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Ten Things You Should Know About BioShock Infinite

Over the past ten days we’ve been counting down to the first public release of BioShock Infinite gameplay footage. That ten-minute demonstration video is now showing on Xbox Live. Tomorrow, it will be released here on and across the web.

Here’s a recap of the past week and a half of crucial BioShock Infinite information. Keep it in mind as you watch the gameplay demonstration, and you’ll have a deeper understanding about what you’re seeing and how the world of Columbia works.

Day 1: Did you know that not everyone in BioShock Infinite attacks you on sight? There’s a scene in the upcoming gameplay demonstration where you go into a bar, and at first nobody shoots you. They just talk about you–but not in a very nice way.

The original BioShock depicted a city in its death throes, with Rapture’s dream crumbled and its social structure collapsed. BioShock Infinite‘s Columbia has its turmoil and mysteries as well, but the city is still vibrant. Her citizens have more unpredictable motives, and their enmity–or their loyalty–can’t be taken for granted.

Day 2: In BioShock Infinite, you are Booker DeWitt, Pinkerton agent turned private investigator, sent to the floating city Columbia to track down a woman named Elizabeth. Unlike in the original BioShock, your character has an identity, a known past–and, most noticeably, a voice, opening up whole new storytelling possibilities.

DeWitt was ejected from the notorious Pinkerton National Detective Agency for his extreme methods–methods that may serve him well in the unpredictable city of Columbia. And while DeWitt’s basic background is known from the start, there’s more to his story. Uncovering the secrets of his past is just one of the player’s goals.

Day 3: In BioShock Infinite, you aren’t exploring Columbia alone. You’ve been sent to recover the powerful but vulnerable woman Elizabeth, who accompanies and aids you throughout your journey.

Elizabeth is a crucial element of Columbia’s story and mystery, but she can also have a dramatic effect on gameplay–if you want her to. With her wide range of abilities, she can aid you in combat, setting up opportunities to combine your powers in even more effective ways. Of course, if you choose to take on your enemies all on your own, you can; she won’t interfere. And while that’s happening, Elizabeth can take care of herself, with no need for escorting.

Day 4: The world of BioShock Infinite is situated in a crucial era of American history, when a young and troubled nation was fast becoming a major player on the world stage.

In the latter parts of the 19th century, the United States was still reeling from tragedies like the Civil War and President Lincoln’s assassination. But as the turn of the century approached, the agrarian society transformed. Immigration and industrial production skyrocketed, and victory in the Spanish-American War catalyzed an international influence that continues to this day. Told in 1898 that they could soon be living above the clouds, many Americans would not have blinked.

It is that society’s optimism, drive, and ingenuity–not to mention its fears and prejudices–that underpin BioShock Infinite‘s airborne city of Columbia and all the secrets it contains.

Day 5: BioShock Infinite‘s Columbia is made up of floating city block islands connected by an intricate web of “Sky-Lines,” former freight transit networks that the player can use for movement and to facilitate combat–often both at the same time.

Using your wrist-mounted Sky-Hook, you can jump on and off Sky-Lines at your will, rapidly transferring between routes that criss-cross vertically and horizontally. While traveling on Sky-Lines, you pick off foes far beneath you, engage enemies directly at close range, or make a quick escape from an overwhelming encounter.

Day 6: In BioShock Infinite, you may find yourself in combat encounters involving well over a dozen enemies coming at you from all angles.

The original BioShock‘s Rapture was a dark, claustrophobic place full of corridors and rooms that accommodated only small-scale battles. BioShock Infinite’s Columbia, with its massive floating city blocks, allows for a much wider range of tactics and behaviors. Enemies can be engaged both in close combat and with long-range weapons across huge expanses–and everywhere in between. But they will also take advantage of the same opportunities you have, as they work together and zip around on Sky-Lines to outflank and outwit you.

Day 7: BioShock Infinite is built on a whole new engine–none of the Irrational-generated code or assets from the first two BioShock games remain.

The original BioShock and its sequel were based on a heavily-modified version of Unreal Engine 2, with elements of Unreal Engine 3 ported in. That was capable of handling Rapture’s narrow corridors and enclosed spaces, but it wasn’t enough for BioShock Infinite‘s city in the clouds. The team is building the game purely on Unreal Engine 3 this time around, alongside a whole new slew of necessary additions. Those enhancements support Infinite‘s large airborne exterior environments, new lighting models, more complex AI interactions with NPCs and companion character Elizabeth, and much more.

Day 8: Irrational believes “BioShock” is more than just a specific setting, or a specific set of characters.

A BioShock game is about allowing player expression. It’s about exploring worlds that are larger than life, yet grounded in human experience. Rapture served as that framework for two games, but that city’s story has been told. Although it is not a sequel or prequel in the traditional sense, BioShock Infinite very much builds on and reinvigorates what BioShock established.

Some aspects of why BioShock Infinite is a BioShock game will become clear with the release of the imminent gameplay video. But there are other aspects that are only subtly suggested. Here’s a hint: pay close attention, and watch it more than once.

Day 9: The airborne nature of Columbia isn’t just a narrative device–it has implications that extend to every facet of gameplay.

In BioShock Infinite, you’ll encounter some dark, constrictive interiors, and you will soar along Sky-Lines from building to building and island to island. But buildings don’t just stay stationary in the sky–they move. As independent structures and city blocks, they can move relative to one another. In extreme cases, they might even collide, opening up entirely new gameplay and presentation opportunities unique to the high-altitude setting.

Day 10: As Booker DeWitt, your mission in BioShock Infinite is to track down Elizabeth and extract her from Columbia. But the powers that be holding primary control over the city very much want to keep her imprisoned, just as she’s been for the last fifteen years.

Meanwhile, the internationalist Vox Populi faction, which has become increasingly radicalized and militant, wants control over Elizabeth for its own ends. With the United States having officially severed contact with Columbia in the wake of a devastating international incident, the conflict between these two groups has been left to escalate.

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