Imagine living in a world where our actions are strictly defined as good or evil. You drive to work parading carbon emissions; evil. You failed to give a knockout smile to the often overlooked receptionist with the wonky tooth; terribly evil. The coffee machine is broken, so you offer to collect a round for the office from the ridiculously overpriced alternative; pretty good. However, the only reason you’re doing it is because there’s a promotion coming up and you want your boss to remember you can be counted on during an unprecedented beverage crisis. Er?
Infamous, the superhero sandbox title from Sucker Punch slaps a thumbs up or thumbs down sticker on every moral decision within its world. You’ll be thrown conundrums which generally amount to protecting civilians by making things harder for yourself, or taking the easier (and worryingly more fun) approach of channeling Satan so you become more powerful at the expense of a few non-descript NPC’s. If like me, you’re regularly trapped inside a Clinton’s retailer crippled by indecision over a birthday card, these moments can spark full scale mental breakdowns. The kind reserved for late-night bus stops and Saturday evening’s spent alone watching ITV.
Picture the scene. A man is storing blast shards inside his locker which you require to upgrade your powers. There’s no reasonable explanation given for this man to greedily hoard such items, but you’re asked to either kill the man and steal his shards or save him and be rewarded with a few shards and a guilty free conscience. Easy, you say. Just grow a pair and blast some lightning in that motherfucker, you say. Well I’m not mental psychopath you guys, and I like to ask questions.
Firstly, what if the man storing all these shards is actually a pawn for the super villain up top? He might be making a living from watching his city succumb to fear and turmoil while he comfortably cosies up under the wholesome glow of a Christmas ham. No minion deserves golden meat stashing goods off the street. Also, what rational human being decides to store electrical charges in a locker anyway? It all sounds fishy to me. Surely we should place him under observation by the Cheater’s team and see if there’s any seedy superhero activity afoot. He might be sticking his major in a generator for all we know. HIS WIFE DESERVES TO KNOW.
This is what I dislike about video games that attempt any kind of ‘morality’ system. No room is left to explore the morally grey area of sticking majors into generators, turning the entire story experience into a two dimensional bore-fest. It’s especially dull when the game practically forces you to pick a side from the outset, leaving the highest powers and upgrades to those who solely devote their playthrough to predominantly good or evil deeds. And how are you rewarded at the end for your efforts? The always terrible ‘good ending’ or ‘bad ending’ — where you’re either riding unicorns into space or trapped alone in a barrel of faeces dribbling out spinach.
I would have enjoyed Infamous a lot more if this system were banished into the cosmic abyss. Once you finally unlock powers like electric skiing and summoning thunder from the heavens, the combat is really fun and sliding across telephone wires over the city is thoroughly satisfying. It even taps into that Assassin Creed style gaming itch of clearing away every icon on the map, even if it does grow repetitive towards its conclusion. There is some terrible side missions however which require stealth, but I’ll forget about them because I’m a forgiving kind of person.
I’ve been informed this morality system still rears its ugly head in Infamous 2 and Second Son, so while I will continue to endure and enjoy its positives through these mental hardships, I will sit quietly and hope this gaming phase is somewhere behind us. Take us on stories which dare to delve into the grey, challenge our perceptions and for crying out loud, stop asking us to pick between the red and blue coloured lightning. I can’t handle this kind of shit anymore.