Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

Sucker Punch

February 23, 2010

It was a fairly interesting moment in a game without too many interesting moments:

I’d just managed to get Cole and Trish back together by being particularly good. She respected me, we were getting back together “after this is all over.” Then the villain decides to ramp things up, and make them much more personal. You run around town saving people, barely making it to the next choice, but you have to do it, he’s got Trish held captive, and is going to kill her if you don’t.

You finally catch up to him, and he’s set up two bombs. One has six doctors, the other has Trish. The game flashes up it’s overdone/overdramatic dual choice: save Trish and be evil, save the doctors and be good. (Trish is a medical professional, so it’s not like saving her is strictly Evil, but this game seems to equate Evil with selfishness.)

The choice was easy for me, as Trish would want me to save the doctors, and at that point I felt that I cared more about what she thought of me than having her.   She is, effectively, the good moral compass for your character.  How well this works is questionable, as some of my later research implies that she’s not well liked or established. My playthrough latched onto her, perhaps because I identified with her grief and anger, and saw it as a natural process. Miss that though, and she’s capricious and annoying.

Happy with the movie that played after saving the doctors, and getting absolution from Trish, I continued on the game.  Last night, I finished it.  The in-game movie ending describes how the villain had killed Trish in order to make you a better hero made sense, but it had my mind working a bit.  That might not have happened, right? I might have saved Trish?

That interested the programmer in me, so I did a bit of research both on the two endings (good vs evil) and on the different ways the Trish Vs Doctors mission works out.  The developers of the game set up a Magician’s Choice with this mission.

For those not familiar with it, it’s a card force technique where you change what you do based on the choice of the audience assistant.  If you have two cards, one in your left and one on your right, and you want to be certain that the assisatant gets the one in your right, you have them pick a card.  If they pick the left hand card you say, “Okay, I’ll keep the one you picked,” and hand them the right card.  If they pick the right card, you just hand it to them, “Here’s the card you picked!”

This is a great trick when everyone knows what the card is except for the assistant, and if you do it well and quickly enough, it looks like the assistant picked the card, when instead you’ve guided them to it all along.

With the Trish vs Doctors mission, if you pick the Doctors, Trish is on the other building, and dies.  If you pick Trish, then the woman on Trish’s building is a fake, and Trish is on the building with the Doctors, and dies.  This is against the simulationist in me, and we can argue about how the villain knows which you’ll pick, but the truth is, the story makes sense either way, but not both ways.

I’d have never realized it, if they hadn’t mentioned it in the endgame movie, and I consequently wondered if there were other versions of the movie.  So very few of your decisions affected the game that I was surprised that they would change that bit of movie for more than one possibility.  If they had modified things more, I might have bought it, but as it was, I didn’t see it.  Maybe I’m a victim of my on analyzing here, but maybe it’s a poor technique overall.

Ultimately, I’m not sure why there are so many stupid choices.  Evil here is selfish and apathetic, not actively bad (based on the choices I was given).  I would say it was also brutal, but even good was brutal in this game, if only so that good can survive.  The choice mechanic is the weakest thing in this game — and the fact that it can be replayed as an opposing alignment also undercuts the Trish vs Doctors mission by showing their hand a bit too clearly.

Infamous is a decent game, a good game but not a great one. I’m glad to have played it, but I don’t think it’ll make it’s mark on me beyond how not to do a morality system.  It’s not that morality systems are inherently bad, but I can think of a better way to manage one in this game that would have been more satisfying.

I guess that’s a worthwhile take-away if nothing else.