I started playing InFamous a while back, inching my way through the engaging world of Empire City, its recent problems (crime, quarantine, destruction), and its newfound hero/villain (whichever the player chooses), Cole McGrath. Scaling the sides of buildings, gliding from rooftop to rooftop using Static Thrusters, skating around the city via Induction Grinds on power lines and third rails — it was a liberating and exhilarating superhero experience.
Then about a week ago I dropped Prototype into my PS3 to see how it fared against the competition. It's a wholly different experience controlling the monstrous Alex Mercer, despite the common "superhero in an open world" theme. I've since been asked which is better, and that's a very hard question to answer. Moreover, despite the freedom I initially felt in InFamous, going back to it post-Prototype, it felt strangely confined and limited.
Interestingly, the plots in these games work in opposite directions. In InFamous, a large eruption of energy destroys a significant part of the city, with you at the center of it. The first several minutes involve navigating Cole thorough the wreckage to safety without the benefit of any powers, and from there you generally work to repair the damage and flush out the ne'er-do-wells in Empire City, restoring it to its former glory and getting the quarantine lifted. In Prototype, the true start of the game (the intro is a flash-forward, then jumps backward in time to Day 1) is when you wake up in the morgue about to be cut open, escape the facility, and disappear into everyday Manhattan. From there, events unfold that lead to the progressive destruction of the city as a whole, a scenario where implementing quarantine is actually pretty ideal.
There are some more touching moments in InFamous, like your reunion with Trish or helping Zeke cope with his mistake that cost the lives of dozens of police officers. Prototype's protagonist is out for revenge and answers, and heaven help anyone who gets in his way. Alex's sister Dana drops the f-bomb like it's going out of style, and while there are areas of desperation — like trying to stop several strike forces coming from different directions at once from locating your hideout and your friends — it never feels like letting these people down will ultimately affect the outcome of the story the way it does in InFamous.
This brings up the other key element of InFamous — the moral dilemmas. Frequently throughout the storyline, you're given choices about how to handle different situations, with your actions determining not only your character's progression in terms of abilities and how he treats and is treated by his associates, but also how the citizens of the city react to him as a whole. While one bad choice amidst a sea of good ones won't rock the boat too much, once you start on a given path, it's easy to feel responsible to continue acting in the same manner. While it might not be crucial to the mission at hand, freeing a guy strung up from a lamp post by his leg above a lynch mob feels almost required for those on the goody-two-shoes path.