Our 12 for 2012 preview series continues with a game that gives a new meaning to reaching for the skies, forcing us to dredge the very depths of clichéd writing in our struggle to describe it. We are, of course, referring to Bioshock Infinite.
Irrational's latest is comfortably the most interesting shooter you'll play this year, and much like Skyrim, we're finding it difficult to stop writing about it. Press ahead with your questions, hypothetical interlocutor! And please refer to our Aliens: Colonial Marines, Tomb Raider and Halo 4 previews if your thirst for simulated dialogue knows no bounds.
Why call it Bioshock Infinite? Why not Bioshock 3?
There are a few reasons for that. One is that Irrational would like to distance themselves from Bioshock 2, the Rapture-based sequel put together by other 2K studios in the wake of Bioshock's far-from-guaranteed success. Team Levine had nothing to do with that game's creation, and it's keen to start afresh rather than pick up where imitators left off.
Levine wants to keep surprising players, so revisiting old ground was never really an option. "What excited us about Infinite was: what if were to throw away all the things that made us comfortable?" he told Edge in a recent interview. "Things like the city and the setting and the things that were probably the most successful elements of the first game. Those were exactly the things we thought people had come to be familiar with, in a way that was counter to the notion we wanted to generate. Familiarity in Rapture, you know? Not a good thing."
The other thing about "Infinite", and we hope you'll forgive us for being skin-deep here, is that it reflects the choice of setting. Evidently, the sky isn't the limit.
Tell me about Bioshock Infinite's setting. Tell me about Columbia.
Well, as you've doubtless sussed, it's a floating city - a nineteenth century burg that's slipped the surly bonds of earth via yet-to-be-divulged means. A dramatically literal way of countering preconceptions from the first game, with its claustrophobic tunnels and rising tides. Columbia is as perilous as Rapture, every street pervaded by threat, but where in Rapture the threat pressed down on you, there's too much space in Columbia, too little weight.
Where once you feared and resisted containment you'll now hunger for it, seeking solace inside, away from the terrifying blue sky. Allow us to summarise this new atmospheric dynamic with a micro-example. Remember those leaky portholes and ducts in Rapture? Remember how you'd shy away from them, from the ocean outside? Infinite's equivalent is the slow tilting or rocking of a piece of architecture as you approach it, joltingly reminding you that the suburb you're exploring is composed of free-floating edifices strung together with ropes and Skylines, Columbia's stomach-turning public transport system.