Bioshock Infinite Preview (E3)
If you're hoping to go into Infinite with a squeaky clean slate and an empty mind, don't read any further, the events discussed occur partway through the game.
In a packed room of media there's a presentation of Bioshock Infinite - the story, the combat, the world. For those that need a little catching up, our main character, Booker DeWitt is a former Pinkerton agent - former because he played things a little too tough, and gambled away what he couldn't afford. Now he's stuck traveling to Columbia, a floating city of Jeffersonian ideals with more than a hint of jingoism, to rescue Elizabeth, a woman trapped since toddlerhood by a giant, mechanical bird.
Elizabeth is being held by Songbird, and has some definite traces of Stockholm Syndrome - or whatever the phrase is for "abusive boyfriend syndrome". Sure, she's scared of this giant, freaky bird monster with cataract problems but Songbird is also the center of the only world she knows, and this avian King Kong has feelings - mushy, non-mechanical feelings - for his human lady prisoner.
Columbia is a land divided by factions and the presentation picks up about one-third of the way into the game in Euphoria, a center of power for The Founders, the ruling faction led by a man known as Comstock. You have rescued Elizabeth and are on the run, unfortunately Elizabeth has begun to manifest some decidedly freaky powers - powers she doesn't understand and cannot control. Refusing to leave until she figures them out, you guys are wading through The Founders civil war with Vox Populi to reach Comstock and get some answers.
Progressing through the steampunk dystopia DeWitt and Elizabeth stop to gather supplies, an event that gives us a look at the carefully crafted and vibrant world of Infinite as well as the fantastic writing and voice acting featured in the game. In what looks like a tchotchke shop of Americana - think fireworks, Abe Lincoln and more American flags than Independence Day - DeWitt and Elizabeth share some back and forth that reminds me of the successful Uncharted series' moments, where characters are behaving like real people, not just AI drones hell bent on getting you the mission critical info in the most linear way possible. We see Elizabeth's innocence, her naivete, but also her determination as she begs, "You will not let him take me back", and indicates that she'd rather die.
Back outside and within site of Comstock's stronghold, Liz wanders over to a dying horse and starts going on an on about her ability to set things right for the equine. Sassy and apparently an animal lover, she pretty much tells you to stuff it while she works her conspicuously reality-altering mojo. In three subsequent attempts to heal horsey she blasts a radius with her hands that has the beast coming up as a grey, then a pinto and finally a bay with a saddle on, before transforming the whole darn area (and you guys along with) into a modern-looking street with a movie theatre - only the marquee reads "Revenge of the Jedi", a nice hint toward the "infinite realities" of Bioshock, and leaves you to wonder…what did they call Episode III in that timeline?
For better or worse, Elizabeth does get you back to "your" Columbia, though she gives up on the horse and lets him die in peace in the dystopian hellhole. In combat she opens similar rifts to move objects, or to grab items from alternate timelines. Zipping along skylines and suspended rails, saying the combat is "fast-paced" is just an understatement. When you're off soaring around and playing with gunfire, Elizabeth seems to do her own thing, keeping the player safe from a terrible perma-escort mission.
With crazy powers, an everything-is-new-to-me naivete, and a man on the outs with just about everyone here to save her, Infinite carries a dark fairy tale vibe. This is a story about innocence trapped and guarded by a literal monster, though since she barely knows how to use her powers it doesn't seem likely that Songbird is using Elizabeth for obvious gain. A monster in love, he's more than a little peeved when he catches up with DeWitt and Elizabeth at the end of the demo, and in the face of the very real risk of DeWitt being killed by Songbird Elizabeth changes her "You will not let him take me back" tune, instead begging Songbird to take her home and leave you alone: "I'm sorry I left! Take me back home!" With that plea, Songbird's demeanor changes, he leaves with her, and you're back to Rescue Mission: Square 1. Without hesitation, without pause, DeWitt follows Songbird and Elizabeth out the window with a desperate leap, and the screen fades to black. DeWitt cares, Songbird cares, and there's a girl with scary superpowers in the middle.
Get Infinite on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC in 2012.