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BioShock Infinite: Ken Levine talks us through his new dystopia

We talk to the BioShock maestro and come away in raptures...

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CLOUD COVER

Levine, for now, refuses to be drawn on Elizabeth's origins - just as he is on the presumably shared backstory of the Plasmid-esque Vigors that (to take a gulp of Bucking Bronco as an example) can hurl enemies, pots and pans alike up into the air for a nice slo-mo hover takedown. What's clear, however, is exactly why the Founders and Vox Populi are willing to go to war over this particular pretty lady: hers is the face that tore open a thousand space-time rifts.

Infinite toys with the scientific thought of the early nineteenth century just as much as it pushes its politics to the edge of insanity. Levine waxes lyrical about the minds of people like Heisenberg, who peeled back the origins of physics during this period (for our part, we nodded and smiled fairly uncomprehendingly at this point), but ultimately it's all wrapped up in Elizabeth's trick of accessing other dimensions, times and worlds.

In the current game demonstration she'll notice a tear behind a dying horse and try to save it, for example, only to unwittingly open up a doorway to a street outside a neon-clad cinema in alterno-1983. The dame's got talent, there's no denying it.

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"We started to think about this notion of her interacting with other versions of reality" explains Levine. "It's a notion of things that don't necessarily exist in our reality, but that she can bring into the gameplay. What if she could bring in a skyline? What if she could bring in a turret? What if she could bring in ammo, or access to a new area that you can't get to? What if you're fighting the Vox Populi and you can summon in some Founders from another reality to fight for you? All these ideas came up in one meeting!"

I've had the experience of knowing a girl once, dating her once actually, who had been with somebody who had abused her before.

Vox Populi want Elizabeth dead, then, but the Founders - the Americana-fuelled imperialists that built this steam-powered Cloud City - want her back. The creature that misses her the most, however, is the Songbird. He's a giganto-budgie with attitude - his searchlight eyes reminiscent of the Big Daddy whenever a red lens clanks down inside his head to show he's in a temper. And boy, does the Songbird have a temper on him.

He's been built to nurture and protect Elizabeth, yet also to keep her captive. Now Booker has taken her away from him he'll rip off rooftops and throw you around like a doll to get both his revenge and his loved one back. For her part, in a moment of animated brilliance, Elizabeth shows that she would rather die than return to her tower - by delicately wrapping Booker's hands around her throat.

DEADLY SERIOUS

With the Songbird, quite brilliantly, Levine and his team at Irrational are using a videogame to reflect on the horrors of domestic abuse. "I've had the experience of knowing a girl once, dating her once actually, who had been with somebody who had abused her before," says Levine, contemplatively. "All the clichés you hear about are true. She would say that this guy had pushed her down the stairs when she was pregnant, that he had made her kneel in glass... all these unspeakably horrible things. Then she would make excuses for him, all the time. I knew the entire time that we were dating that she would go back to him. I could just see it. It was this tragic thing happening in real-time. And she did go back to him."

"That's not Elizabeth - Elizabeth is trying to get free - but she definitely has a connection," Levine continues. "This is the thing that raised her: this was the only contact she had. He brought her food, and her clothes and her books. He played with her when she was a kid. So she's conflicted. And I think conflicted characters are way more interesting than characters who act with a certainty."

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That, then, is BioShock Infinite. This is a game with things to say, even though the way it chooses to say them is through giant mechanical birds and rainbow-skirting rollercoasters trundling through the clouds that wouldn't look out of place in a Skittles advert. It is without question the most important game currently on the horizon. We encourage you to look to the skies upon its arrival.

Order Games Master here and have it delivered straight to your door

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