Director Nate Fox stated that much of the inspiration of the superhero story came from two DC Comics series, DMZ and No Man's Land. Both center on a city after a large disaster. The series also inspired the crafting of the game's grim take on the superhero genre. Fox further stated that the film Batman Begins was an inspiration for the game. However, any correlation to DC Comics' Static Shock was unintentional. Fox considered his own personal involvement in the Seattle WTO riots of 1999 as influencing the reflection of "spending time in a lawless place" within the game.

Grand Theft Auto III was also stated as an influence, in that the team could easily see themselves as superheroes in the open world of Liberty City; similarly, Spider-Man 2 was used as a model to demonstrate what it would be like to move about the city and answer random requests for help alongside regular missions.