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BioShock Infinite: The IGN Review: The Kotaku Review



We've been playing BioShock Infinite, but we can't tell you about it just yet. In order to get our early copy, we agreed to stick to the embargo set by publisher 2K Games, which is up on Monday.



But we can tell you about IGN's exclusive review of BioShock Infinite, which went live tonight. So above you can find our Official Kotaku Review* of their review.



*Warning: review may not be an Official Kotaku Review. Kotaku holds no responsibility for any damages that may occur to anyone thinking that this is an Official Kotaku Review.


Kotaku

The New Moneysaver: Bioshock Infinite Pre-Order BonusesHi, Moneysaver readers. Welcome to the slightly-different but still wallet-friendly version of the Moneysaver. Going forward, this feature will be brought to you by a member of our company's new Commerce Team. Fancy! What this means is that you'll no longer see Moneysavers penned by those of us in editorial but by the good Shane Roberts here who works on the biz side. The main difference is that—full disclosure—our company will now make a cut of purchases you make through links that are featured in the Moneysaver. The Commerce folks want you to get the best deals. If they don't, what's the point, right? So you can expect a regular offering of great shopping options for games and who knows what else. We all still want to save you money. Take it away, Shane! - Totilo



Bioshock: Infinite will be available in six days, so we're here to help you make sense of its myriad and divisive pre-order options. For our money and yours, we think Green Man Gaming is the retailer to beat, with the best combination of free games, flexible credit, and Steam DRM. Here's why:



Most retailers are including the first Bioshock and XCOM: Enemy Unknown for free, and Green Man Gaming, Gamer's Gate, and Get Games are throwing in a choice of several others including Civilization 5 and Spec Ops: The Line. Buying from Steam presents the exclusive option of Team Fortress 2, but we prefer another free game to new attire for our Heavy. If you already own the free games on offer, Amazon offers the most store credit, $30, but it should be noted that the credit is only good for other 2K games. Green Man Gaming, Gamefly, and Gamer's Gate are offering between $15-$18 credit, with Green Man Gaming being the only one to let you take the credit as cash instead.



If you're on the consoles, Sony is taking $10 off pre-orders via their March promotion, and including the first Bioshock, while Microsoft is including $20 in Microsoft Points. We can only hope this creates a new trend in pre-order bonuses.



[Green Man Gaming]





Top Deals


The New Moneysaver: Bioshock Infinite Pre-Order BonusesSimCity + Free Game ($40)

Target via FatWallet | Normally $60

SimCity has been fixed, and EA is offering up a free game as mea culpa. Starting on 3/24, Target will sell SimCity for $40, and if you activate your copy by 3/25, you get a free game from a choice of eight. We'd recommend Dead Space 3 (best value), Battlefield 3, or Mass Effect 3.



Bastion ($1) | Humble Weekly Sale | DRM-Free + Steam Key

     Humble has launched a weekly deal and Bastion is the first game on offer. No excuses not to      own it now.



Target Buy 2, Get 1 Free | Target via DealNews

     God of War: Ascension

     Gears of War: Judgement

     MLB: The Show 13

     Crysis 3

     Dead Space 3

     Far Cry 3

     Many More



15% Off iTunes Gift Cards | Target via TechBargains | Free Shipping on $75 Orders

     Use coupon code "TGFHJVZ8"



Bioshock: Infinite Pre-order | Green Man Gaming

     Includes $14 credit or cash, XCOM, Bioshock, choice of 5 others including Spec Ops: The      Line and Civ 5.





Windows/Mac


The New Moneysaver: Bioshock Infinite Pre-Order BonusesName Your Own Price Bundle ($3.97) | Normally $62 | Includes: Blades of Time, SpaceChem, Cubemen, iBomber Defense, Aztaka, The Journey Down: Chapter 1











Bastion ($1) | Humble Weekly Sale | DRM-Free + Steam Key



The Free Bundle #4 (FREE)

     Super Charge

     You Have To Win The Game

     Dirty Split

     Vicinity

     Megaman 8-bit DeathMatch



Saints Row: The Third The Full Package ($25) | Origin via Dealzon | Normally $50

Need For Speed Most Wanted ($25) | Origin via Dealzon | Normally $50

Magic: The Gathering: Planeswalkers 2013 ($5) | Steam via Reddit | Normally $10

     Special Edition, Gold Bundle, Complete Bundle also on sale.

The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition ($6) | Origin via Dealzon | Normally $20

Mass Effect Trilogy ($30) | Origin via TechBargains | Normally $60

Borderlands GOTY Edition ($6) | Green Man Gaming via Reddit | Normally $30

     Use coupon code "GMG20-NT7TS-SY2RT"

Civilization 5 Gold Edition ($13.60) | Green Man Gaming via Reddit | Normally $50

     Use coupon code "GMG20-NT7TS-SY2RT"

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed ($15) | Steam | Normally $30

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition ($30) | Origin via Reddit | Normally $60

Gamefly Spring Sale 3/20

     Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning ($6.74) | Normally $30

     Far Cry 3 ($31.49) | Normally $50

     XCOM: Enemy Unknown ($14.39) | Normally $50

     Torchlight II ($6.11) | Normally $20

     The Cave ($6.74) | Normally $15

     Sleeping Dogs (8.99) | Normally $40





Playstation 3


• Get 10$ back for every $50 spent in March on all digital purchases; no cap. This promotion can and should be applied to re-upping your Playstation Plus Membership and/or pre-ordering Bioshock: Infinite.



God of War Ascension ($46) | Rakuten via DealNews

     Use coupon code "15OFF"

Assassin's Creed III ($30) | Amazon via Reddit | Normally $60

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition ($20) | Amazon via DealNews | Normally $30

Dragon's Dogma ($15) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $50

     Must be a Reward Zone member, which is free.

DMC: Devil May Cry ($35) | Amazon | Normally $60

Valkyria Chronicles ($17.61) | Amazon via Reddit | Normally $40

     Highly underrated must-own SPRG. Ideal for fans of anime and/or Final Fantasy Tactics.

Darksiders II ($15) | Best Buy via TechBargains | Normally $50

Mass Effect Trilogy ($30) | Origin via TechBargains | Normally $60

Far Cry 3 ($30) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $60

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition ($30) | Origin via Reddit | Normally $60



PS3 Slim 250GB ($250) | Amazon via Dealzon

     Includes Playstation All-Stars and Ratchet and Clank Collection.



• Playstation Plus March Update:

     FREE Spec Ops: The Line

     FREE Joe Danger 2: The Movie

     FREE The Cave





Xbox 360


2000 MS Points [$25] for $20 | Best Buy via DealNews



Xbox LIVE 12 Month Gold Membership ($40) | Target | Normally $49



Dragon Age II ($5) | Best Buy via DealNews | Normally $20

Red Faction: Armageddon ($5) | Best Buy via DealNews | Normally $20

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition ($20) | Amazon via DealNews | Normally $30

Dragon's Dogma ($15) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $50

     Must be a Reward Zone member, which is free.

Darksiders II ($15) | Best Buy via TechBargains | Normally $50

Mass Effect Trilogy ($30) | Origin via TechBargains | Normally $60

Far Cry 3 ($30) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $60

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition ($30) | Origin via Reddit | Normally $60



• Gold Deal of the Week Picks:

     Outland ($5) | Normally $10

     Beyond Good and Evil HD ($5) | Normally $10





Wii U


Resident Evil: Revelations Pre-Order ($40) | Amazon via DealNews | Normally $50

Darksiders II ($20) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $60






The New Moneysaver: Bioshock Infinite Pre-Order BonusesWii U Deluxe + $50 Target Gift Card ($350) | Target via Dealzmodo | Target is basically creating an artificial price cut here.





Playstation Vita


• Get 10$ back for every $50 spent in March on all digital purchases; no cap. This promotion can and should be applied to re-upping your Playstation Plus Membership.



Persona 4 Golden ($30) | Amazon via Reddit | Normally $40

     If you prefer digital Persona 4 is on sale for the same price on Playstation Network.



Playstation Vita 3G/Wifi ($250) | Sony via Dealzon | Normally $300

     Includes free Playstation Network game.

Playstation Vita Cradle ($7) | Best Buy via DealNews | Normally $20



• Playstation Plus March Update:

     FREE Tekken 6





3DS


Rayman Origins ($8) | Best Buy via Dealzon | Normally $30

Kirby Mass Attack ($8) | Best Buy via Reddit | Normally $30



3DS XL Black ($190) | BuyDig via Dealzon | Normally $250

     Use coupon code "VMESAVESU20"





iOS


15% Off iTunes Gift Cards | Target via TechBargains | Free Shipping on $75 Orders

     Use coupon code "TGFHJVZ8"





Android


Shoot Many Robots (FREE) | Google Play Store





Tech


Rakuten $25 Off $100 Coupon | Rakuten via Dealzmodo

     Use coupon code "NEW25"



Monoprice 10% Off Anything | Monoprice via TechBargains

     Use coupon code "CATALOG12"





Miscellaneous


Deus Ex: Sonic Augmentation Remix Soundtrack (FREE)

Tomb Raider Art Book PDF (FREE) | Amazon via Cheap Ass Gamer

     Right-click on the link and "Save As" to begin download.





That does it for the first edition of the new Moneysaver, which is now brought to you by the Commerce Team. Our aim is to bring Kotaku readers the best gaming deals available. And to be very clear, we also make money if you buy.



If you've been a Moneysaver reader for awhile, you'll see we're making other changes like organizing by platform and including discounts on the consoles and services.



We're here to give you the best experience possible, so we definitely want your feedback. Love the new coverage, hate the layout, got a great deal we missed? Let us know in the comments. We know you will.





Kotaku

Irrational Games, the folks behind BioShock, have just released this spectacular combat trailer for the series' newest installment, BioShock Infinite. Many of the weapons protagonist Booker DeWitt will get to use are put on full display. Look at that imagery. That statue. Those huge guns. Man, I think I'm in love with that minigun.



Along with the trailer, two new screenshots have also been revealed. You can have a look at them below.



This Gory BioShock Infinite Trailer Shows Off Booker's Big Guns This Gory BioShock Infinite Trailer Shows Off Booker's Big Guns



BioShock Infinite releases worldwide on March 26. Not much longer, now!


Kotaku

Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One. We all know Uncle Sam. The guy in the Old Glory-styled top hat and tails is the personification of the United States that American schoolkids grow up learning about. You probably know him from the famous poster strongly urging that you enlist and maybe you've seen him done up as a superhero.



But did you know that Uncle Sam has an older sister? And that she's where the floating city in BioShock Infinite gets its name from?



Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One. As an article on The Atlantic pointed out yesterday, the personification of the U.S. used to be a woman named Columbia, one who predates Uncle Sam. But, where Sam's still a familiar icon, the idea of a distaff counterpart has faded from memory. The Atlantic article showed how she's been portrayed in political cartoons throughout the ages and included images where she's advocating for immigrants from Germany and China.



But the version of Columbia seen so far in Irrational Games' upcoming first-person shooter appears to be the polar opposite. As she's portrayed in BioShock Infinite's promo art, Columbia isn't welcoming people in. No, she seems dead-set on keeping people out.



In the image with George Washington, she hovers above the nation's first president as he stands fast against foreign hordes. And, yeah, it's worth noting that those caricatured foreign hordes include Native Americans. And, on a banner shown in an early peek at Infinite, Columbia rejects a baby held out on outstretched hands, while cradling another. That piece of artwork gives you pause with how mean its implied message is. But the whiplash it generates is more significant when you think about those cartoons with Columbia demanding a fair shake for everyone.



Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One. It looks like BioShock Infinite will be focusing in on a warped, fanatic ideal of what it means to be American. And, from what we've seen at this point, the game's vision of Columbia—both city and persona—doesn't think everyone belongs in its society. This use of a mostly forgotten personification of America falls in line with the thought process behind making a robot George Washington one of the game's big enemies.



It's a provocative practice in reality when radical factions twist symbols from American history to ugly ends. In real-world and game-related posters, Columbia calls fighting men to arms. Based on what Irrational co-founder Ken Levine has said about the game, you get the idea that the battles that follow are very different in what they're trying to achieve.



Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One. Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One. Even in BioShock Infinite's Alternate History, America Was a Woman. But Not a Nice One.


Kotaku

The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games



A video game's opening stage or starter zone has an extremely important role: it sets the tone for the rest of the game. Getting it right is essential. Below, we've collected some of the best-looking and most iconic starting zones, first stages and opening missions.





Green Hill Zone in Sonic


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Central Highway in Mega Man X


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Welcome to Rapture in BioShock


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Contra III Stage 1


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Metal Slug Mission 1


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






City 17 in Half-Life 2


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Make Eggs, Throw Eggs in Yoshi's Island


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Comix Zone Chapter 1


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games






Ikaruga Stage 1


The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games



Post your picks for the most intense, best made and most beautiful first levels below with visual support.



sources: SEGA Wiki, ThePressStartProject, BioShock Wiki, Primeevi's LP, Gustavo Costa's LP, SectorW, Ericthestickman, VideoGamerParadox, kirgeez


Kotaku

BioShock Infinite's Pre-Order Scheme Is A Bold Step In Consumer ManipulationEach week it feels like the video game industry is coming up with new ways to get you to pre-order games. Packaged bonuses, collectors' edition cases, limited edition figures, in-game items, early access to betas, and more.



Today, Irrational Games announced new Steam pre-order incentives for their hotly anticipated action game BioShock Infinite. The rewards sound pretty good at first: "Pre-order BioShock Infinite on Steam today to help unlock exclusive rewards and free copies of BioShock and X-Com: Enemy Unknown!"



But then, you read on:




Here's how it works: if enough people pre-order BioShock Infinite, a free copy of the original BioShock gets unlocked. If that's not enough, a series of exclusive BioShock Infinite-themed items (details below) in Team Fortress 2 will be unlocked if the number of pre-orders reaches the next level. Lastly, Steam will sweeten the pot by unlocking a free copy of X-Com: Enemy Unknown once pre-orders hit that magic number. Of course, this is in addition to the Industrial Revolution pack that you will receive immediate access to just for pre-ordering!




In other words, they not only want you to pay them for their game before it comes out and anyone has had a chance to review it, they want you to act as marketers and encourage your friends to pre-order. Both of those bonus games are great, and make for outstanding pre-release rewards. Both are published by BioShock: Infinite's publisher 2K, which is doubtless why they're part of the deal. I'd take a free copy of XCOMKotaku's 2012 game of the year—over an in-game outfit or weapon any day. But surely I can't be the only who finds this whole racket sketchy.



Look, pre-orders are bad enough on their own. They're entirely designed to help game publishers circumvent game reviews and get people locked into purchasing games before the press has a chance to tell the public whether the game is good or not. As Stephen so recently pointed out, the entire preview-to-preorder cycle is a challenging one for the press. Previews of BioShock Infinite have been no different: Stephen was confident that the first four and a half hours of BioShock Infinite are good, since that's what he played. But none of us can say for certain how the next four and a half hours are, or how the finished game is. Of course we can't. We haven't played it. But the people selling this game don't care: They're perfectly happy for you to buy it right now, sight-unseen.



With this method of pre-order incentivizing, 2K and Irrational have taken a bold step forward in manipulation.

With this method of pre-order incentivizing, 2K and Irrational have taken a bold step forward in manipulation. I'm not sure if they're the first company to try this, but I've never quite seen anything quite like it, at least in video games. (Update: It's not the first: 2K has done something like this at least once before, with the initial release of XCOM last fall.) While a lot of people pre-ordering Infinite have likely already played BioShock, the more-recent XCOM remains something of a good get. So of course, it'll also require the most pre-orders to unlock.



Further complicating the matter is the fact that this is for Steam only, meaning that these are "Steam Pre-Purchases," which work a bit differently than your run-of-the-mill GameStop preorder. If you preorder a game from GameStop, you aren't charged in full until you actually come down to the store and pick it up. If you wait for a day after the game launches, you can call in to the store and cancel. So if, say, you pre-ordered Aliens: Colonial Marines, then saw the terrible reviews, you could save yourself the purchase price. GameStop would keep the $5 deposit you put down, but as store credit—you could put it toward another game.



But if you've pre-purchased on Steam, you can only get your money back if you contact Steam support before the launch date. After the game launches, you own it. "As with most downloadable software products, we do not offer refunds for purchases made through Steam," reads the Steam FAQ. "An exception is made for games purchased during a pre-order period if the request is received prior to the games' release date."



So let's say that Infinite gets some negative or conflicted reviews, for whatever reason. It's not important why. You decide that you don't really want the game after all. If it's past the release date and you pre-purchased through Steam, you'll be out of luck. You'll own BioShock Infinite.



I've asked Valve to confirm with me that you can only return pre-purchased games before the launch date, though I've no reason to believe that's not the case. I've also asked Irrational and 2K for some clarification regarding the finer points of this operation, specifically whether they'll be telling people who pre-order how close they are to unlocking the next target, or if those numbers will be hidden from customers. Lastly, I've asked what would happen if both BioShock and XCOM are unlocked but someone decides to subsequently cancel their preorder. Would they get to keep the two free games? It's unclear. I'll update if and when I hear back.



"To unlock all these rewards, you'll need to spread the word and work as a team," Irrational's marketing copy says. "The more people who pre-order, the more rewards gets [sic] unlocked. Simple enough, right?"



Sure, I guess it is pretty simple. Irrational, 2K and Valve want you to help them sell a game that hasn't come out yet. But for the time being, steer clear of this scheme. Pre-orders are bad enough—you don't have to take part in a viral marketing campaign, too.



Update: Lots of discussion happening here, which is great. I wanted to note a couple of things. First of all (I put this in a comment, too): Several of you guys have pointed out that XCOM did a similar thing last fall, and that Tomb Raider is also currently doing tiered incentives on Steam. That's true, and I added a note to the article to make it clear that 2K has done this before. Though that doesn't make this kind of thing any less manipulative, it just means this isn't isolated.



Also, a couple of people have said that it's self-important of me to suggest that pre-orders are designed to circumvent reviews. As if game reviews are so powerful! Sorry about that, I didn't intend to come off that way. Let me clarify: There are all sorts of "reviews." Once a game is out, people ask their friends whether it's good, they see what people they trust think of it—be they friends, professional critics, or message-board compatriots. That information can help make a decision as to whether or not to buy the game. Pre-orders let publishers get around all of that. It's in their interest to lock in your purchase as early as possible.


Kotaku

Extend Your Adventures in Columbia with the BioShock Infinite Season PassBioShock developer Irrational Games has just announced the Season Pass accompanying their newest entry into the franchise, BioShock Infinite. The $20 pack will give access to three pieces of post-release DLC, along with some other goodies. Irrational said:




The BioShock Infinite Season Pass will be available on March 26, 2013 when the game is planned to launch, and provide nearly $30.00 of add-on content for $19.99 (PlayStation®Network, Windows® PC) or 1,600 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network)—a savings of more than 30%. The Season Pass will include all three add-on packs, and can be pre-ordered today through www.preordernow.com or at a participating retailer.



Those who purchase the BioShock Infinite Season Pass will also receive the Early Bird Special Pack at no extra cost. This bonus pack contains four pieces of exclusive gear, a Machine Gun Damage Upgrade, a Pistol Damage Upgrade, a gold skin for both weapons and five Infusion bottles that allow players to increase their health, their shield durability or their ability to use Vigors by increasing the quantity of Salts they can carry.




BioShock Infinite will be released worldwide on March 26.


Kotaku

BioShock Infinite Has At Least Three DLC PacksBioShock developer Irrational Games has just announced the Season Pass accompanying their newest entry into the franchise, BioShock Infinite. The pack will contain three pieces of post-release downloadable content—DLC which, so far, Irrational hasn't talked about. Their press release follows:




The BioShock Infinite Season Pass will be available on March 26, 2013 when the game is planned to launch, and provide nearly $30.00 of add-on content for $19.99 (PlayStation®Network, Windows® PC) or 1,600 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network)—a savings of more than 30%. The Season Pass will include all three add-on packs, and can be pre-ordered today through www.preordernow.com or at a participating retailer.



Those who purchase the BioShock Infinite Season Pass will also receive the Early Bird Special Pack at no extra cost. This bonus pack contains four pieces of exclusive gear, a Machine Gun Damage Upgrade, a Pistol Damage Upgrade, a gold skin for both weapons and five Infusion bottles that allow players to increase their health, their shield durability or their ability to use Vigors by increasing the quantity of Salts they can carry.




BioShock Infinite will be released worldwide on March 26.


Kotaku





width="500" height="333" allowscriptaccess="always"
allowfullscreen="true">

The first installment of the Columbia: A Modern Day Icarus? video series reminded Luke, me and loads of other folks of the low-budget, off-putting documentaries and filmstrips that aired in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I used to have to watch those things in class, too, with some annoying homework assignment attached to them. Imagine if anything as disturbingly cool as the Songbird was ever shown in your classroom. All fart jokes and note-passing would cease. And a quiet terror would settle over the student body.


Kotaku

BioShock Infinite's Lead Creator on History, Video Game Violence and... What Happens to the Sewage in a Floating City?In an office in Union Square last week, BioShock Infinite 's lead creator, Ken Levine, said I could ask him about anything. He was in a kind and generous mood, offering me a strawberry from a bowl of them—he at eats at least half a pound of them a day, he told me.



Anything?



OK...



Here are three things we talked about:



1) Founding Fathers, Racism and What Will Horrify People In The Year 2113


The new game Levine and his crew at Irrational Games are making takes place in 1912 on a city that floats above America. The people running this city idolize some of the founding fathers, but they hate Abraham Lincoln. This is the second straight game from Irrational that looks at some of the warped ideals of the past and warps them further, so I wondered what Levine's view of history is: something to revere? Something to scorn?



"I think there were certainly things that were culturally fascinating in a different period," Levine said. "I also think it's amazing to see people who are so ahead of the curve. I think a lot of people look at this game and in some ways think it's critical of the American experiment, but I think if you look at guys like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington or Ben Franklin, [they] were so extraordinarily ahead of the curve in so many ways in science and philosophy and certainly in politics—the work they were creating, the structure, the tripartite checks and balances and all those things were extraordinary...



"On the other hand, they were very much men of their time. Jefferson and Washington were slaveowners. Jefferson probably fathered a child with one of his slaves, which was very common at the time. I find that interesting. I don't need to… it's ok to be able to hold both of those ideas in your head at the same time. I think it's hard for a lot of people to do [that.]…These guys were both revolutionaries for freedom and held people in bondage in the same time. To me that's interesting. It's certainly not interesting for the people who were held in bondage, but looking back as a history nerd and as a culture nerd, I think they're fascinating, brilliant, revolutionary figures who are also at the same time enslaved to the ideas of the time they came from."



BioShock Infinite's Lead Creator on History, Video Game Violence and... What Happens to the Sewage in a Floating City?



Levine said that Infinite isn't intended to be a history lesson. It refers to the founding fathers; it uses popular reaction to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and many others to define its factions. But if there's a message about history in the game, Levine wagers it is mostly about thinking about how our history is taught and about how these figures were more complex than we might have thought and more complex than how we traditionally think or talk about them.



Levine: "It's hard to talk about that period without talking about racism, without really being dishonest about the period."

When I played the first four hours of the game last December, I was surprised how prevalent racism was in the game's narrative and setting. You feel like you're in a place and time where racism is much more widely accepted among the white majority. This doesn't feel common for a video game, but fits with Levine's belief that you can't talk about an interesting era and avoid its complexities. "It's hard to talk about that period without talking about racism, without really being dishonest about the period," he said. "I'm sure in the same way people are going to look back at now from a hundred years from now and they're going to be shocked at some of the things that we're ok with…"



Like eating animals, I suggested?



"I think that's probably going to be it," Levine replied. "Look, I"m a vegetarian and I'm wearing leather shoes and a leather belt… I'm not a political vegetarian. People can eat whatever they want...I'm going to guess that's probably it, but I'm just guessing here. I could be completely wrong."



Or he could be outlining the plot of BioShock Future. A game made in 2113, set in 2013 all about a sick society that chows down on cows. Yes? No? (Probably not!)



2) Smart Games And/Vs. Gun Games


We were talking about the origins of the first BioShock and Levine's commitment to having Irrational make games about things they think are interesting, even if that sends them down the path of making a game about a failed Objectivist utopia. "We just follow the things we're interested in." That sounds great. That's what I think we want people who make the games we play to say, but a thought struck me and I spilled it out as a very long question.



I said: "You guys are a studio that tries to do smart and interesting things. You find themes that appeal to you. And that explains… it makes total sense why you'd make BioShock Infinite and its setting and its place.



"You're also a studio that's really good at making shooters, so it totally explains why you'd make BioShock Infinite a first-person shooter.



"Do those two things have anything to do with each other?



"Why is it that a studio that thinks about really interesting themes and is interested in making a game about Objectivism or about a person who creates their own philosophy or some of the other things you're talking about… why is it that a studio that is highfaluting enough and interesting enough to do that is also a studio that makes first-person shooters? Do they have more to do with each other than one would think?"



Levine: "In terms of the shooting, it's weird, right?"

"Well, the first-person perspective and these kinds of worlds we create have a lot to do with each other," Levine replied as he began to talk about the core elements of Infinite, which involve you, as a character named Booker, infiltrating that lively, complex floating city of Columbia, to rescue a woman named Elizabeth who will spend most of the game adventuring at your side.



"It wouldn't really work from any other perspective because of the kind of detail [we have]. When you're controlling the camera you can get really up close to the kind of detail we have…and the relationship with Elizabeth, if you were seeing her over your shoulder that wouldn't really work… there are certain moments that only work in first-person… it's not 'the other is having a relationship with her. The goal is that you're having a relationship with her. That's the intent."



That explained the camera angle, of course, but not the popular gaming action-shooting-that goes with that camera angle. Levine got that.



BioShock Infinite's Lead Creator on History, Video Game Violence and... What Happens to the Sewage in a Floating City?



"In terms of the shooting, it's weird, right? Games have this interesting thing. When you see some people experimenting, like Kentucky Route Zero and stuff like that where they are starting to experiment with sort of not having a game element or even Walking Dead has a really reduced element. My problem is, I like games. I like challenge. I like having a skill component of it. And so what is that skill component? It is weird in some ways that all of a sudden you bust out a gun and start shooting. It would make sense maybe in a [Levine interrupts himself] but the scale and the amount of shooting that you have is heightened obviously, but, you know, so is Indiana Jones. The dude is an archeologist and he's busting caps in people's asses left and right. He probably kills 100 people in that thing."



It feels like a fundamental thing, I suggested to Levine. Violence in games is an efficient way to give the player agency. Let the player blow something up or shoot something and they can sense their agency. It's a way to make a game feel interactive and to present it as a system, perhaps?



"It's a limitation of the medium," Levine said. "I can sit down and write a scene about just about anything. It's really tough to make a game about any particular topic. You go see a movie like Margin Call, which is a fascinating exploration of how emotionally and the kind of pressures that led to the financial meltdown were on people. To turn that into a game would be a real head-scratcher. But to turn it into a movie is really a function of: can you write a good movie about it? Because you don't need that skill component, and you don't need to sort of train people on the systems and things like that [as you do] in games.



Levine: "My problem is, I like games. I like challenge. I like having a skill component of it."

"So we tend to have fewer forms in the game space. One of the nice advantages of a form is that it's a skill-set that people have acquired. And remember that if you hand a controller to somebody who has never played a first-person shooter, it's not something you were born with. So, you know there are certain advantages it gives you."



Perhaps the shooter is just a simplistic thing, but not a regrettable form, I offered. It can be quite complex, right?



"I would say it's an evolutionary form as we figure out more and more … we'll go nuts with Booker and Elizabeth. We are taking some baby steps there along the way of a character relating to another character. That needle has not moved very far in the video game space—outside of cutscenes—where you have any agency. I think that was one of our biggest challenges: moving the needle there, but that needle is really on the left side (zero) and not the right side (100).



"We're figuring it out and in the context of these very big expensive games because that's one of the things that helps you figure it out is having a lot of money and time to help figure out these problems. But this is an artform that is incredibly new. Go look at cinema. They didn't have camera cuts at the beginning. They didn't have close-ups. They didn't have reverse-angles. The language evolved over time through experimentation."



3. What a floating city does about sewage...


I'd seen Infinite's lead producer retweet the following:




Me: Do you know what happens to the sewage in the city? I saw Rod Fergusson retweeting somebody asking what happened?



Levine: When guys on my team retweet, I'm like, oh my god, now people are going to ask me about this. Well… Ken Levine knows everything that happens!



Me: We can skip…



Levine: I guess two things can happen to it. What happens on a ship or what happens on an airplane.



Me: I guess it depends on how the Founders are feeling about the people below.



Levine: They wouldn't so much care. [laughs]



BioShock Infinite's Lead Creator on History, Video Game Violence and... What Happens to the Sewage in a Floating City?



Oh, and here's one more bonus bit. There's been some talk about how well the BioShock brand is known by the kind of fratboys who help make Call of Duty popular. Levine says that any outreach to that constituency did not have much affect at all on the creation of the game. It seems like more of a marketing thing.



Levine hopes they'll get it—maybe embrace Infinite the way so many people did the similarly distinct and offbeat Inception and The Matrix: "It's not exactly something that pulls its punches or is trying to pander to a mass audience," Levine said of his new BioShock. "It's a pretty strange bird. But I believe that people who think strange birds are unappealing to a broad audience are underestimating the world."


...

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