First, a bit of background on my existing prejudices: System Shock 2 (created by another, now-defunct studio that employed many of the creators behind the BioShock franchise) is one of my favorite games of all time. I still think that its villain is the best video-game villain to date. While the game is somewhat dated technologically, it still feels state-of-the-art in many ways, most notably its incredible sound design.
I have a more complicated relationship with the BioShock games. They abandoned many of the RPG underpinnings of System Shock and correspondingly emphasized its action elements. They tell incredible stories, with a lot of creativity and insightfulness; the original BioShock famously featured an in-depth examination of Objectivism, ruthlessly examining the implications and consequences of its values. But, they are also the worst offenders in modern-day gaming “moral” systems, with stupid, redundant “choices” that tie unsatisfactorily into game consequences, with Manichean absolutes that remove any reason to think after the first presentation. (The original BioShock’s moral choice was, “Do you murder this little girl?”, asked dozens of times throughout the game. If your first answer was “No,” why would your twelfth be any different?)
So, I looked forward to BioShock Infinite with a mixture of excitement and caution. It looked gorgeous, and after the somewhat-repetitive BioShock 2 I’ve been anticipating the fresh territory they can mine with a total change in setting. I was hopeful, but not particularly optimistic, that they would also improve their in-game storytelling, allowing player actions to have the same importance and gravity that they allow their fixed fiction.
As I’ve been mulling over this blog post, most of the things I’ve wanted to write about have been critical of the game, so I’m a bit worried that it will leave the wrong impression. Therefore, I’ll state up front that BioShock Infinite is a great game. It’s possibly the most gorgeous game I’ve ever seen, with stunningly lush environments (a welcome change from the dourness of Rapture!), phenomenal character modeling, and wonderfully lifelike animations. Gameplay, while still primarily a FPS action game with some RPG elements, has some really fun and unique innovations, most notably a companion who you don’t need to babysit, and who instead aids you when you’re in trouble.
I’ll get at the story below in spoilerville, but up top I’ll say that I enjoyed it much more than the story of BioShock, but still felt a lot of frustration at certain aspects of it.
All of these games have drawn somewhat from the survival horror genre, but have moved gradually further from it with each iteration. System Shock 2 (I haven’t played the original) was the most brutal, with very limited ammunition and other resources and a seemingly endless supply of ravening, horrifying creatures trying to murder you. BioShock got more generous with your resources, and made enemy designs less macabre and more grim. Both games made very effective use of creepy sound design, and were perhaps a little too reliant on a trope of “Let’s lure you into a creepy-looking room with flickering lights…. oh no, the lights went out! You hear a door slam shut! SOMETHING IS SKITTERING AROUND YOU!!! You can move around but can’t see anything. OH NO THE LIGHTS ARE BACK ON AND SOMETHING HORRIFYING IS HERE!!!” Thankfully, BioShock Infinite doesn’t return to that specific well, and instead finds other ways to inject creeping dread. Still, the baseline experience of Columbia is worlds apart from the confined spaces of System Shock 2 or Rapture: you’re often in the wide-open world, under a stunning blue sky with fluffy white clouds, not cowering in a slimy corridor trapped between flesh-devouring monsters. You walk through lush gardens, calming streams, a lazy beach, and all sorts of bright, cheerful, well-maintained civic institutions.
This is getting at what’s probably my single favorite aspect of BioShock Infinite: how original and creative it feels. That’s no small accomplishment! It sometimes feels like video game developers have an incredibly stunted vocabulary to draw from when deciding on their game concepts: “A gritty World War II battle… a sleek vision of the future with humans fighting aliens… a muddy medieval fantasy…” I can’t think of another game that has mined the territory BioShock Infinite has chosen for its inspiration: 1910s Americana, complete with bandstands, barber-shop quartets, long stripey bathing suits for men, cotton candy, revivalist tent meetings. This is married with another counter-temporal innovation akin to BioShock’s 1940’s undersea technology: lighter-than-air technology, which lifts the whole kit and kaboodle way up in the air, floating these grand edifices up in the clouds. They’re loosely joined together by a varied system of technologies, including sky-lines (essentially motorized bi-directional ziplines), zeppelins, floating yachts, and tethered barges. Again: lots of games let you fly, or lift you into the air, but I haven’t encountered another game that has come up with these fanciful means of transport, and that alone is a delightful reason for this game to exist.
The game also deals with some interesting, weighty weighty themes. The *Shock games may be a great deal more subversive than we generally think of, since they offer pointed critiques of bedrock values in modern American society. System Shock was less overtly thematic, but did offer a chilling counterpoint to our society’s love of helpful electronics. Few Americans describe themselves as Objectivists, but the Tea Party’s ascendency was in some ways predicted by BioShock’s indomitable Andrew Ryan, and the game broadly examines not only libertarianism, but the free-market economy and capitalism itself, finding plenty to criticize. BioShock Infinite takes on an entirely separate, and probably even more potent, set of American values: Religion, faith, and independence.
It also deals in a very direct and often uncomfortable way with America’s troubled history with race. The game is set long after the Civil War, but long before the March on Washington, and features white Anglo-Saxons proudly congratulating themselves at being so forward-thinking as to employ the “lesser races” as servants. You’re confronted with caricatures of African-Americans, Chinese, and Native Americans, with exaggerated features and stereotypical actions. You also get to meet the real people, who are often cowed and beaten down by their smug oppressors. As the game goes on, you’re gradually introduced to the finer grains of racism, including antipathy towards the Irish and Germans. All of this is very historically accurate, which just makes it more awkward.
So, let’s get down to choice, shall we? There’s not a lot of it, which was frustrating at the time but, in retrospect, may have been a good thing. At the least, I’d rather that the game tell a constrained story that I merely play through, rather than offer bland dichotomies like those in its prequels.
When you first enter Columbia, it looks absolutely incredible, like a vision of heaven. This early part actually may have been my favorite part of the entire game: you get to wander around amazing environments, listen to some beautiful singing, gaze in awe at your surroundings, eavesdrop on the sometimes-delightful period conversation. This made me wish that I was playing a different game than I actually was playing: I wanted to play an RPG, where Columbia could just be a city, a place I could spend time exploring and solving puzzles inside of.
But, of course, that’s not the sort of game I’m playing, which I guess I shouldn’t hold against them. This is a first-person shooter, and so, after that delightful introduction, you’re plunged into the world of running-and-gunning. You’re doing it against a beautiful backdrop, but mechanically, it’s very similar to BioShock: creep into a new area, shoot at a bunch of bad guys until they’re all dead, loot their corpses, go to a vending machine, buy upgrades to your weapon or Vigor/Adam, then find the next and repeat. The games feel quite different, but they play out very similarly. (With the notable exceptions of some improvements like Skylines and Elizabeth, as noted above.)
The stories also have some surface similarities. Instead of Andrew Ryan, the prophet of unfettered free-market libertarianism, we have John Comstock, a prophet who offers to cleanse away sins and build a better society on Earth. Both visionaries have created these incredible worlds, far more interesting than the mundane land-bound cities of America. In BioShock, you’re visiting his land after it’s all gone to heck. In Infinite, you’re seemingly entering Columbia in its period of greatest strength, even during its ascendency; your actions carry the threat of toppling it down.
Interestingly, both men also have industrialists who serve as foils. Frank Fontaine featured prominently in the first game, and Jeremiah Fink plays an important role in the latest. Ryan and Fontaine were united in activity but divided in outlook: both ran businesses to make money, but Ryan was an idealist who wanted to change the world while Fontaine was an opportunist who wanted the best for himself. Comstock and Fink are divided in activity but simpatico in outlook: Comstock tries to focus on the spiritual and emotional in his role as prophet, while Fink focuses on efficient production and canny marketing in his role as profit-maker. But, Columbia is inextricably the product of both men: Fink manufactures all the machines necessary to elevate it and keep it running, while Comstock manufactures the fierce passions that draw so many men and women there and unite them in a common purpose.
Comstock’s greatest opponent, though, is not Fink, but rather Daisy Fitzroy, an escaped former slave who has started leading a revolution of Columbia’s underclasses against their Anglo-Saxon “Founder” overlords. More on that below in mega-spoilerville.
Computer technology has advanced a ton in the six years since BioShock came out, and that’s probably most obvious in the character modeling and animations. The previous games in the series have almost completely eschewed other on-screen humans: most of the time you’re fighting monsters, who don’t need to look particularly realistic. When they do add a human element, it’s been done not through the typical game mechanism of interaction, but rather through voyeurism: audio logs, phonographs, voxophones, that let you eavesdrop on the thoughts and actions that others have taken prior to your arrival. That’s let them make very fleshed-out characters without needing any actual flesh, as it were.
Well, they’re now confident enough to have major characters on screen for a long time; in the case of Elizabeth, she’s practically always visible. They did a fantastic job developing her: her facial animations, gestures, movement, and speech are all incredibly well-done. At the same time, I think they made a very wise decision in making her slightly cartoony. It’s not a huge exaggeration, but big enough to move her out of the uncanny valley and into the world of video-game character. I think they get the best of both worlds: I can exclaim at how life-like her movements seem, without getting caught up on how much of her still fails to approximate life.
That said, her story does not make a lot of sense to me. We’re expected to believe that she grew up in a totally isolated tower, with absolutely no human contact until she turned nineteen; and yet, she has incredibly high verbal skills, is able to pick up on all kinds of nuances of speech, and otherwise… just does not make a lot of sense. As you learn more about her history and purpose, there’s sort of an explanation, but the explanation kind of boils down to “She’s magical! Because quantum theory!” Anyways… realism is not something I demand from my entertainment, so it shouldn’t bother me much, but given all the effort they put into developing her character I would have liked a SLIGHTLY more believable backstory.
Elizabeth is the star, but there are plenty of other folks filling the frame as well. This is something that the earlier games were completely missing: regular folks just standing around, not shooting you or directing you on a new quest. Their movements are more understated than Elizabeth’s or Daisy’s, but still remarkably well-done. My single favorite parts in this game weren’t moments of high action or dramatic plot twists: they were completely optional ambient scenes featuring some folks singing while you made your way past them. Players could certainly just rush past and get to the next action sequence, but anyone doing so would deny themselves the best parts of the game. Here’s my personal favorite, a couple of children in the slums under Columbia playing Shake Sugaree:
And of course there’s the more famous floating barbershop quartet singing God Only Knows:
And don’t forget this lovely short sequence featuring Elizabeth singing “May the Circle Be Unbroken” while Booker strums the guitar:
So, while the regular people are delightful, they’re awkwardly spliced into a game that can’t really accommodate them. To its credit, BioShock Infinite tries to enhance its inherited systems to incorporate a living world; to its detriment, it fails in its attempts.
- In an early sequence, an on-screen warning alerts you when you encounter civilians while in a fighting stage, warning that it might make things more difficult if you kill them. This had the effect of making me hesitate before shooting anyone I came across for the rest of the game, since I hate killing innocents in any game; but it didn’t matter, since 99.99% of all encounters end with the other person shooting at you. I don't think there was a single incident after that first one where you could accidentally shoot a civilian, and not a single time when you could avoid a fight with an enemy soldier.
- Since Columbia is still a functioning society, you can encounter stores and dwellings that are still occupied, whose inhabitants will frown on you looting their goods. The game helpfully will show the message "Steal" when you hover over one of these items, and display in red text instead of white, which warns you about what you're going to do. This in itself actually leads to a nice mini-choice: you can steal, which will give you more resources but also cause consequences (NPCs turning violent, or calling for help, or just running away and making you feel bad); or you can ignore it and continue pretending you're in an RPG. However, there are also some times when an item ISN'T marked as owned, and yet taking it will turn everyone on the map hostile against you. This is particularly annoying when you try to Possess a vending machine, which is something the entire rest of the game has hard-wired me to do reflexively. In multiple cases, I ended up reloading a level (sometimes losing some good progress) just because I hadn't meant to trigger this reaction. Anyways, it's annoying to have what feels like a half-baked ownership system grafted onto a game that's fundamentally about grabbing every single thing you can see.
- Speaking of grabbing: The BioShock games are some of the most Skinner-ian experiences I've ever had. The world is filled with containers, and the containers have good things inside (money, ammo, health, salts), so you spend much of the game just mindlessly pressing F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F. BUT, the game lets you consume food even when your health is at maximum, so you sometimes end up wasting a resource that you could have better saved until after an upcoming fight. Annoyingly, this is only true of health; the game keeps you from picking up salts or ammo if you're at the maximum. And rarely-but-not-too-rarely the game will drop in a rotten piece of food which actually decreases your health. This is marked, so you can just not press F a second time to avoid eating it; but, that slows down the process of spamming the F key whenever you open up a new room; more annoyingly, if that rotten food shares a container with something you want, like Silver Eagles, then (as far as I can tell) there's no way to take the money you want without also eating the rotten food you don't.
- Late in the game, you can get allies to fight alongside you, which is awesome; however, it's very easy to shoot them. It would be nice if there was a stronger visual distinction between factions, instead of just a pop-up that says "Don't shoot your allies!" after you've already shot your allies. Fundamentally, though, the problem is that the first 80% of the game has trained us to shoot everything that moves, and it's very hard to break that habit this late in the game.
- There's a section of the game after you acquire the Shock Jockey vigor, which has a combat purpose but also lets you re-activate certain electrical generators, which lets you solve puzzles and acquire new items. So, I kept an eye open for those generators for the rest of the game. And, of course, they completely disappear soon after you see them. Once again, the game has trained me to do something, and then totally ignores it for the entire rest of the game, causing me to waste time for no good outcome.
One of my biggest annoyances with the story was a sense of false equivalency. The Daisy Fitzroy situation initially bugged me since I assumed that it would be another thing like the Little Sister situation in BioShock: there would be a Big Choice to either support Fitzroy or Comstock, which would determine the outcome of the game. And that bothered me since I didn’t think it would be an interesting choice: Daisy had genuine grievances, and was fighting on behalf of an oppressed minority against an oppressive majority. Why on earth would I side with Comstock?
Well, it turned out I didn’t have to. The plot plays out in a predefined way, with circumstances compelling you to ally with Daisy. I was a little miffed that “I” (as Booker DeWitt) was so resistant to helping her out: Booker just wants to do a job, while I wanted to ally with Daisy's greater cause. I wanted more enthusiasm from Booker, but was generally okay with the way the plot was going.
Later in the game, though, the rebels start winning, and a bit after that they turn against you. I felt like the game was implying that there was no real difference between Vox Populi and the Founders. Now, I don't want to go overboard and idealize the Vox: they are certainly not perfect. But, I'm a bit stunned that the game would imply that rebelling slaves are as evil as the slavers. I wanted to see this as a tragic situation, of noble aims led astray, and been able to rein back in the Vox's worst impulses and refocus on universal values (freedom, safety) rather than vengeance.
That was probably the single thing I most disliked about the game. It ends up not being that significant in the context of the whole game, though. I'm still not totally sure how I feel about the multiple-worlds thing: it was surprising, and cool, and is something that fits very well within the framework of a video game: I like the idea that when you re-play this game, you're not re-doing your earlier experience, but rather defining the events that took place in a parallel universe. But, I don't think that the underlying game itself justifies that. The plot is just too linear, too fixed, with too little opportunity for variations: the only interesting differences in the plot are the two destinies for Booker that are embedded within the structure of the game itself. I can't replay this game and create a version where Daisy lives, or where Fink is persuaded to turn against Comstock, or where the Luteces separate. The dialogue in the game talks about how there are some fixed points (it always starts with a lighthouse, etc.) and variations, but the content of the game consists almost entirely of fixed points.
And, again, fixed points by themselves aren't necessarily bad. I would never claim that Portal is a bad game because it didn't feature alternate endings. But I think that the lofty and ambitious metaphysics presented by Bioshock Infinite can't begin to be justified by the gameplay they accompany.
So, the key plot itself: I may be missing some things, but from what I understand, here's the idea:
- There are alternate universes, generated by quantum events. Each time a choice could go multiple ways, an alternate universe is created. Some things must stay constant, but many can vary.
- Booker DeWitt, a veteran of the Indian Wars, feels bad about what he's done in war. He encounters a revivalist preacher who offers to baptize him. In one reality, he accepts the baptism and is reborn as John Comstock, The Prophet, and starts having spiritual visions. In another reality, he remains DeWitt, and joins the Pinkertons as a detective/thug/enforcer.
- Comstock meets Rosalind Lutece, a brilliant physics theorist who understands the nature of the universe. They form an unlikely partnership: her inventions allow a city to fly, and he can give her the resources to pursue her own project of uniting with her "brother" Robert, a male version of herself who exists in other dimensions.
- One of Comstock's prophecies states that his daughter will fulfill his visions and rule both Columbia and the world. However, Comstock is impotent (perhaps from contact with the quantum devices). Rosalind agrees to help Comstock, over the objections of her brother: in this reality Comstock has no child, but in other realities, Booker does.
- Robert contacts the younger version of Booker. Tears in the quantum fabric of the multiverse let you traverse both dimensions and time; I think that Comstock is probably around 45 in his reality while Booker is around 25 in his own. Booker agrees to surrender his own child Anna in exchange for... I'm not sure what! Forgiveness for sins? Payment of monetary debts?
- In carrying out the deal, Robert and Rosalind are reunited. Booker changes his mind, but is unable to bring Anna back through the tear. The tear closes, lopping off her pinky finger.
- In the Comstock reality, Comstock renames Anna to Elizabeth and begins grooming her for rule. This means locking her up in a tower and denying any human contact. But, she has an endless supply of books, phonographs, movies to watch, etc.
- Elizabeth has special powers. I'm not sure if this is the result of her moving through the tear, or her existing in a reality other than the one into which she was born. In either case, she is able to find and open tears all on her own, without requiring the massive machinery of the Luteces. Comstock and his flunky scientists (probably not including the Luteces) tap into this power, lessening Elizabeth's abilities (so she can open tears but not create them) and possibly using the power to help fuel Columbia.
- Robert isn't happy about what's happened to Elizabeth. He convinces Rosalind to help undo their actions, even though it will mean their separation. They may or may not know that, in the future, with Comstock's plan set in motion, Elizabeth will use the might of Columbia to rain fire down on Earth, eventually conquering all the inhabitants. And, with her own powers, she won't just conquer one Earth, but all of them: she'll be able to open tears and move her vast army into all universes at will.
- So, the Luteces convince Booker to capture Elizabeth and bring her back to New York. At some point here, he moves into the Comstock/Columbia universe. Elizabeth is now nineteen, and Comstock an old man. Booker still mourns Anna, but has repressed the memories of his complicity in her loss.
- The game starts here.
- Comstock was present when the Luteces took Elizabeth, so he knows what Booker looks like. He knows about the mark on Booker's hand, "AD" for "Anna DeWitt". Comstock has passed this description along to his peoples, warning them of the "False Shepherd" who has come to take "The Child" Elizabeth.
- Lots of shooting.
- Booker rescues Elizabeth from the tower. She wants to go to Paris. Booker lies and says that he'll take her there. They try to escape Columbia, but whenever they acquire an airship capable of leaving, they're attacked by Songbird, an enormous avian automaton designed to protect Elizabeth. They get separated multiple times and reunited. She eventually figures out that he was hired to kidnap her and is justifiably angry. But, he keeps protecting her, and she decides that leaving with him is better than getting locked back up in the tower.
- Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox Populi, agrees to help them escape if they'll help her acquire weapons for her army. Booker and Elizabeth initially fail, but then start traveling between alternate universes until they find one where the Vox have gotten their weapons and are winning the war against the Founders.
- But, in this universe, Booker allied with the Vox (why can't I play in this reality?!) and died a martyr to the cause (oh.). Daisy is understandably nonplussed when Booker shows up again, figuring him for an imposter, or at the very least an inconvenience in this great narrative she has going on. She orders the Vox to destroy him.
- Daisy kills Fink, who has been manufacturing almost all of Comstock's supplies. In a frankly unbelievable turn for her character, she threatens to kill Fink's young son. Elizabeth stabs Daisy from behind, through the stomach, with a pair of scissors. It's pretty shocking. Elizabeth starts getting really upset about what she's done, while Booker tries to persuade her that both of their actions have been justified. Elizabeth asks Booker to kill her if it seems like she'll ever be returned to the tower.
- Songbird ambushes them as they're about to escape. Before Songbird can kill Booker, Elizabeth offers herself up freely to return. He takes her away. I think there's another shift between realities here. Rather than the tower, she's taken to a new institution where she's tortured and gradually gives in to her destiny. In this reality, she succeeds Comstock after his death, then militarizes Columbia and launches an aerial attack on New York City. Part of her knows that this is wrong, so she sends Booker back in time with enciphered warnings to her younger self explaining what she'll need to do.
- Back in the past, Booker rescues Elizabeth again, and destroys the tower. Since the tower had been siphoning off her power, Elizabeth is now, for the first time, in full control of her abilities. She can open tears anywhere, to any time or place. She also seems to suddenly understand the nature of the multiverse and everything that has happened; I'm not sure if this is also a result of the tower's destruction, or if it's from the code sent back by her future alternate self.
- Elizabeth walks Booker through his history, showing him the real history of everything that had happened. He finally understands that Elizabeth is his daughter, and that he is Comstock.
- Oh, yeah, Booker killed Comstock. I forgot to mention that. Elizabeth was going to, but Booker beat her to it. Comstock was going to reveal that Booker gave up Anna/Elizabeth; once she figures it out, she shows these events to Booker.
- Booker and Elizabeth both understand that they can't make things better by just killing Comstock: as long as some version of Comstock exists in some other universe, he'll just continue his plan and conquer all universes. The only way to win is to go back in time before Comstock was born and "smother him at birth".
- Booker figures that this means smothering him as a baby. Comstock wasn't born, though: Comstock was born-again, baptized in the river into his new faith.
- So, Elizabeth and her alternate-dimension Elizabeths hold Booker down under the water and drown him. He dies. The end.
On the other hand, it makes less and less sense the more I think about it. Elizabeth is drowning you, the future version of Booker, not the younger version. Killing someone when they're 38 years old won't kill the version of them when they're 18 years old, right? And I don't think that having two versions of the same person in the same reality will somehow erase the younger version, either: after all, we've just played an entire game where Booker and Comstock have coexisted in space and time.
The alternate Elizabeths all gradually disappear after you drown, which is sad and makes sense - if Booker died before Anna was both, there can be no Elizabeth.
Anyways! Like so much else in the game, this felt really ambitious and really interesting, which makes the flaws all the more frustrating.
- Favorite weapon: I relied on the Machine Gun and Carbine for most of the game. I didn't even try many of the later weapons, though.
- Favorite vigor: Shock Jockey.
- Favorite NPC besides Elizabeth: Daisy Fitzroy, with Rosalind Lutece a close second.
- Favorite combat tear: Summoning a mosquito.
- Favorite infusion: I maxed out Armor before I spent a single one on Health. Salts are useful, though I never ran out after getting about 5 upgrades.
- Favorite song: May the Circle Be Unbroken. (Close second: Fortunate Son by CCR.)
- Favorite animation: Elizabeth opening a new tear
- Favorite setting: Anywhere outdoors in Columbia is pretty great. I might give the edge to Battleship Bay.
- Creepiest setting: Oh, definitely the workshop with all the decapitated toy heads of Benjamin Franklin. Phenomenally unsettling atmosphere in there.
- Favorite combat move: Sky-hook executions looked cool, but I rarely did them. It's simple, but I loved chaining enemies with Shock Jockey, then stunning the crowd each time I burned another one down.
- Favorite hat: I ended the game with Rising Bloodlust (increase weapon damage with each kill), but prior to that had used Storm (chain effects when killing with certain vigors) or Sheltered Life (brief invulnerability after eating food).
- Favorite shirt: I ended with Scavenger's Vest (enemies give ammo 40% of the time). For most of the game I used Blood to Salt (enemies give salt 40% of the time).
- Favorite pants: Urgent Care (shield regenerates sooner and more quickly). I was very shield-reliant in my game.
- Favorite boots: Overkill (killing an enemy with excessive force will stun nearby enemies).
- Biggest complains about gear: Far too many items require skylines, which are only present in a few fights, or melee, which is usually an awful idea.
- Favorite statue: So many to choose from! The Child is pretty awe-inspiring. But the Founding Father statues are so startling that I might need to pick those.
- Weirdest enemy: Mecha-Lincoln has come to destroy you!!!
- Toughest enemy: For me, it's The Mechanic. Not so much for the skyline-electrocution thing (I rarely use those anyways, even during combat), as the way he'll rapidly close in on you and won't let up.
- Coolest boss fight: The ones with the ghost of Lady Comstock were really frenetic and fun. The long fight near the end where you had to defend the airship against zepelins was surprisingly fun too.
- Favorite voxophone: Alternate-world Booker describing his decision to join the Vox.
- Favorite kinetoscope: Battleship Falls. (Though the propaganda ones are pretty nifty, too.)
- Favorite filmstrip: The alternate-universe ones with older Elizabeth are chilling and neat.
- Most stunning alternate world: Elizabeth raining hellfire down on New York City is awe-inspiring.
So, would I recommend this game? Yeah, I guess. The gameplay is fine, the story is cool-if-frustrating. The graphics, modeling, and animation are the real stars of the show, arguably the best of any game created yet. The world looks amazing and cool, and you'll wish you could spend more time exploring it instead of just shooting people in it.
Oh: Very late in the game, I took a handful of screenshots. (I feel way less compelled to do so in games with minimal options for character customization or branching plot choices.) These are all from the finale of the game and super-spoilery.
There's an expansion thingy coming out in the next month or so, which I'll be keeping an eye open for. It sounds like there will be two parts to this, and I'm not sure whether I'll get the "season pass" now to buy both cheaper, or wait until both are out and check the reviews for their quality. From what I've heard they'll be improving and adding new game mechanics like stealth, which could go a long ways to helping this series reach its potential.