Joystiq's Top 10 of 2009: inFamous

The likelihood that any of us will walk outside one day and -- BAM! -- suddenly have superpowers bestowed upon us is -- let's face it -- pretty much nil. (We say "pretty much," since, well, you never know.) Thankfully, in the realm of video games, such a scenario is commonplace. For the most part, we only ever get to watch as a game's lead character becomes a superhero in a cutscene, or, most commonly, the game is based on a long-established character from another medium, mainly comic books.

There are a lot of reasons behind our enjoyment of InFamous, but the fact that the game let us play as an everyman while he gradually became a superhero (or supervilain) gave us a rare chance to fulfill that "what if?" fantasy in the role of a total unknown, much as we'd be.

Of course, if the game only let us experience what it would be like to be a guy who could only, oh, levitate paperclips and small rocks, what'd be the point? So InFamous gradually doles out power after power, all based around electricity (with a clever mechanic for recharging oneself), the most basic of which is firing lighting from your hands. The powers not only increase in oomph -- they significantly change how the fictional open-world Empire City, with its distinct districts and demilitarized zone atmosphere, is navigated by players. Cole McGrath boasts parkour and climbing skills that put Assassin Creed II's protagonist Ezio to shame ... and that's before he can electro-grind around the city's railways or, oh, fly.

While the game is great at conveying how considerable having such powers in the real world would be -- use too much force and you'll send cars flying into a crowd of innocent bystanders -- it also changes to reflect whether you're choosing to use the powers for good or evil. (Maybe you meant to toss that four-door into the crosswalk.) This introduces some twists in the fairly uneven plot, but, more importantly, changes the powers you command and the way the city's inhabitants react to you. Travel too far down one path and there's no going back.

Superhero games that aren't based on comics, movies or TV shows are rare, and we can't imagine another topping this electrifying experience anytime soon.
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This article was originally published on Joystiq.