SPOKANE, Wash. — Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: I’m a huge “Bioshock” fan. Big Daddies, Little Sisters, splicers and a place called Rapture all came together to sum one of the greatest video games ever made. The story was deep and twisty, the themes were deep and thought-provoking, the action was paced and designed to support the overall experience. While it wasn’t without its flaws (particularly in the mature content department), it remains an epic that every serious gamer needs to play.
The same cannot be said for “Bioshock 2.” While the follow-up (which was not developed by the same studio as the first) hit a few of the same notes, the soul just wasn’t there. It was a cash grab, unfortunately, and it showed. “Bioshock” didn’t need a sequel, and it certainly didn’t need one developed by another studio who decided to rehash rather than innovate.
It may sound like a contradiction, then, when I say that I’m unbelievably excited for “Bioshock: Infinite.”
“Mr. Jarvis,” you’re probably saying, “you are hopelessly inconsistent, and you have terrible fashion sense.”
To which I say: “Don’t call me Mr. Jarvis. It makes me feel like I should be wearing a necktie. Also, if you’re not into fedoras, that’s just your loss.”
More to the point, however, I’m not all that inconsistent. Here’s why I feel that “Bioshock: Infinite” will be the follow-up the original deserved.
It’s being developed by the original studio.
That “Bioshock” was a labor of love by Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games was obvious in every pore of the game. It says a lot that Levine turned down a shot at “Bioshock 2.” He didn’t want to churn out a franchise cash-in.
The setting is completely different.
“Infinite” isn’t set in the ocean. It’s a dramatic departure from the setting of the other Bioshock games, but, honestly, that’s a good thing. Rapture is an incredible place with an incredible story — but that story has been told. “Bioshock 2” demonstrated that fact rather handily — there’s no more room for games set in Rapture.
Instead, the new game is set in the sky. A giant floating city, rather than a sunken one, will serve as the arena for gameplay. It’s fantastical, beautiful, mysterious and everything that was intriguing and incredible about Rapture the first time we were exposed to it.
Admittedly, it’s a bit early to call this one for sure, but the signs are good. Just as water became an integral part of the story and setting of the original “Bioshock,” it looks as though the sky will become a significant character in “Infinite.”
Supporting character Elizabeth is also intriguing. Early looks indicate she might surpass the typical “get out of my way you helpless nuisance” status that most AI-controlled game characters aspire to. Will she be the next Alyx (that’s a “Half-Life 2” reference for you noobs out there)? It’s a high bar, but only time with tell.
It’s still “Bioshock”
Perhaps the biggest controversy swirling around the game right now is that “Infinite” is a “Bioshock” game in name only. While I don’t doubt there’s some truth to the allegation that publisher 2K Games wants the high-value name attached to the game, this game is still “Bioshock” in spirit.
Fantastical setting? Check. Retro-futurism? Check. Central conflict one of worldview instead of “I’m an alien and I want your planet RAWR”? Check. Compelling narrative steeped in philosphical ponderings and cultural commentary? Sure looks that way.
The game isn’t set to come out until 2012. So it’ll be a while before we see whether or not “Infinite” is as great as it looks right now.
But I feel it. I feel it in my bones. This is one worth waiting for.
Check out this article on Kotaku for an overview of what’s known so far about “Bioshock: Infinite.”
Jerod Jarvis is an independent gaming journalist and founder of Duality Games. He maintains gaming columns for The Washington Times Communities and for The Outpost. When not blogging madly about games, he freelances for the Spokesman-Review in his hometown of Spokane, Washington and attends school at Whitworth University. Check out his presence on Facebook and Twitter to stay up on Duality Games updates and the inside scoop on the gaming news you care about.
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