Bioshock Infinite preview: cheery, sunny, and unsettling

The demonstration continues. A robot horse drags a cart along a cobbled street, passing Booker.

One of the reasons BioShock Infinite is taking so long to develop is that Irrational are rebuilding everything from the ground up. Or in this case, from the sky up. Their new tech allows every building to float independently. A colonial building, gorgeously white, on top of an airbag, pitches forwards, thumping into the road. The bell on top clangs to the ground, swinging towards Booker. Columbia is broken.

Booker continues through the streets, passing a building engulfed in flames. A woman sweeps in the doorway, framed by the fire. Columbia is all the creepier for setting scenes like this in bright daylight. Ken Levine's touchpoints, he says, are an imaginary July 4th, 1900, with hopeful, perfect blue skies, and the films Blue Velvet and The Shining.

The first dead body I see is a horse still attached to its cart, slumped on the ground and being eaten by flies. The feeling here is that, once again, the infrastructure has collapsed and insanity is taking hold. Not as badly as in Rapture, at least not yet. But you can feel a breakdown coming.

As Booker steps over the horse, a voice swells from a garden. “The needs of our great city of Columbia must come before the desire of any foreigner, whether they be enemy or friend. For I have looked into the future and one path is filled with amity and gold, and the other is fraught with the perils of a hostile and alien world.”

Booker enters the garden. He passes a man sitting on a bench, surrounded by birds, and approaches the speaker. This is Mr Saltonstall. He's preaching to no one, dressed in a suit that looks like it was made out of the American flag, surrounded by placards warning about the theft of your guns.

Is Saltonstall BioShock Infinite's caricature of the activist Tea Party movement in America? Not quite, according to Levine: “Those are not new movements in this country, those are recurring movements in this country and we started work on this before those things happened. Unsurprisingly, because these things come around every X number of years, you have the nativist movements, you have second amendment movements, you have things that are often combined, it's very, very common, and it occurs with some frequency.”

Sending tweets

When Booker DeWitt grabs one of Saltonstall's weapons, it all goes a bit BioShock: Saltonstall's face glitches and flickers, his eyes glow and he sets his henchman, Charles, on DeWitt. Charles is the guy surrounded by birds. He launches a murder of crows at Booker, as Saltonstall leaps up and hooks onto one of Columbia's travel rails, which whisks him away. From amid the diving black cloud of birds, Booker manages to snipe Charles, who falls over the edge of the garden. Booker peers over the wall: the body has caught on a platform below. He uses his telekinesis power on it, and a bottle Charles was carrying swooshes towards him. Drinking it gives him his foe's power over birds.

That's interesting. Certainly easier than gathering Adam from the dead body of a little girl. (What, you saved the Little Sisters? Wimp.)