In the original BioShock you arrived after Rapture was torn apart. The major events of the world had already taken place, and you were left to pick up the pieces and unravel the mystery. BioShock Infinite, the next game in the franchise but not really the sequel, puts you directly in the middle of the action. You play as Booker DeWitt, an ex-Pinkerton agent tasked with finding a woman named Elizabeth in the floating city of Columbia. It turns out the task is even more difficult than the notion of infiltrating a floating city might initially seem, because Elizabeth is capable of wielding incredible powers that phase objects in and out of existence. She's also protected by a monstrous creature called the Songbird, who doesn't like the idea of letting her go.
While you may be used to the slow pace of exploration of exploring Rapture's watery halls, movement is anything but slow in Infinite. That's because DeWitt can latch onto rails that connect all of Columbia's various floating platforms. Using something called a Skyhook, he can latch onto these rails and soar through the air, picking up speed on down slopes and climbing to a rollercoaster-like sound effect. The effect is exhilarating – you're no longer confined to tight hallways when faced with a fight. Instead of stepping out from behind a corner and unloading a few shots to try and whittle down enemy health, you can simply latch onto an overhead rail and be five stories high in seconds.
That doesn't mean you can simply escape every conflict in Infinite by taking to the air. The enemies are just as crazy as you are, and will follow you along rails and even ride toward you. To keep things exciting you're not tied to one rail once you latch on. It's possible to hop between two, either switching to a rail right next to the one you're riding to dropping way down to a rail far below.
The E3 2011 demo made the potential for this rail sliding very clear during a zeppelin sequence. DeWitt had to make is his from the city street to a blimp hovering by the tops of towers, and the ensuing sequence of high-speed, corkscrew movement was a dizzying display of thrilling action and gorgeous visuals. While zooming around the beauty of Columbia was plainly evident, as clusters of skyscrapers bobbed on individual platforms, wreathed in blankets of cloud against the backdrop of bewildering heights. DeWitt hopped from rail to rail on a journey upward, fighting with the occasional enemy but generally just trying to stay mobile. Eventually he made it to zeppelin, disabled it, and then dropped with stomach-churning speed to a rail far below, hooking on, taking fall damage, but surviving.
As much as I'm looking forward to learning more about Elizabeth's mysterious powers, the nature of her relationship with the overprotective Songbird, and her developing dynamic with DeWitt, I'm glad to see Irrational is going in new directions with the combat as well, which feels perfectly suited to the setting. In my mind there's no question BioShock Infinite is one of the most promising games in development right now.
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