McGinnis: Mining for Cole: What happened to lead character of ‘InFamous’?Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
What video games can do better than any other media is provide a sense of what it is like to be something none of us will ever experience. We can dream about what it would feel like to be Michael Jordan the night he made his most famous shot. Thanks to video games, I got a taste of what that moment was like. You and I will never command a battalion of troops in World War II, or drive in the Indy 500 or traverse the magical plains of Middle Earth. But if the creators of modern games do their jobs right, we can get a small inkling of it.
Some of my favorite games are focused on the idea of stepping into the shoes of a superhero. Case in point, the “InFamous” series, created by celebrated developers Sucker Punch, which debuted in 2009. The titles presented a flowering of ideas embodied by earlier games like “Spider-Man 2″: What if you merged the open-world exploration of a “Grand Theft Auto” title with a depiction of a superpowered individual and gave the player free reign to roam the city, using their abilities however they wish?
The result was intoxicating. Charged with incredibly fun electricity-based powers, the player took control of Cole MacGrath, an ordinary bike messenger who becomes transformed into the most powerful entity in a city quarantined from the rest of society. The first game teased players with the idea of choice, giving you the option of whether you wanted to be a hero or villain, though the basic story was much the same.
A sequel followed in 2011, transplanting Cole to a new city and giving him an even bigger threat to face. The final result of the narrative was more dependent on the player’s choice, though, with wildly different endings depending on Cole’s actions. In the ending chosen by most gamers — not surprisingly, the heroic path — Cole sacrifices himself (and most every superpowered individual in the world) to save the lives of countless millions.
In the years that followed, the question of whether there would be another sequel to “InFamous” was left tantalizingly open, until Sony’s press conference last year where its next console — the PlayStation 4 — was officially announced. The first trailer shown by Sony on that day depicted a world where superpowered individuals were heavily outnumbered by a humanity terrified of them, and those with special abilities were hunted by the government. Before one could say, “Hey, that looks like an ‘InFamous’ game…”, the title confirmed it: “InFamous: Second Son.”
This was a joyous revelation to those of us who looked forward to once more taking to the skies with the freedom the first two games had given us. Less emphasis was given to a slightly disappointing factor, though: Cole MacGrath, the hero of all previous “InFamous” titles, was staying dead.
Ever since the end of “InFamous 2″‘s heroic storyline, with a lightning bolt forming a question mark over his body, the idea that Cole was truly gone for good hadn’t really entered into my mind — and, I suspect, the minds of most players out there. This was a series based upon comic books, after all, a medium where “dead” has never truly meant “dead.” We presumed that if a new “InFamous” game was created, the developers would find a way to bring back the character.
But as information about the new title began to emerge, representatives of Sucker Punch began saying things like how they wanted to “respect the choice” of gamers who decided to let Cole have a heroic death. This is an interesting if near-sighted perspective — I doubt most gamers who chose the hero’s path knew that they were somehow casting a vote for the character to be gone and never return.
More likely, the choice to bring in a new protagonist was focused more on broadening the franchise’s appeal. Sucker Punch had already tried this with the transition between the first and second games. Cole was completely revamped for the sequel, with a brand new voice actor, outfit, and even a much younger-looking character model — before early response caused them to tweak the look so it was closer to the original Cole. It seemed like Sucker Punch was more interested in aiming for a younger demographic than really carrying on the story many players had invested in. (No surprise “Second Son’s” new hero, Delsin, looks even younger than the revamped Cole.)
The retooling has seemingly worked: Since its release a few weeks ago, “Second Son” has sold faster than any “InFamous” title to date. Its success seems to ensure the franchise will continue, which pleases me greatly. I just hope that next time, Sucker Punch considers the idea of bringing their original hero back to join in the action. Players didn’t just become invested in the powers they were able to take control of — they grew attached to the character who wielded them, as well. And no offense to Delsin — a compelling character in his own right — but some of us miss throwing those lightning bolts, and would love to glide along those rails in Cole’s shoes one more time.