BioShock Infinite is an upcoming first-person shooter video game, and the third game in theBioShock series. Previously known as "Project Icarus", it is being developed by Irrational Games for an October 2012 release on the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360platforms. BioShock Infinite is not a direct sequel or prequel to previous BioShock games, taking place in an earlier period and different setting, though it features similar gameplay concepts and themes.
Building on the ideas of American Exceptionalism in the early 20th Century, the game's protagonist, former Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt, is sent in 1912 to the floating air-city of Columbia to seek out a young woman, Elizabeth, who has been held captive there for the last twelve years. Though Booker rescues Elizabeth easily, the two are pursued by warring factions on the collapsing city: the Founders that strive to keep the city for pure American citizens, and the Vox Populi, a hodgepodge group of several smaller factions trying to seize control from the Founders. Booker finds Elizabeth to be central to this conflict, and that she also holds strange powers to manipulate rifts in the time-space continuum that ravage Columbia. Ken Levine, the lead designer for the game, took inspiration for the story and setting from both historical pieces at the turn of the 19th century, as well as more recent events including the "Occupy" protests. Levine took an unorthodox approach with the voice actors for Booker and Elizabeth, Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper, respectively, by developing the script and details of the story alongside them during their voice work, allowing them to help define the characters and deliver more convincing performances within the game.
The player controls Booker throughout the game, eventually teaming with the computer-controlled Elizabeth. Like previous BioShock games, the player uses a combination of weapons, psychokinetic powers granted through "vigors" and "nostrums", and Elizabeth's own powers to fight off hostile foes and make their way through Columbia. In contrast to the limited spaces of the underwater city of Rapture, the open-air city of Columbia provides for more combat challenges, including combat that takes place aboard the city's Skyline rollercoaster-like rail system. The game will also feature a "1999 Mode", harkening back to games like System Shock 2 where decisions made by the player will have a more permanent impact on the game, possibly leading the player to an unwinnable situation and requiring a restart from an earlier saved game.
The city was disavowed by the United States government, and the location of the city was soon lost to everyone else. The city became, as described by Nick Cowen of The Guardian, "a kind of roaming boogieman moving from place to place and imposing its will on people below".
As a result of the city's isolation, a civil war eventually broke out on Columbia between different factions of citizens, each trying to seize control of the city from the powers-that-be. At the time of the game's events, only two main factions remain. One group are the Founders, the remnants of those retaining power over the city led by Zachary Hale Comstock. This is the city's ruling class, which seeks to keep Columbia purely for American citizens while denying foreigners the same privileges. The other is a group named Vox Populi (Latin for "voice of the people"), a rag-tag resistance group, led by Daisy Fitzroy, opposed to the ultranationalists. Vox Populi is formed from several factions with similar ideologies that fought to seize control and restore the rights of Columbia citizenship to all. However, years of war and struggle have driven Vox Populi to fight the powers-that-be solely out of blind hatred, resulting in more violent and brutal methods and leading to subfactions in the group.
Like Rapture, Columbia is considered a dystopia, but with signs present suggesting a theocratic government taking control at some point, and similar racial-purification concepts such as Nazism, jingoism, and xenophobia. One of the items in the press packages for the game included a tag that would purportedly be worn by immigrants aboard Columbia, requiring those of non-European descent, which includes Papists, Gypsies, Irish and Greeks, to list out numerous details, including religious affiliation and data relating to eugenics; another item was a Columbia propaganda poster that warned "We must all be vigilant to ensure the purity of our people." Columbia has been compared to a cross between steampunk and the Star Wars Bespin cloud city, as well as the airships of Final Fantasy settingsthough Irrational's Ken Levine has compared the weaponized city to the Death Star.
The events of the game take place in 1912. The player assumes the identity of Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, who was dismissed for behavior beyond the acceptable bounds of the Agency. He is hired by mysterious individuals, aware of Columbia's location, and tasked to infiltrate the air-city and rescue a young woman named Elizabeth, who has been held aboard the air-city for the last twelve years. Though Booker finds Elizabeth easily enough, he quickly discovers that Elizabeth is central to the civil war raging in the city, her rescue being the start of the chain of events that ultimately lead to Columbia's down-fall.Each faction seeks to use Elizabeth to turn the tide of the conflict in their favor; the Founders believe Elizabeth's powers can help end the conflict and place them back in control, while the Vox Populi would rather kill Elizabeth than allow the Founders to get their hands on her, believing a prophecy that if Elizabeth falls, so does Columbia. Booker and Elizabeth are forced to trust each other in order to escape.Elizabeth also seeks to understand the powers that she has been given, believing Comstock to be responsible, and refuses to leave Columbia until she learns the truth. To complicate matters, the pair is chased by Songbird, a large, robotic bird-like creature who had been Elizabeth's friend and warden over the last twelve years of her imprisonment. Songbird was designed by its creator to feel betrayal should Elizabeth escape, comparable to an abusive spouse, according to Hilary Goldstein of IGN, and Elizabeth notes she "would rather be killed than be recaptured by Songbird."