What are the consequences of stealing in BioShock Infinite?
At the beginning of Soldier’s Field, a tooltip says, “Stealing may have consequences.” What are the consequences? Does it affect a morality decision later in the game (please use spoilers tags for specifics)?
When is it stealing? Does someone have to be looking or just be nearby? How do they react?
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Stealing (picking up a red-text item) is considered a hostile act, and like all the other ones (murder, casting vigors, entering restricted areas), it will cause all potentially hostile NPCs in the area to become hostile.
In addition, more hostile enemies may spawn in the area. This is not always the case, however. Usually aggression towards the police will result in automatons spawning (especially Mosquito aerial machine guns).
The effect is limited to the current area – the size of this area varies somewhat, but in all cases it is always bounded by changing zones, where you’re prompted if you’re sure you want to leave the area. If you return afterwards, the hostile enemies will still be there.
There is no long-term impact to these – being hostile in one neutral area has no effect on later neutral areas. There is also no story or plot related changes as a result. Elizabeth doesn’t care, and the story marches on regardless of your choices.
You can tell when you are stealing when the items are outlined in red – as covered in this question. In my experiences, I have been able to steal without any consequences when there wasn’t anyone nearby or I already have aggro’d/killed everyone in that area.
Through some testing, I noticed that even if the NPCs are not looking at you, but are near you (in the same room) – you will aggravate them (they attack you). This usually leads to an all out brawl with cops (usually starts off as fistycuffs, but then turns into a gun fight).
I have yet to see any long term negative impacts on stealing (such as morality decisions).
Normally you will only be attacked by the people around you.