From A Spark To A Storm: Celebrating inFamous
Sucker Punch Productions has long been a capable studio in producing unique and enjoyable open-world platforming video games. The Sly Cooper series put Sucker Punch on the map and ensured a place for the studio to successfully return several times over. However, there came a time when the studio wanted to step outside its familiar franchise and get a little grittier. In 2009, this desire came to fruition when they released inFamous: a game about super powers, good, evil and parkour. The game was a successful break away from the usual for Sucker Punch, providing a unique take on the idea of what a regular man can do given extraordinary powers and today we celebrate its initial release.
Development for inFamous began immediately following the release of Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves. Having spent several years in the franchise, the team was looking to take on something entirely different. Sly Cooper was often centered around stealth and evasion and as a foil to that, the studio wanted to try something much more boisterous and directly confrontational. With many comic book fans among the staff, the idea of a superhero origin story came into play.
Several inspirations have been cited as the inspiration for what inFamous would become, not the least of which was the film Batman Begins, as well as Grand Theft Auto 3. However, game director Nate Fox revealed in a 2009 interview with Engadget that the major contributing inspirations for the game came from two specific comics, namely DMZ and Batman: No Man’s Land, both of which revolve around the government isolating all or part of a city after a disaster, leaving inhabitants to fend for themselves. Out of a disaster and the isolation following, the team wanted to portray the progression of a protagonist from regular human being into god-like in a city gone awry.
The story of inFamous takes place in fictitious Empire City and revolves around Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger with some parkour skills. Cole is commissioned to deliver a package to a rooftop and open it, but it turns out to be a bio-electric weapon that goes off, taking out six city blocks. Cole manages to survive the blast and finds himself imbued with electrical powers. Meanwhile, the weapon causes a plague after which the government and military isolate the area. Initially seeking to escape, Cole finds himself drawn into a web of conspiracy all while his powers develop from a slight evolution into something all-powerful.
The development of Cole’s powers throughout inFamous take the game from a relatively simple open-world adventure into something increasingly more exciting. Outside of a few utility powers, the player’s decisions as to how Cole uses them affect a Karma meter. Not only does this Karma meter subtly change events and interactions in the game, but it affects how Cole develops. Sucker Punch was masterful in creating an experience where both sides were fun to play and as a result, the game at least a bit of replayability to it in terms of enjoying the gameplay benefits and differences of both good and evil.
Sucker Punch established something great in their first run at something more gritty and dystopian than the lighthearted affairs of Sly Cooper. inFamous gained applause from critics and players alike for its unique take on a superhero story. It would garner several awards, including IGN’s Game of the Year in 2009 for its comic book style narrative and player-choice given playstyle and arguably stands as one of the best games of the PlayStation 3’s catalog. Furthermore, inFamous’s ambiguous ending allowed Sucker Punch to build it towards a new franchise from which several other enjoyable titles would come in the years following.