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Games of 2013: BioShock Infinite

Video games. It seems like we spend way more time talking about them than playing them. How did this happen? When? A large part of the whole ‘being passionate about games’ thing is the stupid product lust – the ‘hype train’. You can’t escape it. You can’t fight it. You know it makes zero sense, but you hop on board regardless. ALL ABOARD.

Next stop – mild disappointment?

Who knows, who can tell? All this week I’m going to take a quick look at the games I’m most excited about in 2013. Feel free to get talking about the hype trains you’re currently aboard!

First up – mainly because it’s so tantalisingly close to release – BioShock Infinite.

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In a sense it is impossible for BioShock to have the same impact as its predecessor: the shock of discovery, the twists, the feeling of playing something with genuine thematic depth. With BioShock Infinite these are things we’ve come to expect and almost demand. It’s not going to be a pleasant surprise. If BioShock Infinite delivers, which I’m sure it will, it may be tricky for Irrational Games to truly blow the bloody doors off.

That said, from what I’ve seen so far, Irrational has tried to reinvent that shock of the new by remaining in the same universe, but flipping our expectations topsy turvy – both literally and figuratively. Instead of being underwater, we’re in the sky. Instead of heading head first into a hellish dystopia, we’re heading skywards into what initially appears to be some kind of cultish utopia. If such a thing could ever exist.

But the only worry — as far as I can see — is that even when BioShock Infinite does divert from the ideas and mechanics of its predecessor, it does so in direct opposition to them, and therefore never truly seems to escape from the shadow of BioShock. The only way it will, I suspect, is by being a truly fantastic video game.

That seems like a terribly banal and obvious thing to say, but if the original BioShock had any flaws it was monotony. As a ‘shooter’ BioShock was perfectly serviceable, great even. But after its atmospheric opening, the encounters struggled to maintain that vibe, and the game did sag in the middle.

It was simply a lack of variety but BioShock Infinite, from the six hours I’ve played, does a far better job of pacing the experience, and simply has more toys to play with in terms of mechanics. The Sky-Lines dotted around the environment are the best example of this: like controllable roller coasters you’re simultaneously on rails, but retain just enough interactivity to feel unsafe, to feel like you can’t quite put down the controller or shut your brain off. It’s a brilliant way to break up the general combat, and it looks spectacular.

What intrigues me most, however, is Elizabeth, and the role she’ll play as players delve further into the game. The ‘tears’ she opens up, in mechanical terms, appear to work strategically in combat and introduce a slight puzzle element. She can manipulate the environment to your advantage and that adds a new layer to combat.

It’s super interesting, but for some strange reason I’m far more interested in Elizabeth’s impact on the story itself. The first six hours alluded to some serious time-travelling, mind bending, history altering shit — almost like a semi-decent episode of Lost if you can imagine that!

Yep, that’s correct. For the first time in recent memory, I’m genuinely excited about a story in a video game. Crazy right?

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