BioShock Infinite for PS3: Gameplay Q&A with Ken Levine, New Screens

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Last week, Irrational Games introduced BioShock Infinite to the world with a startling cinematic trailer set in the clouds far above Earth. Since then, I’ve seen BioShock Infinite in action, and the first-person gameplay featured numerous hallmarks of BioShock as well as intriguing new elements.

BioShock Infinite for PS3BioShock Infinite for PS3

In the gameplay scenario I saw, protagonist Booker DeWitt explored the floating city of Columbia before battling a large mob of murderous Columbian citizens using shotguns and hunting rifles. Booker wielded supernatural powers as well, hurling lightning, telekinesis, and flesh-eating crows ala Hitchcock’s The Birds. After locating Elizabeth, the mysterious young woman at the heart of Columbia’s internal conflict, Booker’s powers grew exponentially. Channeled through Elizabeth, lightning bolts became swirling thunderstorms and telekinesis ripped the environment to tatters.

I spoke with Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine to learn more about BioShock Infinite’s gameplay, similarities and differences compared to the original BioShock, and how the suspended city of Columbia presents new opportunities for first-person combat.

BioShock Infinite for PS3

Sid Shuman: You often described BioShock as a shooter first and foremost. Do you consider BioShock Infinite to be a pure shooter? Has it evolved?

Ken Levine, Creative Director, Irrational Games: One of the reasons we were so specific about defining BioShock as a shooter was because it was so strange. It was such an odd beast that we thought [defining it as a shooter] helped ground people’s understanding of what they’d be doing. But I think people now understand what BioShock is, so I’m less focused on that now. People understand that it’s a shooter, but that it’s a particular kind of shooter that’s unique to what Irrational Games and what we do. It’s a shooter that has quite a lot of expressiveness outside of the shooting as well.

SS: On the combat side, will you be keeping somewhat consistent with the ground rules and basic mechanics of BioShock?

KL: The previous games gave players a lot of tools, but there was a tendency for encounters to have a lot of similarities: narrow corridors and one or two enemies. So the tendency was for tools like the Electro-Bolt and shotgun to be commonly used because they were extremely effective. So the sniper rifle weapon (the crossbow) and the area-of-effect attacks were less effective and less used.

We wanted to make sure we had a broad range of weapons and powers [for BioShock Infinite], and that the environments and challenges demanded those weapons and powers. So there are a ton of interior spaces in the game that will feel like a traditional BioShock spaces, very intimate. But we also focus on spaces that are quite different from what you’ve seen in a BioShock game: huge, open, outdoor spaces with broad ranges. And instead of one or two enemies, you might fight 15 enemies at one point.

BioShock Infinite for PS3: SaltinstallBioShock Infinite for PS3: Columbia Skylines

We’re using an entirely new graphics engine — there’s no shared code or assets with any previous BioShock game, though it’s based on Unreal 3.0 technology. The reason we had to go with a new engine, and one of the reasons development has taken awhile, is because we couldn’t do what we wanted to do otherwise. We couldn’t do this kind of scale, or the scenes on the Skylines where you’re in combat while traveling at 60 miles per hour, or scenes where you’re fighting 15 enemies at once.

And something like a sniper rifle now make a lot of sense! It becomes meaningful now that we’ve changed the dynamics of the environment. Vertical movement across big, broad spaces and multiple enemies who work together against you — these are things you haven’t seen in a BioShock game before.

SS: Who’s the hulking character in the trailer, the one who looks a bit like the Big Daddy from BioShock?

KL: He’s what we call an “Alpha,” I wouldn’t view him as a new Big Daddy. Internally, we refer to three classes of characters: Alphas, Betas, and Gammas. Betas are the more traditional BioShock enemy who sees you and attacks right away. Gammas sort of do their own thing and may get drawn into combat. The Alphas are a class of badasses in the city who are very powerful on their own, but also can augment the abilities of other characters — they can act as leaders for them. We’ll be releasing more information on how they actually work later, but generally, they’re tougher and will work in a strategic fashion with other characters.

BioShock Infinite for PS3

SS: It wouldn’t appear that Adam and Plasmids play a role in this universe, and yet we see Plasmid-like abilities, including powers that look like Telekinesis and Electro-Bolt…

KLYou’ve seen a range of powers, and some are intentionally familiar because we wanted to show how they are differently applied in this world, and how they interact with Elizabeth. What Elizabeth brings to the table is her narrative role as a character who is with you. Elizabeth provides opportunities to do things on a grander scale, but none of it will get in the way of you approaching the game with your own tools.

SS: Elizabeth has been trapped in Columbia since she was five. Is she a constant companion during gameplay?

KLShe will be coming in and out of the story at various points. There’s a character who is very focused on keeping the two of you separated. There are various events that bring the two of you together, or pull you apart, during the course of the story.

SS: I saw a poster for “Saltinstalli.” Who is that? Is he a political figure?

KL: Yes, he’s a political figure in Columbia. He’s representative of a certain point of a view in the city — a prevalent point of view. When you first encounter him, he’s giving a speech to nobody.

Comments are closed.


5 Author Replies

  • I know its a long way off, but I am very excited for this game.

  • This is a really interesting 3rd installment, but it’s lookin’ awesome.

  • Looking forward to this!

  • Just bought BioShock 2, but can’t wait for Infinite. I like how they are totally starting fresh with new locales and abilities.

    • Based on the gameplay demo I watched, it has some basic similarities in the weapons and special abilities. But you’re fighting far more enemies, the physics-based destruction is on a much larger scale, and the Skyline segments introduce a lot of speed and wide-open areas. Similar in some ways, very different in others.

  • Can’t wait for some gameplay vids. The Alpha enemies sound cool.

    • The Irrational Games guys say a gameplay video is coming at some point, so we’ll be sure to share it when it’s live!

  • Hey Sid, when will the trailer go up on PSN? It seems like it should have gone up as soon as it was announced.

  • 2012…man that’s ages away.

  • 2012!!!! cant F wait!!!!!

  • Leave it to Levine and company to hook me on the lore of a new game way before it’s out. I thoroughly enjoyed the second Bioshock, but it will be nice to see another story that’s crafted on the level of the first title, which Irrational also created.

  • 2012…. So this is what brings the apocalypse

  • The most important question I’d ask is: will the PS3 version of the Bioshock Infinite be as blurry in 1080p mode as the Bioshock 2, and whether we’ll have to switch manually our PS3s to 720p in order to get a more or less sharp image, and whether the transparency effects will look as horrible as they do in Bioshock 2…

  • i want to know what is that city they show in the trailer, “1893 chicago world´s fair” and you can see a Big Daddy with the drill. maybe Andrew Ryan comes from that city to make Rapture :0

  • Hey sid, if u can answer this, will u guys be fixing the emulation issues for PSone classics such as resident evil 3: nemesis which FREEZES after a certain point in the game, i apologize for spamming, I didn’t want to wait to ask this in a more proper blog plus I am looking forward to Bioshock 3 on my 360.

  • Can’t wait! Coming from the makers of BioShock this looks promising. I didn’t bother with BioShock 2 (no relations).

  • Oh lawdy… I am literally playing BioShock 2 right now. Bioshock one was really sweet, and Bio 2 is better. Hopefuly this one is awesome too

  • A water city, now an air city; I can only assume the latter half of the 2010’s will have us exploring a fire city inside a volcano :)

    Safe to guess nationalism, isolationism and anti-immigrant sentiment will be center stage thematically in Infinite?

  • @13 Same here while multi-player fits some games I hate when it is forced, I cannot wait for this one, and I hope you guys do not go the multi-player route.

  • Yeah multiplayer caused 2K nothing but headache and REALLY bad PR, and dragged 2K’s good name in the mud.

    Please, no multiplayer. Make it an awesome SP + DLC

  • It is a long time until release so I’m trying not to get too hyped for this but you guys are making it difficult.

  • Let’s stop talking about this please. Q4 2011 is soooo far away. My guts hurt. Unbelieveably excited Mr Levine is at the helm, again.

  • Sorry…2012, even worse…..

  • great interview. I hope its true that they’re going to make an effort for all of the weapons to be useful in combat, as in both Bioshock 1 & 2 I’ve stuck to the close range weapons as the speargun/crossbow was useless

  • this lookes sick dont got eny others but i mite get this!

  • I haven’t even played the first two yet, but wow this makes me so excited! I am going to the store right now to get the ps3 version of the first!!!

  • That trailer we saw last week made me play bioshock 1 because it looks awesome. I’m not far into bioshock 1 but so far its good

  • Looks fun. Still haven’t gotten through Bioshock1 but this makes me want to dig it back out. I love how different yet similair it looks.

  • Bioshock didn’t need a 2nd game, let alone a “3rd”. This sort of sequelitis typifies what is wrong with publishers at the moment. Not enough ideas and too much regurgitation. A reboot? For a franchise that is only a couple of years old? Really?

  • Nice to see that there’s a focus on making all of the weapons and plasmids useful — I completely forgot there was a crossbow in Bioshock because I’ve used it so little, and this is coming from a person who’s beaten the game somewhere between 6 and 10 times.

    I can see what people are saying about how Irrational should move on and develop a fresh IP, but the economy is poor and not only are the developers looking for a safe bet, but so are the consumers. The Bioshock name brings that to the table. Between the System Shock games and the two previous Bioshock games, Irrational has perfected a hybridized form of the FPS, coupling unique gameplay elements with great storytelling that gamers can rely on. And who knows? Maybe Bioshock: Infinite will be the same sort of great leap forward that Bioshock was (and Bioshock 2 arguably wasn’t) — maybe we should wait until we’ve got more than a few screenshots to peek at before we start running our mouths.

  • i feel that the Bioshock story isnt about Rapture or any particular city or outcome but the story of gene munipulation and mans attempt to evolve fast. i could be wrong but if ya scrap away all the visuals, little sisters and big daddies were left with a story about scientist atempting to alter our dna. plasmids and splicing all falls in line with the theme, aswelll as adam and eve. Its the theme that sticks out strongest to me Gene munipulation. i loved 1 & 2 and im guaranteed to love infinte…

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