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BioShock Infinite provides examples of the following tropes:

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    A 

  • Action Game, Quiet Drama Scene: Between the various fire fights are optional contemplative scenes between Elizabeth and Booker, often during gondola or elevator rides. One unique instance has Booker silently pick up a guitar and accompany Elizabeth as she sings Will the Circle be Unbroken and tries to give food to a starving child in the basement of the Graveyard Shift pub.
  • Actionized Sequel: BioShock Infinite noticeably simplifies the inventory system (you no longer carry first aid kits or EVE hypos) and does away with minigames entirely. "Hacking" vending machines, turrets, and even Motorized Patriots is still possible, but only requires a cast of the Possession Vigor. The game is also more shoot-em-up focused, as ammo is a lot more common and Elizabeth can toss you extra ammo and salts if you run low.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The Rolston Reciprocating Repeater, or more widely referred to as the "Triple R" Machine Gun.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: One area in the game is a bar called the Salty Oyster.
  • Air Jousting: You can use Sky-Lines to rocket through the air at similarly airborne opponents while firing at each other. If you and an enemy are riding directly towards each other, you can make Booker hop off the rail, sideswipe the enemy, and reattach to the same rail.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Booker boosts Elizabeth through a vent halfway through the game.
  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • Captain Slate (whether or not you execute him), the Siren (a.k.a. undead Lady Comstock) and the Songbird.
    • There's also the citizens of Columbia in general. It sure is a lot easier to hate them when they're not being executed in the streets and forced to abandon their homes and everything they own to escape the Vox Populi uprising.
  • All Just a Dream: One interpretation of The Stinger is that the whole game was just a dream from Booker's depressed mind to teach him to appreciate what he has.
  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • The game has multiple references to the real-life Battle of Peking, which in this Alternate History was fought entirely by the forces of Columbia, instead of by the Eight-Nation Alliance. Notably, Slate mentions that the Columbian forces lost thirty men, which is over three times the number of American casualties in the real-life battle.
  • Alternate History:
    • Infinite's history diverged from the real world's when Comstock created the floating city of Columbia, leading to Columbia personally ending the Boxer Rebellion and eventually destroying New York City in 1984.
    • Elizabeth opens a tear to the Regent Theatre in Paris showing an Alternate History version of the 1983 Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Jedi.note 
  • Alternate Universe: Columbia is full of "tears" Elizabeth uses multiple times as doorways to different versions of reality. A convenient, spoiler-heavy chart can be found here.
    • The universe you start in has Comstock slowly wiping out an underground rebellion of minority citizens, the Vox Populi. Booker and Elizabeth are tasked with finding a gunsmith to provide weapons to the Vox, only to find the smith is already dead.
    • Elizabeth then transports herself and Booker into a second universe where the gunsmith is alive, thanks to the fact he married a white woman with ties to Comstock, but his machines have been confiscated, and most of the Vox Populi's members have already been arrested or killed. Elizabeth and Booker quickly realize they have no way to bring the machines back to the gunsmith, leading to a second jump.
    • The third universe where Elizabeth was moved to Comstock House and Booker became a martyr for the Vox trying to save her, leading to a bloody revolution in which the gunsmith and his wife are killed.
    • Booker then gets pulled into a fourth universe set in a distant future where he failed to save Elizabeth, resulting in her taking Comstock's place and eventually destroying New York. Just how far into the future Booker has been taken to is left vague until he meets a very old Elizabeth. This Elizabeth gives him the code to override Songbird's programming, so Booker and Elizabeth can survive the Final Battle, after which he's sent back to the third universe, just right after Elizabeth's recapture. This being the third universe is evidenced by a well-armed Vox Populi hampering Booker and Elizabeth's attempt to escape Columbia using the Hand of the Prophet.
    • The fifth universe after the Final Battle: Rapture from the original BioShock.
    • And then there's the sixth, where Elizabeth has destroyed all realities where Comstock existed by drowning Booker at his baptism, effectively killing her, Booker, AND Comstock, and ensuring none of the deaths caused by Columbia and its people happen.
    • There's a hint of a seventh, where Booker isn't dead, is back in his office, and goes to check on Anna. This may or may not be real, as the vision is gray, like in a tear. Then again, almost all scenes in Booker's office are never rendered in full-color.
    • It's hinted that there are also at least 122 other universes you've been through prior to the start of the game, based on the number of times you ring the bells and the coin flip board at the carnival. In other words, the player's Booker is the 123rd Booker that the Luteces have brought to the first universe.
  • Ambiguously Christian: Most players assume that Comstock's cult is Christian, however Jesus is never mentioned or portrayed anywhere in Columbia. Inspiration was clearly taken from various Christian movements, though Jesus is omitted possibly to minimize controversy or in-universe because he would distract from Comstock.
  • Anachronism Stew: A major plot element of the game, as Columbia has taken numerous pieces of technology and culture from after 1912 using "tears" in space-time, including:
    • Columbia's soldiers wear Brodie Helmets (or perhaps, their identical American counterparts, the M1917 Helmets), patented in 1915. According to the Hall Of Heroes, the Columbians already donned them during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. They also wear strange ones that look like a fusion of contemporary Pith Helmets and US WW2-era M1s.
    • A phonograph playing a ragtime-waltz version of Tears for Fears' 1985 song, Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
      • This may also be a double example, as the song can also be heard through Elizabeth's tear into 1983 Paris, two years before the song was released in our world.
    • A barbershop quartet singing the 1966 The Beach Boys song God Only Knows and the 1928 Makin' Whoopee.
    • At Battleship Bay, you can hear a carnival version of Cyndi Lauper's 1983 Girls Just Want to Have Fun being played. And you hear the original version of the song through a rift at one point.
    • The 1969 recording "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival is heard through another tear. That tear, like the one Albert Fink was getting ideas from, had apparently been around a while, as you later come across a young girl singing it as a spiritual. It's chillingly apropos.
    • You can hear Ed Cobb's 1965 Tainted Love in the Graveyard Shift Pub.
    • A swing version of R.E.M.'s 1991 Shiny Happy People at the Emporia gondola station.
    • Sub-machine guns were post-1914 technology, and multi-chamber grenade launchers post-1983.
    • Rocket-propelled grenades weren't introduced until World War II.
    • An ice cream shop selling Soft Serve, which wasn't invented until the 1950s.
    • Elizabeth using the term "flak cannon" to point out soldiers with volley guns. The German word "flak" did not enter the English vocabulary until the late 1930s.
    • An explicit forgery of a classic WWI-era poster has been recycled as Founder propaganda.
    • invokedA host of typefaces that didn’t exist in 1912 are on all sorts of signage and advertisements.
    • The song "After You've Gone" was not written until 1918.
    • A Voxophone made by Fink implies that Big Daddies were the inspiration for the Songbird (to drive the point home, it's titled "A Child Needs A Protector"). Most likely they were the inspiration for Handymen as well. Not only were Big Daddies not invented until some time in the 1950s, but Rapture doesn't even exist in the same universe as Columbia.
    • You can hear "Goodnight, Irene" being sung at the raffle. Although elements of the song existed decades before 1912, the version heard is based upon the well-known 1930s rendition.
    • There are many other examples of songs that post-date 1912 being heard.
    • Radio news broadcasts are heard, and radios are also heard broadcasting music. Although radio broadcasts were feasible in the 1910s, neither of these innovations really became widespread until the 1920s, with the first radio news broadcasts not happening until 1920.
    • Silent films with recorded music soundtracks are seen throughout; this wasn't introduced until the mid-1920s.
    • Neon-style lighting is seen in some locations; such lighting wasn't developed until starting in the 1920s.
    • At a couple of points films are viewed with dialogue soundtracks; "talking pictures" weren't introduced until the 1920s.
    • Virtually the only unexplained anachronism occurs during the end of the game, when a choir sings "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" at Booker/Comstock's baptism in 1889 or 1890, twenty years before it was even written.
  • An Aesop: Not even the power of God will whitewash your sins if you don't make a serious attempt at atonement.
  • Anticlimax: The final confrontation with Comstock is this. Naturally, being an aged man with cancer, he was never going to put up a fight, but watching Booker beat up and drown an old man who isn't even fighting back while screaming at him is deliberately unsatisfying. However, that isn't the real climax of the story anyway. The real climax is Booker and Elizabeth learning that Comstock was Booker from a different universe.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • A minor one at the start of the game, when Booker brings out the card that tells him how to ring the bells.
    • If you fall into one of Columbia's many Bottomless Pits, you'll simply be put right back where you fell with only a minor drop in health.
    • With the press of a button, you get an arrow guiding you to your next objective. Although the game map is not exactly a Wide Open Sandbox, there are some complex locations with nooks and crannies to explore. In addition to helping guide the way, the arrow also allows players to avoid entering areas that may trigger battles, etc. before exploring.
    • Similarly, being killed in battle results in only a nominal financial penalty with no loss of progress, and even if you run out of money you are still revived; the only way to actually trigger a "game over" is to play on the most difficult setting, "1999," and run out of money before being killed. Also, if you died with depleted salts and/or ammo, they are slightly restored upon revival.
    • Vigors can be purchased from vending machines on the off-chance you missed picking them up initially. This includes Vigors like Possession that you can only circumvent through Sequence Breaking.
    • The music is a clear indication when danger is near. There is clear, fast-paced melody when enemies are alerted to your presence, and a sharp chord is played to let you know when the last enemy in the immediate area has been killed, so you don't have to wonder if there's still someone waiting to ambush you. Elizabeth's behaviour is also a visual clue when danger has passed; she stops hiding and starts wandering around again. Note, however, that if the space is large enough, there could still be some lurking out of range.
    • Containers never hold alcohol (which lowers salts) or cigarettes (which lower health). Thus, you can quickly search a group of dead bodies, lockboxes, steamer trunks, etc, without worrying about losing either. There are, however, containers in Shantytown that contain rotten fruit, which lowers health. This makes sense considering you're in the slums. (The trope is inverted slightly in that you cannot pick-and-choose what to take from containers.)
    • Collectible items that go towards achievements (Voxophones, weapon kills, etc.) are cumulative across playthroughs. Even if you only find half of the Voxophones during your first playthrough, when you start a new game the Voxophones you previously found still count, so you don't have to find all 80 of them in one game.
    • Even though Booker takes falling damage above certain heights, he can jump from any height off a skyline or hook and land safely.
    • When you first start traveling with Elizabeth, the game straight out tells you that she can take care of herself and you don't need to worry about her during combat. Indeed, she is even immune to friendly fire. (Pointing a weapon at her results in a rebuke, too.)
    • Elizabeth will try to keep you stocked with ammo, health and salts if you run low during a battle. The money she tosses you outside of battles also adds up.
  • Anti-Hero: Booker is aware that he is not a very good person. He committed atrocities at Wounded Knee, worked for the Pinkertons as a strikebreaker, eventually being kicked out for being too violent even for them, and kills his enemies without hesitation or remorse in unsettlingly violent ways. And yet, he's always fighting someone who's even worse, and eventually decides that he owes Elizabeth a bigger debt than the man in New York, resolving to save her no matter the cost.
  • Anti-Villain: Bad Future Elizabeth who, after setting in motion The End of the World as We Know It, realizes what she has done and pulls 1912 Booker into the future to give her past self a message that she hopes will Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Columbia is held up in defiance of classical physics through exploitation of quantum suspension of particles, developed by Rosalind Lutece.
    Rosalind Lutece: If an atom can be suspended indefinitely, why not an apple? If an apple... why not a city?
  • Arbitrary Mission Restriction: The Clash in the Clouds DLC requires the player to defeat 15 waves of enemies on each of the four maps, and each wave has a different specification, such as "Kill all enemies with the shotgun" or "Complete the wave in 60 seconds".
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Played for Laughs in the ending.
  • Arc Words
    • "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt."
    • "The seed of the Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame the mountains of man."
    • "Lives, lived, will live." "Dies, died, will die."
    • "What is Columbia, if not another Ark for another time?"
  • The Ark: Comstock envisioned Columbia as one, seeing it as a refuge from the corruption of "The Sodom Below". He eventually plans to ensure that it is the only thing which survives "the flood" as he plans for it to "drown in flame the mountains of man".
    Comstock: Even the Lord is entitled to a do-over, and what is Columbia but another Ark for another time?
  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: The Firemen are locked inside burning suits of armor. Handymen are put into massive mechanical suits. Motorized Patriots are made of iron, soldiers who use rockets or grenade launchers have metal helmets and armor, even a few normal soldiers have extra thick padding. Booker relies completely on an invisible magnetic shield the Luteces gave him.
  • The Artifact: Vigors, this game's equivalent of Plasmids, don't factor much into the plot or setting this time. This is odd given that Plasmids in previous games were an important part of the history of Rapture.
    • Similarly, the weapon and vigor vending machines are a relic of Rapture's obsessively open market. Columbia's overly controlling government would want to put a check on weapons being sold, given the looming threat of the Vox Populi. Even weirder is that the game accidentally points this out, since it's actually a major plot point that the Vox are having a hard time getting weapons despite the weapon vendors on every corner.
  • Artifact Title: ChronoShock would probably be more appropriate. And awesome.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies with automatic weapons frequently stand in place and fire from beyond their effective range, allowing the player to safely pick them off with more accurate weapons while bullets patter harmlessly around them.
    • Similar to the issue with Big Daddies in the first game, the Vox Populi have an issue with alignment when they start fighting on your side: If one of them stumbles into one of your traps, it will go off, causing all of them (in the immediate area) to turn on you. Fortunately, you don't have to fight alongside them for very long.
    • The security system at Comstock House is an in-universe example, Played for Laughs. It cheerfully greets Elizabeth as "Lady Comstock" based solely on how she's dressed even though the latter has been dead for years (which it knows, and mentions) and then expresses confusion when her fingerprints, obviously, don't match — "Your fingerprints don't appear to be your own today, Lady Comstock!" Regardless, it still dutifully refuses to open the gate.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Columbia floats 15,000 feet above the ground - higher than most cloud cover as we see when Booker initially arrives in sunny Columbia having passed through thunderclouds below. Yet people are shown walking around outside with no indication anywhere of individuals needing oxygen or any other aid for living at such high altitude and no reference to acclimatizing. Booker, for his part, appears to instantly adapt to the altitude upon his arrival.
  • Artistic License – History: An in-universe example. The citizens of Columbia tend to either idealize or omit portions of both American history and culture to support their own views.
    • The values of forgiveness and racial tolerance that the Protestant Church promoted in the 1900s are conveniently ignored by the Columbians.
    • The Columbians religiously worship Thomas Jefferson, the guy who coined the phrase "The Separation of Church and State".
    • Benjamin Franklin was a radical supporter of Egalitarianism: that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status. In Columbia social status is rigidly, and sometimes brutally, enforced (incidentally, the zealously monogamous Columbians also stand in sharp contrast with old Ben's success with the ladies). Worshiping him is even stranger than for Jefferson, since Franklin was an open proponent of Deism.
    • George Washington was appalled at the notion of a "King Washington", and yet the people of Columbia made Comstock a Permanent Elected Official.
    • Abraham Lincoln despised the American Civil War and was overjoyed when it ended. The Vox Populi treats him as a role model for glorifying violence and conflict. The Founders, on the other hand, have vilified him for his role in the Civil War. This belief would lead to the formation of the Fraternal Order of the Raven, a cult that depicts Lincoln as a devil and venerates his assassin John Wilkes Booth as a martyr. In the original game, Abraham was still venerated by Columbia... while completely ignoring his attempt to give equal rights to blacks and attempts at peace.
    • Columbia regards itself as the true representation of the United States of America, in spite of the fact that the very name refers to a collection of states united under a common federal government. Columbia, on the other hand, is more like a unitary state, where everything is under the control of a central government.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • One wonders how there's liquid water in Columbia. Assuming the altimeter in the rocket at the beginning is correct, the city sits at an altitude of about 15000 ft. The average temperature at that altitude is 5.5 °F (-14.7 °C). The air would also be a bit thin as the pressure is about half an atmosphere, breathable but difficult.
    • Considering Columbia's altitude, the air should be very thin compared to on the ground. Although one could expect the residents of Columbia, including Elizabeth, to have acclimatized to the altitude, at no point does Booker give any indication of discomfort and there is no apparently physical impact on him at all.
    • Residents of Columbia are also able to walk around outside without being impacted by the low temperatures and wind that would be expected at such altitude. Indeed, there is no indication of there being any wind at all.
    • When you escape the tower with Elizabeth and fall into the water, the Songbird dives in after you, but is forced to retreat when the water pressure begins harming it (foreshadowing the ending.) The thing is, it's about ten feet below the surface — for practical purposes, there is no water pressure at that shallow a depth, and certainly nothing that would crack its glass eye.
  • The Atoner:
    • Booker murdered women and children in his youth as a soldier at the massacre of Wounded Knee, and later became a Pinkerton who violently put down strike efforts, actions he's privately ashamed of.
    • Robert Lutece helped Comstock steal Booker's daughter. His insistence at aiding Booker, as well as compelling his sister Rosalind Lutece to do so, over the course of the game is his way of trying to set this right.
    • Future Elizabeth has shades of this too, going as far as to make sure the Elizabeth we know doesn't become like her.
  • Attack Reflector: Maintaining "Return to Sender" allows Booker to catch enemy bullets, crush them into a lump of metal, and then violently throw it back. This can be seen as the spiritual successor to the Telekinesis plasmid of previous BioShock games. This is also a call back to Suchong's audio recording that stated the Telekinesis plasmid couldn't catch bullets not because the plasmid was imperfect but because human reflexes were imperfect. Columbian scientists fixed the problem by making it a continuous shield.
  • Award-Bait Song: Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
    • Booker and Elizabeth encounter a lone young woman singing a soulful, a capella version of "Fortunate Son" rather randomly in the middle of an uprising.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Crank Gun. It's a hand-powered Gatling gun that does considerable damage per shot, has good accuracy, and has a higher rate of fire than any other firearm in the game. The latter however, is something of a double-edged sword: the Crank Gun will eat through an entire magazine of 100 rounds in less than 10 seconds and has only another 100 in reserve. Moreover, you can only find the gun (and ammunition) on Motorized Patriots or in tears, and it also requires about three seconds to spin up before it can fire, which makes it very impractical to carry around between major battles.
    • Most of the Vox weapons qualify for this - for example, the Heater is essentially a shotgun with a clip of a single bullet but much higher damage, which is usually redundant as few enemies can take a headshot from a shotgun in the first place. In general, all of them except the Repeater and the Hail Fire are generally inferior to their Founder counterparts; ammunition for them also tends to be harder to find as well.
    • The Volley Gun and Hail Fire are highly powered, but very difficult to properly aim and target since their projectiles describe an arc rather than going straight to the target like RPG rockets or bullets.
  • Awful Truth: The truth Comstock believes is so horrible it will turn Elizabeth against you? You sold her, your own daughter, to Comstock to wipe away your debts. Oh, and "Comstock" is just an Alternate Timeline version of you, with only one decision 20 years ago separating you from being the same monster he is.

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    B 

  • Back from the Dead:
    • Sometimes, when Elizabeth uses the Tears to change something significant (like Chen Lin's death), she can accidentally end up bringing back enemies you killed, but they often get stuck in a state of confusion between which version of themselves they are. The result is... disconcerting, to say the least.
    • Happens to Fink's head of security only for Booker to kill him again.
    • Lady Comstock plays this completely straight, however. And one of her abilities is to raise the dead. In a twist, however, the Luteces describe her in this state as both alive and dead, and fully aware of being both. And there's the fact that she came into existence due to Comstock siphoning Elizabeth's powers.
  • Bad Future: Booker's vision of a 1980s New York being destroyed by Columbia. (A billboard suggests it's Nineteen Eighty-Four!) Booker eventually learns this is a future where Comstock stripped away Elizabeth's free will, essentially turning her into a female version of him. Thankfully, future Elizabeth retained enough willpower to bring Booker to her and show him how to prevent it.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The reveal trailer begins with an underwater shot and a Big Daddy... which turns out to be the inside of a fish tank. Cue the sky.
  • Battleship Raid: Several points in the game require Booker to board and make a mess of an airship that is raining down fire or otherwise being an obstacle. The penultimate section of the game involves boarding the flagship of the Columbian air fleet, then defending its deck against a different attack.
  • Bedlam House: Comstock House has been turned into one in the Bad Future. Residents of Columbia that defy the Founders' teachings are exposed to every version of their alternate selves through tears, driving them insane until they become either Brainwashed and Crazy or Empty Shells. An older Elizabeth devised this method of "reconditioning" after she was recaptured and tortured for months on end because her Booker failed to rescue her. Aside from being ruler of Columbia, she acts as the house's "warden".
  • Big Bad: Zachary Hale Comstock, resident Evil Overlord and "Prophet" of Columbia.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Fink is both the name of the Songbird's inventor and the German name for... a type of songbird.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Booker has Elizabeth drown him in the river, before he can accept his baptism to prevent Comstock's existence. The Elizabeth you know is thus similarly Ret Goned — as a Heroic Sacrifice to save all the people Comstock and the Bad Future version of Elizabeth would have gone on to kill. However, The Stinger ends on a high note... or does it?
  • Blamed For Being Railroaded:
    • During the game, your character will betray Elizabeth by trying to take her to New York rather than Paris. She starts crying and ends up hitting you and knocking you out, then flees from you repeatedly. When you finally catch up to her she says she doesn't trust you and only reluctantly agrees to join you again. This is all despite the fact that you had no choice in what happened - it occurred in a Cut Scene.
    • Episode 1 ends with the player being blamed for the events that took place in a flashback (accidentally killing an alternate Elizabeth), and which weren't even entirely the character's fault (as it wouldn't have happened if the Elizabeth in this game hadn't distracted you).
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: The Early Bird DLC turns the Pistol and Machine Gun gold, along with free damage upgrades for both. The Columbia's Finest DLC gives the Shotgun and Sniper rifle gold detailing, along with a similar boost to their damage levels.
  • Bloody Horror: After killing Jeremiah Fink, Daisy Fitzroy deliberately smears his blood across her face.
  • Body Horror: Aside from the Handymen and related individuals, we have the physical side effects of Vigors. For instance, Bucking Bronco causes the skin on the hand to crack apart, hover, and bleed; and Undertow gives the arm barnacles and octopus-like suction cups. Picking up the Devil's Kiss vigor gives you a vision of your fingers being burned to the bone, then the bones crumbling. After that, every so often your hands ignite, small areas blackening then glowing and spreading. Return to Sender strips the skin off Booker's fingers and seemingly causes the bones to become metallic.
    • Handymen spend most of their time talking about being in pain. Considering the game establishes that they are simply regular men tremendously augmented, one wonders what was done to them.
  • Book-Ends:
    • Booker returns to the lighthouse where his journey began (twice!) and has a baptism that gets him drowned just as he did when he entered the city.
    • In a more meta-example, BioShock Infinite ends where BioShock begins - taking the Rapture bathysphere and your character drowning.
    • Literally the first thing we see of Booker (in 2010 reveal trailer) is him being drowned in an aquarium.
    • The piano solos in the music when Booker breaches the cloud layer to enter Columbia and when Booker is drowned and the multiple Elizabeths start disappearing are very similar.
    • The first dialogue heard immediately after starting a new game is from a conversation between Elizabeth and Booker headed to the Hand of the Prophet. The dialogue occurs after Booker has just witnessed Elizabeth destroying the lab she was imprisoned in by opening a tear and letting a tornado through.
    Female voice: Booker, are you afraid of God?
    Booker: No. But I'm afraid of you.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Pistol is kind of bog-standard average when compared to other weapons in-game. However, it is highly accurate, can be fired as fast as its trigger can be pulled, has a high critical damage multiplier, is very cheap to upgrade, and has a near-instantaneous draw speed. With the right gear and upgrades, the pistol can be upgraded to have over 31 rounds by the time you get to Soldier's Field and provide solid performance at all ranges.
    • The Carbine has shades of this as well, functioning well-but-not-spectacularly in engagements at nearly any range (outclassed only by the Sniper Rifle and China Broom at long and close range, respectively) but not being particularly flashy. But then, this is what carbines were built for and it does look cool. Once you have headshots down, the Carbine can be just about the only weapon you'll ever need.
    • The Undertow Vigor is one of the few non-offensive Vigors and is relatively simple to use (push enemies away, hold to draw them close). However, pushing enemies away is tremendously effective at killing Mooks given you're in a flying city, and holding enemies in place is excellent at taking out the Heavy Hitters as it draws in Snipers or enemies with rocket-propelled grenades, and stuns bigger Mooks.
    • Despite the low damage and recoil, the Machine Gun is the most common weapon in the game, easy to use and found on dead enemies easily, meaning ammo is very plentiful for it. It remains accurate when fired in short bursts and does huge damage in close-quarters fighting. Along with that, it's very easy to aim with the iron sights and the reload time is incredibly fast. If you upgrade it and wear the Bullet Boon or Ammo Advantage, you've got a Jack-of-All-Stats primary weapon that does huge amounts of damage at all ranges, can carry 70 rounds and is incredibly easy to find.
    • The first Vigor you gain permanently is Possession, but many players never take it out of their active loadout. It allows you to take over enemy automata like turrets, which provides a brief but major boost in firepower (and ambush value). It can be used on vending machines to make them spit out a ton of cash. It can be upgraded to allow you to possess human enemies, including those with heavy weapons; this not only doubles the size of your One-Man Army, it's the most effective way of dealing with certain bad guys, because they are Driven to Suicide at the end of the Vigor's duration. Its one downside is a comparatively high Salt cost, but this partially defrayed by the amount of money you can get from using it on vending machines.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Booker and Elizabeth take a detour to Memorial Gardens to acquire late Lady Comstock's hand in order to proceed to the Comstock House. Booker is actually a lot more put off by the fact than Elizabeth is, and tries to dissuade her from it several times before ultimately insisting on doing it himself. Things get a lot more complicated after that. And it no longer becomes necessary, as the last thing the Siren does is smash through the gate.
  • Boss Battle: The three-part battle with the "Siren" Mook Maker Flunky Boss, a.k.a. the resurrected Lady Comstock.
  • Brains and Brawn: An interesting version where the brawn (Booker) actually does a fair amount of thinking, makes a lot of the decisions, knows vaguely how to pilot an airship, and even manages to repair an elevator at one point.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In Elizabeth's tower, there are a number of artifacts on display from her childhood and adolescence. Among them are a journal, an old teddy bear, and a small bloody sheet labeled menarche. Interestingly, they're also a small-scale experiment of the powers siphoned from Elizabeth; pulling the levers in front of them transforms the objects into their alternate-universe equivalents (differently-colored book and bear, and Elizabeth not getting her period at 13).
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The season pass and Columbia's Finest pack (representing the combined rewards from the Premium edition, Industrial Revolution pack, and store-exclusive preorders) grant the player a fair number of in-game bonuses not long after the action starts (most are granted in the area with the first Shield infusion). They don't offer too much of an advantage in the long-term, but they definitely help in the early stages before you reach Elizabeth. Of particular note is the five infusion upgrades, a gold bar worth 500 Silver Eagles, several pieces of Gear that augment melee attacks (70% chance stun for four seconds and knockback with each hit), and a single upgrade for four different weapons (along with a reskin).
  • Broken Pedestal: Columbia as a whole to America and the world. What was initially hailed as a symbol of American ingenuity and progress turned out to be much, much worse.
    • Elizabeth has to deal with one of these when Daisy Fitzroy, whom Elizabeth hoped would lead the oppressed people of Columbia to freedom and equality, proves to be an extremist dedicated solely to destruction and egoism.
    • Zig-zagged with Elizabeth and the Songbird. Early on, she regarded it as her only friend, bringing her books and other things when she was a child. As she grew older, she came to see it as her warden. By the time Booker rescues her, Elizabeth realizes one of its roles is to find her and bring her back at any cost. Late in the game, she decides she would rather die than let it take her back. And then once she figures out how to control it, she no longer fears it, going so far as to kill it by teleporting it underwater.
    • Elizabeth finds herself pushed towards losing her faith and trust in Booker on several occasions.
  • Building Swing: The Sky-Hook often serves this purpose for Booker. It has a user-activated magnet which can yank him boldly up to an equally magnetic tram rail, or pull him to a hanging cargo hook. Using this, he can Reverse Polarity to launch himself off and then activate the magnet again to pull himself to another one, often leaping from hook to hook to traverse areas.
  • Bullet Catch: Return to Sender, the eighth and last Vigor, has the ability to protect Booker from bullets. Upgraded, it also adds the ability to catch bullets and throw them back.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • Infinite makes a point of stating that even though there can be millions upon millions of alternate universes depending on the decisions we make, there are some events that cannot be changed. For example, the coin flip during the fair will always be Heads, and Booker will always pick ball #77 even after explicitly being told not to. The game also communicates this by offering several multiple choice decisions (like whether to throw your ball at the announcer or the captive couple) that may change subsequent events a little, but ultimately have no effect on Booker's eventual fate.
    • As in the earlier BioShock, But Thou Must is heavily deconstructed. When Booker is forced to recommit the most horrible decision of his life (selling his daughter) he's outright told "You don't leave this room until you do."
    • In the endgame sequence in which Booker and Elizabeth find themselves among an infinite number of lighthouses there are multiple paths available, but the destination ends up the same regardless which is chosen.
    • If you have the Season Pass, Columbia's Finest, completed Industrial Revolution, purchased the Premium or Ultimate Songbird Edition, the game outright tells you that you must collect all your infusion rewards in The Blue Ribbon before proceeding, as Rosalind won't move out of the way until you do. This means that you cannot skip them to play the game at the normal difficulty, and is rather odd, considering previous games in the series made getting DLC rewards optional.

    C 

  • Caged Bird Metaphor: Elizabeth has been locked away in a tower for most of her life, guarded by a large, avian mechanical creature called "Songbird". The Luteces also refer to her as a caged bird, and there comes a point in the game when the player must decide whether she ought to wear a pendant with an image of an ornate cage or a bird flying free.
  • Call-Back: BioShock opened with a man in a plane descending to the sea, and going down stairs in a lighthouse to a vehicle which brings him to a city under the sea. Infinite opens with a man in a boat being rowed to a lighthouse, then climbing up stairs to a vehicle which takes him to a city in the sky. Turns out this is actually a plot point.
    • Tons of other callbacks as well: the final part of your elevator ride has words printed on the wall for you to read through the viewport, Booker starts off by opening up a box given to him by somebody, and one of the first things someone says to him when he arrives is, "Is it someone new?"
    • Shortly after arriving in Battleship Bay, Booker comes across an abandoned baby stroller, with a box of pistol bullets inside, referencing how the player character from BioShock first came across a firearm.
    • At one point, Elizabeth gets her hands on a solid wrench which she uses to knock out Booker. It is the exact same model of wrench (geometry and textures) that Jack picks up as his first weapon in BioShock.
    • The "SACKED" sign on Scofield Sansmark's body is similar to the "FIRED" signs on Alex the Great's victims/employees in BioShock 2.
    • The Boy of Silence that gives the player a Jump Scare in Comstock House is very similar to a Doctor Splicer giving a similar Jump Scare to the player in the first BioShock.
    • "Dollar Bill" vending machines will occasionally tell the player to "Return when you've got some currency, fella!", referencing Rapture's "Circus of Value" machines, who would spout the line "Come back when you've got some money, buddy!"
      • They also advertise themselves as "A carnival of savings", yet another sign of contact between Columbia's planners and Rapture amidst the Anachronism Stew.
  • Call-Forward: You can hear the Songbird's cries in the background of the original BioShock just around the time you witness Sander Cohen's student play the piano. Either Irrational thought so far ahead as to plant his death in that game, or their sound team just really liked that sound and ended up re-using it for Infinite.
  • Came Back Wrong: Any person dead in one universe before Elizabeth opens a tear into another where said person is alive. If they're lucky, they only get a nosebleed; otherwise, the results aren't pretty.
    • Lady Comstock after Zachary Comstock siphons energy from Elizabeth to revive her; she doesn't really seem to appreciate the thought.
  • The Cameo:
    • While in Rapture, you can glance upon a destroyed Bouncer-type Big Daddy and a Little Sister crying over him right after Songbird dies. Coincidence? YOU DECIDE!
    • After you have completed all the levels in Clash in the Clouds, a new tear appears in the museum that you can use to summon a Thuggish Splicer from Rapture.
  • Canon Welding: It turns out that Infinite is actually part of the same multiverse as BioShock and BioShock 2; not only do Booker and Elizabeth visit Rapture at the end of the game, but it's connected to hundreds of other universes in which a story begins with a man, a lighthouse, and a city.
  • Cast from Hit Points: If Booker has the Health For Salts gear equipped, when he runs out of Salts he will use Health to cast Vigors instead.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Between Elizabeth and Booker sometimes, and especially evident during the Siren fight.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: At any point, Booker can change the gear he's using to fit his situation. Need more Ammo? Switch to "Scavenger's Vest". Got invincibility from "Sheltered Life"? Change hats and keep the brief boost. This is extremely useful if the player goes into combat before realizing the gear they were using was unsuitable.
  • Chaos Architecture: Many of the buildings in the city can detach and float independently, allowing the city to reconfigure if need be. One of the nameless citizens Booker passes by shortly after arriving even mentions that he hates it when buildings dock behind schedule, and he has to rely on the rail tram more often than he would prefer.
  • Character Focus/Demoted to Extra: For all the hype and assumed importance about Columbia, the game isn't really about the flying city. It's about Elizabeth, following her relish in new found freedom, charting her growth and maturity, and her relationship with her father. It helps that she's a wonderfully three dimensional character from the outset, far from the doormat damsel in distress who hangs off the arm of her rescuer and exists purely to be saved from yet another castle; there are a few wonderful moments where she flat out refuses to put up with Booker's crap, and even forces him to develop in his own ways as well. She's strongly characterized with real depth and a measurable arc that truly marks her as the main character of the game, above the petty politics of Columbia and even the internal narrative of redemption that Booker follows. This is emphasized at the very end of the game; the credits begin to roll the precise moment Elizabeth ceases to exist. Also in this spoiler-free video on Halolz.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Everything inside the box you get in the beginning.
    • The card with the symbols of Columbian worship, the scroll, the key, and the sword (and the numbers on how many times you ring the bells to enter). The coin flip tally later reveals your Booker's result of heads as the 123rd instance of its occurrence.
    • The postcard for Monument Island is used for the location of Elizabeth and the ending when the Siphon is destroyed. The reason why it's a postcard is because people used to be funneled through there first upon arriving at Columbia.
    • A large and elaborate key, one side printed with a bird, the other a cage. Not only it is the key to Elizabeth's tower, the two brooches the Luteces offer Elizabeth later in the game ("The bird?" "Or the cage?") have identical symbols.
    • There is a handful of Silver Eagles, which tells you Columbia has its own currency.
    • The box itself is labeled as "Booker DeWitt, Seventh Cavalry, Wounded Knee", which is significant three times for completely separate reasons due to the timelines being messed up.
    • A photo of Elizabeth when she was younger, taken without her knowledge. Obvious practical use, but the same photo turns up later among other photographs of Elizabeth in her tower - also taken without her knowledge. The Luteces are more deeply involved with the job than Booker originally suspects.
    • The one thing that doesn't have any later significance is the gun, because Booker almost immediately loses it. Unless you count it as a Continuity Nod to the original BioShock, where Jack begins the game by opening a box that contains a note and a gun, for hijacking the plane.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Psychic Nosebleeds, the C-A-G-E jingle used on the Motorized Patriots and Elizabeth's missing pinkie.
    • Songbird's averse reaction to water pressure on the beach is used when Elizabeth drowns it outside Rapture.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The priest that baptizes Booker so he can enter Columbia is/was the very same one who baptized him 20 years ago and "created" Comstock. He's already blind by the time he's in Columbia, preventing him from recognizing Booker.
    Booker: That idiot priest needs to learn the difference between baptizing a man and drowning him.
  • The Chosen One / Dark Messiah: Elizabeth is revered by Columbia as "The Lamb of Columbia".
    Elizabeth: So... they call you the False Shepherd.
    Booker: And you the Lamb.
    Elizabeth: Let's not call each other that.
    Booker: Suits me.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Esther's Voxophone mentions she's gone through half a pack waiting for her ambush targets to show up.
  • Clothing Damage: Elizabeth's outfit grows more disheveled, dirty and torn as the story goes on, to the point she eventually changes into a new one... which then gets disheveled, dirty and torn.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Founders are all clad in patriotic blue, and the Vox Populi wear revolutionary red. The Vox weapons are also covered with Red tape, which makes them easier to distinguish from their Founder-counterparts.
  • Company Town: Finkton is clearly one, and a very wretched example at that. The population who live there are kept on strict company schedules which are enforced by giant clocks and whistle alarms in every public and residence area, residents are only paid in company scrip which is only redeemable at the company store and at prices fixed to their wages, and the place booms with frequent Canned Orders Over Loudspeakers, usually delivering Fink's lines about how grateful they should all be to be exploited by him. You even get to see an auction where, instead of buyers bidding on an item, workers are bidding on a job, using the time they can finish it as bidding ammo. Other bits over the loudspeaker have him talking about things like how they can't have their 16-hour workday halved because that would cause them to waste money on gambling and drink, or how they can't have paid vacations or eight-hour work days because that's "anarchist talk." Not to mention the aforementioned company scrip at company prices in a company town.note 
  • Continuing Is Painful: More so than the previous BioShock games. If you run out of health in this game, you lose some money and the enemies will regain some health. On 1999 Mode the amount you lose is 100 Silver Eagles, so dying there is really discouraged (especially as, in 1999 mode, if you die and have run out of money, the game ends - in other difficulty levels, you still come back, even if you're broke).
  • Continuity Lockout: Generally speaking, players don't need to have any prior knowledge of the Bioshock series before playing Infinite. However, prior knowledge of the earlier games makes the endgame sequence in which Elizabeth and Booker briefly visit the underwater city of Rapture, setting of the first two games more meaningful. However this exact same thing could also be seen as an inversion because those who are familiar with the previous games might actually be distracted slightly because the main game offers no context as to what Rapture has to do with Elizabeth and Booker and the plot of Infinite; one has to play the DLC spin-offs to learn the connection.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Right away you start off the game being dropped off at a Lighthouse in the middle of the ocean, which leads to how Booker is transported to Columbia. Just like in BioShock when Jack was "dropped off" at a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean and leads to transport to Rapture. This becomes much, much more significant then it initially seems on first playthrough.
    • The mysterious circumstances of the arrival In Medias Res could be considered a continuity nod. Both Booker and Jack are arranged to be brought to the Lighthouse in order to dismantle the established dystopia by their Anonymous Benefactor; The Lutece Twins and Atlas, respectively.
    • Even when you touch down on Columbia in a chapel flooded with about two feet of water that is very obviously meant to evoke Rapture's waterlogged environs. Turns out they baptize all new arrivals into their religion before letting them through.
    • Through Voxophones, one learns that Fink's concept of the Songbird (and possibly Handymen as well) came from observing Big Daddies through a tear.
    • As soon as the Siphon is destroyed, Elizabeth transports herself, Booker, and Songbird to the bathysphere station within Rapture, straight out of the first game. Songbird is killed by the water pressure, while Elizabeth takes Booker to the bathysphere, back to the surface to the lighthouse, as to show him that there are an infinite number of worlds.
      • Speaking of Songbird's death - the horrifying scream it makes as it dies can also be heard in the background of the original BioShock, as Sander Cohen forces Kyle Fitzpatrick to play the piano perfectly.
    • One of Fink's elevators plays a recording of him where he shares his personal views, a la Ryan.
    • Finkton in general is an alternate version of Fontaine's Home for the Poor. Unlike Frank Fontaine however, who used his personal fief as a recruiting ground for his Atlas persona, Fink is content with just slave-driving his corner of Columbia for profit.
    • In Battleship Bay, a baby carriage can be found containing a box of pistol ammo, likely a reference to the location of the pistol in the first game.
    • When you first come to Columbia, the priest who baptizes you asks "Is it someone new?" - just like the spider splicer did when Jack first arrived in Rapture.
  • Cool Airship: Several, including technically Columbia itself.
  • Cool Guns: The weapons in general all have a considerable weight to them, from the Mauser pistol to the Pepper Mill.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: You can summon a Founders' Motorized Patriot to fight a Vox Populi one, resulting in robot minigun George Washington vs robot minigun Abraham Lincoln.
  • Corrupt Church: The Founders' religion, which has built a North Korean-style cult of personality around Comstock to the point where men and women ignore everything and bow in his presence and civilians are willing to kill themselves on his orders, and takes a 50% tithe of everything (or at least everything at the bank... which is named after him).
    Booker: I gotta get me a job in the prophet business.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jeremiah Fink, with all the nastiness of every single Gilded Age robber baron distilled down into one convenient package.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: A major part of Elizabeth's Character Development is having her innocence and wide-eyed idealism chipped away one traumatic event at a time. After witnessing Booker kill the police squad that ambushes them at Battleship Bay and calling him a monster, she decides that she'd "best get used to it," and continues to become further compromised, a little at a time, until by the time Booker rescues her from Comstock House, her attitude on killing has gone from a heat of the moment decision when she killed Daisy Fitzroy because she saw no other option to being fully intent on committing premeditated murder. One of the biggest signs of how she's become desensitized to the horrific violence that Booker leaves in his wake is when she plans to cut off Lady Comstock's hand in Emporia to get past a gate.
  • Covers Always Lie: A downplayed example. The cover of the game was blasted by the fandom for "dumbing down" the presentation of the game, and not including any of its expected complex themes and moral questions. However, Ken Levine has been quite open about the cover being targeted at the Lowest Common Denominator.note  The rationalization is that most people who are interested in BioShock Infinite for the setting, story, and themes have probably already made up their minds to buy it, and the cover art was calculated to reach as wide an audience as possible and pull in players less invested in checking gaming news. This in turn made publishing executives more willing to accept delays and additional budget needed to ensure the game is released in the best quality possible.
    • That said, they published the game with a double-sided cover so that fans could turn the cover around to give the game a more 1912 look.
    • Related to the above, the cover was also strongly criticised for only featuring Booker on the front, relegating Elizabeth to the back cover; considering that Elizabeth is as important a protagonist as Booker is (and is, arguably, the primary protagonist ahead of Booker), the fact that she doesn't feature on the front of the game box rubbed some people the wrong way. As noted above, this was also a marketing ploy; the fear being that boys would be less likely to pick up a game that has a girl on the front, and would find buff action man Booker a more appealing figure.
    • In fairness, though, given that the ending reveals Booker to be the cause of everything that happens in the game having Booker on the cover might actually be a form of Fridge Brilliance.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Columbia. Beautiful sky-high city... under ultra-nationalist,theocratic and imperialist rule with angry robots, gun-toting xenophobes and bloodthirsty anarchists trying to kill you. It's possibly worse than Rapture, considering that everyone who tried to kill you in Rapture at least had the excuse of being completely insane, and the enemies in Columbia are either punch clock mooks, or bloodthirsty terrorists.
    • Finkton tries being this, enticing would-be employees and workers with promises of a bright future for their families. Once Booker actually steps into the place however, it doesn't take much to see the sordid underbelly lying beneath.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Comstock. For example he had Siphons - devices that only work on Elizabeth installed at Lady Comstocks crypt just in case Elizabeth managed to appear there.
  • Creepy Crows: One of the Heavy Hitters is "The Zealot of the Lady" (aka "The Crow"), who has a small flock of crows surrounding him and can transform into them to move small distances without damage. The "Murder Of Crows" Vigor you get from the first one you kill lets you summon a flock, and they definitely play up the creepiness. The idle animation when the Vigor is equipped shows Booker's hand covered in feathers, his nails having turned into long black claws. The house of the Zealots of the Lady where you first get the vigor is full of rotting food they leave out to attract crows, giving it a macabre feel.
  • Critical Hit: Like Borderlands, the "critical" term is used to denote attacks to an enemy's weak point. Headshots, shots to a Handyman's heart, and shots to the gears on the back of the Patriot get you them.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-Universe. At one point, Elizabeth comments that helping the Vox Populi obtain weapons would enable it to stage a revolution akin to Les Misérables. Given how naive she is, she's forgetting that the attempt at revolution that took place in that book was snuffed out easily. And the Vox's attempt at revolution that players get to see over the course of the story actually is much more successful... and far more brutal. She does say that opening Tears was a kind of wish fulfillment, in which case it's Gone Horribly Right.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Execution kills with the Sky-Hook are brutal, the least brutal being a gruesome neck snap and going up from there. Counts as an in-universe example, as well, as performing an execution in front of Elizabeth upsets her.
  • Cult of Personality: The Founders' religion is one. Those personalities are, nominally, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. However, those individuals are deceased and no longer there to be venerated in person. (Rather convenient for the Founders, since those three men would not have appreciated the worship.) Comstock on the other hand, is still present, and he is adored by the masses as a Messianic Archetype as an all-knowing Prophet of the Lord. He has statues of himself placed everywhere, museums dedicated to exaggerating his accomplishments, and people in Columbia invoke him in prayers in front of shrines dedicated to him.
    • Overheard dialogue near a 50-ft. statue of Comstock from a Columbia citizen: "I'm not sure this statue truly... captures Comstock's divinity."
    • While touring a bank late in the game, you can discover from Elizabeth's dialogue that Comstock receives a whopping fifty percent tithe from the people who work there, and there is no indication that they had any qualms.
  • Cutscene: Surprisingly plentiful for this game, in a series not known to have a lot. For comparison, the original BioShock was popularly known to have exactly one, while this one might have at least five, two or three of which are Mythology Gags.
    • When being dropped into Finkton, there's a cutscene performed where Booker falls and manages to hang onto the side of a blimp created by Elizabeth, similar to the first trailer. This time, he actually hangs on by the ropes, but he states that he's slipping to an angry Elizabeth.
    • Comstock's death is performed in a cutscene. You start it by interrupting Comstock, but Booker proceeds to attack him and drown him in a baptismal font. Comstock is also Elizabeth's father, which gives rise to how Andrew Ryan is directly related to the protagonist of BioShock.
  • Cyborg: The Handymen are probably the best example, but some of the other Heavy Hitters may also qualify.

    D 

  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Using/selecting weapons/Vigors are swapped from BioShocks 1 and 2. Jump and crouch are also moved.
  • Dark Action Girl: Daisy Fitzroy shows traits of this — no racial pun intended — though she's more of an Anti-Villain.
    • As noted in the Gender Is No Object entry below, women serve in combat roles in both the Police and the Vox Populi.
  • Dark Messiah: Comstock and Fitzroy come in their own flavors: Comstock sees himself a messianic figure who will bring judgement on "The Sodom Below", while Fitzroy wishes to stop oppression against those of different races in Columbia, by any means necessary.
    • In one of the last alternate universes, Elizabeth has become this.
  • Dark Reprise: The first time you hear "God Only Knows", it is a mere goofy moment where a barbershop quartet is singing it on a flying barge. However, it plays over the end credits, by which time the lyrics echo Booker and Elizabeth's story. They are, however, still the same song-ish.
    • When Booker first arrives at the welcome center/chapel parishioners are singing Will the Circle Be Unbroken with the usual Christian confidence. Later in the game Elizabeth sings a stanza as well, but is much more solemn and sings the original, more questioning version.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Fitzroy ends up thinking she has to kill children of upper class parents on the chance they become Corrupt Corporate Executives. The Tears that Elizabeth and Booker pass through in order to make that part of Daisy's history doesn't seem to help.
  • Daylight Horror: In contrast to the dank and gloomy Rapture. It does get noticeably darker in the latter half of the game.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: The second time Booker and Elizabeth enter a new Columbia through a tear, it is one where Booker and Slate, together as members of the Vox Populi, helped to get them much more power over Columbia, but that Booker had a Heroic Sacrifice. Unfortunately, this version of Daisy Fitzroy, unlike earlier ones, is much more Ax-Crazy, and, upon learning that Booker is alive suddenly, immediately believes that Booker is either an impostor or a ghost, and tries to have him killed anyway, turning the group who had been following him against him.
    Fitzroy: My Booker was a hero to the cause; a story to tell your children. You? You just confuse the narrative.
  • Dead Man Writing: Three of the recordings are from an alternate Booker who died, funnily enough. It's... pretty jarring.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: The slap stings a little more than in the original BioShock (the player loses a little money and enemies gain back some health, while in "1999 Mode" death costs you $100 every time), but dying is still nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
  • Death Is the Only Option: At the end, Booker must allow Elizabeth - and all the other Elizabeths from all the other timelines - to drown him before he can make the choice that would, in an alternate timeline, lead to him becoming Comstock and setting the events of the story in motion.
  • Death Seeker: Slate and his men, who want to die fighting instead of retreating from Columbia, like any sane soldier would.
  • Decapitated Army: Averted. Killing Fitzroy does nothing to stop the Vox Populi. All the way up to the end of the game, they remain very much a threat if not more now that Fitzroy is no longer there controlling them.
  • Deconstruction:
    • The game seems to be a deconstruction of American Exceptionalism, as well as the nationalism and imperialism that come along with it. Also falling under Levine's deconstructive eye is the concept of La Résistance, as seen with Vox Populi.
      • To go one step further, it could be seen as both a deconstruction of extremism and blind faith. Both the Vox and the Columbians follow unquestioningly leaders that are quite obviously raging extremists of their respective ideologies, and the consequences of this are abundantly clear.
    • There also seems to be a deconstruction of the whole Steampunk aesthetic going on — or at least of the nifty, flashy, Lighter and Softer Theme Park Version aspects of steampunk that have come into vogue. It all looks very promising and optimistic from the start with a flying city made from late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century technology, but add in the less-savory aspects of the era (such as contemporary political extremism, imperialism and Exceptionalism as mentioned above) and a generous heaping of Steampunk Body Horror and it starts to look rather more sinister...
    • On a more meta-level near the end game: it functions as a deconstruction of story-telling itself, specifically within the BioShock franchise but also generally in any series of stories which shares themes internally but have ostensibly separate canon. Everything is an Alternate Universe, every choice the story-teller makes literally creates a new universe and a new story to tell. Sometimes they are connected by a few common starting points, other times they are less obvious, but each one is just another facet of the creator's imagination and choices. This is itself deconstructed and reconstructed by the ending undoing each and every one of those realities and the player's own.
    • Another take on that plot point is that it is deconstructing sequels that rehash plot points from the original, like Metal Gear Solid 2 did. Why are the writers simply giving us the same basic plot, with all the names changed and a superficially different setting? Because you're stuck in a gaggle of parallel universes spawned from your own flaws and mistakes, and in the end, each and every story has its similarities.
  • Deflector Shields:
    • The Lutece twins give Booker a Shield Infusion, which causes his body to generate an intrinsic magnetic field that can absorb damage for short periods of time.
      Rosalind: Surprising...
      Robert: Surprising that it worked?
      Rosalind: Surprising that it didn't kill him.
    • The "Return to Sender" Vigor DeWitt picks up late in the game. It functions in one of two flavors, the first of which simply generates a magnetic bubble to swat bullets and projectiles away. The other function catches incoming projectiles and crushes them into a lump of semi-molten metal which Booker can then throw back.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: For a start, it's 1912; you either get this or Politically Correct History. The most striking part is the militant xenophobia of Columbia's inhabitants.
    • Levine claims that the game was partially inspired by this speech supposedly given by William McKinley regarding the annexation of the Philippines, which is definitely Values Dissonance at its finest.
    • Another noticeable example is children smoking fairly openly — they're kind of trying to stay out of the way of adults, but not too hard since back then it would have been treated like sneaking a sip of dad's beer. Then you find an ad that proudly touts a brand of cigarettes developed for children.
    • As mentioned above, Columbia is an in-universe example of this trope to the time period itself. On the one hand, its norms, beliefs and standards are what many Americans in 1912 would have found quite unexceptional. On the other hand, its oddly modern progressiveness in gender equality (there's the whole thing with Elizabeth, you fight and kill women soldiers on both sides, Fitzroy is the leader of the Vox Populi and Columbia's top scientist is a woman) stands in contrast to a wider society where women still did not have a federally guaranteed right to vote. Scattered commentary throughout still suggests more period appropriate attitudes on gender in certain people, however, such as a pair of women voicing their disapproval of another woman they know having gotten a job.
  • Demonization: Done to Abraham Lincoln in Columbian propaganda.
  • Design Compromise: Irrational had to put up with a lot of Executive Meddling and make a lot of concessions (heavy focus on combat, a tough male main character, etc.) in order to secure the funding they needed to complete the game, but nearly all those concessions became Deconstruction fodder. For example, the obligatory ISO standard male shooter protagonist is an Atoner with a laundry list of past sins, many of which involve murder, and more than one critic has theorized that the reason the game has far, FAR more combat than necessary was Irrational passive-aggressively commenting on the artistic demands made of them.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • It's possible, through Sequence Breaking, to intentionally miss Possession, which you'd normally have to use to open a gate at the beginning of the game. If you do somehow manage to get past the gate without Possession, you can find it for sale in a vending machine later.
    • When you first get the Shield Upgrade from Rosalind and Robert, you have the option of shooting at them. Not only do you miss, Rosalind makes several quick remarks about missing again and again as Robert points out that they have all the time in the world while you don't. You can also do this with melee attacks, so as not to waste ammo on a minor gag. Starts at :30 [1].
    • Staying too long in a place near where the Luteces are found would have them quip lines at how Booker (and the player) ought to get moving. Even better, when you meet them outside of Port Prosperity, Robert offers you a card. If you don't take it, Rosalind asks if he'd like to hear a waltz on the piano and then plays one and hums along.
    • Towards the end of the Asylum Level, when you get access to the warden's office you turn around to see a Boy of Silence as he alerts the guards to your presence. On a second playthrough, or having knowledge of what will happen, you can try to avoid it. Only your controls are locked until you look him in the face. You can try strafing, but he doesn't move from his original position, so all you get is him opening a tear without you even seeing him do so.
  • Dialog During Gameplay
  • Different World, Different Movies: The theater showing La Revanche du Jedi (Revenge of the Jedi). Currently the page image.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Return to Sender Vigor, which projects a shield that absorbs damage, which can be released back at the enemy as a projectile. However, the shield's activation window (when the casting button is pressed) is very brief and only takes effect when Booker is taking hits from the front. It's also very tricky to use offensively, especially as the projectile is very short-ranged and has a smaller area of effect than most Vigors. However, with enough practice and the right timing, Return to Sender can be a life-saver on higher difficulty levels, especially against Snipers. It's also a godsend against Handymen and the Siren, as their powerful attacks are completely negated by the Return to Sender shield and can quickly charge the projectile up to its maximum damage cap. With the right Gear, it also has the potential to be by far the most damaging and efficient Vigor of all.
  • Dig Your Own Grave: The Lutece twins are seen digging their own graves while calmly giving a bit of exposition to what's going on after Lady Comstock has been "resurrected" as the Siren.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: Subverted. One of the toilets in the Salty Oyster restaurant has flies all around it and two brown lumps in it, setting up this trope... but the lumps turn out to be potatoes. Which you can eat.
  • Disneyesque: Elizabeth Comstock bears a strong resemblance to Belle from Beauty and the Beast, including her design at the start of the game (her blue and white outfit with brunette hair tied back in a ponytail), a love of literature and intellectualism in a time period that frowns upon such things from women out of a means of escaping their provincial lives. She also has a few similarities to Rapunzel from Tangled; she was locked in a tower to keep an eye on her supernatural powers by her foster-parent/kidnapper and is rescued by a brown-haired, chiseled rogue who grows to care for her as the story progresses. Word of God states that this was no coincidence, as Elizabeth's design was based off of various Disney princesses.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The relationship between Elizabeth and Songbird mirrors an abusive romantic relationship, which Word of God confirms is deliberate.
    • In the Back Story: A charismatic nineteenth-century man with an impressive beard takes control of a religion which was allegedly inspired by an angelic visitation and takes it to an uncharted territory, leading to tension with the US government. You figure it out.
    • The Vox Populi, meanwhile, seem to take considerable influence from turn-of-the-century Anarchist movements, Communism and even the Occupy Wall Street movement to a degree.
      Elizabeth: It seems the Vox Populi have adopted their favorite color.
      Booker: Sounds about right.
    • The whole premise of a man rescuing a girl from a tower that is guarded by a a nightmarish flying beast who functions both as a protector and a jailer is reminiscent of a common Fairy Tale setup. However, it goes way beyond that; Elizabeth bears more than a passing resemblance to Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Lady Comstock's glass coffin brings to mind Snow White's coffin.
    • The Lutece machine looks kind of like ovaries.
    • Columbian rhetoric also has a lot of similarities to Nazi Germany: obviously, they share white supremacy and the leader principle—Comstock could easily be considered an analogue to Hitler—but then there's the more subtle militant ideology encouraging early enlistment, complete with the junior wing of future soldiers as the Comstock Cadets (Hitler Youth, anyone?)—and singing models of cadets at Soldier's Field are even goose-stepping—and a Voxophone you can find in the Fraternal Order of the Raven's building has Comstock monologue about the emancipation of African-Americans only freeing them to become lazy and impoverished where they had "honest work" as slaves before, which smacks of Nazis propaganda showing Jews in their "natural habitat" of ghettos, conveniently ignoring that the Nazis forced them to live there in the first place, much like the Columbians force the non-white working class to live in Finkton, itself a ghetto.
    • Speaking of African-Americans within the game, one Voxophone recorded by Fink subtly recounts the justification of the African slave trade with religious scripture. The Voxophone recording has Fink recalling a conversation he had with Comstock. Fink tells him that the people who came to populate Columbia expected every menial task to be done for them, for which he suggests to Comstock to get in touch with an overseer in a Georgia prison that would allow him "to lease as many negro convicts" as he wanted. He also tells Comstock, that if any of Columbia's residents question the servants' forced labor, he should justify it by saying they are trying to achieve penance for atempting to rise above their social standing.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Anyone who is white, but neither Irish or Jewish, can live comfortably in Columbia, so long as they adhere to Comstock's biblical interpretation, and anyone else can stay but has to serve their social betters without question. Then there's the Vox Populi, who seek to fight this injustice by recruiting downtrodden minorities into their cause, but at the beginning of the game aren't much of a threat. By the second half, Elizabeth has opened a tear that shows Columbia fighting a massive race war between the ruling elite and the oppressed minorities who finally got fed up with all the abuse they were forced to willingly put up with.
  • The Dragon: Comstock has several Dragons, but the most literal example is Songbird — a clockwork cross between a Big Daddy and a Night Fury — with every bit of the nastiness that implies. You never actually fight him, however, when Old Elizabeth gives you his passcode - the musical notes C-A-G-E - he fights for you in the climactic battle with the Vox airfleet.
  • Dramatic Irony: Lots of it on a second playthrough, starting with the Beast trailer. "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. That was the deal. The details elude me now, but the details wouldn't change a goddamn thing." Oh, how they would.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Comstock's approach to baptism. While being baptized would absolve him of his sins at Wounded Knee, it does so by removing his responsibility for his actions, not by making the sins themselves admirable, and definitely does not make them worthy of being enshrined in a museum.
  • Dummied Out: A good number of things from scenes and characters to Vigors and weapons, as well as some of Elizabeth's powers. In fact, virtually every scene from the initial gameplay demos got dummied out and only some of the assets were recycled; Ken Levine says that "five or six games worth of content" was scrapped during the long and often delayed development.
    • Aside from all the things from the previews and demos, unused files have been found in the game, such as a texture for a "respawn tomb", which looks like it would have been similar to BioShock's Vita-chambers, and subtitles for tailor vending machine dialogue. There's also a mountain observatory, an Arabian-style tower, and Citadel Station out-of-bounds in the final area, and a fight mechanic for Cornelius Slate, who doesn't fight directly.
  • Dynamic Entry: Booker has a gameplay maneuver for this, where he can let himself launch off of a hook or skyrail and Goomba Stomp an enemy below, catching them by surprise if they were not aware of him already. Some varieties of Gear add fire, lightning or knockback to his landing.
    • Also, the Charge vigor. Given the size of most battle maps in Columbia, Booker can charge up force then blast across the space to the enemy, usually perfoming an instant kill while knocking anything lighter than a Handyman or Patriot flying.

    E 

  • Eagleland: Boorish. To a horrifying degree. The city of Columbia was created by the United States as a showcase of American ingenuity, just in time for the 1893 World's Fair. Then there was a hostage situation in China due to the Boxer's Rebellion, and Columbia went against orders, bombarded cities and killed a lot of innocent people, and then it seceded from the Union and went crazy nativist. Comstock's regime believes that Columbia represents the true society envisioned by the Founding Fathers and most of it's citizens view the rest of the world below, America included, with great contempt. Institutionalised racism and notions of white racial superiority are common in Columbia and minorities are treated as second-class citizens, forced into menial labour with no chance of upward mobility, interracial couples risk public stoning, and speaking out for racial equality can lead to jail time or even execution. The Founding Fathers, Washington, Jefferson and Franklin are worshipped as divine figures along with Comstock (while Abraham Lincoln is widely reviled as a traitor), and Columbia's society has very militant overtones.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Columbia stages were first featured in Playstation All Stars Battle Royale before the main game debuted. It has two within the game, one on its own where it's invaded by a Dollface mech and another where the cargo plane from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception flies by the city with a blimp and Songbird flying alongside and occasionally attacking it.
  • Early Game Hell: Without Elizabeth's help, Booker is constantly outgunned during the first few levels of the game and needs to constantly move, flank, search corpses and hope he doesn't die.
    • Inverted if you bought the game with the included pre-order bonuses, which after the first few sparse combat encounters (shortly after defeating the first Fireman) the game gives you several bonus Infusions in a row and some nice gear. These make Booker almost overpowered, until the enemy threat level gradually creeps back up.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The Stinger suggests that only the versions that would have become Comstock were killed, while the Booker that decided not to persists. With no Comstock, Booker would never be put in the position to give up his daughter to clear his debts, presumably allowing him to finally have a normal life with his daughter Anna. Note that the whole scene ends right before Anna can be seen in the crib, to maintain ambiguity.
  • Easily Forgiven: You can throw the ball at Fink. You can massacre his staff and security. You can kill his slaves for fun. You can even set fire to his assistant due to a bug. None of this will change his mind about trying to hire you as head of security.
  • Easter Egg: The note old Elizabeth gives Booker decodes as "I AM A CODE: I SHOULD PROBABLY BE CHANGED OVER FOR SOMETHING MUCH MORE OFFICIAL IN THE FUTURE, BUT I'LL DO AS A STAND-IN FOR NOW I SUPPOSE." with the substitution cipher Elizabeth has on her chalkboard earlier in the game.
  • Easy Level Trick: In the Hall of Heroes, when entering both the Beijing and Wounded Knee fights, the doors lock upon entering, trapping you with little cover and a bunch of enemies. Since they lock behind you when you enter, however, there's nothing stopping you opening the door, throwing down several Vigor traps, before backtracking for salt refills and then entering.
    • You can plant a ton of Devil's Kiss traps in the spots where the Siren will spawn, killing her instantly each time. Fully upgraded Devil's Kiss mixed with Shock Jockey will wipe out her zombies instantly and deal a ton of damage and stunning to survivors.
    • If you stick Return to Sender traps on the core during the last battle, they'll block most incoming bullets, making your job that much easier.
  • Egopolis: Jeremiah Fink's Finkton. Interestingly, it's a hellhole, but he's quite proud of it.
  • The '80s: The setting of the Truth From Legend Mockumentary trailers.
    • Columbia attacks New York on December 31, 1983 — transitioning into January 1, 1984.
    • Meanwhile, a songwriter is ripping off 80's tunes like "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and turning them into 1910's standards.
    • An Alternate Universe version of the Truth From Legend trailers focuses on Rapture, as well as someone in Upstate New York who may have once been a Little Sister.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: For the last combat in the game, you have the power to periodically summon Songbird, who can either divebomb the battlefield or eviscerate attacking airships.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • A series of videos previewed so-called "Heavy Hitters," but it turned out most of them played little role in the game. There's one "Siren," you see her in one level, encounter her three times and then she's done. The "Boys of Silence" also appear in only one level, and they're different than advertised, acting more like the cameras in the previous games. "Handymen," this game's equivalent of Big Daddies, show up four times during the game to be fought. Only the Motorized Patriot is a frequent enemy.
    • The armored enemies who tend to use the Hail Fire, RPG, or Volley Guns, the Firemen, and the Zealots of the Lady fit this role much better.
  • Embedded Precursor: The PS3 Blu-ray copy of the game will include the first BioShock free of charge - but only if you're in North America.
  • Emergency Transformation: After contracting stomach cancer, a worker in one Voxophone recording was turned into a Handyman.
  • Empathic Environment: The weather reflects both Elizabeth's mood and the overall state of Columbia. The first half of the game, when Elizabeth is still a Wide-Eyed Idealist, takes place in mostly sunny and warm environments. After she kills Daisy Fitzroy and grows more shell-shocked and steely, the weather takes a turn for the worse. This is also the point when Columbia stops being such a civilized place, on the surface at least, and as the Vox uprising gains more and more momentum, the weather becomes more hostile as well, ending in a thunderstorm for their final assault on Comstock's zeppelin.
  • The Empire: Columbia serves as a military powerhouse, likened to the Death Star, to conquer other nations for an expansionist despot, in keeping with the theme of imperialism. Given that it's also "seceded" from the US, Columbia pretty much sees itself as an Empire-in-the-making.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Both the Founders and the Vox have male and female troops trying to kill you.
  • Escort Mission:
    • Averted, with Levine noting they made sure that working with Elizabeth was the farthest thing from an escort mission, after the criticism of the escort mission with a Little Sister in the original BioShock. Elizabeth may not be in the midst of a battle, but she's not hiding either, helping to resupply Booker with ammo and Vigors, or being there to use her own powers.
    • Having spent the first twenty years of her life in near isolation, Elizabeth's picked up a number of other useful skills — like cryptography and lock-picking.
    • According to one internet wit, Elizabeth is actually escorting Booker; he's the one who keeps running out of ammo, money, and Salts, asking her to help, and having to be revived.
    • Near the end, there's a mission that involves escorting an airship. This is another interesting Aversion; during that mission, Songbird is the one escorting you! Of course, that would only be true if the Songbird could actually fight without Booker telling him where to go...
    • Similar to the idea of Elizabeth escorting Booker, From a Certain Point of View the entire game is an escort mission for the Luteces, who are guiding Booker and Elizabeth through the story from the very beginning.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Daisy Fitzroy gets one in her first interaction with Booker. Dangling him head-first from an airship — after one of her goons smashes him in the face for no reason, she informs him there is a war beginning and he needs to choose a side, and then drops him to fall a very long way. Everything in her demeanour makes it clear Booker does not have the option of refusing to help. It's her character in a nutshell — forceful, charismatic, and deeply ruthless with no room in her mind for peaceful resolutions or abstaining from the conflict. She has a legitimate grievance, but her revolution won't be bloodless.
  • Eternal Recurrence: An inter-dimensional example — the Luteces have managed to kill Comstock before, but other parallel versions were found to exist in an infinite amount of other realities. Thus, in order to end the circle, they decide to cut it with utmost certainty; "smothering him in the crib" (so to speak) and preventing his existence.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Preston E. Downs is a ruthless hunter who takes pride in killing non-whites (and whites who "mix in with the local color"). However, he has a My God, What Have I Done? moment when he sets up traps to bleed out one of Daisy Fitzroy's couriers for information and instead catches a Sioux child she sent, and finds out that Comstock was lying about his involvement in Wounded Knee.
      • He actually joins the Vox in assaulting Olympia and is almost certainly the one that inspired the display of Founder scalps Booker and Elizabeth come across. This is more understandable when you realize he spoke with Vox Booker and found out what the Wounded Knee Massacre was from the Sioux point of view.
    • The Pinkerton Detective agency did a lot of bad things, but they kicked out Booker because he was too violent for them.
  • Everybody Smokes: Children get the "Minor Victory" brand of cigarettes.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Columbia and Comstock's ideals are so excessive that even the very jingoistic President William McKinley considers them far beyond the pale.
    • The US Government and America in general had a My God, What Have I Done? moment upon realizing what happened in Beijing and what Columbia really was.
    • By the final levels, Elizabeth has been dragged through Columbia by a man who shoots everything in his path. She's watched him eat garbage, she's barely avoided Songbird, she's been tortured, she's even come close to planning to kill Comstock, and yet she still occasionally screams when Booker performs a melee execution.
    • As mentioned above, Booker was considered too violent for the Pinkertons.
  • Everytown, America: As part of its Crapsaccharine World facade, Columbia deliberately evokes an idealized image of turn-of-the-century Americana that wouldn't look too out of place from Hello, Dolly! or Walt Disney's "Main Street USA." This is soon shattered the more Booker delves into the city, and that's not even getting to Finkton.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Elizabeth in an alternate timeline where she becomes the successor of Zachary Comstock declares in a Voxophone message that free will must be eradicated from true disciples. "For what is the value of will when the spirit is found wanting?"
  • Evil vs. Evil: Zachary Comstock's Founders (Bible-thumping, jingoistic bigots) against Daisy Fitzroy's Vox Populi (destructive, lawless thugs in it to destroy the Founders, whatever the cost - and that's if they're not just completely focused on raping, robbing, and murdering the local populace For the Evulz). This is also why neither Booker nor Elizabeth are all that eager to get involved in their civil war.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: Booker says that it "must have been 20 years" since he attended the baptism after wounded knee.
  • Exact Words: "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt." Booker's interpretation doesn't quite match the original intent of the order. He thinks that he's looking for Elizabeth, a girl he doesn't know, to hand her over to his creditors. Actually, he already did that years ago with his own daughter, drunk himself into oblivion out of guilt and has now been given a chance to make things right again by saving said daughter. Unfortunately, by traversing into the parallel universe, he suppressed his memories of what truly happened.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Inverted, as Booker and Elizabeth abandon multiple Alternate Universes for ones that better suit their needs at the moment, with little concern about the "old" realities that still exist, including their own home reality. Though as it turns out, technically the reality at the beginning of the game wasn't their home reality anyway.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In a classic case of Booker's funniest moments being entirely unintentional on his part:
    Booker: Elizabeth, I've made an arrangement to get our airship back!
    Elizabeth: [skeptical] You can get us out of here?
    Booker: Yes! I just need to... supply enough weapons to arm an entire uprising.
  • Exploding Barrels: Justified in that they're barrels of fireworks for the celebration.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: Uses this frequently, to the point that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish these sequences from normal cutscenes (the player can often move the camera around a bit but cannot walk or do anything else). The endgame (and those in the DLC campaigns) also feature this to a large extent. In fact, in some of the interruptible peaceful city levels, it is easy to accidentally fire your gun and turn all the guards hostile simply because you aren't expecting it to work.

  • Expy:
    • Columbia is pretty much what would happen if Laputa was created by America. In fact, the description is effectively identical to the original in Gulliver's Travels.
    • The Order of the Raven, with their face-concealing robes (blue robes in their case,) pledge to safeguard the white race from "inferiors", and veneration of John Wilkes Booth as the man who shot the Great Emancipator, is one for the Ku Klux Klan.
      • In the same way that Rapture is an extreme caricature of the cutthroat, anarcho-capitalist, Randian Libertarian wing of the modern Republican Party, Columbia is an extreme caricature of that same party's xenophobic, racist, classist, evangelical wing.
    • Jeremiah Fink is a jovial but much more ruthless version of Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood.
    • The "official" story of Columbia's rise and subsequent seccession from the USA is reminiscent of the Mormon experience. The truth turns out to be a tad different.
    • Fink's assistant, Flambeau, bears an uncanny resemblance to Oscar Wilde.
    • Columbia's Crapsaccharine World facade also calls to mind Disneyland's "Main Street USA," which is based on Walt Disney's idealized memories of turn-of-the-century Americana.
    • Speaking of Disney, a lot of people have described Elizabeth as "a Disney princess" pretty often. Not surprisingly, considering that at the beginning of the game her looks are very close to Belle and her back story and personality have quite a lot of things in common with Rapunzel. Word of God is that animation principles were referenced to ensure she was expressive, appealing and distinctive - meaning large eyes, a rounded face, a fairly simple set of clothing making use of strong contrasts, and a distinctive silhouette. All of which are characteristics shared by the Disney princesses (the studio did spend several decades refining the formula).
    • Much like in the classic film Metropolis, all of Columbia's wealthy citizens reside comfortably on the surface, while the working class are forced to live underneath along the lower levels and operate the machinery that keeps the city running.

    F 

  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • The Songbird's eyes switch to green just before dying, as Elizabeth comforts it as it drowns. Green indicates a peaceful state.
    • Comstock does this also, having foreseen his death at DeWitt's hands. His last words are "It is finished."
      • His well-documented Messiah Complex aside, there are multiple signs Comstock took his eventual end into account all along, from reassuring his biographer that he wouldn't need any additional pages for his life story to the murals depicting the major events of Booker's trek directly before the baptismal room the final confrontation takes place in. The last image is Comstock standing before the font, welcoming what must be.
    • Booker simply allows his own daughter to drown him when he finds out that's exactly what needs to happen to save her.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Vox Populi are your allies initially when you first meet them as an armed resistance against the Founders, whom Booker has no love for. However, they quickly turn against you once Daisy Fitzroy reveals that the Booker she knew died a martyr, and is convinced you're either an imposter, or a ghost. They then become the main antagonists in the second half of the game.
  • Facial Composite Failure: It pegs Booker as either a mulatto dwarf or a Frenchman with one eye; an eyewitness tells an actual sketch artist that he looks Irish, with red, curly hair. Not even close.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: The "Hall of Heroes" is a monument to Comstock's supposed great accomplishments in the field of battle. According to Cornelius Slate, however, Comstock was never there at all, unlike DeWitt (whom Slate remembers). Since Comstock is DeWitt, he really was there, but the heroics "documented" in the Hall of Heroes are still a total fiction.
  • Falling Damage: Jumping off of a high location will cause Booker to lose health, but jumping from skylines causes no harm, and jumping off Columbia itself simply puts Booker back up.
  • False Reassurance: As Elizabeth muses on how Daisy Fitzroy might be able to give the downtrodden lower classes a better life, Booker can only mutter variations on "Yeah" in a tone that clearly expresses how things are really going to turn out.
    • As a former strikebreaker for the Pinkerton Agency who wound up living in Five Points, Booker knows all too well how it is in the slums.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Intentionally invoked with Duke & Dimwit, a marionette show that instills in children the values that made Columbia what it is today, such as white supremacy, religious zealotry, copious weapons training, unquestioning loyalty to the government, and courage in the face of the Yellow Peril.
  • Fantastic Noir: The basic plot's about a washed up Hardboiled Detective doing One Last Job: finding a missing girl in a Town with a Dark Secret. Add in Steam Punk technology, political extremism on both sides, and a savage deconstruction of American Exceptionalism to get BioShock Infinite.
  • Fate Worse than Death: According to Elizabeth, getting caught by Songbird and being dragged to Comstock House is either death, or something a lot like it. In the glimpse of the future where that happened, it's hard to disagree with her, as she's subjected to extensive torture and brainwashing (textbook example of a mind rape), until she's the spitting image of Comstock: a misanthropic shell of a woman.
    • If Booker spares Slate, he claims that Slate will suffer this when Elizabeth comments on it. When Slate is seen again, in a catatonic state, Elizabeth agrees.
    • The Handymen. According to their quotes, they live in constant agony because of their exoskeleton.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Jeremiah Fink's sickeningly cheerful demeanor belies a ruthless sociopathic capitalist.
    • Comstock: one of the really frightening things about him is the fact that you could find him to be a kind and pious man if you didn't know he was a racist, megalomaniacal dictator who'd torture his own "daughter".
  • Fictional Currency: Silver Eagles. There is a real life coin minted by the United States in 1986 called the Silver Eagle, but it's not the same thing.
  • Final Death: In 1999 Mode, you lose a lot of cash when you die, at least a hundred Silver Eagles each time, and if you have less than that when you croak, it's back to the main menu for you!
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Booker and Elizabeth.
  • Fingore: Elizabeth wears a thimble on an obviously stumped pinky finger. Her finger has been that way for as long as she can remember. The ending shows her losing it when an interdimensional portal closes onto it. When she was a baby.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: The Lutece twins are fond of this whenever they are not arguing. They do it even while they are lampshading it. Turns out they're the same person from different realities, only separated "by a single chromosome."
    • May also be a result of them being implied to have been through the same basic scenario more than a hundred times before; presumably, they've gotten very familiar with whatever the other plans to say under the circumstances.
  • Finishing Move: The Sky-Hook lets you perform a murderous execution on any weakened enemy with a skull icon above their heads. There are sometimes advantages to this: it gives you some invincibility frames and some Gears let you gain health from executions. Just don't be surprised if Elizabeth is appropriately horrified by the sight of you snapping necks or possibly even decapitating enemies.
  • Firing One-Handed: Booker fires and reloads all weapons one-handed while on Sky-Lines by necessity. It's relatively plausible with some of the guns, but gets just plain silly when the Pepper Mill cranks itself, and when he's perfectly capable of aiming through a sniper rifle scope without it swaying all over the place.
  • First-Name Basis: Booker constantly tells Elizabeth to call him "Booker" instead of "Mr. DeWitt". She lapses back and forth between the names, usually depending on her trust and familiarity at any given moment. "Booker" is close; "Mr. DeWitt" is more distant and formal.
  • Floating Continent: Downplayed to Floating City with Columbia.
  • Fluffy the Terrible. That enormous, flying, screeching steampunk cyborg with giant claws, who is Elizabeth's jailer, who was inspired by abusive relationships, who hunts you the entire game? His name is Songbird.
  • For Want of a Nail: Thanks to the exploitation of tears, Elizabeth and Booker visit different versions of Columbia; the one they meet in, a second one where the weapon dealer isn't killed, and a third one where Booker never found Elizabeth and died a martyr for the Vox cause and incited a revolution. Interestingly, they never seem to go back to the original universe they first existed in. Of course by that point the story officially doesn't care about the politics of Columbia and starts focusing on our protagonists exclusively, and the ending kinda makes that a moot point anyway.
    • The entire story is the result of another nail that occurred when Booker went to a preacher to be baptised after the Massacre at Wounded Knee. The Booker we play as ran away from the preacher, while another Booker went through with the Baptism and changed his name to Comstock and spearheaded the construction of Columbia and the sale/kidnapping of Anna from the first Booker. At the end of the game, Booker and Elizabeth change the nail into the other Booker drowning during the baptism and preventing Comstock from existing and committing the atrocities of Columbia.
    • This, in itself, leads to a nail in that it also undoes Elizabeth (we see all Elizabeths except possibly "ours" vanish as their timelines collapse, and it's left in the air if she remains or not), the Grandfather Paradox invoking as a result. The epilogue is (possibly) the alternate (the only remaining possibilities after the elimination of Comstock) where Anna is not taken. The story of Infinite, for all its multiple possibilities, is in fact a temporal mobius strip — BioShock Infinity.
  • Foregone Conclusion: A rare subverted example, as the Mockumentary made by Irrational Games talks about Columbia slowly decaying in the mid-80s, but that is because the Mockumentary is an alternate universe before Comstock and Booker are killed to stop Columbia from existing in the first place.
  • Foreshadowing: Beating the game and playing through again is startling; almost the entire game is filled to the utter brim with foreshadowing that makes sense on replays or analysis.
    • When Booker first arrives at the lighthouse, he sees a water tub with "Of Thy Sins Shall I Wash Thee" over it. Booker mutters under his breath "Good luck with that, pal." This doesn't become symbolic until later when you learn about Booker's rejected baptism. And, of course, the baptism that shortly follows sees Booker almost drown...
      • With some knowledge of The Bible, the presence of the water tub right at the entrance is another hint at Comstock's perspective on baptism. Pontius Pilate made a show of denying any responsibility for Jesus's crucifixion by washing his hands in front of the mob. Comstock's view on baptism as a justification for his atrocities is basically the logical extreme of Pilate's symbolic act.
      • Booker asks the man in the boat whether someone will meet him at the lighthouse. The man in the boat says he hopes so. Turns out that Booker meeting Elizabeth and resolving all these quantum shenanigans is their plan. The game even ends after an extended sequence involving our heroes and that lighthouse, as well as a few dozen alternate versions.
    • The blind preacher who baptizes Booker when he enters Columbia is the same one who tried to baptize Booker after Wounded Knee. The Booker we know refused the baptism; the one who accepted it took the name Comstock. For extra irony points, the preacher's first words to the player are "Is it someone new?" Answer: Nope!
    • Midway through the game when Booker is questioned by Elizabeth about Columbia, he says he never even knew about it before arriving. This is because in his universe, Comstock (and therefore Columbia) didn't exist.
    • When Booker first enters the Monument and finds the room with the Siphon, Elizabeth is humming Everybody Wants to Rule the World. Hmmm...note 
    • Songbird's eye cracks from the pressure of being underwater when it dives after Booker when the escape from the tower leads to the beach. Note it's a relatively shallow depth, so when Songbird ends up at the floor of the ocean...
    • When Booker washes up on Battleship Bay he calls Elizabeth "Anna", which she refutes. The likely assumption is that she resembles his lost wife, who he mentions later in the game. Towards the end, it's revealed that she actually is Anna, given up by Booker to pay a debt.
    • While Booker and Elizabeth are walking through Battleship Bay a hot dog vendor offers a hot dog to Booker and his "daughter". Later we find out that Elizabeth is is fact Anna, the daughter he gave up.
    • The Columbia goon who gets Elizabeth to confirm her identity, so the Columbian Police can ambush Booker asks Elizabeth if her name is "Annabelle". She refutes this, too.
    • After being forced through a gauntlet of Slate's men, Booker denies the old soldier's claims that he's a hero, to which he responds "If you take away all the parts of Booker DeWitt you tried to erase, what's left?" The answer is: Comstock, that's what's left.
    • Throughout that entire area, Slate is constantly deriding Comstock because he believes that he was never the war hero he claimed to be. Slate is Right for the Wrong Reasons.
    • Shortly before the nature of the Luteces is revealed, Rosalind can be seen posing for Robert, yet he's painting a self-portrait.
    • In the bank, Elizabeth says Comstock's tithe is a whopping 50% of everything that comes in. Booker quips that he needs to get a job in the prophet business. Comstock, as it happens, is an alternate Booker who did just that.
    • Early in Columbia, the very first Voxophone Booker may find is Lady Comstock saying "Love the Prophet, for he loves the sinner. Love the sinner, for he is you." Accurate in more respects than you'll likely realize the first time you hear it.
    • When you meet Elizabeth face-to-face for the first time, the huge book she was about to smash your face with is titled The Principles of Quantum Mechanics.
    • There's one particularly telling dialogue between the two as they go to deal with Comstock.
    Booker: I won't just abandon you!
    Elizabeth: You wouldn't. Would you?
    • When you board Comstock's zeppelin during the endgame, Comstock gets on the loudspeaker and counsels Elizabeth to "Look at DeWitt, child. There's something about him that you just can't put your finger on." This is arguably Black Comedy, given that Elizabeth is missing the tip of her pinkie... but after you find out why it's gone (Snipped off by a Portal Cut when she, Anna DeWitt, was taken away from her father Booker by Comstock), it takes on another dimension entirely.
    • Everything Comstock says to Booker. Comstock says Booker has a tendency toward self-destruction, and he's right in any reality - whether it's Booker drowning Comstock, Comstock abusing the Tears until he became sterile and sickly but absolutely at peace in the belief he would soon go to God, Booker gambling and drinking his life away, Booker allowing Elizabeth to drown him, and Comstock allowing himself to get beaten and drowned.
    • Everything Booker says to Comstock. Blind with rage, howling at Comstock for all his crimes against Elizabeth? Nothing but a pretext for Booker to express his profound self-loathing. Everything he says applies to him as much as Comstock. In that moment, Booker subconsciously wishes he could strangle and drown himself.
    • Following the first jump through to an alternate reality and finding Chen Lin alive, but disoriented to the point that he's unaware of anything happening around him, Elizabeth comments.
      Elizabeth: Maybe... he also remembers not being alive. What would you do if that happened to you?
      Booker: I don't know.
      It already did.
    • Before that you encounter guards you had just killed in the previous dimension. They're disoriented, and all have nosebleeds. Chen Lin is shown to have one as well. After your second hop, Booker gets a nosebleed...
      • After Booker kills Comstock, Booker's nose begins to bleed again.
    • Comstock's prominent biography display in the center of the Hall of Heroes gives his birth year as 1874. Anyone who pauses to do the math on that will realize he's actually much younger than his appearance would indicate.
    • In the universe(s) where the Vox successfully rebel, you come across a sobbing, hysteric woman who is deathly afraid of leaping onto a barge, and possibly falling to her death below, while her husband tries to get her to take the risk, or she'll be left behind, which would be worse than falling to her doom. When the barge leaves, it's implied she did make it. When Booker's forced to relieve his attempt to get back his daughter from the Luteces, Rosalind is desperately trying to convince Robert to hop the small and unstable hole into the universe, and Robert is frozen up in fear and saying he can't go through with it, what if the gap closes and he's stuck between universes, or chopped in half...?
    • The song that Fink sings at the Raffle is "Goodnight, Irene". One of the lyrics contains "Sometimes, I've got a great notion/To jump in the river, and drown..."
    • When Daisy Fitzroy is about to kill Fink's son, she says "You see the Founders ain't nothing but weeds. Cut 'em down and they just grow back. If you wanna get rid of the weed, you gotta pull it up from the root. It's the only way to be sure—" right before Elizabeth plunges a large pair of scissors into her spine. In the end, this is exactly what Elizabeth and Booker do; they pull Comstock out by the roots to make sure he can never have existed.
    • As can be seen on a film projector in their conference room, the Fraternal Order of the Raven have begun to theorize that Comstock is hiding mixed Native American/white ancestry, just like Booker. (This revelation also comes purely as dumb luck, given that they "proved" it using the quack science of racial phrenology.)
    • The voxophones in general are fountain of these. In particular, in one of the the voxophones has Slate mentioning how Booker was called the White Injun of Wounded Knee due to all the indians he killed and another voxophone mentions that Booker speaks Sioux. A later voxophone has Comstock ranting about how a sergeant once insinuate that he has Native America ancestry. To prove that it was a lie, he burnt down Indian teepees. If it seems suspicious that two vastly different characters have similar pasts well...
    • When Booker and Elizabeth confront Comstock on his airship, Booker drowns Comstock in a baptismal font, foreshadowing his own drowning later in the baptismal water.
      • The baptism being his fate (and Comstock's) is foreshadowed from before he even gets into the fancy chair.
      Booker: *on reading the placard before the baptismal bowl in the lighthouse stating, "Of Thy Sins Shall I Wash Thee"* Good luck with that, pal.
    • One of the very first voxophones you encounter features Comstock pontificating on baptism, saying that one man enters the baptism and another emerges. He wonders, "Who is that man in between?" It turns out that Comstock and Booker are the same man separated by a single choice: one who took the baptism, and one who didn't. At the end, one version of Elizabeth says that he's Zachary Comstock, while another insists that he's Booker DeWitt. He corrects them, saying that he's both.
    • When you come across the Luteces playing a piano following the airship crash in Emporia, you can hear them bickering about one note that Rosalind keeps messing up: the "G". Elizabeth's freakout over them playing the song and causing Songbird to come and find them gains a whole new meaning when you find out the sequence of notes needed to call him to help you.
  • From a Certain Point of View:
    • Both the Founders and Vox Populi aren't above twisting history, so long as it serves their respective beliefs and goals.
  • From Bad to Worse: The setting of Columbia gets more and more chaotic as you go through the game, until in the end it's virtually a ghost town from all the infighting. However, part of this is due to entering two tears to go into different, worse versions of Columbia, so the chaos can partly be attributed to that, and may not have been in place in the first Columbia visited.
  • From Dress to Dressing: If you fail to spot the Founders' ambush in the airship station and end up stabbed with the letter-opener, Elizabeth uses her scarf to dress the injury. The scarf remains in place for the remainder of the game.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: According to the audio logs, Daisy Fitzroy was just a poor servant who was the scapegoat for Lady Comstock's death. There was literally nothing about her early on which would have suggested what she would later become in many of those timelines. Father Comstock himself qualifies, due to his origin story as revealed on these pages.
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    G 

  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Elizabeth can't be shot at by the player, nor do enemies attack her, though she will hide behind cover as if being attacked. If you aim your gun at her, she will warn you about watching where you're aiming and will try to get out of your sights (which is a good thing since you're probably aiming at bad guys in that direction). Additionally, the crosshair turns into a small dot and even if you try to fire at her, the game won't let you. Firing rockets and flak close enough to kill her is fine, but she's invulnerable to those, too.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Elizabeth's ability to create a tear to an Alternate Universe is a core gameplay mechanic. And, like Elizabeth says, it can be a form of wish fulfillment for the player as they are allowed to choose what aid they get from that other reality: some extra ammo, cover, an ally, or a hook to allow access to the high ground.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The hidden rooms cannot be opened until you find something that tells of its location (i.e. hearing a recording of where the button is or finding the secret code). This is made pretty clear when the button for the door under the cash register won't even appear until you listen to the Voxophone telling of its existence.
    • It's never explained exactly how Booker's magnetic shield works, but it'll stop bullets, bats, fire, and electricity, without the slightest bit of damage getting through. But when Elizabeth hits you with a wrench, it's an instant knock-out.
    • Vigors really aren't hard to find. One is part of a component of a game at the Columbia Raffle and Fair, another was being given out for free, and they're scattered all over the place, some in the hands of corpses. And yet of the eight Vigors you obtain, only three of them are used by your enemies, and one of those enemies was Slate, a Unique Enemy.
    • One radio announcement heard early in the game describes your combat in the introduction. It states the death toll at 8 people. By that point, you will have gunned down about 50 Columbian police and soldiers, and in the scene described alone, the death toll was over 20. This was probably because of the sheer impact that many police deaths would have made in real life. It may have also represented an earlier design of the game that relied less on gunplay.
      • A third, and likely possibility - considering the nature of Columbia, is the tendency of governments to use the media for propaganda purposes. By lowballing casualties, it not only reduces the chance of the general public panicking, but also provides the illusion that said government is still fully in control - thus reducing the chance of other rebellions popping up.
    • A major subplot is based around the difficulty the Vox Populi have in securing weapons. Vending machines full of inexpensive firearms are available for use on seemingly every street corner.
  • Gatling Good: The "Pepper-Mill" Crank Gun wielded by the Motorized Patriots. You can use it as well.
  • The Gay '90s: The general atmosphere of Columbia, which was launched a good fifteen years before the events of the game. A number of scenes are also set around 1893. Including Anna's capture and the Playable Epilogue.
  • Gender Is No Object: The Columbia police force employs several female officers alongside the male ones. One of the male officers even mentions his hatred of misogynists alongside his hatred of unions and the Vox. Given how regressive the Founders are in a lot of other areas, this bit of extreme progressive gender views for the time (this was an era where in most of the western world women were still struggling to get the right to vote) might count as a Pet the Dog bit on their part. However, since Comstock wanted to install his daughter as his successor, squashing the misogynist views of the time was probably a deliberate attempt at paving the way for her. May also be caused by Lutece's influence: when a female is responsible for the existence of "paradise," sexism becomes a bit silly.
    • Lampshaded by the record logs of Constance, a young girl whose sadly unfulfilled dream of meeting Elizabeth comes from Constance being a intellectual, progressive child of a traditionalist mother.
  • Giant Mook: There's an entire range of these, dubbed "Heavy Hitters". They range from the previously-seen Handymen to Devil's Kiss flinging Fireman to heavily-armed robots such as the Motorized Patriot and others that are significantly weirder. They're all designed not only to give Booker a bigger challenge than the regular mooks of Columbia, but also to look as creepy as fuck.
  • The Gilded Age: An undercurrent theme running through parts of the game. You have happy Columbian citizens, but they are supported by a vast underclass made up of "undesirable" immigrants kept in Urban Segregation from the rest of the city. You have characters like Fink, who acts like a Robber Baron to an even more excessive degree (with Finkton being a glorified Company Town that literally has gold gilding in public avenues just to stress this), and a society which cracks down on this so hard that, absent any attempt at reforms, uprising becomes inevitable.
  • Girl in the Tower: The plot starts out like this, with Booker sent to find a girl imprisoned in a tower atop a city floating several thousand feet in the air. It gets a little more complicated than that when it's revealed the girl has Reality Warper powers, and even more complicated when you figure out that that isn't where the plot actually started.
  • Going Cosmic: The first game was a deconstruction of objectivism and utopianism in general, wrapped up in an Art Deco undersea metropolis and Bio Punk technology. The second game was pretty much the same thing, 'cept with altruism and collectivism. The third BioShock game? It turns the BioShock Multiverse into an endless list of alternate realities filled with three constants: a man, a city, and a lighthouse. Rapture was just one of the alternate universes.
  • Good Needs Evil: One of the early audio logs asserts that without sin, Columbia would have no reason to exist.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Booker has the initials "A.D." etched into his skin of his right hand, which he explains came from a past transgression and serve as a reminder to him. It turns out to be the initials of his daughter's name: Anna DeWitt, as penitence for giving her away as an infant to wipe away his gambling debt. Comstock knew of both Booker's brand and Booker's eventual arrival in Columbia through Elizabeth's rifts, which is why he knew how to warn the others of the "False Shepherd."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When you deliver the Mercy Kill to Cornelius Slate, the camera shows him guiding your gun to his forehead, but then moves upwards, instead focusing on Elizabeth's reaction, who was standing in the background. Averted with melee executions.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The Vox Populi (Voice of the People). Also, when first entering Columbia, there are three stained glass windows displaying the Latin names of the three symbols (Sword = Gladium; Key = Clavem; Scroll = Volumen).
  • Grave Robbing: When you reach the cemetery, some Vox are digging up the graves in search of gold.
  • Grenade Launcher: The game has the Pig Flak Volley Gun and the Vox Hail Fire; both have more ammo than most examples, and the Hail Fire has the option to detonate its ammo manually. For these reasons, both weapons are recommended for taking down many of the game's Heavy Hitters.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: You play as a disgraced Pinkerton Detective, and as noted above both of the enemy factions are Well Intentioned Extremists at best by the time you arrive. As the game progresses however, it soon becomes a case of Black and Grey Morality.
  • Groin Attack: Elizabeth does this to an undercover police officer in an ambush early in the game.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: By the time Booker encounters the Lutece twins for the first time aboard the floating city of Columbia during the fair, he had already tried to get to Elizabeth one hundred and twenty-two times.
  • Guide Dang It!: In the Clash in the Clouds DLC, each level's Arbitrary Mission Restriction is given with a single sentence, making it often unclear as to whether or not a certain action will make you fail the level. For example, "Kill all enemies with X" can mean deal each killing blow with X, or only damage your opponents with X, or defeat him without tears, Return to Sender, unintentional friendly fire, or anything else that is not X.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Weapon barrels have a tendency to get extremely hot much faster in the game than they will in reality, but no example is more absurd than the Rolston Reciprocating Repeater, whose heat shield starts glowing bright red even before a full magazine is spent while the barrel underneath mysteriously remains cool throughout.

    H 

  • Hairpin Lockpick: Elizabeth. The only reason she wasn't picking the locked door to her prison apartment is that it was a vault door. And she was trying, there's even an instance of it in the surveillance film found on the ground floor of the Tower. Whenever there's a lock she picks as part of continuing the main story, this is lampshaded (and your lockpick supply is not lessened) as she actually uses a hairpin to open those doors.
  • Hand Cannon: There's a revolver in game that is called the Hand Cannon.
    • As another reflection of the deeply ingrained racism of Columbia, it's also called the Paddywhacker. And at least some residents of Columbia refer to Irishmen as "Paddies"..
  • Hand Wave: The outrageous impossibility of the Sky-Lines is handwaved by Booker mumbling something about magnets when he first uses them (or so he assumes, but it's never really explained).
    • The city floats from "quantum mechanics". Elizabeth does state the principle that enables the city to fly, sort of, but it's still kind of ludicrous. Rosalind Lutece's vague Voxophone recordings don't help much in the way of explanation either.
  • Harder Than Hard: 1999 Mode. When you die, it costs 100 Silver Eagles to revive. If you don't have 100 Silver Eagles, then it's game over. Enemies also have a lot more health while Booker has a lot less. Also, Navigation Mode is disabled. Hopefully you went through the game on Hard first...
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Very early on, you come across a barbershop quartet performing God Only Knows in front of a sign that, among other things, proclaims them to be "Columbia's Gayest Quartet".
    • "Faggots were stacked in a courtyard..." He means the bundles of sticks used for building fires... meant for putting people to the torch.
  • Helicopter Blender: While on Comstock's airship, your inner sadist can use Undertow to push enemies into the active rotors.
  • Hello, Sailor!: Booker gets chatted up at the fair with this line, by a naval gentleman who then chuckles "any port in a storm, if you get my meaning".
  • The Hero Dies: At the end of the game Booker/Comstock is drowned by multiple versions of Elizabeth so Comstock will never exist. Fortunately, this causes the Temporal Paradox to collapse to a state where he couldn't have possibly sold Anna and caused the entire story to happen, so he ends up having earned his happy ending.
  • Heroic Mime: Averted by Booker DeWitt, who, in contrast to the previous two protagonists in BioShock games, speaks freely in gameplay, and not only cutscenes. First-Person Ghost, is, curiously, not averted, however.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Aside from the ending, apparently in one reality, Booker became a Vox Populi and died, becoming a martyr that the faction rallied around.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Subverted. Booker had no previous knowledge of Columbia, telling Elizabeth he only heard of it once he got there. Elizabeth mentions that she assumed it was common knowledge below, and a kinetoscope confirms that Columbia was in fact once part of the USA until it seceded. It's because Columbia didn't exist in the universe Booker came from.
  • Hide Your Children: Technically averted, children are running around and it is possible to shoot at them. However, when violence starts civilians clear out seemingly way quicker than would be humanly possible — the game probably literally hides their models as soon as your camera can't see them. And should you attempt to kill them anyway, you'll quickly find out [[Improbable Infant Survival they can't be harmed or killed.
  • Hold the Line: The last mission.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The vending machines have an element of this.
    "A guarantee? Who has time for all that paperwork?"
    "Who needs competition when you have quality?"
  • Hope Spot: Constantly, whenever it seems Booker and Elizabeth are on the verge of leaving Columbia. The first time, Elizabeth knocks out Booker when he reveals he's trying to deliver her to someone. She tries to commandeer the ship but is forced to flee when the Vox Populi invade, leaving Booker to deal with them. The second time is shortly after they kill Daisy and once more are on the verge of leaving, only for Songbird to crash their ship. The two then realize they won't be able to leave unless they deal with him and Comstock first.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl:
    • Elizabeth and Songbird. (Assuming Songbird is/was a guy, it is referred to with masculine pronouns by Elizabeth.)
    • Booker and Elizabeth. While Booker isn't as big as songbird, he is 6'1".
    • Samuel and Hattie Gerst. Samuel's wife stayed by his side as best she could after he was made a Handyman, to the point of leaving him a message of love for when the pain and trauma of it all was too much for him, said message found by his remains in the third Columbia before you storm the Factory.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: As with the earlier games, eating restores health, and you're much more likely to rely on the food since you can't store medkits any more. Some drinks restore Salt, smoking restores some Salt at the cost of health, drinking alcohol has the opposite effect. And of course there's absolutely no limit to how much you can eat or drink.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Averted; unlike previous games, Booker can only carry two weapons at a time. Played straight however with the gear.
  • Hypocrite:
    • The Vox Populi. In the flash game, they give you missions because they want you to get the weapons off the street, only for the next mission to show they actually want the weapons to use themselves.
    • There's also Comstock, for a multitude of reasons. The most readily apparent, in retrospect, is how he claims unbelievably egotistical glory for his service at the battle of Wounded Knee (as seen in the Hall of Heroes), despite getting baptized specifically because of unbearable guilt from taking part in the campaign. Compared to Booker, who refused baptism, and was very firm in refusing being called a hero for his actions there in his dealings with Slate.

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