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Clip Analysis: “BioShock Infinite” E3 2011 demo

Clip Analysis: “BioShock Infinite” E3 2011 demo (photo)

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Video game teasers tend to stick to a certain formula: dazzle the viewer with awesome graphics, show off some of the games’ abilities and maybe dribble a little story out to tantalize would-be players. But every so often, one piece of video-centric marketing will float above the rest or sink to join the sludge.

In Clip Analysis, I’ll be looking at trailers, teasers and just about any game-related video in an effort to call out what works and what doesn’t in terms of communicating a particular game’s coolness.

This time, I’ll be taking a look at the E3 2011 demo for “BioShock Infinite.”

Video games don’t go in for a lot of historical allusions. For every “Red Dead Redemption” that looks back at American history and tries to capture the essences of past times, there’s another sci-fi epic trying to either crib or be different from “Gears of War,” Halo” or “Mass Effect.”

In development by Irrational Games, “BioShock Infinite” looks to chart a different path. I’ve already talked about the trailers teasing the story and showing off the flying city of Columbia and you can read my interviews with Irrational’s Tim Gerritsen and Ken Levine on IFC News as well. Irrational Games unveiled a new demo which blew folks’ minds at E3 last month. That demo is now available for all to see and demonstrates why the new “BioShock” has gamers everywhere counting down the days until it comes out.

I think part of the power that “BioShock Infinite” wields is the idea of American exceptionalism gone awry. Unveiled at the 1900 World’s Fair, Columbia starts out as symbol of American power and ingenuity but becomes its own rogue state when it intervenes on the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th Century. With that act, the whole world learned that Columbia was carrying massive armaments that make it essentially a Beaux Arts Death Star, leading the U.S. to severs ties with Columbia. In the game’s alternate history, the gravity-defying metropolis floats around above the skies with the threat of imposing its will on earthbound nations.

However, the action in the E3 demo clip shows that Columbia’s at war with itself, too. Lead character Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth–the girl he’s charged with rescuing–walk into a wholesale slaughter being committed by the Vox Populi, a proletariat militia sworn to kill the fat cats who they say are exploiting the common man. The Vox battles against Columbia’s patrician Founders, who want to maintain the status quo.

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The character of Elizabeth going to be the linchpin around which “Infinite” turns. She’s a gameplay partner and a plot element but has a character arc all her own. After Booker’s freed her from captivity, you can see that she’s a bit naïve and inexperienced in the ways of the outside world, but it’s clear that she wants freedom more than life itself. Elizabeth mysteriously has the power to manipulate “tears,” which are rips in the space-time continuum. As a brief glimpse into 1985–complete with “Return of the Jedi” on a movie theater marquee–shows, she can’t always control the rolling back of time. But, per Levine, she’ll be able to open smaller tears to let players access paths, weapons and resources. But there’s no escaping the ominous Songbird, who appears to share a bond with Elizabeth that’s more than just hunter and prey.

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The sky-lines make Columbia feel like an amusement park of death, complete with giant dirigible airships armed to the teeth. Yet, even as the bullets fly and the extradimensional portals open, “BioShock Infinite” gestures at history and offers insight into human behavior without feeling a rote regurgitation of facile tropes. You’re going to be playing inside the ethical dissolution of a closed society, with the future of a nearly innocent young woman at stake. Most ambitiously, neither of the warring factions will be portrayed as good or evil. Instead, Levine and crew hope to impart a sense of curdled idealism behind the conflict. If “BioShock Infinite” manages to pull all of this together, then it’ll join the first “BioShock” as a game that shows the best of what modern video games has to offer.

Are you psyched after watching the E3 2011 demo of “BioShock Infinite”? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.