In the world of video games, developers have struggled to present morale choices in a way that lends any real weight to them. With infamous, developer Sucker Punch aims to make listening to your conscience harder by putting you in the scorched shoes of an unlikely super hero who gained electrical powers from a massive explosion.
Cole now carries the weight of a ravaged world’s future on his shoulders, and must choose whether to be their savior or prey off their difficult existence. With devastating power sparking at his fingertips, Cole has difficult decisions ahead of him… but so do you. Is inFamous the power trip you’ve been waiting for, or will it leave you burnt out like a blown fuse?
We enter Empire City as Cole regains consciousness after the explosion. After enduring a painful rebirth in the wake of disaster, he realizes that the element of electricity is at his beck and call. After talking things over with his best friend Zeke, a Michael Matteson wannabe, he sets off to test his mettle by defending a shipment of survival rations being pillaged by a group of anarchists called The Reapers.
This is where things start to get really interesting. The player directs Cole’s aim via an over-the-shoulder view, and is nearly identical to many modern third-person shooters. Simply line up the circular reticule and blast bolts of lightning as if you’re Zeus himself, drunk with power. Cole’s primary lightning attack is unlimited, allowing you to lay waste to enemies with multiple blasts to the body, or a quick dispatch with a clean “head shock.” Cole is ambidextrous as well, allowing for ease whether you’re left/ right handed, or just trying to peek around a corner.
Amidst all the man made electrical storms, Cole is free to shoot no matter where he is. You can calmly walk and fire upon enemies, shoot while hanging from a traffic light, or pick line up a head shock while flying through the air. Another particularly handy use for the “shoot anytime” mechanic is when hanging from a ledge. Cole will hang out of the enemy’s line of sight, waiting for you to aim before he peeks up to take a few pot shots. The shooting mechanic is masterfully done. So much so, you’ll almost entirely forget about the nearly useless melee button. For all intents and purposes, infamous is a shooter.
After Cole defends the food supplies from the hooded hoodlums, he is faced with a choice; either allow the civilians to eat their share, or hoard the whole lot so Zeke and he can eat for months. The player makes the choice by either idly allowing the pedestrians to descend on the rations like vultures, or scorch a couple people to scare everyone off. This is just one morale decision of many you’ll make throughout the game. You’ll receive good or bad karma depending on what choice you make, making your karma meter shift towards repugnant red or benevolent blue. The color of your karma wheel also affects the hue of the electricity flowing through and from you.
The city Cole resides in is a huge, sprawling, sandbox of a metropolis, demanding commute from one point to another over long distances. Luckily the protagonist is incredibly agile and can scale a building in seconds. InFamous features an automatic grappling mechanic that makes running across city roof tops as fluid as possible. Spotting a route to the top of a building is as easy as finding a window ledge or pipe, each one acting as a platform for you to launch yourself further up the structure. The automatic grabbing of ledges is incredibly reliable, but almost to a fault. Many times when attempting to jump from a roof top to the street, Cole will be magnetically drawn towards ledges or streetlights, hindering his descent. This becomes incredibly annoying when you are attempting to beat a timer or dodge enemy fire.
Speaking of enemy fire, the marauders of the city are almost everywhere. It’s a rare moment when some thug isn’t using Cole for target practice. The minimap/ radar will be your best friend in these situations, tipping you off to the location and altitude of your assailants. If an gunman is too far away for your radar to pick up, as is the case many times, it can be terribly frustrating locating where the bullets are coming from. Thankfully enemy presence can be reduced by completing side missions.
The civilians of inFamous are as needy as they come, requesting your assistance at any given opportunity. Side missions have decent variety, ranging from escort missions, to time trial checkpoint runs, to hunting hidden packages, to disabling surveillance equipment, and even to some stealth stalking. The variations may seem bountiful, but you’ll be doing them a lot. The sense of satisfaction is worth the dirty work, however, as you’ll drive enemies from parts of town like rats, gain good/ bad karma, and even net yourself some experience points.
Cole’s plentiful powers are purchased and enhanced within one of the game’s menus. Making the choice to go good or bad early on is beneficial, as there are very useful powers that require you to have your karma meter maxed out in either the direction of hero or infamous. This is unfortunate, as it likely will predetermine your path throughout the game, effectively reducing the game’s bevy of moral choices to one path or the other. Anybody walking the line between the two extreme moralities will find themselves at a disadvantage. On the other hand, you’ll have the opportunity to play through again and have a very different experience.
Getting back to powering up Cole, you can spend experience gained from killing enemies, rescuing people, and completing missions to buy new abilities. Defense, primary attack strength, and the range of certain attacks can all be upgraded. Some abilities require a specific amount of side missions to be completed, or demand that you’ve gained a particular ability by activating one of the game’s many substations.
Substations are scattered beneath Empire City, requiring Cole to travel through the sewers. Entering the sewers is the only time you’ll be “indoors,” and it’s practically the only time you’ll encounter a loading scene in the game. These underground diversions are incredibly fruitful, and benefit Cole in two ways. Firstly, Cole will restore electricity to dead portions of the city, making his treks on the surface much easier. Secondly, Cole will stumble across broken circuits that require his body to reestablish a energy flow, causing loads of wattage to course through him. This is where Cole learns such coveted abilities as grinding on power lines or train tracks, and hovering through the air with static electricity.
Both hovering and rail grinding are the defining means of transportation in inFamous, and they are incredibly empowering. After spending a good portion of the game simply running across electrical lines, the ability to slide across them at lighting fast speed is an overwhelmingly relief. Leaping through the air from power line to power line is not only incredibly easy and fun, but it gets you where you want be in a flash. Hovering allows you to float casually through the air without fear of plummeting to the city streets and having to climb up a building again. The final power gained from these substations is perhaps the most epic of all, and it won’t be spoiled in this review. Just be warned that it’s quite earthshaking.
Abilities such as launching energy grenades, shooting megawatt hammers (electricity rockets), and precise bolt sniping all consume energy. Cole has a limited supply of electricity for these powerful abilities, which are displayed by nodes at the top of the screen. As the meter diminishes, the super hero can recharge by moving next to anything that uses electricity and drain it of its power. The process is quick and painless, allowing for seamless replenishing of “juice” in the midst of combat. A click of the analog stick reveals every source of electricity surrounding Cole. This is one of the main reasons for restoring substations.
InFamous’ story is nothing but a framework for the ensuing carnage. The characters are one dimensional and leave a lot to be desired. Between Cole’s lady friend Trish, his faceless government contact, and a paranoid undercover agent, the cast of the game brings nothing new to the table. The boss characters of the game are few and far between, and the encounters with them are nothing memorable. The final boss battle is passable, but still a lackluster dodge and shoot affair. After said boss fight, the game presents the first real interesting development in the plot. The revelation may be profound, but the entire game could have benefited from bleeding out the twist earlier on to entice the player into playing attention.
InFamous is an incredibly empowering experience. Never has a game so closely emulated the experience of being a fledgling super hero. Blasting enemies into the air and surging electricity into them before they hit the ground is a one of a kind experience. If you’re interested in playing one of the most polished and original games of this year, don’t hesitate to play it as soon as you can. Don’t forget to plug your PlayStation 3 into a surge protector.
The game is decent looking, but the character models and environments aren’t anything completely unique. It gets extra points for terrific comic strip cutscenes and incredibly realistic looking electricity effects.
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This game does nearly everything right. For every one thing it struggles with, there are twenty things making you forget you even had a problem with the controls.
The voice acting is very generic, with Cole’s actor doing his best Christian Bale as Batman impression the entire time. The sound of zapping enemies never gets old, however.
This game contains two solid playthroughs worth of content, clocking in together at about 40 hours of gameplay. Add in finding all the hidden items and you’ve got one doozy of an action game!
The only thing really holding back inFamous from perfection is its story. Hopefully Sucker Punch will remove and polish up the games spark plugs before the inevitable sequel. This game is a buy.