Bioshock Infinite. Are you worried about it? Are you concerned that the staff leaving Irrational, pushed-back release dates (ETA currently running at March 26), and recruitment of Epic Games' Rod Fergusson means that Bioshock has lost its path? Well, so was I. But after playing the first three hours, I'm back on board. Here are seven reasons why.
I was worried about Elizabeth. I was worried that she'd be an escort mission, a liability in the battlefield, badly acted, or overly sexualised. From my experience with the first three hours of the game, she's none of these things. Your introduction to her in the captivity of her tower is painfully human, and when she reacts to your presence with fearful aggression, her futile and casually deflected attempts to hit you with a book are heartbreaking.
But she quickly comes to terms with what needs to be done, and she's not a liability in the battlefield. She doesn't get knocked down, or require reviving. She is actively helpful, scouting the map for ammo and tossing it to you when you need it. Out of combat, she'll find money and give it to you. Then there's her odd world-tearing business, that lets her pull things from slightly different universes where the main difference is that there's, erm, a massive gun turret in the middle of the room.
Elizabeth is extremely well-written and acted. Her transformation from horrified naive to ammo-tossing battle-assistant might be slightly too fast, but this is an action game, and if she spent the battles screaming "oh God, we're being so naughty" that'd be even worse.
The Vigors of Bioshock Infinite have a subtly different feel to the Plasmids of Bioshock. Murder of Crows and Devil's Kiss are both area of effect, which suits the larger combat arenas. All of the Vigors can be transformed into traps, by holding the left trigger to place them, instead of firing them. Bucking Bronco, which tosses enemies into the air, incapacitating them and leaving them prone, is particularly useful against single strong enemies. If you're feeling creative, you can send a Murder of Crows through a Devil's Kiss trap to create a flock of flaming crows. It's like a heavy metal stage show.
Leaping onto and off the SkyHook system is easy - a tap of the A button lands you on it, and another tap, correctly aimed, will land a lethal knockback blow onto any guard underneath you. As well as navigating, it's a quick way of maneuvering around the larger battle arenas.
Salt (Infinite's version of Eve) is meted out more gingerly. You don't carry up to nine Eve syringes - you just have a single bar of health and salt, and if they're full, there's no more to be had. This lets the game be more generous with the top-ups, and oddly, made me more inclined to use my Vigors. There was something about hoarding nine Eve syringes that made me more reluctant to use them. With just a single bar, you're encouraged to fight in the moment, and use everything you have.
Minor improvements - Vita Chambers have been replaced with Elizabeth dragging you somewhere safe and reviving you, and while you're out, the enemies regain health, too. You can't just chip away at the bosses, this time. There's also a third bar that compensates for the lack of carryable health kits - a regenerating shield that offers some hope of survival to the dangerously low in health.