In the gaming world, there is a lot of talk from gamers about game studios being “overrated.” Fans and haters of different critically acclaimed studios battle it out on forums all across the internet in a never-ending flame war over which studio is overrated or why another studio isn't.
What about the other guys, though--the game developers that bring us great titles but don't necessarily get the appreciation or attention they deserve? There are some that bring up how underrated a developer may be, but for every one of those, there are thousands of gamers saying a developer is overrated. Well, in these “Underrated" articles, we are going to take the time to name developers that could be considered underrated and tell you why they deserve your time.
Sucker Punch Productions (Sly Cooper, Infamous)
Over the years Sony has built up a very strong line up of first-party game studios that have produced a lot of great AAA titles for PlayStation consoles. Between Naughty Dog, Guerilla Games, Polyphony Digital, Media Molecule, and more, all of the Sony-owned game studios are juggernauts in the industry and have launched game franchises that define the PlayStation experience. But one studio in particular falls a little below the radar, and it shouldn't.
Back in 1997, a group of Microsoft employees quit to pursue their dreams in the video game industry and formed a brand new game studio called Sucker Punch Productions. Only one of the founding members of Sucker Punch had any game development experience at the time, but this did not stop the studio from releasing a game two years later on the Nintendo 64, called Rocket: Robot on Wheels. Sucker Punch's launch into the game industry was a success as Rocket went on to receive crucial critical acclaim.
After Rocket, Sucker Punch went on to create the Sly Cooper franchise exclusively on PlayStation, and it never looked back. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus started the franchise off great with excellent critical reception due its unique visuals, accessibility, and fluidity of gameplay. Unfortunately for Sucker Punch, the critical reception of the first Sly Cooper did not translate into great sales. In its first year, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus went on to sell around 400,000 copies. These mediocre sales were attributed to a crowded platformer market that included Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter. Undeterred, Sucker Punch surged forward and produced two more Sly Cooper games in the following three years. To date, the lowest scoring Sly Cooper game developed by Sucker Punch is still the first, which is a sign of positive growth. Brand recognition has also increased for Sly Cooper, making it one of the big platformers on PlayStation.
When the PlayStation 3 launched, Sucker Punch decided to try its hand in the sandbox genre with inFAMOUS. At this point, the studio was really starting to come into its own as a developer and deliver truly unique gaming experiences. The influence from Sucker Punch's past work on Sly Cooper trickled down into inFAMOUS in all the right ways—the platforming was fun and interesting, it was fairly accessible in terms of difficulty, and the gameplay flowed incredibly smoothly. With the more serious tone of inFAMOUS came a more serious narrative, but not just any serious narrative.
inFAMOUS and its sequel deliver the compelling story of bicycle messenger Cole MacGrath, who obtains electric powers from an explosive parcel while out on delivery. The narrative takes unforeseen twists and turns in the overarching plot--at times, it could make even the most hardcore M. Night Shyamalan enthusiast go 'Wow! What a TWIST!' The story alone makes the inFAMOUS franchise potentially the greatest superhero game franchise to date.
Throughout the single-player campaign, Sucker Punch created moments where you need to make difficult decisions which have an impact on the game world, story, and most importantly, Cole himself. The decisions you make during your playthroughs determine the types of powers Cole will have access to.
With the next generation of PlayStation on the horizon, the future of inFAMOUS is looking promising. Sucker Punch debuted inFAMOUS: Second Son as part of the PlayStation 4 announcement back in February, and from what has been shown, there is much to be excited about. Second Son is set seven years after the events of inFAMOUS 2 and follows a new protagonist by the name of Delsin Rowe. The setting of Second Son is much more grim due to the events that took place in its predecessors and Delsin is about as opposite of the heroic Cole MacGrath many players chose to create. Delsin loves his new powers and is the type of character who would run before learning how to walk, whereas Cole wished he never got his powers in the first place and was fairly level-headed.
This brings us to the most significant evolution in the gameplay of inFAMOUS—the powers. In Second Son, Delsin has the unique ability to absorb other Conduits' powers which could provide unrivaled gameplay diversity. As sad as we are to see Cole go, Delsin looks to be shaping up into a very enjoyable character with much more potential in both the growth of his powers and his personality. With the launch of PS4 just around the corner, we will be one step closer to playing this great-looking game.
As a studio, Sucker Punch has shown gamers that it can keep a franchise interesting and fresh for years, and it is worth mentioning that the studio has had only one game out of its seven released fall under a Metacritic score of 80. Sucker Punch is a studio full of great talent and should not be underrated. If you haven't had the pleasure of playing any of Sucker Punch's great titles, you just might be the one getting sucker-punched.
Next week, we will talk about another developer that we believe is considered underrated. If you missed out on last installment of Underrated, check it out right here. Do you think this studio could be considered underrated? What studios do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to come back for next week's installment!