Living in inFamy

When battling my depression, there was always a lingering thought on my mind; people must think I’m a freak. I felt like a pariah in most situations and always believed people were looking at me wrong. I was the enemy.

It seems that if you express a different view from the norm or like off-kilter things, you become labeled an outcast. You’re then destined to be rejected and abhorred simply for existing. Even if your actions are from a pure heart, no one will care.

The “inFamous” series always tried to tackle ideas like this. Cole McGrath was cast aside even after saving a handful of citizens. Everyone saw his electrical powers and feared the worst. Sadly, it was hard to become invested in his character as Cole was pretty much a blank slate.

His voice acting was drab and monotonous and his “moral” choices were so binary as to become a practical joke. Nothing felt like a tough decision as the “evil” side of the game was merely a worst case scenario made real. Even the developers consider the “evil” side non-canon, so why take it seriously?

Much to my surprise, “inFamous: Second Son” corrects the biggest problem of it’s predecessors; Delsin Rowe is a very likeable guy. His goal is more noble and his attitude changes over the course of the game. You don’t start off hating everyone and end up acting like a savior.

Delsin just wants the best for his family, a small, fictional, Native-American tribe by the name of “Akomish.” He also seeks to freely express himself. He is tired of the dictation that his brother and society place upon him.

In the seething depths of depression, this is exactly how your mind feels. You begin seeing regular citizens as the “enemy” and wish to become free. A life without restraint and with the power to impact immediate change becomes your dream.

While Delsin may not follow all legal precautions, he never once foams at the mouth for bloodshed. Even when playing the game through as “evil,” the narrative hardly deviates from Delsin being a nice person. This happens to be the worst part of the game, however.

Without any real transformation coming from your actions, why even place those alternate paths in the game? The excellent prequel game, “inFamous: First Light,” dropped morality entirely and presented a gripping backstory that made you feel like you inhabited protagonist Fetch’s body.

Since I played that first, I figured that maybe Sucker Punch had decided to get rid of the antiquated idea of moral choices. Instead, gamers are presented with two different paths that feel like real choices, but with very little motivation to select the “evil” side.

Even the game’s power-ups tend to favor “good” over “evil.” While playing with good karma, players can opt in to an upgrade that allows them to restore health upon subduing an enemy versus killing them. This action is insanely simple with a few choice powers (Neon and slow-mo; DONE DEAL).

When you’re “evil”, nothing like that exists. You can’t even slow down time like with good karma Neon powers. Not only are you handicapped on evil, but the game becomes more difficult to deal with.

Maybe that design was deliberate. Even the ending of the game is unsatisfactory on the “evil” side. I suppose to deter people from straying down the road less taken, Sucker Punch decided to nerf “evil” until it was unfavorable.

Say you wanted to go about that path anyway. Why does the story not reflect what you’re doing? You get small phone calls that will say things like, “Delsin, how could you?” Then in the cutscene after, your brother claims he is proud of you. I suppose murdering 20 people for fun is something to cherish.

So I’m a bit torn on “inFamous: Second Son.” While playing through as a hero, the game is very much a step-up from it’s predecessors. It has better thought out powers, a wonderful protagonist and some excellent mission structure.

When going through doing evil, the game just falls apart. The narrative reeks of lazy writing and the choices feel shoe-horned in purely for the sake of tradition. This is almost like checking off a box at the marketing department.

All this and the prequel upstages the main course. Obviously Sucker Punch listened to fan feedback on Second Son, because First Light is really special. It’s shorter, tighter, more action packed and features a much more detailed personality for Fetch. It also has a smart list of bonus trials to accomplish along with a horde mode.

She can horde my heart all night long…Wait a minute.

I just wish that Sucker Punch could 100% nail an inFamous game. After giving up on the series with 2 and being pleasantly surprised with First Light, I feel that the formula can work. Either dropping the morality or vastly changing the game for each side would be a great place to start.

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