Box art depicting protagonist Booker DeWitt.
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
|Distribution||Optical disc, download|
BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. Previously known as "Project Icarus" in development, it was released worldwide on the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013. An Aspyr port to OS X was later released on August 29, 2013. BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not immediately part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it does feature similar gameplay concepts and themes. The game's concept and setting were developed by Irrational's creative lead, Ken Levine, who took inspiration from both historical events at the turn of the 20th century, as well as more recent ones at the time such as the "Occupy" protests.
Set in 1912 during the growth of American exceptionalism, the game has protagonist, former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, sent to the floating air city of Columbia to find a young woman, Elizabeth, who has been held captive there for most of her life. Though Booker rescues Elizabeth, the two become involved with the city's warring factions: the nativist and elite Founders that strive to keep the city for pure Americans, and the Vox Populi, rebels representing the common people. During this conflict, Booker learns that Elizabeth possesses strange powers to manipulate rifts in the space-time continuum that ravage Columbia, and discovers her to be central to the city's secrets.
The player controls Booker throughout the game, eventually working with the AI-controlled Elizabeth. Like previous BioShock games, the player uses a combination of weapons, gear, and psychokinetic powers granted through vigors. Elizabeth's powers can also be used to help fight hostile forces. In contrast to the limited spaces of the underwater city of Rapture, the open air city of Columbia provides for more combat challenges, including combat that takes place aboard the city's Sky-Line rollercoaster-like rail system. Downloadable content for the game includes two story-based missions, Burial at Sea, that link Infinite's story to that of the first two BioShock games.
BioShock Infinite won over 85 pre-release awards for its display at E3 2011, including Best of Show from the Game Critics Awards. Upon release, the game was critically acclaimed by many reviewers who particularly praised its story, setting and visual aesthetics. Its themes of political and religious beliefs, and the use of excessively violent imagery have also raised controversy. BioShock Infinite went on to sell over 3.7 million retail copies within the first two months of its release. As of July 31, 2013, the game has since sold more than 4 million copies. After release, BioShock Infinite received several awards and nominations including Game of the Year, Best Art Design, and Best Story from different media outlets.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Themes and controversy
- 4 Development
- 5 Marketing
- 6 Reception
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
BioShock Infinite, set during 1912, takes places in Columbia, a fictional city suspended in the air through a combination of "quantum levitation", giant blimps and balloons. Named in homage to the female personification of the United States, the city of Columbia was built by the American government to serve as a floating world's fair. The city was launched to much fanfare and publicity in 1893, and was sent to travel from continent to continent as a display to the rest of the world of the success of American exceptionalism. However, some time after its launch, Columbia was revealed to be a well-armed battleship, and became involved in an "international incident" by firing upon a group of Chinese civilians during the Boxer Rebellion in 1901. The city was subsequently disavowed by the American government and, in response, Columbia seceded from the United States and disappeared into the clouds, its location soon lost to everyone else.
Columbia, a dystopia under the guise of an alleged utopia, is ruled by a theocratic government that enforces jingoist and xenophobic policies on the city. Institutionalized racism and elitism are widespread in Columbia, with notions of Anglo-Saxon supremacy widely asserted by the upper classes in particular. People of minority races are subjugated in Columbia, with some brought in to serve as slaves or indentured servants. Racial segregation is heavily enforced within the city, to the point where interracial couples face the risk of a public stoning. As a result of this subjugation, minorities are largely relegated to menial labor with no obvious opportunity for upward mobility.
By the time of the game's events, racial tensions have risen to the point where Columbia is on the verge of civil war, waged by the ruling "Founders" and the insurgent "Vox Populi", two factions with opposing ideologies. The Founders are the prevailing political faction in the city; they are the racist ultra-nationalists who have retained power and control over Columbia. The city's ruling class, the Founders seek to keep Columbia purely for White American citizens while denying foreigners the same privileges. The Vox Populi (Latin for "voice of the people") are a rag-tag resistance group opposed to the ultra-nationalists. Formed from several groups with similar ideologies, they fight to seize control and restore the rights of Columbian citizenship to people of all races and religions. However, years of bitter struggle have driven the Vox Populi to fight opposition solely out of blind hatred, resulting in more violent and brutal methods.
In addition to the internal strife, Columbia is ravaged by "Tears" in the fabric of space-time. Being the result of past scientific experiments, these Tears reveal alternate universes, and allow for interaction with them. While most Columbia citizens regard these Tears as mere curiosity, some individuals have exploited the insight offered by them to create radically new weapons and technologies, while several others have replicated futuristic music and songs heard from the Tears, bringing anachronistic elements into the Columbia of 1912.
As with BioShock and BioShock 2, the player is able to locate audio logs – Voxophones – and film projectors – Kinetoscopes – that will expand on the history and nature of Columbia beyond those events occurring within the game. Though the game takes place before the events of the previous two BioShock games (occurring in 1960 for BioShock and in 1968 for BioShock 2), the question of whether Infinite occurs within this same timeline remains unanswered. One scene in the main campaign briefly returns to the Rapture setting at an undetermined time, and two pieces of downloadable content, Burial at Sea, are set in Rapture on New Year's Eve, 1958.
The player controls protagonist Booker DeWitt (Troy Baker), a disgraced member of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, emotionally scarred from the acts of violence he committed at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Faced with mounting debts, he is sent to Columbia to rescue Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), a young woman imprisoned there since childhood, who has the ability to open Tears. Her confinement has been maintained by Songbird, a large, robotic bird-like creature who has been both her friend and her warden, and which has been programmed to feel betrayal should Elizabeth attempt to escape.
Columbia is run by the elite Founders, led by "Father" Zachary Hale Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel), who founded the city as a result of a vision he had. Revered as "the Prophet" in Columbia, Comstock maintained his power through a powerful cult of personality based on the Founding Fathers of the United States. The Founders are opposed by the Vox Populi, led by Daisy Fitzroy (Kimberly Brooks). The Vox Populi were created by Comstock to act as a scapegoat to social dissension among the elite and create a police state, and Fitzroy took up the role of its lead due to her hatred of the Founder's ways.
Robert (Oliver Vaquer) and Rosalind Lutece (Jennifer Hale) are two mysterious individuals that direct Booker to Columbia and appear throughout his travels. Though they appear as twins, they are revealed to be the same person but from two different realities, having managed to figure out how to communicate and subsequently cross through realities. Rosalind is shown to be the one behind the technological wonders that keep Columbia afloat.
In 1912, Booker DeWitt is taken by Robert and Rosalind Lutece to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine. Told to "bring us the girl and wipe away the debt", Booker enters a rocket silo which transports him to Columbia.
Booker is soon pursued by the city authority when he is found bearing a scar of the letters "AD", matching the description of the foretold "False Shepherd" who will corrupt Elizabeth and overthrow Columbia. Freeing Elizabeth from her tower, Booker narrowly evades her captor, the "Songbird". Reaching an airship, Booker promises to take Elizabeth to Paris; when she realizes they are going to New York City to wipe Booker's debt, a tearful Elizabeth knocks him out. Booker awakes to find the airship under the control of Daisy Fitzroy and the Vox Populi, who offer to return the ship if Booker recovers a weapon shipment.
Finding Elizabeth, Booker continues with her. Assisting with her ability to open Tears, Elizabeth grows disturbed by the consequential damage on Booker and Columbia by her altering reality: one Tear leads them to a world where Booker is a martyr of the Vox Populi, sparking warfare between the two factions. Believing a new, living Booker undermines the martyr Booker's sacrifice, Fitzroy turns her forces against Booker. Elizabeth kills Fitzroy to prevent her from executing a Founder boy.
As they attempt to leave by airship, Songbird attacks the duo and they crash back to Columbia. Continuing onwards, they unravel a conspiracy behind the city's founding: Zachary Hale Comstock had the Lutece twins construct a "Siphon" device to inhibit Elizabeth's powers; Elizabeth is Comstock's adopted daughter, whom he plans to groom into taking over after his death; and Comstock plotted to kill his wife and the Luteces to hide the truth. After Elizabeth is captured by Songbird, Booker pursues but is brought into the future by an elderly Elizabeth; she explains that, since Booker did not stop Songbird, she suffered decades of torture and brainwashing, inheriting Comstock's cause and waging war on the world. Explaining that Songbird always prevented his previous rescue attempts, Elizabeth begs Booker to stop Songbird with his song and returns him to his present.
Booker reaches present Elizabeth, and the pair pursue Comstock to his airship. Comstock demands that Booker explain Elizabeth's past to her; an enraged Booker drowns Comstock. Booker denies knowledge about Elizabeth's little finger, but she asserts that he has simply forgotten. Controlling Songbird, the pair fend off a Vox Populi attack, before ordering Songbird to destroy the Siphon. As Songbird turns on Booker again, Elizabeth's powers fully awaken, allowing her to open a Tear and transport them to the underwater city of Rapture.[note 1] Booker and Elizabeth materialize inside the city, from where they see Songbird crushed outside by the water pressure.
Elizabeth takes Booker to the surface lighthouse, explaining there are countless alternate lighthouses and versions of Booker and Elizabeth; they are within one of infinite possible realities dependent on their choices. She shows that on October 8, 1893, Robert Lutece approached Booker on behalf of Comstock, requesting that he "give us the girl and wipe away the debt," referring to Booker's infant daughter, Anna DeWitt – Booker's "AD" branding. Booker reluctantly agreed, but soon gave chase; arriving as Comstock barely escaped through a Tear, its closing severed Anna's finger. Comstock then raised Anna as his own daughter, Elizabeth, and due to her severed finger, her existing over two realities simultaneously allows her to create Tears and move between them. Robert Lutece, angry at Comstock's actions, convinced Rosalind to help him bring Booker to the reality where Columbia exists to rescue Elizabeth.
Elizabeth explains that Comstock will always remain alive in alternate universes, as the Luteces have enlisted different universe Bookers numerous times to try to end the cycle. As stopping Comstock requires intervening in his birth, Elizabeth takes Booker back in time to a baptism he attended in hopes to atone for the sins he committed at Wounded Knee; she explains that, while Booker changed his mind, some alternative Bookers accepted the baptism and were reborn as "Zachary Comstock." Comstock, later aware of his connection to Booker and sterile from overusing the Lutece Tear machine, abducted Anna to provide a biological heir for Columbia. Booker, then joined by other universe Elizabeths at the baptism, allows them to drown him, preventing his baptismal choice and thus preventing Comstock's existence. One by one, the Elizabeths begin to disappear, the screen cutting to black on the last.
Like BioShock and BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter with role-playing elements. In contrast to the limited spaces of Rapture in previous BioShock games, the expanded environment of Columbia provides for more dynamic combat challenges in Infinite. As Booker, the player must fight their way through Columbia using weapons and a variety of tools in order to complete objectives. The player may carry only two weapons at a time, and can collect other weapons and ammunition either from defeated enemies or from random locations around the city. In addition to his health, Booker is also equipped with a shield. When damaged, the shield regenerates after a few seconds, while health can be replenished with medical kits or food. Should Booker die, the player revives in a safe area but loses a slight amount of money; Booker regains partial health and is granted additional ammunition, while local enemies are also partially healed. The player can still recover from death should they lose all their money.
Booker gains powers and abilities through Vigors, Gears, and Infusions, all scattered around Columbia. Vigors, the equivalent of BioShock's Plasmids, grant activated powers such as creating shockwaves, releasing bolts of electricity, and machine/human possession. Vigors require Salt, the equivalent of magic points or BioShock's EVE, for powering their abilities. Salts can be found throughout Columbia, and are also granted upon death. Wearing Gears grant passive abilities that can improve the player's strength or damage resistance, similar in function to BioShock's Tonics. Each piece of Gear attaches to one of four specific slots: Hats, Shirts, Boots, and Pants. Only one piece of Gear can be affixed to a slot at a time; any extra Gear is stored in the player's inventory. Infusions grant the ability to permanently boost the player's health, Salts or shield meter by one stat; they also fully restore whatever is being boosted.
Booker can traverse Columbia both on foot and by riding the "Sky-Line". The Sky-Line is a roller coaster-like rail-based system — originally designed for moving cargo around Columbia but later used for personal transport — whereupon the player activates a wrist-mounted tool — called the Sky-Hook — that Booker and enemies wear to jump and hang onto the self-powered tracks. Players can jump onto, off of, and between Sky-Line tracks at any time, and may face enemies that use the system to attack; the player can use one-handed weapons in Booker's free hand while using the Sky-Line. Freedom of movement along the Sky-Line allows for several varieties of combat, including flanking, cover, and area-of-effect attacks through creative uses of the system. Booker can also dive off from the Sky-Line to strike enemies with his Sky-Hook; while on the ground, he can melee and execute enemies with it.
Once reunited with Elizabeth, the player must work with her to escape Columbia. The player does not directly control Elizabeth, but instead she reacts to the player and the current situation in a manner similar to the AI Director in Left 4 Dead. Unlike BioShock, where the player is tasked with protecting a Little Sister while escorting her, Elizabeth requires no protection and can take care of herself in combat. While the player is in battle, Elizabeth scavenges the area for supplies such as ammunition, medical kits, Salts, and other items, and tosses them to Booker as needed. She can also use her Tear-opening powers to aid the player, bringing in weapons, health, Salts, environmental features such as cover or a ledge for higher ground, and automated defense units. Only one Tear can be opened at a time, making the player decide between the available options to suit the battle. Elizabeth also has the ability to pick locks using her hairpin. However, she requires "one-use" lockpicks, found all over Columbia, to open doors or safes storing valuable or hidden items.
While exploring Columbia, the player, and Elizabeth, can find various useful items such as cash, food, medical kits, ammunition and Salts. Vending machines, present throughout Columbia, can be used to buy supplies, and powerful upgrades for weapons and Vigors. Optional side-missions are also available, where the player must unlock safes or decode hidden ciphers; completing them rewards Booker with a handful of supplies, Voxophones and Infusion upgrades.
As the player progresses through the city, he is opposed by various enemies, classified into three types: Standard Enemies, Heavy Hitters and Basic Security Automata. Standard Enemies are regular foes consisting of several different human forces representing the Founders and the Vox Populi. Heavy Hitters are more formidable enemies, aligned with the Founders, who act as mini-bosses throughout the game, demanding new tactics from the player. They consist of: the Vigor-powered Fireman and Zealot of the Lady, the heavily armored Beast, the powerful robotic-like monster Handyman, the crank gun-wielding automaton Motorized Patriot, and the enemy-detecting Boys of Silence. The Vox Populi also possess their own versions of the Fireman, Beast and Motorized Patriot. Basic Security Automata are armed machines scattered throughout Columbia that act as a security defense system for the city, consisting of the fixed Gun and Rocket Automatons, and the flying Mosquito.
BioShock Infinite's set pieces are not heavily scripted, with the game's pacing being similar to that of BioShock; while there are some scripted set pieces, the player is able to explore Columbia at their own pace. In the same manner of BioShock, players in Infinite are also able to revisit areas from earlier in the game. Features are borrowed from Batman: Arkham Asylum, wherein players, on return to previous areas, find new elements that advance the plot and gameplay. Unlike Jack or Subject Delta, the silent protagonists of BioShock and BioShock 2 respectively, and who are guided by radio commands from a third party, Booker is a vocal character, with dialogue designed to aid the player in leading Booker to complete his mission.
After completing the story mode on "easy", "normal" or "hard" difficulties, a "1999 Mode" is unlocked, where the challenge of the game is significantly increased. Enemies are much tougher, the player's navigational aid and aim assist is removed, and resource management is much more crucial to survival; also, the difficulty of the game cannot be changed while playing. Additionally, in this mode, reviving after dying uses up more money; should Booker die with less than $100, the game ends, and the player is sent back to the main menu and has to resume from their last autosave prior to the section where they died. Alternatively, "1999 Mode" can simply be unlocked by inputting a secret code — the Konami Code — in the main menu.
Themes and controversy
Ken Levine, the creative lead of BioShock Infinite, has stated that players are supposed to draw their own conclusions from the game. He explained that "there are many parts of Infinite that are open to interpretation, and the purpose is that you draw your own theories from them." To this end, Levine avoided providing an authoritative final answer regarding the game's ending, replying "What actually matters is what people think. Why does my interpretation matter more than yours?"
Levine has claimed that the core messages in Infinite are neither personal nor political, insisting instead that they are historical. The racism depicted in Columbia is seen by him "more as a reflection of what race relations in the U.S. were like in 1912." Levine explained that the game was "less about exploring the good and bad sides of racism and more just a reflection of the time and how it impacted that era." He noted if people went back and read the writings of the Founding Fathers, they would be quite appalled at some of the white supremacist language. Levine said, "It wasn’t because they were bad people, necessarily [...] They were men of their times." Consequently, he reasoned that all of these issues around nationalism and racism were warranted in the game, saying, "To really immerse the player in 1912 and have that not even be part of it would be really strange."
BioShock Infinite's themes of racism, extreme religion and an ideological society have caused controversy. In the various reveals of the Founders and Vox Populi before release, Levine and Irrational Games were criticized by various groups; upon demonstrating the Founders, people that favored the ideals of the Tea Party including Levine's relatives felt the game was attacking that movement; on the announcement of the Vox Populi, Levine found some websites claiming the game was an attack on the labor movement, and one white supremacist website claimed that "The Jew Ken Levine is making a white-person-killing simulator." Levine considered that Infinite, like BioShock before it, was a Rorschach test for most people, though would be taken negatively in nature and upset them, as his vision in crafting the stories was "about not buying into a single point of view".
Zachary Comstock's portrayal as a zealot has also been deemed to offend "gamers with strong religious backgrounds," as a member of the BioShock Infinite development team even threatened to resign over the game’s ending, believing the game was saying "Being religious causes you to be evil." Comstock was altered after Levine spoke with this developer, who helped Levine to reconsider the notion of forgiveness in the New Testament and set to figure out why people came to follow Comstock and to understand the ecstatic religious experience they would be seeking. Levine did not consider this reinvention of the character to be censorship, instead a means to present the story better to a broad audience. In another case, a player that considered himself a "devout believer" of Christianity was strongly upset with the forced baptism that Booker receives prior to entering Columbia proper, prompting him to request a refund from Valve due to being unaware of this content in the game. Particia Hernadez of Kotaku considered that the baptism scene was "admirable" in the context of video games as an art form, as the scene created numerous responses and controversy on social media.
Tim McDonald of IncGamers believed that a "huge amount" of the game was about fatalism. He explained that, unlike most games with moral choices, Infinite "tells a 'complete' story" regardless of the "in-game morality decisions" the player makes. McDonald also added that in contrast to the first BioShock game, Infinite has a "very definite, predefined end point… but that different players will have had different experiences up to that point." Fellow writer Peter Parrish called "the Lutece coin flip" scene "the fatalism scene," citing that "whatever Booker chooses [...] it lands on heads." He stated that "the ultimate act of fatalism performed by the game is that the absolutely key choice of Booker’s baptism, one of two choices upon which the whole of BioShock Infinite hinges, is a choice which has already been made (and not made) for you before the title even begins. Your main goal, it turns out, is to prevent a choice from ever happening." However, Parrish also argued that game's choices were not exactly "meaningless" despite their inconsequence to the ending. He explained that the choices had an effect on the player if not necessarily the game; he pointed out that "Choosing not throw the baseball at the couple during the 'raffle' has meaning because you’ve taken the choice not to be a disgusting racist monster." Christian Donlan of Eurogamer used the coin-flip scene to compare BioShock Infinite to works like The Garden of Forking Paths and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which have similar themes about the subject of choice versus fate.
Infinite's depiction of graphic violence has generated a substantial amount of discussion. Polygon's Chris Plante considered that the degree of violence in the game can make it a detractor for potential players who are more interested in the game's theme and narrative, noting the game's violence distracts from it rather than serving it. He believed that unlike films that are based on violence as part of their themes, Infinite does not attempt to rationalize its violence, claiming the "magnitude of lives taken" and the "cold efficiency in doing so" was "unfamiliar to even the most exploitative films." Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton agreed with these facets, stating that while violence is a common theme across video games, "[the] ridiculous violence stands out in such sharp relief when placed against the game's thoughtful story and lovely world". Hamilton acknowledges that Infinite likely would have been difficult to sell the title at mass market if it lacked the first-person shooter elements, but that the violent kills felt "indulgent and leering" and unnecessary for the game. Cliff Bleszinski, the creative lead of Gears of War series which Bleszinski has acknowledged as being purposely violent, agreed with these sentiments, and that he "felt the violence actually detracted from the experience".
Eric Kain of Forbes magazine opined that the scripted moments of high-impact violence worked well from a narrative perspective, standing out in stark contrast to the idyllic setting and reinforcing the idea that there were serious problems within the world of the game, which only served to draw him further into the story. Kain pointed to the conventions of the first-person shooter genre and the way the player must constantly fight wave after wave of enemies as the real problem, suggesting that these constant, lesser acts of violence diluted the narrative, undermining the point that the game was trying to make. Kain further argued that this trend was not exclusive to BioShock Infinite, pointing out that even games that attempted to address the issue of violence in games—citing Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3 as examples—failed because of their rigid adherence to constant violence, concluding that he saw BioShock Infinite as an unintentional commentary on the genre and adding that he hoped other game developers would observe and learn from its shortcomings. Rus McLaughlin of Venture Beat also stated that the sudden onset of violence at the carnival at the start of the game was a necessary element to show that "Columbia is not perfect. It's ugly, xenophobic, and ready to explode." McLaughlin also considered the message carried by Infinite about the extreme nature of the violent acts Booker commits to be tied to his redemption by the end of the game, that "there can be no morality in an extreme". Jim Sterling from Destructoid said that the violence in the game is justified because "BioShock Infinite is a game about violence". He claimed that "Though he (Booker) feels guilt for what he did, he's a violent man at heart, who inescapably resorts to butchery to solve his problems" and "His entire story is one of denial". Similarly, Sterling also pointed out that "Columbia is a fake, a sham, with an atmosphere of horror under its manufactured surface". He believed that having a non-violent option would go against everything natural to the game itself and "Those asking for a non-violent BioShock Infinite are asking for a different game entirely". He claimed that those asking for a non-violent Bioshock were asking for "yet more homogenization in games" and "BioShock Infinite is not your game if you want a non-violent exploration of its themes, because Infinite's themes revolve around violence as a core concept".
Irrational worked in secrecy on Infinite for two-and-a-half years since completing the original BioShock prior to its announcement; with the game announced as going gold on February 19, 2013, about five years of development had been put into the game, with about 200 people involved in the process. 2K Games gave them the freedom to develop their sequel at will. Though The New York Times claimed that the game cost an estimated $100 million to develop with up to an additional $100 million for marketing, Levine countered this assertion though the true cost of development has not been affirmed.
Though BioShock Infinite shares the same name with the other two games, Levine has stated that this is a new direction, and was coy to answer if they shared the same universe. Levine referred to the term BioShock not as a specific location or setting, but a concept conjoined by two ideas: the exploration of a fantastical setting, and the use of a large number of tools and abilities in creative manners to survive. Along with the System Shock games, which Levine and other Irrational developers had worked on, the titles share the same idea of a "component of learning about a new place" and shocking the player into discovering more of the setting, according to Levine. Levine affirmed that with the similarities between the games, "It would be dishonest to say this is not BioShock". Similarly, Timothy Gerritsen, director of product development, stated they wanted to keep the feel of the BioShock experience but still consider Infinite to be a new intellectual property; as a means to sever the implied connection to the previous games, the teaser purposely shows a Big Daddy figurine being crushed at the onset. This was furthered by the selection of the word Infinite as part of the title, to reflect the "many possibilities" they wanted to explore with the BioShock concept. The game does not completely eschew BioShock, as certain elements like the sound effects representing the player's health or for gaining new quests from BioShock are reused without modification in Infinite; Levine stated that they had worked these common elements as former BioShock players would already understand their impact, and that they had spent a great detail of time during BioShock to get these elements right and felt no need to reinvent the sounds again. Further, the introduction of Infinite purposely mimics several elements from BioShock's opening: one example given by writer Drew Holmes is the act of walking through a candle-lined water trough in a Columbia church to be baptized, which visually is similar to swimming through the flaming wreckage of the plane to reach the bathysphere terminus for Rapture.
Story and setting
For the first six months of development, the team prototyped several possible ideas to brainstorm on what concepts would be effective for the next game. The team had originally considered reusing Rapture from the first two BioShock games, aware that Rapture would be synonymous with the BioShock name, and that players had reacted positively to exploring the underwater city, learning of its history, and having "the sense of the world, and being in that place". As they worked to determine the story and types of quests the player would undertake, they found themselves bored and struggling to come up with new ideas and feared that players would react the same. This prompted the team to consider an alternate setting despite this being a "terrifying" prospect in terms of project scope. Irrational had also considered placing events during the Renaissance, but upon the announcement of Assassin's Creed II in 2009 which took place during the same historical period, they dropped this idea. The idea of the air-city came early in the development. The open-air environment gave them an opportunity to use color schemes that sharply contrasted with the darker palettes that were a staple of their earlier games. Even then, their initial designs of the flying city were darker and closer to Art Nouveau, making the game world too claustrophobic and appearing similar to the city of Rapture. The period of American exceptionalism allowed them to create a brighter, expansive system.
According to Irrational's Ken Levine, the name "Columbia", in reference to the female figure that personifies the United States, and the idea of American exceptionalism did not come about until six to eight months before the game's reveal. An early concept was to depict a group of technology geeks against a band of luddites, but Levine found that such conflict exists "only in shades of reality" and wasn't compelling enough. Instead, the Irrational team recentered on the idea of American exceptionalism, a tangible concept that continues to be repeated throughout history. The idea came to Levine after watching a PBS documentary, America 1900, about the late 19th century, which quickly caught on with the rest of the team. In particular, Levine pointed to one quote of U.S. President William McKinley on the eve of the Philippine–American War, which spoke to the need of America to "uplift and civilize and Christianize" the natives of the Philippines. Though the accuracy of the quote is disputed, Irrational's lead artist Shawn Robinson noted that BioShock Infinite's goal is "not to teach any history", but felt such historical aspects helped to ground the work's fiction. Levine stated that in the same manner that BioShock was not built specifically around Objectivism, Infinite is not built around jingoism, but only uses the concepts to help set the stage to tell the story of individuals caught up in the conflicts. Another work that Levine took inspiration from was Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City about Dr. H. H. Holmes, the first recorded serial killer at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago; Levine considered how the work gave "a great optimism and excitement for the future and one of this ominous feeling at the same time". Levine noted that in contrast to the character of Andrew Ryan from the first BioShock, where history had influenced some of his decisions, Booker and other characters have been directly involved with some of the aforementioned history, reflected in how these characters react to certain scenarios.
Levine considered how the founding documents of the United States can be interpreted in several ways, leading to conflict between those that hold various interpretations of those ideals, leading to Infinite's different factions. Figureheads of the powers-that-be like Saltonstall are based on both historical and present-day nationalistic personalities, seeking to put the needs of America before others. One example given by Levine is President Theodore Roosevelt, whose ideals were highly influential during America's transformation in the early 20th century; Levine considered how Roosevelt willingly gave up office to fight during the Spanish–American War. On the other hand, the Vox Populi were based on historical factions that often splintered into small, independent groups that undertook violent actions, such as the Red Army Faction from the 1970s and the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front of present day. During the course of the game's development period, the series of "Occupy" protests occurred across several cities; Levine, comparing these protests to other historical ones already incorporated into Columbia's history, used the real-time events to refine the game's story. Specifically, due to the nature of the various decentralized groups involved with the "Occupy" protests, Levine was able to define how the Vox Populi group would grow from its haphazard beginnings. Levine reflected that despite the game's earlier setting, many of the modern day political turmoil calls back to similar tactics and behavior used in the early days of America's democracy, and thus provided a means to flesh out these aspects within the game.
Irrational Games brought another 2K Games' subsidiary, 2K Marin, aboard to help built out the architecture and details of Columbia. Irrational's director of design Bill Gardner stated that the scope of Columbia was much more expansive than Rapture in terms of virtual space, using an example of the whole of one BioShock level, the "Medical Pavilion", able to easily fit into a beach on Columbia, a fraction of the overall level there, and thus necessitating the additional help. The Irrational team reviewed much of the American culture and propaganda at the turn of the 20th century, using the artwork to create some of the in-game posters. Levine commented that at the time, such imagery was "really subtle", and considered that their re-envisioning of these posters within Columbia was "a great way to communicate ideas visually". Other sources of inspiration for the game's art included photographs from before and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and from Sears-Roebuck catalogs from the turn of the century. Another source of inspiration for the art style was developed by considering Infinite to represent "The Fourth of July, 1912", just as BioShock resonated with the theme of "New Years Eve 1959". By selecting this hypothetical date, the team quickly identified films to draw imagery from, like The Music Man, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Hello, Dolly which exhibited ideal views of Americana at the turn of the 20th century. The bright, open-air environments of Columbia presented a challenge to the team to keep aspects of the horror genre within the game; Levine stated they took some inspiration from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and David Lynch's Blue Velvet, transforming an "antiseptic environment" into the "scariest ******* place [one's] ever seen".
The game's music was also heavily influenced by historical trends. Levine commented that with the original BioShock game, set in the mid-20th century, it was easy to acquire musical pieces representative of the era. With Infinite's early 20th century setting, much of the recorded music of that time would not be considered music of today, according to Levine. Instead, they had to explore the changes in music during this period, observing that much of the early forms of music in America derived from gospel, ragtime, blues and jazz, works influenced by African Americans and their heritage. Levine stated that the Founders would consider the co-opting of such works from minorities "quite antithetical", and have placed elements within the game's story to explain how such music would be appreciated aboard Columbia. Garry Schyman, who composed the original scores of both previous BioShock games, returned for the same in BioShock Infinite.
The idea of using tears in the fabric of space-time was influenced by a similar story decision in BioShock. With Rapture set in the 1960, the Irrational team had looked to the scientific progress of James D. Watson and Francis Crick towards understanding DNA in 1953, and built the idea of ADAM and gene modification. For Infinite, the same concept was used with the development of quantum theory by Albert Einstein, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg that would later bore out in the Many Worlds Theory. Incorporating the use of tears was a challenge from the story standpoint but one that Levine enjoyed, noting that this leads to the impression of Booker being an unreliable narrator for the events of the game. One of the game demonstrations showed Elizabeth accidentally opening a tear into a 1980's setting after trying to revive a fallen horse. This setting was in contrast to their initial idea, a woodland glade, which Levine felt wasn't "striking or different enough" than the rest of Columbia. Instead, they borrowed assets from a previous project that, according to lead artist Shawn Robertson, Irrational was "literally about to throw away", finding the contrast and abrupt differences from the Columbia setting helped to emphasize the use of tears in the game. In regards to the ending, Levine has stated that the ending of Infinite is "like nothing you've experienced in a video game before"; the story purposely avoids a problem that arose from the original BioShock in which, after the death of Andrew Ryan before the last third of the game, "the story loses some of its steam".
Booker is voiced by veteran voice actor Troy Baker, while Elizabeth is voiced by actress Courtnee Draper. Baker and Draper's participation in the development process was atypical for most video games; instead of just coming in to record their lines, Levine considered them as collaborators on the story development process. The three spent a significant amount of time in the recording studio, improvising scenes and working on repeated recordings to try to find the right tone to present scripted dialog; such changes were then reflected appropriately in the game's story and dialog. Levine favorably contrasted Baker and Draper as "the genius and the novice" respectively; Baker had several previous roles in video game voice-overs, while Draper had none; the different levels of experience between the two helped to tighten the performances, the combination a "potent mix" according to Levine. Levine explained one case where Draper was struggling to give a convincing tearful performance when Elizabeth is having difficulty using her powers. Both Draper and Levine believed it would be helpful to have Baker provide Booker's loud, berating dialog alongside Draper to help Draper find the right emotional response to deliver for the scene. Levine considered the input of both actors of critical importance to be able to deliver a lot of information, both in words and emotion, in only a few lines of dialog. Levine also worked with the actors directly to script out specific scenes once they had gotten to know their characters before recording their voices. Despite working closely with Baker and Draper on characterization and creating dialog on the fly, Levine did not provide the actors with full knowledge of their characters' backstory or the overarching plot of the game prior to recording; according to Levine, this helped the actors to create the in-game connection between Booker and Elizabeth in a much more natural manner than reading with full knowledge of the script. Similarly, Levine has not told the developers on his team the whole story of BioShock Infinite, using the reveals to gauge their reactions and adjust the story as needed; this had created some strife in the team, as they would prefer working with full knowledge of the script, but Levine noted "that's not the way we present stuff to the gamer".
In the early development of Infinite, Elizabeth was designed to be more of a useful companion than a partner within the game; she would be able to perform tasks like picking locks that the player could not, but otherwise lacked a significant emotional bond. However, after showcasing the game at the 2011 E3 Convention, the Irrational team saw players react favorably to Elizabeth, and started to make her the player's partner for the game, expanding her abilities to accommodate this. This approach to Elizabeth was inspired by the character of Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2, a central element and an "emotional driver" to the game's story. Irrational wanted to expand on that concept, demonstrating how such a character would interact with talkative player-character, compared to the silent Gordon Freeman, and creating further emotional ties between the two characters. Levine also considered the characterization of the player-character Monkey and his non-playable companion Trip in the game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, as inspiration towards the story of Booker and Elizabeth. The plot revolves around changes that Elizabeth, Booker, and their relationship undergo as the player explores deeper into Columbia. Further, they wanted to avoid giving Elizabeth any of the same abilities that the player has; they rejected letting her use a gun, for example, as this would take away from the player's role in defeating the enemy. They gave Elizabeth additional abilities, such as being able to scrounge and toss supplies of ammunition and Salts to Booker, or to decode ciphers hidden around Columbia with codes found by Booker, that helped to connect her more emotionally to the player.
Elizabeth's character, particularly her relationship to her captor, the Songbird, is based on his experience with a former female companion that Levine had; she had told Levine that her previous relationship was abusive, but she would otherwise "make excuses for him [her former friend], all the time" and ultimately returned to him. Levine had altered this in Infinite, that while creating the abusive relation between Elizabeth and Songbird, Elizabeth desired to escape that, even if death was the only option; at one point in the game's preview material, Elizabeth is shown wrapping Booker's hands around her neck and convincing him to kill her while Songbird attempts to break into the building that they have secured themselves into. In response to discussions on Internet forums regarding the size and exposed nature of Elizabeth's breasts, Levine noted that part of their design for Elizabeth and her costume was to be able to recognize her from a distance given the open-space nature of the game and limited resolution. Levine stated that her costume is inspired by that of superheroes, using a simple color scheme that would help her to stand out in the colorful and complex landscapes.
The programming of the artificial intelligence for Elizabeth was considered a major technical challenge for Irrational, as they desired to give her as much near-human behavior in contrast to most other games where such companions are either highly scripted or given relatively simplistic pragmas to follow, and had little previous examples from other games to build on; Levine cited Half-Life 2's Alyx as the last "great AI companion". Irrational had previously developed AI routines for the Big Daddies and Little Sisters in BioShock that would allow them to roam and interact with the environment if otherwise left alone by the player; these routines were the basis of building out improved behavior for Elizabeth. The developers had spent much time improving these routines to give Elizabeth her own tendencies to look and move around as a real actor instead of a robotic non-player character, as to re-enforce her central role to the player. To this, Levine explained that they looked to the banter between the main characters in the Uncharted series by Naughty Dog. Levine praised the work that Naughty Dog had done, and felt he would be able to create the same with a more somber period piece. Some of Elizabeth's responses will be driven by a player's action (such as the aforementioned horse recovery scene), but other times, Elizabeth's actions will be on her own in response to the environment. Much of Columbia was seeded "room by room" with elements that Elizabeth will be interested in, comment on, and react to. However, as for the player not missing these elements, such actions would only be performed based on a number of factors, including whether the player was near and looking at Elizabeth, and the current tension of the game. This apparent curiosity serendipitously worked with Elizabeth's story, who after having been locked up for twelve years would be eager to see new things. Elizabeth's AI also monitors and tracks the player's behavior over time, such that the AI will attempt to predict when the player is moving and keep Elizabeth out of the line of fire. Programming Elizabeth's AI was a significant challenge to the Irrational team, and at several points during development the suggestion of cutting her from the game was brought up. Levine countered these suggestions, insisting on keeping her in the game. To manage this, a multidisciplinary subgroup called the "Liz Squad" reviewed the levels designed by others to assure that the presence of Elizabeth was accounted for across the game and to avoid situations where the level would delegate the character to simply hiding in a closet. On March 15, 2013, the full voice cast was announced by Irrational Games.
Technical and gameplay development
According to Levine, the team had to revolutionize their previous work on the BioShock game in order to realize Columbia, including both indoor and outdoor settings that take place thousands of feet above the ground. The original BioShock engine, a modified Unreal Engine 2.x, was inadequate for their vision, and so they chose to work with Unreal Engine 3, modifying it with their own lighting engine and means to simulate the movement and buoyancy of the buildings. The development team found that the implementation of open spaces created new gameplay options for the player, such as deciding between long-ranged attacks or finding a means to move in for short-range or melee combat. While Irrational had followed 2K Marin's work on BioShock 2, Infinite does not include any further improvements that 2K Marin had made on the original engine. According to Levine, all assets of Infinite are created from scratch.
One challenge facing Irrational was identified from BioShock, in which players, once equipped with specific plasmids and weapons, could complete the game without having to alter their weapons; Levine quotes the saying "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" to describe how they found players were able to complete most of BioShock using the 'Electro Bolt' plasmid and a shotgun. Irrational wanted instead to create situations through Infinite's weapons and powers that allowed the player to progress to some point with certain combinations but then would be forced to learn new possibilities that Irrational had designed within the game. The vertical and open-air spaces of Columbia provide more opportunity to include various types of combat compared to the close-ranged limits of Rapture within the first BioShock. The team developed a variety of enemies that would have certain strengths and weakness that would force the player to experiment and work with all their available tools given to them. This was further enhanced by the inclusion of Elizabeth, who has powers that can be used in conjunction with Booker's to achieve more impressive results but that strain her powers and giving choice to the player as to how and when to use her abilities. Another aspect that Irrational had considered from BioShock was the way players opted in choosing whether to save or harvest the Little Sisters; according to writer Drew Holmes, because this choice simply affected the reward that players would receive, they would not consider the moral consequences of their actions, particularly with subsequent playthroughs of the game. While Infinite will offer such choices to the player, these will be less obvious and with initially ambiguous results, an example being the choice of throwing a baseball at an interracial couple or the barker at the start of the game.
The inclusion of Elizabeth also served to better extend Irrational's vision of storytelling first-person shooters and to avoid other tropes used in similar games that have become "long in the tooth" such as receiving information over a radio or from someone on the opposite side of a window; according to Levine, having Elizabeth as a person working aside the player-characters helps to make the game "feel more grounded in humanity". In contrast to the silent Jack from BioShock, the player character Booker is also given a voice, a decision to avoid complacency with the "silent protagonist" motif as well to have face-to-face interactions with other non-player characters instead of being told what to do over a radio or separated by a barrier.
The team wanted to capture the aspect of BioShock where not every non-player character would immediately be aggressive towards you; Levine discusses a situation in Infinite where the player character walks into a crowded bar and cannot immediately tell the disposition of the non-player characters towards the player. Levine compared this to the introduction of the Big Daddy in BioShock, giving the player several opportunities to view but not engage the characters so they would understand that there are several possible outcomes depending on what approach they used when they did have the ability to engage one. As Infinite contains numerous groups in internal conflict with each other, the player will be given the opportunity to learn how to utilize different non-player character agents to progress in the game. Irrational wanted to make sure consequences of the player's actions were reflected in the game; part of this is through the strain on Elizabeth when using her powers, but through altering the suspended city, they are able to change the environment in response to the player's choice and force the player to consider different tactics.
Earlier versions of the games had included Nostrums as gameplay elements, but these were replaced by equipable gear. Nostrums would have made permanent changes to the character and cannot be removed once used. They would have been available in two types, stable and unstable varieties, the latter referred to as "potlucks". Stable nostrums would have been expensive, but the player would know exactly what effect applying the nostrum would gain them. Unstable nostrums would be cheaper or found lying around the environment, but upon use, would require the player to select one of four random effects to alter their character, an idea inspired by Heroes of Might and Magic according to Levine. The Nostrum system was scrapped in favor of using gear as they found that the system was too similar to other ones that the player would have available in equipping their character, compared to the gear option. Similarly, earlier demonstrations of the game did not use Salt to power vigors, but instead each vigor would have a limited number of uses before it was exhausted. While more can be found around the game's environment, the player would have only been able to carry a limited number of vigors into battle, with more powerful vigors containing fewer charges.
The game's "1999 Mode" was a result of a conversation that Levine had with a college student after speaking at a college during the latter stages of Infinite's development; the student explained his disappointment with BioShock in that none of the choices the player makes in that game has long-lasting impact. Levine agreed with this statement and realized that giving permanence to the player's choices would make the game more interesting. Design director Bill Gardener also acknowledged that their approach within BioShock was part of the general trend in gaming over the last decade due to streamlining of games. Irrational Games validated the inclusion using an informal survey from fans of the studio, with 57% responding positively towards the idea. Levine compared the 1999 Mode similar to the idea of selecting a character class, and specializations would be a mutually exclusive choice; opting to be proficient in pistols would leave the character struggling to use any other weapon type. Elements of resource management were also critical to Levine; while the player can revive Booker upon death within the game, this will cost resources, and potentially lead to a case where the player can no longer afford the revitalization, forcing the player to load a save game. Levine wanted to also capture the flavor of games like Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, where turning a corner carelessly could result in the character's death by a single bullet, creating a certain tension while traversing the level. The addition of the mode was late in the development cycle, requiring the Irrational Team to re-balance parts of the game for it, having to recall the design of "hard-core" games like System Shock 2 where the failure of the player would often lead to the game being over prematurely. The studio recognized that the average gamer would likely quit playing the game in such circumstances, and plan to hide access to the 1999 Mode in the game's menus, such as by using the Konami Code, as to prevent such gamers from accidentally stumbling upon it. The game was ultimately released with a variation on the Konami Code as the means to unlock 1999 Mode from the start, though the mode also becomes available after the player completes the game the first time.
Irrational Games has considered options for a multiplayer element, though Levine has stated that there will be no multiplayer shipped with the game. While the team has experimented with concepts for a multiplayer component, Levine has stated that they would only proceed forward if it had elements not otherwise found in multiplayer games like Halo. At least two multiplayer modes were examined but later scrapped by Irrational. One mode was a co-operative mini-game similar to tower defense having the player characters miniaturized within an old-time arcade machine to defend against waves of enemies. This mode was cancelled early on to focus on a four player co-operative mode tentatively titled "Spec-Ops", similar to the mode of the same name from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The four players would have worked their way through levels from the single player game to complete missions under certain requirements. Further development on "Spec-ops" has since been dropped. Additional material, such as locations, weapons, vigors, and other enemies, were also cut from the game as it neared publication and fine-tuned the experience; Irrational's Bill Gardner claims that enough material for five or six games were scrapped during this process.
After the previous installations of BioShock were found to have some issues with Microsoft Windows computers, Levine stated that they have a "dedicated group" to make sure that Infinite "feels at home on [Windows computers]". The retail Windows version will ship on three DVD discs to accommodate higher-resolution textures beyond the consoles versions, and will support video cards capable of running DirectX 11 in addition to DirectX 10, allowing for further graphical improvements to the game. Levine further stated that the Windows version, enabled by Steamworks, will not use additional digital rights management software such as Games for Windows - Live or SecuRom.
The original BioShock received some criticism from PlayStation 3 owners, who found the port from the native Windows and Xbox 360 developed by a separate studio, Digital Extremes, to be lackluster. To address this, Irrational Games has stated that the PlayStation 3 version of Infinite would not be a port, as that version is being developed in-house simultaneously with the Windows and Xbox 360 versions. In addition, the PlayStation 3 version of the game will support stereoscopic 3D. BioShock Infinite will support the PlayStation Move motion controller. Though some reports believed that a new Move controller would be produced for the game based on information from Sony, 2K Games debunked these stories, stating that no new hardware is being developed for the game. The North American PlayStation 3 version of the game will include a copy of the original BioShock. Levine has expressed interest in a Wii U version of Infinite in light of what abilities the touchscreen controller can offer, but contends that the decision to develop for that platform is "really a discussion that the business people have and see if it makes sense for Nintendo, if it makes sense for Take Two". Aspyr helped to port Infinite to the OS X platform and was released on August 29, 2013.
In August 2012, several high-level developers from Irrational that had been working on Infinite announced their departure from the company; these included art director Nate Wells, who began working with Naughty Dog, and director of product development Tim Gerritsen. At the same time, Irrational announced the addition of Rod Fergusson from Epic Games as their product director while Scott Sinclair, art director from the original Bioshock, replaced Wells. Levine stated that he still believes in the Infinite development team's capacity to complete the game as expected. Two further high-level departures occurred in October 2012: Don Norbury and Clint Bundrick, who were producers for the game's artificial intelligence and combat design, respectively; Irrational did not comment on these departures but asserted that the game was still scheduled for its February 2013 release.
Prior to its announcement on August 12, 2010, Irrational Games has used the moniker "Project Icarus" to describe their next game, creating a teaser site in late July 2010. Over the weeks leading to the announcement, the animation on the teaser site slowly built up to an animated infinity symbol on the day prior to the announcement. Initially, the game was announced for an October 2012 worldwide release in March 2012. In May 2012, the game's release was pushed back to February 26, 2013 to give the developers more time to polish the title, and appearances of the game for the 2012 E3 and Gamescon conventions were put on hold. Irrational announced a second delay in December 2012, pushing the title out an additional month to March 26, 2013; Levine stated this was a suggestion from Fergusson after coming onto the project, who believed the few extra weeks would help to assure the quality of the delivered game.
Two special editions were released alongside the game, for each release platform – Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The Special Edition includes an art book, a propaganda poster, a mini-figurine of the Handyman, a keychain, and the game's soundtrack, along with in-game codes for special powers and, for consoles, additional themes. The Ultimate Songbird edition, in addition to the above, includes a 9.5" statue of the Songbird, designed by Irrational's Robb Waters.
Three different covers for Game Informer's first preview of the game for its October 2010 issue were collaborations between Irrational and the magazine, envisioning what a video game magazine would be like in the early 20th century. Each cover, drawn by Irrational's Rob Waters, is inspired by the cover artwork from The Saturday Evening Post and includes fictional advertisements based on early 20th century variants, including one redrawn from a public domain ad. Kevin Gifford of Gamasutra praised these covers, commented that such a diversion for a game magazine cover represents a paradigm change, in that "developers are beginning to appreciate what magazines can do for their media strategy that online can't", and that because Game Informer does need to vie for space at newsstands, is able to take more creative approaches with such covers as opposed to cover layers designed to gain maximum exposure. Similarly, in its reveal of the first images of the player protagonist Booker, Electronic Games Monthly used a cover in homage to the Uncanny X-Men comic, Days of Future Past, another story dealing with alternate realities.
The game's first trailer was released alongside the game's full announcement, showcasing Columbia, the propaganda around the city, and Elizabeth and her powers. A second trailer for the game premiered at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards held in December of that year; in it, new scenes from the game are played during the song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?". This version of the song was sung by Elizabeth's voice actress, Courtnee Draper, while the backing guitar is played by Booker's actor, Troy Baker. While Levine had intended to use Draper for the vocals, Baker's role was happenstance; as Levine was working with Draper in the recording of the song, Baker offered up his abilities on the guitar, and the group spent several hours to exact the appropriate tone of the song. A version of this song, sung by both actors, is part of the game's soundtrack. Given the opportunity for a broadcast trailer, Levine wanted to create a mood piece, and centered the trailer around desolation of the workers in the factories of Columbia in the Finkton district, providing the basis for the creation of the Vox Populi. The trailer had received some criticism from religious groups, believing that its producers had purposely removed the word "Lord" from the song, but Levine pointed out that the original hymn, written in 1908, did not include the word; it was added in the Carter Family recording of "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)" in 1935.
A third trailer was released in October 2012, entitled "Beast of America". It initially shares similarities with the opening of BioShock, with Booker being taken to a lighthouse with instruction. From there, the trailer's first half shows in-game scenes of settings around Columbia representative of American Exceptionalism such as an amusement park, a public beach, and an ice-cream parlor, prior to demonstration many of the gameplay elements including the Skyhook and the Heavy Hitters. The trailer is set to Nico Vega's "Beast", which, as stated by Time's Matt Peckham notes, "excoriates American apathy, in so many words, '[planting] seeds for the Beast of America'". A fourth trailer, "City in the Sky", was released, showcasing many of the game's elements, including Columbia, Booker, Elizabeth, Songbird, and Comstock. The fifth trailer "The Lamb of Columbia", focuses more on Elizabeth, showing her importance to the war aboard Columbia, her potency of her powers, and how Booker comes to fear her.
A separate set of teaser trailers was released started in January 2013, and presented the history of Columbia in the style of shows like In Search Of..., an approach used by the television show Lost to demonstrate the history of the fictional Dharma Initiative. Within the trailers, presented as a film "Truth in Legend: Columbia – A Modern Day Icarus", the fictional host, Alistair Bloom, briefly narrates the mysteries of Columbia, such as its disappearance or the legend of Songbird.
The official game cover was revealed by Irrational Games in early December 2012; the art featured DeWitt against a burning flag with some other elements of the game. Several journalists were critical of the art, with the lack of any major elements from the game including Elizabeth, and lacking any of the uniqueness that BioShock Infinite had set itself to be prior to this point, such as through the Game Informer Saturday Evening Post-inspired covers. Erik Kain of Forbes considered the art "generic", while Owen Good of Kotaku considered it both "bland" and "cliché"; Gieson Cacho of the San Jose Mercury News noted that the cover was reminiscent of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, down to the pose of DeWitt matching that of Nathan Drake. Levine responded to these complaints commenting that they had decided to make the cover art something to draw the attention of the more casual player, "the uninformed, the person who doesn't read IGN" that may never have heard of the game, knowing that those players that are already planning to purchase the game do not need to be swayed further. A public poll was opened by Irrational to allow players to decide what the reversible cover art should be, while alternate cover art will be provided as downloadable files that players can print and use. Levine further showed the back cover art, which includes Elizabeth, an element further designed to draw interest in casual players. Levine stated that for the cover and other parts of the game's promotion including live-action commercials, they had hired Anna "Ormeli" Moleva, a Russian cosplayer that had earlier attracted attention for her recreation of Elizabeth back in September 2011.
Plaid Hat Games is set to publish a board game based on Infinite, entitled BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia, in which players take on the roles of the Founders or Vox Populi to battle each other for control of the city, while having to deal with the chaos created by Booker and Elizabeth. Irrational had approached Plaid Hat with the idea of the game, while Plaid Hat set out to create the game to avoid simply recreating the story from the video game but instead provide an alternative viewpoint of the events in the game and to allow players to develop their own stories as they play through it.
A prequel novella, Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt, authored by Levine and Joe Fielder, was made available as an e-book via Amazon.com in February 2013; the work is a reproduction of an in-universe research report entitled "The Psychology of Dissent: Interview with the Anarchist". The fictional report presents a series of interviews between its author, Dr. Francis Pinchot, and Daisy Fitzroy, the founder of the Vox Populi, during a period approximately seven years before the game's events where Fitzroy has been captured by the Founders. Dr. Pinchot, in conducting these interviews, seeks to understand the psychological nature of revolt from Fitzroy. The intent of the novella is to provide additional backstory for the player without revealing any of the game's deeper story, and upon completion of the game, "certain implications of the game and Pinchot's research resonate more", according to Levine.
Irrational ran a "Name in the Game" contest where the winning player would have their name included in the game in some manner, such as by a non-playable character, or the name of a shop or building. The winner eventually went to one "Payton Lane Easter" whom the business "Payton Lane Easter & Son" Business was named after.
BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution
Pre-orders of the game granted the purchaser with an accesscode to a browser-based puzzle game, BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution, developed in conjunction with Lazy 8 Studios. Irrational had concerns developing a pre-release puzzle game to tie into the retail title. Several of the Irrational team had played and enjoyed Lazy 8's steampunk-like Independent Games Festival-winning title, Cogs, and considered using them to build this pre-release game. Irrational believed the studio would be able to develop a game that would provide "challenging puzzles in a steampunk style", according to Lazy 8's founder, Rob Jagnow. The game's mechanics are a simplified version of the Cogs puzzles, and involve creating devices from basic machines like gears and pulleys to achieve a specific action; the game contains 59 such puzzles culled from more than 70. Lazy 8 focused on the gear puzzles as they were a fan-favorite from Cogs. Jagnow found through happenstance that the game's mechanics led to a "dual-space system" that may be challenging to the player. The game places the player as a mechanic aboard Columbia, who can align with either the Founders or the Vox Populi; decisions during the game's story on which side to support are permanent, even if the player attempts an earlier puzzle. Jagnow, who worked on the story under Irrational's guidance, wanted to have the player "constantly second-guess their decisions" on which side to support. Solving the steampunk-based puzzles grants the player unlockable items within the main BioShock Infinite game once it is released.
Two separate pieces of story-driven downloadable content (DLC) are expected to be made available following BioShock Infinite's release. The first is entitled Burial at Sea (Part One) was released on November 12, 2013. It takes place in Rapture, the underwater city that was the setting for the first two BioShock games. The content takes place on New Year's Eve in 1958, the night when war broke out in the city and a year prior to the events of the first BioShock game. A completely different Booker, and Elizabeth, are present as a film noir-like private detective and his client. If this is the same Elizabeth it appears that she retains all her memories from the main game, while this Booker is unaware of their prior relationship.
A third piece of content is Clash in the Clouds, a non-story, arena-based combat mode where the player is faced with increasingly difficult waves of enemies on various maps based on in-game settings. The player earns in-game money that they can use at a central hub to buy new vigors, upgrade weapons and vigors, and unlock character models, concept art, kinetoscopes, and music. Various challenges in the form of blue ribbons are given to the player, such as by killing foes with specific weapon and vigor combinations. The content was released on July 30, 2013.
Additionally, new weapons, gear, costumes, and vigors will also be made available as extra content; for example, part of the reward for completing the Industrial Revolution puzzle game included such weapons and gear. A season pass is available to pre-purchase all planned downloadable content for a reduced price. Columbia was featured as a stage in fighting game PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and is seen in the background along with a blimp and a Songbird in another stage. BioShock Infinite outfits for LittleBigPlanet games were released in March 2013.
One week after it was announced by Irrational Games, BioShock Infinite was exhibited on Gamescom 2010. The game received its first awards there, winning IGN's Game of the Show and Best Xbox 360 Game awards. It was nominated for Most Anticipated Game by the Spike Video Game Awards three consecutive times in 2010, 2011, and 2012. BioShock Infinite was also on display for the general video game audience at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 (E3 2011), where it was heavily awarded, winning over 85 editorial awards, 39 of which were Game of Show awards. The game won in all four categories it was nominated for by the Game Critics Awards, winning for Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best PC Game, and Best Action/Adventure Game.
|List of notable pre-release awards and nominations for BioShock Infinite|
BioShock Infinite received critical acclaim upon release. Reviewers singled out the story, setting and visual aesthetics as the main standouts, and favorably compared the game to the first BioShock, with some critics even considering that Infinite had surpassed it. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave BioShock Infinite an average rating of 95.94% based on 17 reviews for the PlayStation 3 version, 92.62% based on 39 reviews for the PC version, and 91.89% based on 27 reviews for the Xbox 360 version. Metacritic gave the game a score of 94/100 from 27 critics for the PlayStation 3 version, 94/100 from 68 critics for the PC version, and 93/100 from 33 critics for the Xbox 360 version, with all three platform versions of the game considered to be of "universal acclaim".
Heavy acclaim was directed to the story, with several reviewers lauding it as one of the best in video-gaming. Destructoid's Jim Sterling hailed BioShock Infinite as "one of those rare games with a perfect beginning, an engaging middle, and a perfect end," while Mike Wehner of The Escapist praised it as "a breathtaking achievement in videogame storytelling." The New York Times' Chris Suellentrop declared the game "confirmation that in the hands of the right creators, video games are the most sophisticated form of not just interactive entertainment, but of multimedia storytelling as well," with Lou Kesten of the The Boston Globe concluding that it "sets a new standard for video-game storytelling." The plot's twist ending was widely praised, with reviewers predicting that it would provoke debate, and that it would leave a deep impression on players, prompting them to replay the game immediately. Reviewers also generally agreed that Infinite's ending was more satisfactory than BioShock's, with Joel Gregory of PlayStation Official Magazine explaining that, unlike the original Bioshock game, Infinite never lost momentum after revealing its twist. After the game's release, several video-gaming publications released articles explaining and debating the nature of the story's ending.
Reviewers particularly acclaimed the city of Columbia as the setting of the game. Polygon's Arthur Gies stated that the setting was "one of BioShock Infinite's greatest assets," with Andrew Fitch of Electronic Gaming Monthly believing Columbia to be "the most intriguing, fascinating [and] enthralling setting" ever seen in video games. Sterling felt that, unlike BioShock 2, Infinite made a wise decision in abandoning Rapture "for an all new story in an all new setting, introducing us to the cloud city of Columbia." IGN's Ryan McCaffrey praised the setting as a "stunning original world of retro-sci-fi technology and gorgeous scenery," and complimented the fact that Columbia had "its own history and hierarchy." The setting's visual design and attention to detail also drew praise, with several reviewers lauding Columbia as a "beautiful" world. Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar and McCaffrey were impressed at how diverse the environments were, both noting how no two of Columbia's many different areas ever "feel alike." Reviewers also praised the way at how the detailed world encouraged them to explore more of Columbia, with Game Informer's Joe Juba adding "whether you’re looking at a piece of propaganda, listening to an audio log, or participating in a horrifying raffle, almost everything you encounter contributes to your understanding of the floating world."
Elizabeth's role in the gameplay and narrative was well received. Her implementation as an AI partner for the player-controlled Booker was described by Sullivan to be "downright ingenious," and was stated by Fitch and McCaffrey to be the main aspect that separated Infinite from its predecessors. Special praise was given not only to Elizabeth's ability to take care of herself in combat, but also for actively assisting the player by finding ammo and health, and opening tears. Reviewers acknowledged Elizabeth as not just a combat partner, but also as a companion that invoked an emotional response from the player. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell believed that the game "creates a familial bond" between Elizabeth and the player, with Sullivan stating that she felt like "a friend." McCaffrey explained that Elizabeth "provides motivation and moves the story forward," and felt that her presence in the game added "emotional depth," something he believed the first BioShock lacked. Several reviewers also praised Elizabeth's relationship and interactions with Booker, believing that they formed the core of Infinite's story; Official Xbox Magazine's Mikel Reparaz explained that "the evolving interplay between her and Booker is the heart and soul of what makes BioShock Infinite such an involving, memorable experience."
The gameplay's combat system received a more divided response from critics. Gregory stated that Infinite's combat was "more flexible and expressive" than the previous BioShock games, and praised the vigors for their experimental nature. He also felt that the expanded environments made fights "truly exhilarating", and hailed the addition of the Skylines a "real game-changer." McCaffrey praised the game's "myriad combat options," and called the vigors "a useful toolset [...] particularly in their impressively powerful upgraded forms." Reserving special praise for the Skyline, he complimented the freedom of movement it offered and believed that it made the combat "nimble in the truest sense of the word." Juba also praised the combat, adding that it "on the whole is fun and satisfying." He explained that "the upgradeable weapons and abilities – augmented by the skylines and Elizabeth’s powers – give players plenty of space to develop their own style of play." GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd agreed, complimenting the upgrades for making the player feel more powerful, and praised the way vigors and skyline rails made the action more fluid and exciting. In contrast, Reparaz expressed his disappointment at fact that Infinite limited the player to only two weapons, feeling that the game's combat was "not quite up to BioShock's high standards." He explained that compared to "the big arsenals of creative weapons that can receive outlandish upgrades" of the previous BioShock games, Infinite was "less inventive." Juba also noted that, excluding in the 1999 mode, death was only a "meager penalty," with Reparaz explaining that since "[the player will] almost instantly be revived, and any surviving adversaries will be only partially healed," it is "often possible to throw strategy to the wind and simply brute-force your enemies until you outlast them." VideoGamer.com's Steven Burns criticized the combat for being tiresome, blaming its repetitive nature and lack of escalation. He also complained that the tears were underused and "gimmicky."
Many reviewers favorably compared the game to the first BioShock, with some even believing that Infinite had surpassed it. Joystiq's Xav de Matos hailed Infinite as "undoubtedly the finest game crafted by Irrational Games," with Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb stating "it's clear that Infinite is a far better game than its predecessor." Bramwell stated that Infinite was a "more complete and polished story" than its predecessor, with Sterling explaining that "as an overall story, many portions of Infinite surpass the original BioShock in terms of depth and engagement." D+PAD Magazine's Dave Stuart called Infinite a "worthy step up from the original Bioshock," while Reparaz felt that it was "just as — if not more — unforgettable" as the original BioShock. After playing the game, McCaffrey admitted that he was forced to seriously question whether it was better than the first BioShock, and concluded that "Infinite comes through as a true, worthy follow-up to BioShock." Juba praised Infinite as a "fresh vision" that "redefines what the BioShock name means," and believed that, unlike BioShock 2, it succeeded in "replicating the achievements of the original BioShock." Machinima's Adam Kovic felt that Infinite was "a bigger story, more polished experience" than its predecessor, and concluded that "when the history of videogames is written, not one, but two BioShocks will be remembered."
BioShock Infinite was praised in several reviews as one of the greatest games of the seventh generation era. Xbox 360 Achievements' Dan Webb stated it "is not only one of the best story-driven games of all time, it's one of the best games we've ever played full stop," with Daniel Verlaan of Gamer.nl hailing Infinite as not "just one of the best games of 2013, but also of the twenty-first century." AusGamers' Steve Farrelly named the game "the Ocarina of Time of this generation," while Sullivan considered it to be a "landmark experience that happens only a few times in a gaming generation." Gamestyle's Bradley Marsh praised Infinite as "one of this generations great games," while James Cullinane of Gameplanet labelled it "one of the finest games to be released this generation." Gamer.no's Espen Jansen and LaPS3's Jose Luis González both believed Infinite to be "one of the best games" of this generation, with Burns opining that it was "one of the most compelling games of this generation." PlayStation Universe's Adam Dolge acclaimed Infinite "as one of the best first-person shooters ever made," whereas Jorge Arellano of LevelUp praised it as "one of the best FPS of this generation." Metro's David Jenkins touted the game as "the most successful mix of storytelling and action this generation of gaming has ever seen," while de Matos stated that Infinite was "one of the best told stories of this generation." Identifying it as a "masterpiece that will be discussed for years to come," Gregory concluded that Infinite was the latest game to join the "hallowed ranks" of Half-Life, Deus Ex and BioShock as "the apotheosis of the narrative-driven shooter."
In its first week of release, BioShock Infinite was the best-selling game on Steam's digital Top 10 PC Charts. In the United States, BioShock Infinite was the top-selling console game for March 2013, with more than 878,000 units sold; these figures do not include digital sales such as through Steam. During the first week of sales in the United Kingdom, BioShock Infinite debuted as the number one selling PC game, and the best-selling game on all available formats, topping the UK PC Retail Sales and the UK All Formats video games charts. In the game's opening week in the UK, its Xbox 360 version ranked #1, PlayStation 3 version ranked #2, and the PC version ranked #9 in the UK Individual Formats video games charts, due to 64 percent of its sales being on the Xbox 360, 31 percent on the PlayStation 3, and 5 percent on PC. As of April 2, 2013, it is currently the second biggest launch of 2013 in the UK after Tomb Raider, and is the biggest UK game launch in the BioShock franchise's history with approximately 9000 more sales than BioShock 2. During the game's second week in the UK, despite a 75 percent drop in sales, BioShock Infinite maintained its lead in the UK All Formats charts. In its third week, Infinite became the first 2013 game to top the UK charts for three weeks in a row. Take Two reported that the game has shipped 3.7 million copies to retail by their May 2013 financial report, and surpassed 4 million in late July.
Awards and accolades
At the 2013 Golden Joystick Awards, BioShock Infinite won for Best Visual Design, while Ken Levine received a Lifetime Achievement award for his contributions to video-gaming; the game also received nominations for: Game of the Year, Best Storytelling, Studio of the Year (Irrational Games), and Best Gaming Moment for the "Hallelujah" scene. The game received nine nominations at the 2013 Spike VGX awards including Game of the Year, and won for Best Shooter, Best Song in a Game ("Will the Circle Be Unbroken?") and Character of the Year (The Lutece Twins).
BioShock Infinite has appeared on several "Best Games" lists by various video-gaming publications. GamesRadar placed the game at number 11 on its list of "The Best Video Game Stories Ever" in July 2013. On September 12, 2013, Infinite was ranked 31st on IGN's list of the "Top 100 First-Person Shooters". IGN later placed the game at number 12 on its list of "The Top 25 Xbox 360 Games" on September 20, 2013. On November 4, 2013, Infinite was ranked at joint 25th place on Eurogamer's list of the "Games of the Generation: The Top 50". Hardcore Gamer placed the game at number 12 on their "Top 100 Games of the Generation" list on November 8, 2013. Complex ranked Infinite 20th on its list of "The Greatest Xbox 360 Video Games of the Last Generation" on November 22, 2013. On November 28, 2013, PlayStation Universe placed the game at 8th place on its list of "The Top 100 Games Of The PS3 Generation".
|List of awards and nominations for BioShock Infinite|
- It is not clear if this is the same Rapture from either of the previous two Bioshock games.
- The game does not clarify if this is the same version of Booker that the player has played as, or a Booker from a different alternate reality.
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- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Downtown Emporia. (2013-03-26) Rosalind Lutece (via Voxophone) - "I had trapped the atom in the mid-air. Colleagues called my Lutece Field quantum levitation, but in fact, it was nothing of the sort. Magicians levitate - my atom simply failed to fall. If an atom could be suspended indefinitely, well-- why not an apple? If an apple, why not a city?"
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- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Finkton Proper / Good Time Club. (2013-03-26) Zachary Hale Comstock (via Voxophone) - "To tax the black more than the white, is that not cruel? To forbid the mixing of the races, is that not cruel? To give the vote to the white man, and deny it to the yellow, the black, the red-- is that not cruel? Hm. But is it not cruel to banish your children from a perfect garden? Or drown your flock under an ocean of water? Cruelty can be instructive, and what is Columbia, if not the schoolhouse of the Lord?"
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Soldier's Field. (2013-03-26) Daisy Fitzroy (via Voxophone) - "Days at Comstock House was simple. Hard work, sure, but simple. Wringin' the linens, scrubbing the floors... Lady Comstuck, she even had a kind word, now and then. Almost enough to make me think I had a place in their world. God made foolish girls so HE could have something to play with."
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- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Raffle Square. (2013-03-26) Jeremiah Fink (via Voxophone) - "I told you, Comstock – you sell ‘em paradise, and the customers expect cherubs for every chore! No menials in God’s kingdom! Well, I’ve a man in Georgia who’ll lease us as many Negro convicts as you can board! Why, you can say they’re simple souls, in penance for rising above their station. Whatever eases your conscience, I suppose."
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Finkton Docks. (2013-03-26) Daisy Fitzroy - "There's already a fight, DeWitt. Only question is, whose side are you on? Comstock is the god of the white man, the rich man, the pitiless man. But if you believe in common folk, then join the Vox. If you believe in the righteous folk, then join the Vox."
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- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Emporia. (2013-03-26) Rosalind Lutece (via Voxophone) - "Brother, what Comstock failed to understand is that our contraption is a window not into prophecy, but probability. But his money means the Lutece Field cannot become the Lutece Tear -- a window between worlds. A window through which you and I might finally be together."
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: The Factory. (2013-03-26) Jeremiah Fink (via Voxophone) - "These holes have shown me yet another wonder, though I've yet to see the application for it. They illuminate a merger of machine and man that is somehow the lesser, yet the greater, of both parties. The process seems to be irreversible. Perhaps, though, Comstock will have some need of this kind of thing to keep watch in that tower of his."
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Downtown Emporia. (2013-03-26) Jeremiah Fink (via Voxophone) - "Dear brother, these holes in the thin air continue to pay dividends. I know not which musician you borrow your notes from, but if he has half the genius of the biologist I now observe, well...then you are to be the Mozart of Columbia."
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- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Welcome Center. (2013-03-26) Zachary Hale Comstock (via Voxophone): And then, the archangel showed a vision: a city, lighter than air. I asked her, 'Why do you show this to me, archangel? I'm not a strong man. I'm not a righteous man. I am not a holy man.' And she told me the most remarkable thing: "You're right, Prophet. But if grace is within the grasp of one such as you, how can anyone else not see it in themselves?"
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Downtown Emporia. (2013-03-26) Lady Comstock (via Voxophone): Tonight, the Prophet moved against his political enemies. He preaches mercy, but forty souls lie tonight dead, in unmarked graves. If a man was ever unworthy of grace, it would be my husband. But when I was beyond redemption, he offered it anyway. How can I deny forgiveness to one who, with love, granted it to me?
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Bull House Impound. (2013-03-26) Daisy Fitzroy (via Voxophone): They argued somethin' fierce at night—Lady Comstock and the Prophet. Could never make out what it was about from my bunk, though. After the worst, I see she ain't left for morning prayer...so I crept upstairs to check in on her. And like a fool...I lingered. "Scullery maid" was what they called me when I walked into Comstock House. "Murderer" was what they shouted when I ran out.
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: The Hall of Heroes. (2013-03-26) Daisy Fitzroy (via Voxophone): The one thing people need to learn is that fear is the antidote to fear. I don't want to be a part of their world. I don't want to be a part of their culture, their politics, their people. The sun is setting on their world, and soon enough, all they gon'[na] see...is the dark.
- Irrational Games. BioShock Infinite. (2K Games). Level/area: Downtown Emporia. (2013-03-26) Rosalind Lutece (via Voxophone): Comstock has sabotaged our contraption. Yet, we are not dead. A theory: we are scattered amongst the possibility space. But my brother and I are together, and so, I am content. He is not. The business with the girl lies unresolved. But perhaps there is one who can finish it in our stead.
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