Last week I planned on writing a review for Infamous Second Son. My original plan consisted of finishing the campaign, writing the review, and posting it on the site for everyone to read. However, upon reaching the final mission, I had to make a change of plans. I was never going to write a review for this game. What should have been the tale of a hero’s downfall, became a cautionary story of what happens when you limit a game’s morality. I doubt I will ever finish Second Son, which kinda pisses me off because I paid for it, but I can’t finish it. I’ve seen behind the veil and now it’s just another ‘video game’.
For those who have reached the last mission in Second Son, you already know the score. Hank has betrayed you, and after a narrow escape, Augustine kills your brother. For the entire game I played the game as a hero. Saving people and redeeming fellow conduits. But when Delsin’s brother died it was time for revenge. I killed Hank…and while his pleas for forgiveness were heard, he had to go–even with his daughter calling his name. He betrayed my trust, and my moral compass will only go so far. At this point I decided that even a hero has to get his hands dirty, and this was one of those moments. After I killed him, I dropped a hero level but I didn’t care. I had one goal in mind — kill Augustine. There was no other way it could go. Why take the hero’s route and expose her leaving an opportunity for her to return? She needed to die and I was willing to lose powers to make that happen. Except when it was time to actually start the mission I couldn’t take the “evil” route. I had to become evil before I could finish the mission. My good guy status prevented me from killing Augustine.
And therein lies the problem facing games with moral choices. The world isn’t black and white…there are shades of gray. Although a character might start with the best intentions, the death of a family member can change a character’s course. How do you allow Delsin the option to kill Hank, but not Augustine? I was a ‘true hero’ before killing Hank. I should have been able to finish that ride down the path of evil. Locking my last mission to my moral status not only kills the momentum but the character development as well. Instead of a story where people can make decisions across the spectrum of morality, we fall back into the game design ideals were players are left with a static choice because the developer knows “what’s best.”
It’s funny how we want games to push our emotional buttons, but we want to limit our responses to these emotional cues. If you give me freedom of choice, then I should have the freedom to make decisions that fit my situation and moral compass. I won’t always make the “good” choice, nor would I always make the “evil” choice. Locking us to simple choices sends a message that gamers are not mature enough to make their own decisions. That someone must tell us what is right and wrong. But the irony of the situation is that we are smart enough to make our own moral decisions. Maybe we are scared of what those choices look like…