Bioshock Infinite is the next blockbuster videogame

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Monday at 11:59 p.m., fans of the video game series “Bioshock” will be closer than ever to getting their hands on a copy of the series’ much-anticipated third installment, “Bioshock Infinite.” Many of those fans will be gathered at launch parties in GameStop stores throughout the United States and Canada, including select GameStop locations in Austin. 

Shayla Mattson, assistant manager of the Ben White Boulevard GameStop location, said she expects more than 150 people to attend the store’s midnight launch for the game. 

“It’s gotten over 85 awards and it’s supposed to be amazing,” Mattson said of the game. 

The game, which The New York Times reported earlier this week took a team of 200 more than four years and $100 million to complete, swept up every award it was nominated for at the 2012 E3 game convention, including Best in Show. Though Irrational Games, the studio behind “Infinite,” has released a series of trailers for the game, the reviews are just now trickling out from gaming sites including IGN, and they are so consistently gushing that it’s hard to tell the difference between promotional materials and press. 

Though it’s only thematically connected to the first “Bioshock” game, the success of the original title has left “Infinite” with big shoes to fill. “Bioshock,” which, like “Bioshock Infinite,” is a first-person shooter, literally submerges players in an underwater world where they navigate a dreary, highly stylized fallen city called Rapture. The plotline of the game culls inspiration from Ayn Rand — one of the main characters is even named Atlas — and deals with themes of class warfare.    

If that all sounds a little heavier than what you expect from a shooter, then you understand the pressure on Irrational Games to create an interesting and intricate game. The original “Bioshock” was praised for its morality-based plotline, which took into account a player’s actions toward other characters in the game. In other words, shoot a good guy to get ahead, and the game’s characters and plot will treat you like you’ve made a morally dubious choice. Defend an innocent character, and you’ll be treated as if you’ve made a good choice. 

If the trailer is any indication, “Bioshock Infinite” doesn’t stray away from the themes of the series’ original title. Set in the fictional floating city of Columbia circa 1912, the game follows a former Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt, on a quest to save Elizabeth, a young woman with supernatural powers who has spent her life imprisoned by a creature called Songbird.

“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt. That was the deal,” a grizzled voice says at the beginning of the trailer, which goes on to showcase several minutes of colorful violence inflicted with steam-punk-inspired weapons. All this, in typical “Bioshock” style, happens against a richly realized city stuffed with detail. 

Ken Levine, the Creative Director of “Bioshock,” seems to have fully realized the city of Columbia, which in the game was created by the U.S. Government as a showcase for the World’s Fair but seceded after political turmoil broke out on board. Lost for years, it has simply floated away into the sky. 

Levine, however, doesn’t seem to have put much thought into breaking the annoying “damsel in distress” trope that so often defines videogame plotlines. In a promotional trailer about the making of the character Elizabeth, Amanda Jeffrey, a level designer at Irrational Games, points out that one of the most impressive things about the character is that “she will be by your side, no matter what you end up doing,” Levine said. “She really is the emotional center of the game.” 

Whether or not that emotional center rises above the familiar cliches is, like the city of Columbia, up in the air. 

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Much-anticipated Bioshock Infinite expected to thrill gamers".