Before Infamous: Second Son Sucker Punch Productions released Infamous on PS3. The story revolves around Cole MacGrath developing electrical superpowers after a huge explosion in the fictional Empire City. The game implements a Karma system that allows players to become a Hero or, as the title subtly suggests, Infamous. The decisions made determine how the citizens of Empire City respond to Cole; be a Hero and the citizens will aid you, but become Infamous and the citizens will hinder you.
Infamous: Second Son is the third game in the series and an exclusive for Sony’s PS4. It takes place seven years after the events of Infamous 2, and the protagonist is Delsin Rowe. Like Cole, he is a conduit (someone who possesses super-powers), but with the Peter Petrelli-like ability to mimic other Conduits instead. The plot focuses on Delsin fighting the Department of Unified Protection (DUP) who target Conduits. Without a doubt, the theme of Infamous: Second Son was inspired by Nate Fox (director of Sucker Punch Entertainment) being tear-gassed during a protest. This experience made him realise we give up our freedom in exchange for better security.
I think the latest instalment of Infamous is the perfect device to explore scenarios from both sides of the table. In a world full of Conduits what will people sacrifice for their protection? What will sympathisers neglect for their human rights?
With the power of the PS4 I would like to see an extension of the Karma system, but instead of hinging it solely on Delsin and how the world responds to him I would like to see the environment and citizens change their notoriety instead, and as a result we would get to see how the two opposing sides respond to each other.
For example, there might be a mission where Delsin has to use his powers to prove to the citizens that Conduits can be trusted. Depending on how the player decides to complete the mission determines how the citizens’ opinions change. If the citizens sympathise with Delsin the Freedom meter increases, but instead of showing it visually on-screen the actions of the NPCs change in your favour and remold the events happening in the world instead.
However, the Karma system can still be used as a morality gauge on the HUD, but this would just affect the success rate of Delsin winning over the citizens and convincing them to fight for their freedom. In contrast, Delsin could become Infamous and use his fearful reputation to increase the number of riots of citizens protesting for more security and this could, ironically, lower the DUP’s defenses and allow Delsin to succeed in his mission.
Wherever Sucker Punch Entertainment decide to take Infamous: Second Son I know it will be great. It might be the final straw that makes me buy a PS4 over an Xbox One. There is more to this than PS4 sales though, and that is the intellectual scope. Videogames give us entertaining simulators that let us ask ourselves, “What would we do with superpowers in a world where people fear superheroes?” Would you prove the populace right or change the nation? I think the next generation will bring more games with this scope of choice, and Infamous: Second Son is only the start.
- Lee Chesnalavage