BioShock Infinite: 10-minute gameplay video, Ken Levine talks combat

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You’ve seen the debut trailer for BioShock Infinite. You’ve read Creative Director Ken Levine’s thoughts on expanding the award-winning formula of BioShock from the murky depths of Rapture to the soaring heights of Columbia. You’ve even bookmarked the 10 Things You Should Know About BioShock Infinite article on

What’s left? Watching 10 uninterrupted minutes of BioShock Infinite gameplay video, of course. Get to it!

Irrational Games’ Ken Levine was good enough to return to the PlayStation.Blog and answer more questions about BioShock Infinite’s gameplay. While nitty-gritty details such as control layouts and weapon arsenals are still over the horizon — the game isn’t due out until 2012, after all — Levine was able to shed light on a host of topics including the rollercoaster ride that is Sky-Line combat, long-range sniping in Columbia’s broad vistas, and how the mysterious companion Elizabeth makes for a potent partner.

Sid Shuman: How does BioShock Infinite build on and evolve the classic gameplay of BioShock? What were your broad goals?

Ken Levine, Creative Director, BioShock Infinite: Players had access to a lot of different tools in BioShock, but the game’s deliberately claustrophobic environments and relatively low enemy counts meant that a lot of combat encounters ended up playing out in similar ways. There were plenty of opportunities for players to make fuller use of their toolset, but it was also possible to just take the path of least resistance much of the time–which usually meant Electro-Bolt and shotgun.

In BioShock Infinite, we want the range of combat encounters to live up to the diverse toolset of weapons and powers. There are, of course, those small scale BioShock-esque interiors. But there are also the breathtaking, expansive outdoor locations you would expect in a huge floating city. Instead of just fighting a few enemies at once, you could be facing more than a dozen. Area effect weapons matter because you might face many enemies at once, and crowd control abilities matter because there are crowds to control.

SS: How do the crowds of enemies change BioShock Infinite’s combat style and pacing?

KL: There’s a famous saying: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That’s kind of how it was in the original BioShock. You walked down a tight, restricted corridor with Electrobolt in one hand and a shotgun in the other, and that was an effective way to deal with most of the enemies. There are obviously going to be some different weapons in BioShock Infinite, and also more weapons. You’re not going to be restricted to just the eight weapons of your radial.

One of the reasons we wanted to really expand the scale of the environment and the number of enemies was to create situations where certain tools would have clear strengths and weaknesses based upon what you were up against. There is no perfect combination or an ideal set of tools, and there’s going to be a larger variety of weapons and powers. We wanted to show that even familiar weapons like the shotgun are not always the right tool for the job. And the sniper rifle–unlike BioShock’s crossbow–actually has a specific function because of the extreme scale of our environments.

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Shotgun

SS: Not all of Columbia’s citizens are automatically hostile to your presence. How does this affect BioShock Infinite gameplay? Can you influence them to help you in any way?

KL: Columbia is much more alive and vibrant than Rapture. In BioShock, Rapture was functional to a degree, but its population was pretty far gone. Columbia is a city that hasn’t completely collapsed. As you saw in the demo, people won’t necessarily attack you on sight.

BioShock games are shooters, but they aren’t just shooters. A lot of what players loved about the original BioShock was exploring Rapture and uncovering the secrets of its past. That’s something we want to take even further with Columbia in BioShock Infinite, and part of achieving that is increasing the types of interactions the player has with characters and the world.

SS: The telekinesis-like ability seen in the new video appears to be much improved since BioShock. How will players be able to use it to their advantage during combat?

KL: If there is a power that’s similar to previous BioShock games, you can be certain it’s been enhanced in a meaningful way. For instance, the power you discussed allows you not just the ability to grab objects from foes and pick up objects in the world — as you saw, you can do things like turn somebody’s own weapon against him (amongst other cool crap we’ll be discussing later!).

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Elizabeth

SS: Elizabeth is able to amplify the player’s abilities in certain situations — will these sequences be primarily limited to combat?

KL: Elizabeth can definitely have a big impact on gameplay–if and when you want her to. Her main gameplay role is to provide the player with interesting opportunities to combine her abilities with yours. When she offers those opportunities, the player can take advantage of them or not. You saw a few examples of those in the gameplay video, such as when she generated a rainstorm for the player to exploit with Electro-Bolt. But in all of those instances, the player could have ignored her offer and dispatched the enemies through any other means at his disposal. One thing Elizabeth is NOT, however, is somebody you need to babysit and hand-hold.

Of course, Elizabeth also serves a crucial narrative role. Her presence is central to the player’s mission in Columbia, and to the nature of Columbia itself. But those mysteries will need to wait.

SS: How does Sky-Line combat work? Will the player primarily use his wrench while traversing Sky-Lines, or will other weapons be available as well?

KL: Imagine being on a roller coaster, over another roller coaster, over another roller coaster. Imagine being able to jump freely from one roller coaster to the next. Then imagine people are shooting at you. And you’re shooting at them. That’s the experience of being on the Sky-Lines.

You might choose to take on enemies at extremely long range while traveling on Sky-Lines, or you might engage in close combat. You might do both in quick succession. You can jump between criss-crossing Sky-Line routes, allowing you to instantly change direction and evade or outflank enemies. Sky-Lines are there to expand your tactical options, not dictate them.

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Sky-Line

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Saltinstall BioShock Infinite for PS3: Columbia Skylines

SS: Columbia is a city in the sky. How do the wide-open spaces impact the combat?

KL: The range of environments in BioShock Infinite lends itself much better to the game’s broad toolset. In previous BioShock games, there weren’t really visible distances vast enough to take advantage of weapons like the crossbow. In BioShock Infinite, you could take a shot at an enemy situated on an entirely separate floating city block, across an expanse of sky.

SS: BioShock Infinite is set during the early 20th century. Did the time period inspire the weapon arsenal? What kinds of firearms can players look forward to?

KL: BioShock Infinite will have more weapons than previous BioShock games, which is important in terms of addressing the broader range of encounters the game supports. Obviously, many of those will be very much inspired by weaponry of the time, but there will also be plenty of other more unique tools we’re not talking about just yet.

SS: BioShock was noted for its weapon modifications. Will BioShock Infinite follow suit with weapon mods, and will there be more depth or player choice to the process?

KL: There are a variety of customization options players will have to shape their character to their own play style. While we’re not talking about the specifics of those systems just yet, I can say we’re interested in furthering the idea of permanence in character choices. Many of the decisions you make with respect to your character’s abilities will have a long-term effect on how you play the game.

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10 Author Replies

  • Looks incredible-! I’m excited to see more. I like the new location, alive, but so very anarchic.

    Day 1 buy I’d say.

  • Sweet… can’t wait for Bioshock Infinite :) loved the first Bioshock

  • Will the gameplay video make its way to PSN next week?

  • Why is this video on XBL and not on PSN?

  • Looking foward to this. Would be great if you guys added 3D and Move support to it.

  • This needs to be said but that is NOT actual gameplay; it’s a pre viz. Web sites such as this one need to stop perpetuating this lie.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing actual gameplay.

    • When Irrational Games says it’s gameplay footage, I’m inclined to believe them. Do you have proof to the contrary?

  • I watched this video earlier, and it looked more like a camera panning through an environment than an actual gameplay video. I’m pretty sure like @6 was, that this isn’t “in-game” gameplay. Especially since the game won’t be coming out until late next year likely.

  • i watched this on XBL last night. I can’t wait for this. I’m blown away once again by Bioshock. Thank You Ken Levine!!!!Keep suprising and amazing us!!!

  • Are there any gay characters in the game? Is that one of the choices the player can make for the protagonist (a la Dragon Age, etc)? That would be awesome!

    I hope there’s a great collector’s edition like BioShock 2 had. Even though I felt the original BioShock was a better game, the included hardcover book of artwork, CD soundtracks, and HD video extras included were well worth the money I gave to my local retailer :) I’d gladly buy a collector’s edition of BioShock Infinite if it provides a similar level of value.

    I liked the BioShock space in Home, and I’d love to see an open Home space for this new, open environment.

    Will BioShock Infinite have bluray-quality 1080p video for cut scenes, etc?

    Will (at least some of) the audio assets be 24-bit and losslessly compressed? (Where extra dynamic range really makes a dramatic difference: the score, explosions, gunfire, etc.)

  • Sid, when will this 1080p video be available for download on PSN? Please use (at least) 256kbit/sec AAC!

  • I can’t wait for this game!

  • That was really something, the most impressive game i have seen in a while.

  • Impressive video.. The early code is looking better than most finished products. It’s hard to believe this game is two years away from release.

    • Yeah. My guess is they have poured much of the work into this chunk of the game as a proof of concept, then will spend the next 18-24 months building the rest of the game. I’m no designer, but I know that’s a common process.

  • two yr? dats long…. looks gud tho bioshock is always a nice game anyway

  • oh my god.. Was that actual gameplay? Or was it just a really long cut scene!?

    There is no way that’s gameplay!

  • InstaBuy, it’s gorgeous!!! 8)

  • looks sick!

  • Loved the aesthetics!!!

  • Wow!! This game looks very cool…The girl character seems believable and there seems to be some very interesting foes and powers!!

  • Wow. That was amazing! I…I’m really at a loss for words on this one. Whew. Wow.

    And 2012?! OH man. I thought it was going to be next year…lol. Still, count me in on this one. Whenever it comes out, I gotta get this game. It looks a thousand and one times better than Bioshock 1. Wow.

  • Any plans for move sypport?

  • Oh come on guys, it’s gameplay. The reason it looks like a lot of camera panning is because the devs did that on purpose. They’re trying to show off the world by stopping every now and agin and looking around.

  • It looks really good, like classic BioShock gameplay (with a few new twists) and a brand new setting.

  • the new gameplay looks awesome, last time i watch any gameplay i don’t want to be spoiled :) one is enough! which is the primary platform?

  • OMG That was awesome, I love it!
    Can’t wait for this game, gameplay looks awesome, so fluid

  • the new version of telekinesis looked very cool, being able to turn an enemy’s weapon against is going to be fun.

    it really sucks that this game isn’t coming out until 2012, I want it now

  • So this non-interactive demo that was just released on the 360, was that generated in real-time, correct?

    If so, I surely hope it makes its way to the PS3 soon! :D

  • oh man wow!!! my jaw was on the ground the WHOLE TIME!!! man!!! well i loved bs 1 n 2 but this……this looks soooo cool. im getting this on release day. man that was so awesome. i loved it all. all of it.

  • Now imagine that in 3D? wouldn’t that be friggin’ AWESOME! hope Ken and Irrational adds 3D for that extra umph for the Ps3. looks good btw~

  • @ Sid

    No I do not have proof just experience as I create pre vis for a living. These are no doubt in-game assets but the camera you see here is not player controlled. It’s essentially a minimatic (cutscene) with a directed camera that’s supposed to emulate gameplay. Think of it as “proof of concept” that shows the development team how the game could and should look when it’s shippable. The same thing was done with Killzone 2 remember? The problem is that someone along the way (Publisher PR maybe?) releases it to promote the product and people assume it’s gameplay because the developer never confirms nor denies it.

  • Saw this yesterday, looks awesome. I enjoyed the first 2 bioshock games and this one looks better imo. Cant believe its 2 years away, I seriously thought this would be out next year judging by how it looks.

  • Does look good, but 2012? Too early to get excited for something that far off.

  • This game looks awesome man, i never played bioshock 1 or 2 but this game is making me want to go get them.

  • Oh my jeevus this outdoes Bioshock one and two although I loved both games. 2012 release huh? I’ll try not to think about this one so much!

  • i didnt want bioshock 1 or 2 but this one looks amazing. i cant wait to get my hands on it.

  • I think this one will be worth the wait.

  • this looks great

  • If that is exactly what the game will look like when I play it on my PS3 then it is instantly my vision of what a first person shooter SHOULD be!!!!

    Here’s hoping they keep it like this!

  • Wow! I’m playing BioShock 2 online right now and loving it, but Infinite looks spectacular!

  • As I said before this is just breathtaking. This is going to be another game of the year. I hope we can get it sooner…

  • I just wish my girl friend will help me out like Elizabeth does, the only thing she amplifies is my bills.

  • Here’s what I don’t get about the video. When the main protagonist lands after riding the rail, does he not have any other choice to venture into the bar where he’s unwelcome? I ask this because as he attempts to escape, attempting to kill off the horde of men in pursuit, it seems that there’s no other way to introduce the next scene where the female protagonist assists in eliminating the entire wave of barmen. What I’m trying to say is that, must all outcomes/events lead up to the particular one scene?

  • omg im definitely getting this cuz the girl looks so hot and the story is interesting

  • Man that is some freakin amazing footage right there. The guy playing obviously knows exactly where to make the camera look but I do believe that’s real footage. Anyway, I’m truly blown away. I haven’t been blown away by pre-release footage since Uncharted 2. This is quite amazing. I might just jump on Bioshock 2 now, it’s been sitting on my shelf in its shrink wrap for far too long.

    Anyway, I just want to say thanks a lot to Mr Levine for continuing doing interviews with the PS Blog, and of course thanks to you too Sid for the great questions and making it happen in the first place.

  • Never played the first two, but this truly looks amazing. I’m sold!

  • This looks amazing, but still, this is going to be a looooooooooooooong two year wait. :/

  • Thanks for the video Sid (finally someone use that function on Viddler).
    It’s 1.1GB O_O

    In download. ;-)

  • I wonder if Bioshock Infinite will be a shoddy port like Bioshock was? How about the PS blog team question Ken Levine on that?

  • That was insane. Jaw dropping. I loved Bioshock 1 (haven’t gotten 2 yet), but this looks like it makes Bioshock 1, which is one of my all time favorite games, look like a practice run. Unbelievably amazing, this trailer is.

    Excellent work by Irrational! And thank you for adding life to the main character! Love the female character as well!

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