Power and Choice: What Made inFamous 2 The Best Superhero Game Ever

Written by: Carlos Zotomayor

Features | Mar 22, 2016

Batman InFamous 2 Superhero

You know what we have today?

Too many superhero movies, not enough superhero games.

Well, that's not entirely true... What I meant to say was that there aren't as many good superhero games as there are superhero movies because for every superhero movie made, be it good or bad, there are at least five very horrible games based on it.

That being said, there are a few exceptions.

Some may argue that the Batman Arkham franchise is the best at giving players the superhero experience but these people forget that Batman IS NOT A SUPERHERO; he just has lots of money. Also, Batman has about as much personality and character development as the coffins his parents are lying in so he doesn't make for a very interesting character.

But this is not an article where I bash on Batman- this is an article where I talk about my own personal favourite super-powered game and explain why I think it beats out all the other games with already well-established superheroes.

When the first inFamous came out, it had a pretty good story, some repetitive gameplay elements (kill a boss on an island to progress to another boss island), and a main protagonist who had a gravely voice that could rival Batman's.

It was a pretty fun experience, but what really kept players coming back were the superpowers that drove the entire experience and the choices that you could make with them. Flying, super-strength, and wanton destruction have been done before but this is the first time players were ever given electrical powers and were set upon a world that took full advantage of these powers.

Needless to say, the new IP gained a following and in 2011, inFamous 2 was released and with it, Sucker Punch Productions engraved their names into the superhero genre permanently. 

Where the first inFamous introduced players to the story and characters, inFamous 2 built on everything that made the first game good and made it great. It continues where the first game left off and sees Cole MacGrath (that's you) on a mission to acquire more powers in order to defeat The Beast, a really powerful Conduit (which is this universe's term for people with superpowers) that destroys everything in its path.

The plot is simple enough to remember and leaves room for further exploration of the characters and their back stories and also gives a reason for series veterans to return: new powers.

Yes, superpowers are an important factor in a superhero game and without them we might as well be playing a game with a normal human protagonist - like Batman.

InFamous 2 knows that players old and new expect this from the sequel and made it a key plot point as well as the central gameplay mechanic. You start off with your standard lightning bolt and by the end of the game you will be throwing ice spikes from your hands and hurling cars at enemies.

What makes these powers so fun isn't that they are destructive (they are), but that they depend a lot on the environment for them to work. Electricity, for example, is not an infinite resource and you need to recharge Cole periodically by draining nearby electrical sources to power your abilities so if there is no electricity in an area, you better haul ass to a generator immediately.

This makes the city of New Marais become further intertwined with gameplay and gives it a more important role than Gotham City ever did since you have to pay attention to its geography: this place has no electricity so find a generator to power it up, this location is full of water so it could be useful for shocking groups of enemies in puddles, and so on.

The game doesn't tell you outright how to utilize these elements to your advantage and leaves you to experiment with the powers you have and obtain throughout the main story.

And what a story it is.

I mentioned earlier that the first inFamous had a pretty good plot and that you could make choices with the powers you have but never elaborated on it because there are actually two ways to play an inFamous game: as a superhero OR a super villain. And this is ultimately why I consider inFamous 2 to be the best super-powered game to date.

You see, when playing a game as Batman, Spider-Man, or any hero for that matter, the lore behind the character has already been so firmly established over the years that you can't really expect developers to deviate from an already famous franchise.

Batman won't kill people because his parents were shot, Spider-Man does the right thing because his uncle was shot, and all of these other superheroes are going to do the right thing every time BECAUSE THEY ARE SUPERHEROES; it's what they do!

And this is where inFamous 2 beats them all out: the fact that there is choice in almost everything you do in the game. Yes, both inFamous and inFamous: Second Son utilize choice as well, but the good and evil karma consequences were never that different from one another and the choices you made never really had the emotional impact of inFamous 2.

You can play inFamous 2 in any way that you want, be it good, bad, or a mix of both. And you are never really locked into one karmic state either; you could be Pope Francis for a good portion of the game and then Abu Bakr for the rest of the same game.

From karmic events scattered throughout the world like people in need of help or killing cops, to the narrative decisions you make, each choice has a clear consequence.

Sure, being Cole MacCrap nets you experience and powers a lot faster than if you were a saint, but people will start chucking rocks, shooting, and cursing at you in order to impede your progress and hurt your feelings instead of attacking your enemies like they would if you were Cole MacGlad.

Choice even extends itself to the various powers you receive throughout the story. Whereas in inFamous 1 you got slightly different variations of your electrical powers, in inFamous 2 actually get to choose between fire powers (which are focused on higher levels of destruction) and ice powers (which are more attuned to subduing enemies without harming civilians) which drastically change how you will play the latter half of the game.

Cole himself is a lot more interesting than other superheroes, mainly because he doesn't have to be a good guy. He's a person motivated by the same things that anyone in his position would be and it's up to you as the player to forge your own path throughout the game.

All of these decisions you make then culminate in the final choice, which in my opinion is a fitting end to the series and is the reason I was disappointed when Sucker Punch decided to release inFamous: Second Son, which is set after the events of the second game.

[Spoilers follow]

Upon reaching the final story mission, you are given the choice to either sacrifice yourself as well as other Conduits in order to save the majority of humankind or to betray your friends and save yourself by killing all mankind and saving all Conduits.

This is probably the heaviest, most satisfying conclusion to a superhero franchise that I have ever seen and really tests Cole's resolve on whether or not he is committed to his mission to defeat The Beast.

Never in a superhero game has there been an option of that much sacrifice or weight of betrayal that makes you question which is the right choice since in either scenario you will be killing a lot of people; the only difference is that one option kills off a far bigger population than the other.

[Spoilers end]

It has been five years since inFamous 2 came out and it still baffles me that not one superhero game, not even its sequel, has managed to capture the feeling of both power and choice like it did.

You're always forced to go down a linear story or through indoor sections which severely limit a superhero's abilities and choices. This is not what anyone would want to feel like when playing as someone who is supposed to level buildings or be relatable in any way.

Super-powered games are supposed to make the player feel not just powerful, but invested in what they are doing. It takes a special game like this one to make me feel like I should save these people or that I should be more powerful no matter the cost, not just because I have to but because I WANT to.

And as video games enter a new degree of storytelling rivalling that of movies or other forms of media, I hope that people will be able to have enough room in their hearts for characters that feel human, and not just some sad, brooding character - like Batman.

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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