In August 2010, what had been known as Project Icarus finally took flight and Irrational Games unveiled their new project: BioShock Infinite. With the creative force of Ken Levine back at the helm, almost five years after the original BioShock, the game appeared to be in safe hands and the trailer and concept sparked immediate attention, not least because of the eye-punching setting.
Despite not being an FPS gamer, the unique floating city of Columbia grabbed my attention and refused to let go, which is why I became determined to track it down at E3 and see what more I could glean about it. The half hour presentation was a strong one, reinforced by the period theming in the small room, and truly showed off the dystopian beauty of the game's environment along with the, often frenetic, gameplay.
When the game was first revealed, some gamers may have been disappointed to find that it would be yet another BioShock title, however, Ken Levine has been keen to stress over the last few months that BioShock isn't about the drowned city of Rapture -- setting for the first two games -- but rather, an overall concept. Infinite is just one more story set in the BioShock universe. While the lofty setting is, literally, miles apart from the underwater location of the first two games, Infinite has the same 'Bioshock feel', sharing many similar ideas. Themes of hope, idealism, and ingenuity which fall prey to power and corruption, ultimately plunging a once powerful, idealistic world into violent disarray are all familiar.
Rapture was a hidden city, but Columbia is more of a lost, missing one. Created at the turn of the twentieth century, Columbia is described by the developers as a 'flying world's fair, carrying the dreams of US idealism and expression', taking the form of a vast, lush metropolis, suspended by giant blimps and balloons. Before Uncle Sam muscled in, Columbia was an iconic symbol; the female personification of the United States, and she is emblematic of the city in not just name, but also the look and neoclassical feel to some of the architecture. Of course, the innovation and idealism behind Columbia hide more sinister things, and it is, in fact, fully armed. After a violent incident, which takes place some time before the game commences (set in 1912), the US disavows Columbia and it drifts off, vanishing and becoming lost among the clouds, like a sort of Steampunk Death Star.