, the remnants of those retaining power over the city led by Zachary Hale Comstock. This is the city's ruling class, which seeks to keep Columbia purely for American citizens while denying foreigners the same privileges. The other is a group named Vox Populi (Latin for "voice of the people"), a rag-tag resistance group, led by Daisy Fitzroy, opposed to the ultranationalists. The Vox Populi is formed from several factions with similar ideologies that fought to seize control and restore the rights of Columbia citizenship to all. However, years of war and struggle have driven the Vox Populi to fight the powers-that-be solely out of blind hatred, resulting in more violent and brutal methods and leading to subfactions in the group.
Like Rapture, Columbia is considered a dystopia, but with signs present suggesting a theocratic government taking control at some point, and similar racial-purification concepts such as Nazism, jingoism, and xenophobia. One of the items in the press packages for the game included a tag that would purportedly be worn by immigrants aboard Columbia, requiring those of non-European and Irish descent to list out numerous details, including religious affiliation and data relating to eugenics; another item was a Columbia propaganda poster that warned "We must all be vigilant to ensure the purity of our people." Columbia has been compared to a cross between steampunk and the Star Wars Bespin cloud city, as well as the airships of Final Fantasy settings though Irrational's Ken Levine has compared the weaponized city to the Death Star.

The events of the game take place in 1912. The player assumes the identity of Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, who was dismissed for behavior beyond the acceptable bounds of the Agency. He is hired by mysterious individuals, aware of Columbia's location, and tasked to infiltrate the air-city and rescue a young woman named Elizabeth, who has been held aboard the air-city for the last twelve years. Though DeWitt finds Elizabeth easily enough, he quickly discovers that Elizabeth is central to the civil war raging in the city as each faction seeks to use Elizabeth to turn the tide of the conflict in their favor, forcing DeWitt and Elizabeth to trust each other in order to escape. Elizabeth also seeks to understand the powers that she has been given, believing Comstock to be responsible and refuses to leave Columbia until she learns the truth. To complicate matters, the pair is chased by Songbird, a large, robotic bird-like creature who had been Elizabeth's friend and warden over the last twelve years of her imprisonment. Songbird was designed by its creator to feel betrayal should Elizabeth escape, comparable to an "abusive husband.” Elizabeth notes she "would rather be killed than be recaptured by Songbird."

Retrospect: How far video games have come

Deus Ex Invisible War and System Shock 2 are both considered (to some degree) precursors to Bioshock. Many critics have determined the games to be highly influential, particularly on first person shooters, and far ahead of their time. Some critics have included them on "greatest games of all time" lists. Bioshock is a self-proclaimed 'spiritual successor' to the System Shock series.

System Shock 2 Trailer

Deus Ex Invisible War Trailer

Bioshock Launch Trailer


1 comment:

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