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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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