The more powers you develop, the more fun you’ll have making use of them, and while the improvements tend to be incremental rather than instantly game-changing, there’s something about using Shockwave to send a crowd of dustcoat-clad vagrants into the air then using slow-mo to blast them on their way down that really warms the cockles of your heart. And why worry about using sniper fire to get the guy on the rooftop opposite when you can bash or blast him clean off it in a matter of seconds. After all, you might be able to survive any fall, but the same doesn’t go for your foes. As with Crackdown, this actual process of discovery is addictive. You’ll want bigger, better powers, then you’ll want to give them a spin and see what they can do.
Yet inFamous has a whole dimension on top of this. Taking its lead from Knights of the Old Republic and Fable, Sucker Punch’s game has a system of karma, allowing you to choose a good or evil path through the game. Do you fancy helping the beleaguered and healing the sick and injured, or would you rather take care of number one, strike a mean pose and make the city a sandpit for your twisted inclinations. Taking on good or evil side missions will open up additional powers, and as you go up through the good or evil ranks you’ll unlock specific upgrades denied to those of the opposite karmic path. As your nature changes, so does your outer appearance, and so will the reactions of your numerous fellow citizens. And this is the weird thing about inFamous. I played as a bit of a goodie-two-shoes, and the more I did so, the more I liked playing the hero. I started knocking down evil doers and healing people in the street, not because I was getting much in the way of tangible rewards, but because it felt like the right thing to do. And I’m sure the evil path works in much the same way, but probably with a few more hammy ‘wha-wha-wha-wha’ laughs.
This brings me neatly on to something else. Eight years after the release of GTAIII I can still think of only a handful of open world games where the setting feels like a living, breathing place. Empire City might not have the most varied locales or architecture, but it feels solid. There’s enough traffic and enough of a population to make it feel convincing, and there’s a tangible sense of desperation to the place that makes you feel all the better when the first green shoots of hope come bursting through (or when the iron boot of fear comes crushing down, if that’s your thing). For me, this all gives inFamous a depth and richness that other open-world superhero games have, so far, lacked. And while the overall tone follows the dark, grimy style of Frank Miller’s Batman and Sin City output, Sucker Punch has still found room to crowbar in a dash of sardonic humour, whether in the broadcasts you’ll see playing on displays and TV sets around the city, or in the frat-house antics of your hapless sidekick, Zeke, as he tries to cash in on your deeds in a quest for fortune and female company. inFamous, it must be said, has charm.