2012 was a good year for the humble gamer who rather enjoyed a good ol’ fashioned tortured journey into the looming depths of the human psyche.
2012 was a good year for the humble gamer who rather enjoyed a good ol’ fashioned tortured journey into the looming depths of the human psyche. From the moral maze that was “The Walking Dead”, to the Call Of Duty/Battlefield-type satire in “Spec Ops: The Line”, and the deconstruction of humanity’s façade and the reawakening of the inner savage in Far Cry 3, games found the sweet spot between something to excuse you sitting on your sofa for twelve hour sittings and genuinely immersive, high quality stories in their own right.
So, how will 2013 follow up on this? Well, pretty bloody nicely as it turns out. There’s so many games of genuine quality that it would be difficult to list all of them, along with the impartial reasons as to why these games would be worth your time. Besides, games are subjective. One gamer’s stupid, boring, repetitive slog through the nine circles of absolute boredom is another’s Game Of The Year. However, over the next couple of articles I write for this here Kettle Mag, I’m going to list some of the games that have got me particularly excited. Of course, I will miss out on some games that you think warrant selection. However, if you think I’m a raving lunatic, or want to suggest your own anticipated games, why not post your hatred/suggestions in the comments section at the bottom? It’s therapeutic!
Anyway, this article is going to focus on Bioshock Infinite and I must warn you; this piece is not going to be a shining example of objective journalism, because I. Adore. Bioshock. My main hobby (apart from writing articles for student magazines, HO YES) is boring my friends into a state of non-responsive boredom as I lecture them about the brilliant objectivist satire and genre-deconstruction of the first Bioshock game. It’s one of the few first person shooters, along with the sequel (imaginatively titled Bioshock 2) that I’ve managed to really enjoy, but that’s not just for the story. The gameplay was excellent—the guns were all varied and had their own uses, and of course if you got bored of boring conventional bullets to kill folk, you could throw a swarm of angry bees at them and cackle maniacally as they came down with a frenzied panic crossed with Saturday Night Fever. Or lightning. Or fire. Or you get the point.
What was so wonderful about the series as well was its setting. Rapture, the underwater city in which the first two games were set, was hauntingly beautiful, the lush environments contrasting with the glimpses of the dark ocean that surrounded you at all times, pushing in at every groaning crack in the fraying structure of this once mighty structure dedicated to the power of the individual. From the propaganda posters and graffiti sprawled upon almost every wall to the music to the mere decorations, Rapture was as much a main character as the protagonists. Certainly it had more personality than a lot of your generic action hero twaddle.
This is why I’m very, VERY excited about Bioshock Infinite. The developers could have set a thousand games in Rapture and tired out the concept. Instead, they’ve completely changed everything. The new game swaps the claustrophobic abyss that Rapture found its home in for a lush city in the sky, Columbia. Bioshock Infinite is, as of the most recent information, linked with the previous two in name and themes only; and that is a very bold decision. When you have a cash cow like the Bioshock franchise, it takes a lot of guts to just slaughter it outright instead of milking every last penny out of its increasingly sputtering udders.
The game’s story has, naturally, been kept largely under wraps. The great strength of Bioshock has always been its story and therefore the developers are hardly going to want to give away their ace. However, there are some details that have wormed their way into the wider consciousness. The game is set in 1912, in the aforementioned Columbia. Your character’s name is Booker DeWitt, ex-Pinkerton agent and this game’s lottery-selected unlucky bastard to be forced into playing amateur geneticist whilst getting beaten up by biomechanical monstrosities, mobs of slavering psychopaths and essentially everyone else that isn’t Booker DeWitt. He gets told by someone to go to the aforementioned sky-city and kidnap Elizabeth, a young woman with the power to manipulate rifts in time. So he does.
But then things go wrong.
From what’s been revealed about Columbia, the city appears to be a much more organic and vibrant city than Rapture was. Whilst one of Rapture’s great strengths was its little touches (like the aforementioned graffiti and decorations) that showed that people could and indeed did live there, it also made it clear that we encountered the ocean city at the end of its life; the creaking joints and bodies scattered everywhere paid testament to that. Columbia, from trailers, seems a lot more inviting. Whereas Rapture you visited after a revolution, Columbia you encounter in the grips of civil war (between the Founders and the Vox Populi, which I shan’t go into to protect some vestige of mystique). However, the villagers you encounter seem friendly, happy enough to idly chatter away to you.
But then, as previously mentioned, things go wrong.
I really don’t want to spoil things, but I’ll just say that Columbia is not a nice place to be in, especially in the time period. The whole basis of Columbia is built on the ideas of the Founding Fathers, to whom they have set up a quasi-religious ideology. The problems that arise from this slavish worship set up a new satirical edge for Bioshock Infinite; and considering how well that Bioshock satirised Randian philosophy and the concept of the player-character relationship, this has set my terrible British teeth all a-chattering in anticipation.
I haven’t even mentioned some of the other things that make this game look so good, but I have to reserve special mention for the Skyhook, a tool that allows one to trail across the sky on the cargo lines of Columbia whilst shooting your enemies who have similar ideas; if the idea of hurtling along rails perched on a city in the sky that itself is hovering several thousand feet above the ground blowing away the population of a city that hates you for being you doesn’t appeal to you, then no. You’re wrong.
It isn’t even out yet, but I’m quite confident this will be my game of the year. Like I said, this is just a small list of the reasons why it’ll be awesome. I haven’t mentioned the Song Bird, the dynamic between Booker and Elizabeth, the rifts themselves arrrrrgh arrrrgh. I could easily write two-three thousand words as to how much I slavishly worship the mere concept of Bioshock Infinite (therefore completely missing the point of the game’s satire) but the editor will probably lock me back in my cage.
Bioshock Infinite is due for release on the XBox, PS3 and PC platforms on the 26th of March.
Editor’s note: This piece is part of a series on top games to look forward to in 2013.