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Girl Meets BioShock: Infinite - FAQs & Review

Thursday, April 25, 2013

With all the fangirling I've been doing lately about BioShock: Infinite, I've been getting a fair amount of questions about it. Since most of these (along with my answers) are now buried in the comment section or over on Facebook or Twitter, I figured I'd gather them all together along with my "official" review for anyone else thinking about giving the game a try. (And don't worry; this is a spoiler-free zone!)

If you've read this blog for a while, then you already know I'm not much of a gamer. I have below-average skills and little interest in the vast majority of popular games. The few exceptions include titles like Portal and Portal 2 and more kiddie-ish games like Mini Ninjas.

I watched John play BioShock 2 (Infinite is the third in the BioShock series), but my own attempts to play were disastrous at best - albeit funny in retrospect. :)

So what's different about Infinite?

1) It's gorgeous

Even if you're not the art lover I am, this game offers unparalleled eye candy that's guaranteed to make you stop and smell the virtual roses:

 via

It's much lighter and more color saturated than the first two BioShocks, with added touches like hummingbirds and candy-colored sunsets. Everything from the clothing to the advertisements to the weaponry is exquisitely detailed, and the longer you take to appreciate it all, the more you're going to enjoy this game.


Oh, and yes, it's also kind of steampunky. BONUS.

2) There's an "easy" mode

Without this I never would have made it through the first time. I'm currently playing again on normal mode, and even with all that experience I'm dying a LOT during the big battles. Again, I'm not great at games in general, and first person shooters in particular, so the fact that I managed to complete the whole game on Easy says that you probably can, too.

Also, even when you do die you regenerate very close by, minus a little money and only partially healed. Your enemies are also partially healed, but not completely, so you don't have to repeat much or - worse - start over at your last checkpoint. That helps ease the frustration a LOT when you die 6 or 8 times in a single fire fight. (Not that I would ever... ok yeah that was last night.)

3) It combines a compelling story with fighting that's actually fun



I've always preferred games that felt more like interactive story books, and in this, Infinite really shines. The surprising part to me was how immersive even the side stories became - the ones told through the "voxophones," taped recordings you discover hidden throughout the game. I was moved to tears by at least two of these stories, and I've never heard voice acting of this caliber in anything.

It should go without saying that the main storyline with Booker & Elizabeth is also beautiful - so rich and complex that you'll be decompressing and deciphering it all long after the ending credits roll.

I never thought I'd say a shooting game was fun, but here again Infinite surprised me. More on that in a minute, though.

- The music

Yes, really, the music. From an old-timey jazzed-up version of "Tainted Love" to a choral hymn of such haunting beauty that you'll find yourself humming it for days, Infinite has a plethora of musical Easter eggs that I'm still uncovering on my third play-through. (Find the guitar and play it. Trust me.)

 via
The music in this scene is some of the most beautiful in the game. Love it.


Ok, let's get to my top FAQs:

FAQS:

- Do you need to have played the first two BioShocks?

No, Infinite stands on its own perfectly well. There's one small nod to the previous games at the end, but even just knowing those games exist will be enough for you to understand what's happening.

- Can someone who's not great at video games manage, or will it be too hard/frustrating?

Again, easy mode is your friend! To give you an idea of my own skill level: I was able to beat Portal 2 but not Psychonauts. I also can't get more than 1/3 of the way through most Rayman and Jak & Daxter type games. So if I can do it, odds are you can, too.

- Is it worth the money?

Alternatively, I've had a few of you mention you can't afford BioShock right now, so this is less an answer and more a suggestion for those of you in the U.S.: Redbox. Find a kiosk at a grocery store or gas station near you, and you can rent Infinite for $2 a day. Rent it on days when you have several hours to play at a time, and if you're mildly obsessive like me, you'll be done in 5 or 6 days! Even if it takes you longer, $20 for 10 days isn't bad at all. Think of it as an installment payment plan!



A word of caution: One thing I haven't addressed anywhere yet is Infinite's level of violence, which has been labeled "excessive," "extreme," and "insanely ridiculous."

Look, I can't handle violence or gore. I just can't. Shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are WAY beyond my tolerance, as are most cop shows with forensics-style gore. So I was surprised to see reviews blasting Infinite for excessive violence.

Now, I'll be straight with you: the very first fight of the game is pretty dang disturbing. A guy gets his face ground in, followed by either an in-your-face, blood-spurting decapitation, or a graphic neck-snap. Up to that point you've been in this perfect, idyllic world, so that first fight is designed to be extra jarring, and it is.

However, I can tell you that if you choose to shoot your enemies - as opposed to running up and smashing them in the face with your spinning hand claw of death - then the rest of the game is dramatically less graphic. It's all about how close you are and which weapons or vigors you use. Some are more graphic than others, so if that bothers you, focus on using sniper rifles or other long-range weapons. Either way, though, know that it never gets any worse than that first fight. (Although a certain cut-scene with a bunch of ravens gets kind of close. You have been warned.)

SPINNING HAND CLAW OF DEATH


To end on a more positive note, I have to share one of my favorite little discoveries in the game so far. This contains a mild spoiler, but I don't believe it's anything vital that the trailers haven't already given away.

Ok, so, during the very first tear you see Elizabeth open, if you look closely (and quickly!) to the right, you'll see a movie theater marquee that reads "Revenge of the Jedi" in French. (Apparently that was the original working title of Return of the Jedi - so this shows the tear opens to an alternate world/time.) A moment later, as you're climbing a nearby stairwell, you hear Booker say, "This job is getting worse all the time," in the exact same inflection Lando Calrissian uses to say, "This deal is getting worse all the time," in Empire Strikes Back. Yep. STAR WARS HOMAGE, baby! (You'll see another movie marquee with the same title in English later on in the game, too, so watch for that!)

Again, there are lots of hidden little treasures like that throughout the game, but I believe that's the only one to reference another geek franchise. That said, you should go play it and see if I'm wrong!

Oh, and if you're a non-gamer looking for more titles to try, here are eight that I recommend.

I hope this review was helpful, guys, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have in the comments, since I'm sure I may have missed something!


Posted by Jen at 11:30 AM Labels:

45 comments:

  1. Great review, Jen! My fiance picked up Infinite last week, and I've been debating whether or not to try it (I'm in the same boat with you concerning the other two Bioshock games). However, watching him play it and now reading your review,I think I will give it a try!

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  2. Thanks! I even work in the game industry and end up ignoring the vast majority of "triple A," mega-hyped titles because they start off sounding good but disappoint in the execution, but now I want to give this a spin.

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  3. Actually I'm quite surprised that the gamer industry hasn't created a legitimate "Gamer Spouse" designation, for those of us married to gamers who will occasionally jump into the fray. (Not just the ones who become Gamer Widows/Divorcees.) It's a small, but loyal market.

    I would love to see you post a list of games you have played, even horribly. I loved Okami (I suspect you do too if you've seen it), and my family just got through Ni No Kuni, but we also enjoy watching Dad play through some of the more difficult games. My girls are old enough now that I kind of want to revisit the Myst world, but I suspect I'll be disappointed in the art now. 15 years is a long time in tech.

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    1. You'd actually be surprised at how well the art holds up in Myst. I replayed bits of it a few months ago, and it was still pretty breathtaking.

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    2. Ah, I forgot to mention my post on other games I've played and loved, so I just added that to the end! Here's the link, if you want to check it out. There are eight there that I recommend for my fellow non-gamer types. :) I *think* I played just the first few minutes of Myst before getting overwhelmed way back when, but I really should go back and try it again! And I'll check out Okami, too!

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  4. Thank you very much for your review! I've been curious about this game. These types of games usually aren't my thing, but my husband just recently finished playing it and absolutely loved it. Between your reviews and things that he has said about the game, I'm curious to try it. I think this was the final push I needed.

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  5. My husband and I think this is one of the greatest games ever made. We LOVED the first Bioshock, but this one doesn't even compare. Glad you're finally giving some more "hardcore" games a chance! :D It speaks to what a great game this is.

    ...By the way, this BELONGS in your Epbot Exemplars! http://bettersupes.tumblr.com/

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  6. My husband and I rented the game through Redbox (Xbox360 version) and had a really difficult time with the movement of the screen. Within a few minutes of playing, we both experienced horrible motion sickness. Has anyone else experienced this? Does anyone have any advice? I'd love to be able to play it.

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    1. You're definitely not alone; I hear this a lot! The only recommendation I have is to adjust your controller's sensitivity under the settings menu. If you slow that down, the camera won't swing around quite so wildly.

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    2. Yeah I played PC but the mouse sensitivity was pretty high. I left it alone, because changing it then made it feel weird, and I got used to it pretty quickly - but then playing another game felt like I was walking in honey :)

      With motion sickness sometimes it's also the field of view - basically how much peripheral vision you get on screen.

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  7. You should have seen my roommate and I the first time he mows through someone's face with the Skyhook; my roomie was playing and I was stretching out on the floor, commenting on the scene--it took us both by surprise and we just started screaming!

    Also, glad you liked the voice acting, my college friend Omar did some background voices for it. Yay, Omar!

    Currently, I'm playing the new Tomb Raider. It's totally different in tone, very gritty and realistic, but I'd recommend it for anyone who likes games with well-developed female protagonists. Lara Croft is not sexualized at all in this game (even the bad guys are like "oh crap, this girl we initially underestimated is now totally kicking our butts). I really like how she starts as just a girl with a lot of determination and great survival instincts, and you really see her grow throughout the story. Just thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone was interested. :)

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    1. John tried the new Tomb Raider not too long ago, but he couldn't handle the ways Laura dies - he said it was way too disturbing, and I guess the game is pretty hard, because he was dying a lot. Heh.

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    2. Ah, yes, they are kind of intense. Apparently that was pretty intentional. The death scenes in the original games were kind of goofy, so people loved flinging her off of cliffs and onto spikes. They wanted to make players want to protect her and keep her alive. It worked, too, because every time I get her killed I feel REALLY bad about it!

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  8. "An old-timey jazzed-up version of "Tainted Love"" -- my life will not be complete until I hear this!

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    1. You really should find it in the game for the full effect, but if you can't wait... Here's a link. :D (It's not really recognizable until about 20 seconds in.)

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    2. Pain! These versions (there are several songs they do this with) aren't on the soundtracks! If you want them, you can get them, but you can't buy them.

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    3. Thanks! Guess what my new ringtone is?

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  9. Thanks for this review! I have been looking at this game for a while and you have just about convinced me. The only thing standing in my way (and I know it's really stupid) is whether or not you can invert camera controls. There is just something about my brain that can not handle non-inverted cameras. I tried so hard to play Fallout 3, but after running into walls and brutily murdering every ceiling and floor in my path, I finally had to conceed defeat. Please tell me I can have my wacky backwards camera and play this gorgous game!

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    1. I'm pretty sure you can; there's a spot in the settings for assigning pretty much any control to any button, so you can really customize the bejeepers out of it. I'll double check the next time I play, though!

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    2. Yes, you can invert! I can't play games without inverted up/down. And at least with the Xbox, you can tell it your preference, and it'll automatically start out your games with the camera the way you like it. I didn't have to go into Borderlands 2, Dishonored, or Bioshock Infinite and tell it to invert, it just automatically was right for me.

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  10. I enjoyed the first Bioshock, was underwhelmed by Bioshock 2 and LOVED Infinite. My only complaint is that the early teaser footage and gameplay from trailers showed some interesting things that didn't make it into the final game. I wish there'd been a little more meat to the story but it was still solid.

    A couple of game recommendations if I may. Similar to Bioshock is Dishonored, though it might be more of a game for John. It's a first person assassin game that uses a combo of powers and weapons as well. It can get gruesome BUT it is also possible to play the entire game without killing anyone or you can kill everyone or anything in between.

    Next, if you think of games as interactive stories then you absolutely must play a Bioware game. They are known for their storytelling and characters. I've heard of spouses who "play" them by letting their other half do the shooty bits but they make the decisions and in Bioware games decisions matter. They even made a great Star Wars game years ago call Knights of the Old Republic. Graphics are dated but the story still holds up. The Mass Effect series is amazing for making each game in the series unique based in decisions you made in the previous game(s). I'd recommend anything by them if you like your video games with a hefty amount of story in them.

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    1. I was just saying to John yesterday that all those amazing trailers from the past year or two aren't in the game AT ALL - and some don't even make sense with the storyline, like the commercial with Elizabeth about to be hanged. I get the feeling a LOT of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor.

      I think John has played almost every popular FPS out there, including Dishonored - but he couldn't do it without killing. Said the sneaking thing was too hard. :D Knights of the Old Republic might be the one exception, though, so I should get him to try it! (He did love Mass Effect, as I recall.) And, hey, if he doesn't want to, maybe I will!

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    2. My first run of Dishonored, I got the achievement for not killing anybody. (100 gamer points, yay!) The secret was constantly saving. Like, after every single time you sneaked past a guy or strangled a guy to unconsciousness.

      (I then did a second speed run killing everyone in sight, to get the "high chaos" ending. And it was kind of upsetting how different some of the NPCs acted and treated me.)

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  11. I'm not a gamer by any means--suffering from "shaking chihuahua syndrome" as I do, my anxiety can't take it, lol. But I've been watching someone else play it, and have been really enjoying the storyline--you're right, it does seem more like an interactive movie than a framework for shooting people. At least to this spectator, anyway.

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  12. This is awesome! I'm already halfway through my second play-through and I've died MUCH more than anticipated. I love all the detail and hidden things around the maps - and the story is amazing. I can see myself enjoying this game for a long time.

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  13. Thanks for the review, looks very cool. Is this a single player only game or is there a 2 player mode? I'm always on the lookout for good games hubs and I can play together. Thanks!

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    1. Just single player, I'm afraid - but it's a fun game to just watch, so you guys might try taking turns!

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  14. Thank you so much for this review! A spoiler-free, honest assessment of what the game is like for a casual player. Hubby played it while I watched (and constructed a Bioshock Infinite Easter basket to go with those in-game Easter eggs. At the end he was as drained and elated as he would be after reading a really, really good book; you know, the life-changing ones that have you stumbling around afterwards and wanting to return. So, play it to open the story, and feel as if you're discovering something new. I don't like gore either, but the sheer beauty of this game (not always pretty, you understand) rewards your perseverance.

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  15. I got this one for my hubby to play and he went through on Normal then on the next level up (hasn't done 1999 mode yet). He played through them pretty quickly. It is definitely an artful game, absolutely gorgeous graphics, and the story is awesome too. I especially love the end (but I won't spoil it). There were a few times where I couldn't watch while he was playing because I was getting motion sickness, which I don't think I've ever experienced with a video game before. Anyway, he loved the game, but it doesn't hold a lot of replay value. Also, we got the season pass and are extremely disappointed that there is no DLC available yet.

    The other game we got recently was Borderlands 2 which he has played through a million times as all the characters, on all the levels, and with all the DLC's which are totally awesome. That season pass is the best $20 I think we've ever spent on a video game. When they release the new melee character in a couple weeks I'll be playing through with him in co-op.

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  16. Yeah the violence of that weapon kill was definitely unexpected. I've got a 9 year old daughter who I let watch and play some games (depending on content), and because I played through Bioshock 1&2 again in preparation for Infinite, she watched a bit of that..... So when I loaded up Infinite for the first time, I had her and hubby standing there in awe watching as I explored around.

    But then I got to that first bit of gore, and there was no preparation for it, I didn't know it was coming, so even though we were pretty quick to kinda cover her eyes and go "ok turn around, you're not watching this any more" - she will have seen more than we'd have liked her to. And it then meant that she couldn't watch me play any more of the game because I never knew when something like that might happen again. Which is a shame.

    I also found getting the fire vigor to be a bit over the top too, that definitely made me very uncomfortable to watch - and I'm a gamer who is used to a fair amount of blood and guts :D

    But, I thought it was an awesome game.

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  17. I just can't stomach playing FPS - something about them just makes me dizzy, but after reading here and else where about it, I read up on BS:I. I wanted to see it for myself and was linked to Christopher Odd on youtube. He has like 33 videos (in 18-28 minutes increments) of his play through. He explores everything so if you want to see the game that way, its worth the watch. It took me a few days because of the FPS angle, but it was a lot of fun!

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  18. I can't play First Person games on consoles at all. Mostly due to the fact that I have a complete inability to use 2 analog sticks at the same time successfully. This is clearly a sign that I am getting old, since I've played games since Atari. I prefer to play those kinds of games on my PC, since mouse look is way easier to deal with. :P

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  19. Told my guy I wanted to play the game - turns out he's played the previous two and wants to get a hold of this one - I think he's watched some of the play-throughs. After reading your review I want to play this even more :D
    ~erin kristine

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  20. Ok, now I have to get it. I've been thinking about it since you started talking about it but this seals it! I really love games that are like an interactive novel, too! I recently just started ME3 & I was surprised & delighted that the option I chose is heavily storyline but also has a lot of action. I'm awful at games and it's been over 10 years since I've actually finished a game but I feel like I can finish ME3 & hopefully this one! Love games but I get frustrated easily so if I get stuck on a game it gets abandoned. >.< Anyway, thanks for an awesome review, Jen!

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  21. *ducks* I liked BioShock Infinite for the art and music, but I cannot get past the ending, which I can't talk about because spoilers. It was great up until that point, and then I was pretty well just "meh" over the whole thing.

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  22. This was a fun review to read (and would love to see you write more), but are there any games this quality that aren't violent? Like, no killing involved at all? I have a pretty low threshold for this kind of thing in games that I play, and I just can't put myself through it just for the world-building/storyline. But I wish I could, because I feel like I'm stuck playing Lego games and this looks so much cooler.

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    1. Since shooter games are the most popular, that's where all the money & quality go, so there aren't many no-kill options. However, Batman doesn't kill, so you might try Arkham Asylum. That game is amazing - won all kinds of awards - and also has an easy mode I was able to beat. However, the bad guys in the game *do* kill, and it's a gritty style with language & violence throughout - it's just that Batman only knocks people out, no guns, blood, or gore. Oh, and John just said that Mirror's Edge, Arkum Asylum, & Dishonored are the best rated games where you don't have to kill. (It's much harder in Dishonored not to, but that is an option.) And Kingdom Hearts was really awesome. That said, I would go so far as to say there are few games of ANY type that rival the quality of Infinite, though; this thing has just raised the bar across the board. (Thanks for the question, btw; I might have to put together a more complete list and post it sometime, since I think a lot of us are looking for less violent games to try!)

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  23. I can't play FPS at all - they make me all motion sicknessy. It's too bad because this one looks breathtaking! I can't even handle watching someone play without feeling nauseous. :(

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  24. I've never played any of the Bioshock games (although they look really cool), but someone tell me I'm not the only Disney nerd here who noticed the hidden Mickey in the fourth picture??

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  25. ZippyWafflebuns - try JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games). Many of them are breathtaking and while you do technically "kill," if you play the turn-based ones it doesn't really show any dying - maybe just the bad guys being "knocked out." A lot of them also have "monsters" that you fight instead of human NPCs. A few of the older, and therefore cheaper, ones that come to mind that I've played are Tales of Vesperia and Eternal Sonata (that one is GOREGEOUS - Jen, you'd really like this one too for the musicality, it's all based around Chopin's music). You definitely want the JPRGs rather than the American-style, which tend to be grittier, more realistic and with a more open-ended playing style, whereas JRPGs tend to be brighter, have a more "cutesy" or animated style, and are usually pretty linear, meaning you go directly from point a to point b, instead of having the option of going to point c or d before you go to b. The turn-based style is nice too because you have time to plan your moves and form strategy, instead of just button-mashing, although not all JPRGs are turn-based, especially newer ones as it seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.

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  26. I get too scared to play a lot of video games, but I too watch my husband play. Just wanted to add though that I had to look away every time he used a rail as they made me crazy dizzy.

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  27. This article is on NBCNews.com about the music:

    'Small forces': an
    interview with 'BioShock Infinite' composer Garry Schyman **
    "BioShock" has always won praise for its atmospheric storytelling more so than the moment-to-moment gameplay of shooting bad guys, however a...
    http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/ingame/small-forces-interview-bioshock-infinite-composer-garry-schyman-6C9653090

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  28. Sounds awesome, though i have a feeling i'll probably still avoid it. My experience is that any game that requires me to think or act *quickly* is usually a fail for me; i liked the concept of The End, but quickly gave up when i found out how many puzzles came down to "do this thing and then run and jump *right* *now*". Time pressure is not good for my stress levels.
    That said, if you run into any good old-school puzzle-oriented adventure type games or weird ones like world of goo that are available on the cheap, i'd love to hear about them; they don't require me to have reflexes or timing, just brains and persistence.

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  29. I know I'm late to the party here but I wanted to give my 5 cents, inflation and all. I loved Bioshock Infinite. I completely agree the slower you go the more you can take in and get immersed in the world.

    Tomb Raider on the other hand had me immersed in the character. I was Laura Croft. While I'm a guy I still connected with the character and I reacted to certain moments with rage, grief and compassion. By the end anyone that got in my way was dead. No remorse for what they did to my friends.

    They are both really great games. I connected emotionally with Tomb Raider and connected more intellectually with Bioshock Infinite.

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