2K Games invited us to the presentation of BioShock Infinite at their booth and it was the only presentation I went to where they had put so many efforts in decorating the room. It felt like being back in the early twentieth century, with 1910 paintings and some very nice leather couches. However short the presentation was, it would have been a shame not to tell you guys about it.
I will not beat about the bush, the small taste of Bioshock Infinite we had back in Cologne both managed to surprise and excite us in just a few seconds. Graphically first, the game is very colorful, which is in sharp contrast with the strangeness of the place you are in and the spookiness of its inhabitants. The artistic direction is once again state of the art and the specific atmosphere of the franchise is exceptionally well-rendered, but still manages to avoid the feeling of deja vu. Columbia is not Rapture, but they are undeniably connected somehow.
The demo starts as Booker DeWitt, the hero, regains consciousness in the streets of the air city. A mechanic horse is coming our way, pulling a wagon with a missing wheel and a dead coachman. Church bells can be heard in the background, breaking the apparent silence of Columbia, when suddenly, one of the other isles composing the city explodes and starts to crumble slowly. Powerless, the player can only watch as the bell tower crashes a few feet away from him. The visit continues with a burning building whose doorstep is swept by a woman ignoring the flames, a dead horse half eaten by birds and a man on a bench surrounded by an impressive number of crows. A little further down the road, a man is giving a speech, which would not be odd if there were people actually listening to him.
Up until now, the game is simply putting everything in place, from the setting to the spooky atmosphere. But now, as Booker approaches the man, it turns to action when the strange fellow actually starts staring at DeWitt with yellow glowing eyes before suddenly attacking. After a few gunshots, the man escapes by grabbing an aerial railway and we can see him slide down to the lower level, out of reach. Booker then uses his telekinesis power to get his hands on some kind of bottle he drinks up immediately, which apparently grants him some more power. It is now time for Booker to follow his new friend, so he jumps and starts sliding down the railway, gets rid of an enemy sliding in his direction in the process, before he finally touches the ground again. Some roller-coaster ride, I tell you.
Then, the main character enters what seems to be a bar of some sort. The customers first look completely indifferent to his arrival when, all of a sudden, they get very threatening and assault Booker. Using telekinesis to turn a man's shotgun against him without even touching it, the hero starts to fight back. The number of enemies is soon very high and it is more and more difficult to face them, something that indicates that surviving battles is not going to come easy in Bioshock Infinite. Thankfully, when everything seems lost, Elisabeth, the girl Booker has been hired to rescue, appears to save the day. She asks him to wait a few seconds before throwing his electric attack, seconds during which she uses her powers to produce rain. Needless to say the wet enemies do not quite appreciate what follows. The fight is not over though, there still is quite a large number of foes to deal with and time is running short. Elisabeth concentrates all her energy to create a sort of giant ball composed of all the debris lying around them and asks Booker to use his telekinesis power to throw it at the remaining enemies.
At this point, it is safe to believe that they are now out of the woods, but, as they are heading towards a bridge, a powerful and impressive creature reminding a bit of the Big Daddies of Rapture pops out of nowhere to block their way. Once again, cooperation is key to the couple's chances of survival, and by combining their powers they manage to destroy the bridge and have the guardian fall to his death. Booker barely has time to catch his breath and ask Elisabeth if that was the creature that was after her that a frightening howl can be heard, coming from the dark sky. Another creature, even bigger than the previous one, can be seen on a rooftop. It has metallic wings that look a bit like those of a hand-glider and it does not look very happy. "It's him" Elisabeth says as the monster plunges toward them. The end.
The least you can say is that such a demo can only leave you speechless. The game's atmosphere seems fantastic, and contrary to some might have feared, there is some uniqueness to it that makes it even more mesmerizing. The facial animations have also improved dramatically as it now almost looks like the work of movie studios such as Pixar, no less. In just a few minutes, Irrational Games managed to suck us into the world of Columbia. Of course, the demo we saw was all very scripted and everything was meant to keep us on our toes. But how on earth could we not get excited about the game after what we saw and not be looking forward to seeing more? The answer is simple, it is just not possible.