Today was a bit of an unusual day in that I was actually near a computer with a few free minutes while a big games reveal was happening. Of course, that game was Irrational's BioShock Infinite.
(The timing was fairly ironic since I just finished BioShock 2 and turned in a review, but that was sheer coincidence.)
As I was monitoring TweetDeck and seeing people talk about the reveal in real-time, it was actually quite fascinating. It began with a lot of buzzing about what the reveal would actually be, followed by a quick surge of "yay, BioShock", which was itself quickly followed by "boo, more BioShock." After that was, of course, "quit being BioShock haters"…
I have to admit that my gut reaction was probably closer to "boo" than "yay" until I saw the trailer, after which my outlook became significantly more positive. However, my feelings and others' similar ups and downs got me thinking…
- The name BioShock Infinite is incredibly stupid. Infinite? Really? I can't help but think there are probably somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-four thousand other names that would sound less cheesy and be a little more descriptive of the actual game.
- Some of the negative sentiment seems to be about the BioShock name itself. Having set two games underwater, I do think it's understandable that some players would expect more of that same premise, whether it's a good or bad thing.
I actually see Irrational's new goal of expanding the BioShock IP past Rapture as a brilliant step, but I think the whole thing would've been a bit easier to swallow if the series hadn't gone for a quick buck with BioShock 2.
Don't get me wrong—I actually liked BioShock 2, and in general, I think I'd even say that I liked it more than the first game. However, looking at it soberly, I'll be the first to admit that it didn't feel like much more than an extended add-on. There were very little changes to the formula, and the straightforward campaign held few surprises. If it had been packaged as DLC, I think everyone would have praised it, but positioning it as a legitimate numbered sequel rang hollow to a lot of people, myself included.
If the IP had used BioShock 2 as a DLC holdover and had reserved using for the actual number 2 Infinite, I think most people would understand more quickly and easily that the BioShock name is now meant to be applied to an entire world concept, rather than solely what was contained under the sea.
- I haven't seen any videos of actual gameplay, but I did read a fairly descriptive text account of a section that was shown to a group of journalists/reviewers. From what I can gather, the gameplay sounds significantly different than anything that's gone before. In my book, this is the best possible news.
Of course, I don't want or expect Infinite to be a complete departure from things that have already been established, but the thought of another silent protagonist who collects various Plasmids and Tonics while listening to a truckload of audio logs is not something that appeals to me regardless of the new scenery. For the sake of the IP, I sincerely hope that Infinite is a substantial change to the status quo.
While the amount of information available on BioShock Infinite and the future of the series is still quite limited, the tiny bit I've seen so far does leave me feeling very hopeful. I'm a fan of the aesthetics and concepts the series has displayed so far, and applying those ideas to a larger, more holistic worldview seems to offer immense potential. If Levine and company can avoid tiresome yearly iterations and the ever-present temptation of cash-in sequelitis, we might just be on the verge of something huge here.