A city in the clouds, the picturesque views, the quaint American setting and a man on a mission. The opening minutes one spends in the aerial city of Columbia impresses with the kitschy interpretation of the American dream, while the city's idyllic surroundings will make you forget that you're playing a first-person shooter (FPS).
BioShock Infinite (Rs 2,499 for PS3), the third instalment in the series, rises from the sea world of Rapture to the skies above where the floating city, you'll soon find, is someone's interpretation of Noah's Ark.
The game begins with the protagonist, Booker DeWitt, being deposited on a lonely lighthouse for a rendezvous. Those who have played the previous instalments will know that DeWitt is a former agent of New York's Pinkerton detective agency who has fallen on hard times.
To pay off his past debts, DeWitt has been hired by an unnamed person (who it is I'm still to find out) to rescue a girl called Elizabeth from Columbia. Like in the first game, the action begins in the lighthouse, which, instead of plunging to the depths in the earlier version, flies you to Columbia. Very soon you find out that you need to be baptised before entering the city.
Soon, you're exploring the magical world of Columbia, the fair grounds, the walks and taking in the sights. But hey, you're a man on a mission and the friendly green arrow shows you your path.
During the first hour or so of the game, I was left wondering how an FPS could take place in such serene surroundings. But knowing the reputation of development studio Irrational Games and the legacy of the previous games, I knew that sooner or later something would go wrong in the peaceful place. Go wrong it did, but not the way I had expected.
Soon, DeWitt peels away the beauty of the city to show its dark side. And disturbing questions of race and jingoistic nationalism crop up. You also meet Elizabeth - as also Songbird, that mechanical contraption that guards her. She is blessed with magical powers - the power of the tear - she can manipulate the space-time conundrum. This becomes very helpful during the constant fights you get into.
As with all BioShock games, this FPS makes use of weapons in conjunction with vigours, certain magical powers, to get rid of your enemies. And despite the vivid colours of the opening sequences, the game is violent and bloody.
After spending some time in the game, you'll realise that DeWitt is something of an antichrist with a dark past and the constant tauntings of Comcast, the person who conceived the city and who is revered as a living deity by its dwellers, gets to you. Comcast is, in fact, the villain of the piece, but DeWitt isn't - and doesn't claim to be - the hero.
Unlike other games where you have to take care of largely passive characters devoid of AI, Elizabeth is the heart of the game. While she doesn't fight, you won't have to shield her all the time. Also she is a great help and will toss you various helpful objects during fights and will point out to you the right way. Plus, if you die, she will revive you.
In fact, during some moments of the game, I felt as if I was her sidekick while she directed all the action. In fact, she is the protagonist, while DeWitt is the playable character.
The gameplay, the detailed scenery and the realistic voice acting lead to an immersive experience. While first-time players of the series might find the game a little more difficult than other ones in this genre, if they stay with it, they won't be disappointed. Without revealing too much, in which other game will one find Abraham Lincoln being branded a heretic by the villains or a mechanical soldier made in the mould of George Washington coming after you?
In the end, BioShock Infinite does live up to its hype and will leave you with some difficult philosophical questions to ponder on after you've completed the rather lengthy campaign (and the one set in 1999). Don't take my word for it, play the game to find out.