BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Fans clamoring for the video game "BioShock Infinite," the highly anticipated spiritual successor to the landmark "BioShock," will have to wait a bit longer, but it should be worth the wait.
At a media preview of the game this past week at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, creative director Ken Levine said "Infinite" is now scheduled for release on March 26, 2013, so the developers can do further polishing. It had initially been set for release in October, then delayed to Feb. 26.
Just like the original, "Infinite" begins at a lighthouse. The video game's protagonist, an ex-Pinkerton agent named Booker DeWitt, ascends the beacon in 1912 before he's transported through the sky to the city of Columbia, a floating World's Fair that looks like a twisted version of a Norman Rockwell painting. DeWitt's been sent to this American haven to rescue a young woman named Elizabeth.
While "Infinite" very much handles like the original 2007 game, it's simultaneously feels different.
After spending a few hours with the beginning of "Infinite" and talking with Levine, it's evident the developers at Irrational Games have labored over forging a new path with "Infinite," all the while staying true to what helped make the original "BioShock" sell more than 5 million copies and achieve critical acclaim.
Here are five ways "Infinite" will be different from its predecessor:
SKY'S THE LIMIT
Unlike the claustrophobic undersea enclave of Rapture, the richly detailed setting of the first two "BioShock" games, Columbia is drastically more open, requiring new tactics for players to take down foes with a combination of guns and powers called "vigors." One named "Devil's Kiss," for instance, can transform DeWitt's hand into a grenade launcher.
Before he's permitted to enter Columbia, DeWitt must submit to a baptism in a watery church by the believers of Father Comstock, the bearded ultra-nationalist leader of Columbia who is revered as a prophet by much of the city's population. Columbia's religious overtones are in stark contrast to Rapture's boozy confines.
DeWitt and Elizabeth aren't strong silent types. Unlike the mostly mum protagonists of the previous "BioShock" games, these two continually converse with both each other and other characters. Levine said the most challenging part of crafting "Infinite" was writing all that dialogue, so much so that he had to hire other writers to work on the game.
There are no Vita-Chambers to resurrect DeWitt when he bites it. Instead, he'll have to step through the front door of a dreamy rendition of his office back home to return to Columbia. Once he rescues Elizabeth, she'll attempt to keep her new protector healed with medical supplies - and jab him with a needle when he goes down in battle to save him from death.
Equality isn't lifting up Columbia. There's restrooms marked for blacks and Irish, and at the beginning of "Infinite," when De Witt is first infiltrating the city in the clouds, he must choose whether he goes along with a hostile crowd and attack an interracial couple, stand up for them simply do nothing. If he assists, the pair will help him out later in the game.