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Hands On: BioShock Infinite Featured

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For four hours we have spent time in the mysterious and dangerous floating city of Columbia.  Riding sky rails, playing with magical Vigors and trying to get our head around the ideology, iconography and, well, weaponry of BioShock Infinite.

Down we went, past signs restricting unauthorised personnel beyond this point, through a number of corridors and gates to the Vault.  Here our 2K Game’s PR folks force open a heavy foot thick door and offer us to enter.  Down further stairs to a room decked with Alienware PC’s and screens providing a room illuminated by the BioShock Infinite menu.

Even for a journalist who has played many games over the years, the prospect of playing the third major release in the BioShock series from Irrational games, is to be honest, exciting enough to bypass any trepidation induced by the location.

It is 1912 Booker DeWitt is a former Pinkerton National Detective Agency agent finds himself on a rowboat in a mild rainstorm with two mysterious, and talkative folks who hand him a box with a simple instruction, rescue a girl to “wipe the debt clean”.  Ok, no problem, let’s do it.

Via a classic “BioShock” opening scene DeWitt lands on Columbia, the city in the sky, launched in 1901 but seceded from the USA following an international incident; the heavily armed floating city having fired upon Chinese civilians during the Boxer Revolution in China.  For the past decade Columbia has vanished from the minds and vision of those below.    

DeWitt finds all this out via Kinetoscopes scattered within the city, but this is after the opening scenes set up the details of the personality cult developed by Zachary Hale Comstock, Columbia’s founder and to the faithful, known as the Prophet.  Also revered by this demi-religious sect, are Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  And later, a statue of John Wilkes Booth, Abe Lincoln's assassin looms large in hero form.

It is like stepping into Disneyland, the Worlds Fare feel of a Columbia in peace and sunshine is a pleasant, joyous environment on the surface.  You can play the arcade games (not Frogger, or Space Invaders), listen to the conversations of well-dressed gentlefolk and soak up the carnival atmosphere.

But DeWitt soon finds out this utopia hides a racist and fascist core.  Winning a raffle, DeWitt (or at least me) must decide to pitch a baseball at either the slimy spruiker, or the interracial couple dragged onto stage, the obviously intended target for the raffle winner.

Either way, from this point on, no more Disneyland.  Noticing the ‘AD’ tattooed on your right hand – apparently the sign of the ‘False Prophet’ – the guards and general populace of Columbia become hostile, time to try out the weaponry of BioShock.

During our hands on, guns wise we managed to try out five, the quite effective pistol, SMG, very damaging carbine, a sniper rifle and RPG – all are very forgiving, causing critical hits a bit too easily.  Damage numbers from foes flow from their bodies reminiscent of Borderlands (an option I am told is able to be turned off).

Killing a pyromaniac gives us our first taste of Vigors (the forerunner to Bioshock’s Plasmids).  Most Vigors in the game have alternate ‘trap’ power-up options, so we were able to fling fireballs at the hapless constabulary, or set a firey booby trap for later on.

Apart from fireballs, the aptly named Murder of Crows is a great way to distract and harm groups of enemies, Bucking Bronco can cause enemies to rise into the air, helpless, but the most fun was to be had with Possession.  As seen in games such as Dishonored, a powered up Possession will get enemies to fight for you and turrets to attack foes.  Mayhem ensues.  



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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.