E3 2011 – BioShock Infinite Looks Great, But Also Like It’s On Rails

“If You’re Gonna Travel Through Time, Why Not Do It With Some Style?”

The two stay hidden for a few moments, and Songbird leaves, unable to find them. They move along deserted streets, and before long, happen on a dying horse. This is the first time we see the player receive a contextual option mapped to the X button (it’s a Xbox 360 demo), which pops up in the middle of the screen. It reads, “Euthanize the horse,” and there’s a timer of some kind attached — it wasn’t clear whether this timer shows how much time the player has to take the action before it’s too late, or how long the X button needs to be held in order to trigger it.

Elizabeth protests and goes to the horse, upset. It’s bleeding and injured, but she says that she can detect one of those time tears. Against DeWitt’s protests — “I wasn’t asking for your permission,” Elizabeth tells him — she hauls away at the tear, attempting to open it repeatedly and failing. Each time, the horse has a momentary rejuvenating burst, and we’re given the impression that something about these tears is time travel, in as much as the horse goes from being lethally injured to healed, and back again.

One last time, Elizabeth hauls open the tear, expanding it to a much larger size than she meant to. You may have seen these screens, showing a movie theater in what one must assume is the 1980s, the marquis declaring “Revenge of the Jedi” in bold letters. Of course, “Revenge” of the Jedi was a title toyed with by George Lucas but scrapped in favor of “Return of the Jedi” — giving us a clue that this is an alternate reality, rather than the absolute future.

With the tear open, Elizabeth suddenly finds herself unable to close it. The horse is gone — I’m unsure whether it revived and wandered away or disappeared with the tear, but it wasn’t on my mind, or the minds of DeWitt and Elizabeth, anyway. Instead, a bus, speeding along the street on the other side of the tear, has the pair’s full attention. The bus bears down on Elizabeth, ready to crush her, as she fights to get the tear closed. Finally, it collapses, just in time to save her life, sending the bus back to its own reality and restoring that of Columbia.

That harrowing moment over with, DeWitt and Elizabeth continue toward Comstock Tower, trudging along the streets of Columbia, watching injured and forlorn-looking people moving past them.

“Where are they going?” Elizabeth whispers?

“Away from the Vox Populi,” DeWitt returns.

They push past groups of people, past one man who yells insults and comments at the pair. DeWitt has the option to do something about him, again mapped to the X button, but he decides against it; probably to avoid stirring the Vox Populi into a fervor.

A Floating Civil War

The Vox, as they’re known, are resistance fighters attempting to oust Columbia’s founders, led by Comstock, from power. From the demo, they come off as a ruthless bunch, more street gang than people’s army, and they certainly seem not to be trifled with. We find them throwing molotov cocktails at signs, and just ahead, preparing to hang a postman for apparently conspiring with the founders against the Vox. A recorded confession plays over a nearby loudspeaker.

Another contextual interaction pops up, and at this point, one starts to wonder if this is Infinite’s turn at BioShock’s morality system; providing the player with the ability to act, or not, based on their view of the situation. The demo player chooses to intervene.

DeWitt shouts into the throng gathered before the stage, preparing for the execution: “Leave him alone — he’s just a postman–”

Instantly most of the crowd is wheeling on him and he’s cut off by a hoarse cry.

“It’s DeWitt!”

The crowd erupts. Civilians flee; Vox Populi soldiers pull guns and open fire. DeWitt returns fire, running for cover alongside the stage where the postman was to be hanged, the execution now a distant memory. DeWitt wields a steampunk-looking shotgun to great effect, knocking out enemies as he and Elizabeth push forward, where more enemies are taking cover.

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