BioShock Infinite's Songbird makes the Big Daddies seem like little babies. Thirty feet of metallic, avian menace, the Songbird is the 'guardian' of Elizabeth - a petite brunette with space-ripping powers that belie her fragile appearance.
Unfortunately for Booker DeWitt (that's you), Elizabeth needs rescuing from Songbird's synthetic talons. And that means freaky-beak is really annoyed at you.
Elizabeth is at the centre of a citywide conflict between The Founders - the group who, guess what, founded this floating utopia of Columbia - and the Vox Populi. The latter (whose name translates as 'the voice of the people') are an anarchistic movement whose driving passion is the destruction of Columbia, and the smashing of Elizabeth's pretty face onto the nearest solid bit of skyline.
But let's back up a bit. Our exclusive, eyes-on demo of BioShock Infinite begins inside a deserted souvenir store. The shop is crammed with Independence Day paraphernalia - red, white and blue ribbons adorn ceilings and walls, while sinister marionettes of former presidents swing from a shelf in the corner. The décor may be colourfully un-Rapture-like, but that oppressive BioShock feel is very much intact.
So what's new? For one, the blossoming relationship between Booker and Elizabeth is pivotal to BioShock Infi nite, both in terms of narrative and how the play pans out. As Booker rummages the store and picks up a 'Bucking Bronco' tonic (the Infinite equivalent of plasmids), Elizabeth jams an Abraham Lincoln mask over her face and starts fooling around. It's a warm and genuinely funny moment, the two exchanging an easy banter as they delve through the dusty shelves for more supplies.
And then Songbird arrives, wrenching us from the brief moment of poignancy by slamming into the side of the building. Debris tumbles from the ceiling and Elizabeth darts behind the counter, eyes wide as saucers, a trembling hand covering her mouth. "No... no, no!" She repeats it over and over, hysterical.
We still can't see Songbird, but his bone-chilling shriek is enough. A bulbous eye peers through a crack in the door; a terrifying red spotlight scans the room for movement. Moments pass and... Songbird leaves. It's then we're treated to a harrowing insight into Booker and Elizabeth's relationship.
"Promise me, if it comes to it," she says, pulling Booker's hand tight around her neck. "You will not let him take me back." It's an astonishing moment of storytelling, at once revealing the extent of Elizabeth's fear of Songbird and the intimate bond of trust she shares with Booker. This is clearly no ordinary video game pairing - it's a relationship brimming with complex emotion and narrative depth, and one we can't wait to see develop.
TEAR IT UP
Outside now, we decide to pay Comstock a visit. He's the leader of The Founders and a man Elizabeth believes can, perhaps, help control her mysterious powers. Powers we're about to witness first hand. A horse lies prone in the street, dying. Elizabeth decides to help. Her powers involve manipulating 'tears' in the environment - small fluctuations in space that allow her to bring objects from other places into Columbia.
Still unable to truly master her space-bending abilities, Elizabeth inadvertently rips open a gateway to a neon-lit city street in what appears to be the 1980s (the poor nag dies, by the way), which is shocking for two reasons: firstly, Infinite is set in 1912. Secondly, in our newly-discovered city area, a movie theatre advertises 'Revenge Of The Jedi' - which Star Wars fans will recognise as the original name of 1983's Return Of The Jedi.