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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.