Playing as a super-powered being is like the ultimate wish fulfilment in gaming, so it’s no surprise that Sucker Punch’s Infamous series became as popular as it did. Being able to explore a massive open world and make your own decisions about whether or not you’d let absolute power corrupt absolutely, Infamous was certainly a special kind of game.
However, after three main instalments and two stand-alone campaigns, the series appears to have fallen off the face of the earth. With the PS5 closing in on its first full year of availability, the time could be right to see the super-powered franchise make a return on next-gen consoles, or even come to PC thanks to Sony’s enhanced focus on that platform. The question, as always, is will we ever see a new Infamous game?
The History of Infamous
The first Infamous game launched in 2009 on PS3, and was seen as a huge departure for developers Sucker Punch, who had previously made a name for themselves developing the Sly Cooper trilogy. After the development of Sly 3 had wrapped, Sucker Punch were looking for their next big project, as Infamous’ game director Nate Fox explained in a 2009 interview with Joystiq.
“We knew towards the end of Sly 3 that we wanted to do something else. Working on a cartoon thief game for six years, we got a little tired of sneaking around and wanted variation, change. So, being comic book fans, it made a lot of sense to say, “let’s make a superhero game where we get to blow things up”, instead of cautiously looking through a bunch of guards’ patrol paths which, Sly games had a fair amount of. We wanted to just be brazen and loud and so, that’s where Infamous comes from.”
For much of the game’s development, Infamous was somewhat in a state of flux, as Sucker Punch were trying to nail down what it meant to be a superhero game. Brian Fleming, producer on the game, notes in a separate interview with Joystiq during GDC09 that parts of the game’s story had to be completely rewritten in the last nine months of development.
He said: “So we brought in a guy, Bill Harms, who’s actually a published comic author, who we knew from — he worked at another Seattle game development firm, we uh, brought him in and he worked full time on it for like the last 9 months. And you know, it’s more than just story, it’s all the prompt dialogue, it’s all the ancillary things, and writing for marketing, so you know, he’s been a huge savior of the writing.” Fleming adds: “The back end of the story changed a lot in the last 9 months, again because we found things that worked better, um, we just weren’t happy with how they felt.”
Not only did the story receive some changes, but the gameplay did too, with one of the biggest late in development changes being the ability to grind on the rails of the elevated train line, in a similar fashion to the likes of Ratchet & Clank. As it turns out, this feature was added during the last month of development as it was suggested by a playtester.
Despite earning some comparisons to Prototype, which launched around the same time, Infamous proved to be incredibly successful for both Sucker Punch and PlayStation. The game earned an 85 on Metacritic, with reviewers praising the open world gameplay and general power fantasy of playing as a superhero, or villain if you preferred the evil route. By June 2010, about a year after the game first launched, it was revealed that Infamous had sold almost two million copies, at which point a sequel was already on the way.
Development of Infamous 2 kicked off pretty much immediately after the first game finished, with Sucker Punch aiming to improve on the first game’s core formula in any way they could. According to Ken Schramm, the communications director, during an interview with NZGamer: “everything was on the table.” The biggest theme of the second game was escalation, with Sucker Punch wanting the player to feel more powerful than ever. New powers, bigger enemies and a grander scale helped to achieve that feeling, along with the fact you could import your previous game save and use all your old powers from the get-go.
One feature where Sucker Punch really tried to innovate in Infamous 2 was with User Generated Content, which allowed players to create missions that other players could try out in their game. It was a bold feature, as Sucker Punch were looking to find ways to continue the game experience after launch, with co-op being suggested. However, Sucker Punch confirmed in an interview with NowGamer that co-op didn’t have the longevity they were looking for:
“There’s immense pressure on developers to add multiplayer, and whether it belongs or not, people are tacking multiplayer modes onto their games. We never felt like, ‘this IP would be great for that’, but we wanted to give customers a way to continue to enjoy the property and co-op was discussed. But while co-op may have given you a new way to play, it didn’t give you that feeling of, ‘I want to keep playing’, because ultimately, the game still ends.”
While it sounds like a groundbreaking feature, it seems like the Infamous player base weren’t too enamored with it, as Sucker Punch would speak at GDC 2012, some months after the game’s launch, to give a talk about how most users barely touched the UGC missions. According to them, only 5% of players actually published a level, and while half played a UGC level, only 15% played them more than a handful of times. Sucker Punch chalked most of the problem up to early accessibility issues and glitches, noting that if a player experienced a bad first level, they would rarely play a second one.
Infamous 2 would reach an almost equal level of critical success to the first game, earning an 83 on Metacritic. Most critics appreciated the bombastic improvements to the overall gameplay, even if it’d prove to be more of the same from the original game. Exact sales figures are hard to find, but it was the third highest selling game of June 2011 behind L.A. Noire and Duke Nukem Forever despite being an exclusive, and it was Sony’s highest seller for that month.
Speaking of highest sellers, Sucker Punch would work on a standalone DLC for Infamous 2 by the name of Festival of Blood. The DLC saw Cole McGrath fight vampires for reasons. If anything, it was more inventive than another piece of zombie DLC, but that’s neither here nor there. The game didn’t do as well on Metacritic, earning a 78, but it didn’t matter too much to Sucker Punch, as it was the fastest selling PS3 digital game of all-time at December 2011. Of course, it would go on to be surpassed by Journey.
What Happened To inFamous?
Sucker Punch were developing a brand new game in the series when the PS4 was still being designed, meaning that the eventual product, Infamous: Second Son, was developed from the ground up with the new console in mind. Sucker Punch were even considering a next-gen version of Infamous from as early as 2010, some 3 years before the PS4 would even launch, so Second Son was a big deal for the company.
Infamous: Second Son was a departure from the original games in the series, following a new protagonist in the form of Delsin Rowe, who has the power to absorb the powers of other superpowered beings, known as Conduits. Basically, Delsin had the same powers as Peter in Heroes, but you could actually play as him.
Infamous: Second Son launched to an average of 80 on Metacritic, which is certainly a respectable score. Critics fell in love with the core gameplay, noting that it was an improvement over the first two games in the series, but some issues with the story and morality system left a sour taste. It was a great game, but it was a far cry from a world beater. Then again, it was better than the Xbox One’s wave of exclusives at the time.
Sucker Punch also spun-off one of the characters from Second Son, Fetch (they literally made Fetch happen), into their own standalone DLC in the form of First Light. The game began development just after Second Son, with Sucker Punch deciding to focus on the character after the positive player reception she received. Unfortunately, First Light received the worst scores of the series, averaging a 73 on Metacritic. Critics enjoyed the character, but the more of the same approach to this DLC wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It also didn’t help that First Light was incredibly brief.
The Future Of Infamous
There’s been no follow-up or even word of a new inFamous game since 2014, and it’s not immediately clear why. The PS4 exclusive reviewed decently well, and the sales have been fantastic, especially with Second Son. It feels like the series was killed off at the peak of its popularity, with Sucker Punch moving on to new things with Ghost of Tsushima. With the recent release of Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut and the inevitable sequel, it’s clear that Sucker Punch are preoccupied right now.
There’s the possibility, though, that Infamous: Second Son could see new light in the form of a PC port in the future. Sony have been porting more games to the PC over the past couple of years, such as Days Gone and Horizon: Zero Dawn (Sony even bought a company just to work on PC ports), and while Second Son might be an older property in comparison, it’s still held in high enough regard to be considered part of the PlayStation Plus collection on PS5, which is a collection of stellar PS4 games that PS Plus players can enjoy. Perhaps the success of that, if it happens, could warrant a new game.
It’s also worth mentioning that just because Sucker Punch have switched their focus over to Ghost of Tsushima for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about Infamous. Around the time of the PS5’s release, Sucker Punch announced that both Tsushima and Second Son had been updated to support save transfers from PS4 to PS5, and would run at 60fps with improved load times.
As for whether or not we’ll see a new game, it’s unclear whether or not Sucker Punch would be the ones to bring the series back. It’s a bit of a copout answer, but it’s been 12 years since the release of the original game, so perhaps it’s time for a remake of some kind. Bluepoint have proved their capabilities when it comes to reviving classic PlayStation games, like Shadow of the Colossus or Demon’s Souls. A PS5 version of Infamous from those acclaimed developers would be a real winner.
However, it might be worth discussing whether or not Infamous actually has a place within Sony’s current crop of exclusives, as the superhero power fantasy is pretty much occupied by Spider-Man right now. Granted, Infamous can easily fit a different mold than Insomniac’s open world, largely through the morality system, but Sony might be hesitant to fund two games with more overt similarities, especially when one has so much more brand awareness. Spoilers: it’s not Infamous.
Infamous is one of the most beloved PlayStation franchises, and with Sony featuring plenty of serious single-player exclusives like The Last of Us, Horizon, Ghost of Tsushima, there’s room in their portfolio for a bombastic, super-powered extravaganza, and Infamous would fit that bill. Whether or not we’ll actually see it is another story.
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