The original “BioShock” and its sequel took players beneath the waves to the city of Rapture, a failed capitalist utopia slowly succumbing to the madness of its inhabitants and the slow crush of water pressure.
“BioShock: Infinite” goes the other way, heading above the clouds to the wondrous floating city of Columbia, which has seceded and been out of contact with the rest of America for a decade as the game begins, in 1912.
It’s a beautiful and imposing sight, and it seems like quite a place to live — so long as you’re not black, or Chinese, or Irish, or anything other than the city’s white elite class. Columbia looks pristine, but it’s rotten to its core — and it’s led by the megalomaniacal Prophet Comstock, who calls the surface world “the Sodom below” and has control of a powerful military.
You control a former Pinkerton and soldier named Booker DeWitt, sent to retrieve a young woman named Elizabeth from Columbia and bring her to New York. Along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, she’s something of a deified figure in Columbia, and Booker is a pariah even before he arrives, marked as a False Shepherd and hounded by the city’s enforcers.
Booker’s good with a gun and handy with a sky-hook — a magnetized (and very sharp) device that doubles as a weapon and a means to use Columbia’s rail system. He also discovers various Vigors — “Infinite’s” answer to the original game’s Plasmids — which give him powers such as the ability to possess machines and people, or to project globs of fire, bolts of electricity or flocks of angry birds from his bare hands. There are eight to find, and some can be used in combination with each other.
The action is fun, but it’s the story and mystery of Columbia that keeps pulling you forward, and Vigors aren’t the only strange things you’ll find in Columbia. There’s the Songbird, the massive guardian who keeps Elizabeth locked away. There are the anachronistic bits of music and technology that don’t belong in 1912. There are the Handymen, industrial-age cyborgs with glowing hearts in their metal chests. There’s the way Comstock seems to have known of Booker long before his arrival.
And then there is Elizabeth herself, who seems pretty normal aside from her penchant for picking locks and laying a wrench upside the heads of people who double-cross her — and her ability to open up tears in time and space.
And behind it all — as Booker and Elizabeth try to escape a city whose every authority seems to be after them — looms the specter of a civil war, as the rebellious Vox Populi seek to overthrow Prophet Comstock and the Founders of the city, and see the chaos Booker’s arrival and rescue of Elizabeth as an opening to further their cause.
Published by 2K Games for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac OS
Rated M for Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language, mild sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco)