'It Would Be Dishonest To Say This Is Not BioShock'

If BioShock Infinite debuts with a gameplay demo and a trailer that includes no Little Sisters, no Rapture, no - so far - apparent storyline connection to earlier BioShocks, is it really a BioShock game? Yes, its creator told Kotaku.

"It would be dishonest to say this is not BioShock," Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine told Kotaku in an interview last week, just a couple of hours after the game debuted before the gaming press in New York City.

I had seen the game played live in front of me and been impressed. (Read Kotaku's BioShock Infinite preview.) But I'd also been expecting Levine and Irrational to be working on something other than a BioShock. After all, they had turned down the opportunity to develop this year's BioShock 2, which was built primarily by Irrational sister studios under parent publisher Take Two Interactive. Plus, this game takes place in sky. The lead character has powers that shoot from his left hand and guns in his right, but, really, I asked Levine this is a BioShock?

"For an audience, I totally expect them to be like, 'What? I don't quite understand it'," Levine said. "'It's a sequel but is it a sequel?' It's a meta-question. I'm comfortable with that." He won't say whether the game is connected to the storyline of those first two BioShocks. "I don't want to think about that," he said. "I don't think it's particularly constructive to have that conversation."

The game is clearly not BioShock 2 (pictured at right). That's a project Irrational rejected several years ago, after the original '07 BioShock was released. "It wasn't right after BioShock that we determined what we were going to do," Levine said. "We did sort of play around with a bunch of different things. One thing that was quickly apparent to us was that BioShock 2 wasn't the right product for us because of when they wanted it, because the company wanted it to be in Rapture, which makes sense, they wanted a follow-up. As our team, independent of BioShock 2, we had said what we wanted to say about that world as a studio."

Levine identifies two qualities that define BioShock Infinite as a BioShock game.

First: "It is set in a place that is both completely strange and fantastical but also strangely grounded and strangely familiar, believable," he said. For the first two BioShocks that location was Rapture a failed underwater city built with Objectivist principles and infused with a 1950s art deco design. Infinite's location is the floating city of Columbia, circa 1912, a city populated by proud Americans who view their country as a technologically great, ascendant Caucasian-led, God-fearing society. "Fantastical" but "strangely familiar" indeed. Said Levine: "To do another game that felt like that but wasn't called BioShock game would seem dishonest."

Second defining BioShock quality: "The other thing is that when you deal with enemies you have a huge amount of expressability in how you approach a problem set. How I want to play the game is very different from how you're going to play the game." This other quality was a BioShock hallmark. Each enemy encounter in the first two games could be handled with a variety of methods: shooting, hacking, stealth, offensive plasmid (think: magic) powers, deputising robots, confusing and converting enemies, springing traps and so on.

Infinite's got that kind of mixed arsenal, potentially one that offers even more variety than the first two games. As noted in my preview last week, the tactical variety is enhanced by two gameplay additions. One is the presence of Elizabeth, the woman being rescued in Columbia by playable protagonist Booker DeWitt. Of her, Levine says, "She's an amplifier for your powers if you choose to have her be an amplifier for your powers. You can still approach all of the problems in a traditional BioShock way. Elizabeth doesn't need to solve this problem. She is there to enable things that of a scale that you just couldn't do in BioShock 1." Last week, as an example, I described her pulling a rain cloud over some enemies, a move that enabled DeWitt to fry the enemies with a lightning storm.

The computer-controlled Elizabeth is also a storytelling experiment, according to Levine: "There's no component of squad commands with her in the game. She is a self-driven entity. She will react if you go this way or that way on the field. She'll say different things; she'll react different ways verbally. She's kind of a combination of what you saw on the screen and there's a Left 4 Dead component about her in terms of her saying things that are driven by the simulation... she never kills anybody on her own. She sets you up to do things. We don't want her driving the game for you. Ever."

The BioShock Infinite player's other arsenal expansion is the Skyline, the city-stitching railways I briefly described in last week's preview. Levine elaborated on their function: "It is our vehicle," he said, agreeing with my suggestion that they may allow a pace change in Irrational's first-person shooter similar to that of the Warthog in Halo, "but very importantly it's not like a Ratchet & Clank movement thing. There's gonna be lots of use for these throughout the world in the outside spaces. There's going to be line after line. You're going to be jumping between them. It's a way to have you move very fast in the world, to have you cover large distances and to have enemies cover large distances that wasn't flat. The problem with flight is that, it's a shooter, we really wanted you to be in control of your shooting so there's a degree of being on a rollercoaster with guns. But a rollercoaster overlapping another rollercoaster overlapping another rollercoaster overlapping another rollercoaster. And, OK, they're coming from there so I'm going to go around and flank them from here." Levine promised that a future demonstration of BioShock Infinite will focus on the Skyline.

When Levine and Irrational opted out of making BioShock 2, it was easy to assume they had left the franchise. In some ways they have. But if you believe in Levine's core principles of what makes a BioShock game a BioShock game, then Infinite does fit. Honestly, it does.


    could it be an mmo

    OCD autists sound off.

    This has to be a prequel of sorts. The fact that Andrew Ryan was in the trailer? I suggest that this was his first attempt at utopia and that he was trying to harness the powers from Elizabeth...which lead to plasmids etc. More than likely the two where a couple, and because on the ground they wanted to subject Elizabeth to tests because she was so powerful he whisked her away up into the clouds.

    Perhaps she is the "real" mother of the original line of little sisters (Big maybe). I further suggest that you are rescuing her because she realised how Andrew Ryan was a bit of a dreamer and a slight totalitarian and she realised that he just wanted to use her powers for his own use.

    What is interesting though is the suggestion that you need to be able to cover a vast distance quickly. Such need only really spawns from open world games?? Maybe...

    Regardless I'll get this game as I trust the name and brand. Bioshock 1 is my favourite game of all time and loved Bioshock 2 and playing as a big daddy. This will give them time to nut out a better way to revisit Rapture. Until then… to the clouds!

      Where does it say that this person is Ryan? I posted that possibility in the first article but I have no proof. I just posted a possibility.
      Does it say anywhere that this is Ryan?

      It could be true. I think that if we are going to figure anything out, it has to be who this guy is first, because if it IS Ryan, then it opens a LOT more doors in terms of what this story is about.

      If your theories are true than you have just discounted about half the plot from Bioshock.

      a) Plasmids came from sea slugs and they didn't know what they were when they first found them.

      b) The little sisters were all the orphans of rapture

      c) Ryan became power mad "after" starting rapture and his perfect economy didn't eventuate.

        Personally, I don't agree with point C.
        In BioShock 1, Ryan mentioned burning down a forest because the government had basically taken it from him. I don't think his personality ever really changed.

        That being said, I doubt there will be much (if any) connection story wise between the stories of Rapture and Columbia. I don't doubt there will be the odd nod or two, but I see them as being connected by name, fell, etc. Not storyline.

          *feel, not "fell"

    I have a few questions. A while ago when there was talk of a Bioshock movie it was mentioned it was to be released in I think 2011 though it could of been 2012 alongside Bioshock 3. My questions are is that movie still being made and does Infinite count as Bioshock 3 or will there be an actual game called Bioshock 3?

    I like the fact that they're doing something different this time. The story of Rapture has been told. Let's explore the world of alternate history in a new setting. Bring on Infinite!

      I agree, Bioshock2 was panned by plenty of people for being too similar to the first game, it's probably the same people panning Infinite for being too different. Some people are never happy.

      I concur. The thing that I liked most about Bioshock was that it was deliberately different and offered no convenient explanations. It reminded me of some of my early gaming experiences with Myst et al. The fact that Bioshock:Inf takes place in a setting that is well removed but just as mythical is exactly what I'd hoped for from a sequel.

    to me this feels like Final Fantasy or GTA.

    a series of games which "Feel" the same and "Play" in a simmilar fashion but which are unrelated in plot although the share certain touchstones between games.

    Magic in FF is sometimes used by mages(FF 1,2,11) somtimes by materia(FF7) and somtimes drawn out of enemies(FF8). but its still magic.

    Powers in Bioshock are somtimes plasmid injections(BS:1) somtimes in whiskey bottles (BS:I) but there still powers.

    the trailer seems to have some kind of big daddy as well and FF is also known for repeating Iconic enemies across games. tornberry, Malboro, adamantoise are all foes common to most final fantasies.

    It It would be dishonest to say that is not semen.

    I think it actually looks a lot better than Bioshock... I never really loved it, but steampunk into sky? I can dig it.

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