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inFAMOUS Review

June 9, 2009

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inFamous was released on May 26, exclusively for the PS3. It was developed by Sucker Punch, famous for the Sly Cooper series, and represents their first current-gen product.

Players control Cole, an urban bike courier whose knowledge of the city’s topography allows for much of the urban exploration. Cole is awakened in the center of a huge crater. He then must run for safety, introducing the basic walking, running, jumping, and climbing abilities. Through the course of this he begins to discover strange new electrical abilities. The blast has led to chaos throughout the city, and a military quarantine has been issued. From there, the story unfolds…

So first things first, no game is fun if the character sucks. Countless games have intriguing premises, but the character, whether through abilities or through design/plot reasons, can be a turnoff. Fortunately that is not the case with inFamous. The design is a tad on the generic side, but he is supposed to be an everyman, so it makes sense, he just does not come across as iconic. The abilities however more than make up for it. There is something just electr- uh, exhilarating about the powers. While it is true, and to some degree a bit of a downer, that most of the powers act like common weapons, they tend to feel more visceral. You have a standard lightning filling the sidearm position, sticky electro grenades, a sniping mode, electro missiles, and so on. What is important is that these powers look, and feel like powers, not like the gun whose function they feel, there is sort of a thrill to using them, that is not provided by traditional firefighting. Add to this the fact that your powers can be used from any position, whether its standing on a car, hanging from a wire, grinding a wire, or clutching the side of a tall building. This lends itself to a lot more strategy, and thinking in the third dimension, than is typically offered in the shooters that the combat emulates.

Speaking of buildings, Empire City is full of them. What is great about them, is that Cole can climb them with fluid grace, putting similar climbing in other games to shame. There are some minor issues, for example, dropping down to the ground tends to be tedious, as Cole grabs any ledge he can, but that can be mostly avoided simply by jumping off the top. The city is broken into three islands, each complete with their own architecture styles. Additionally, the little things are there to flesh out the chaotic state the city is in, whether it is abandoned cars, ambient noises, or pedestrians dying and screaming, the city feels, not alive per se, as it is dying, but vital nonetheless.

Gameplay as briefly mentioned before is fairly fluid control wise. Most powers are easily accessible, however most require multiple buttons being pushed. This approach eliminates the for a clunky power menu. The story consists of a decent number of fairly varied missions, that take you over the three islands. In addition to this there are 50+ side quests, although they tend to be a bit more on the repetitive side. Completing quests, and killing enemies gives you exp towards upgrading your powers, and there are a couple different kind of collectibles hidden throughout the city to both increase your battery (power gauge, think like an MP bar in an RPG), and to flesh out the story some more.

The story of inFamous is told primarily through very stylized scenes, designed to look like comic book panels. I will not divulge any spoilers, but suffice to say there are several great twists, and some surprisingly emotional ones as well. One minor issue is that the story when playing as a hero makes more sense, than when playing as the anti-hero.

Ah yes, a morality system. Most games don’t use them that well, and frankly the implementation here felt a little stilted. The effects of your actions were certainly displayed well, with people looking up to you if you were a hero, and people trying to stone you if you were evil. Additionally evil players powers were a crackling red electricity and dealt more with causing the most damage over a wide area, whereas good powers are blueish electricity, and more focused. The problem was there was never any question whether an act was good or evil, there was no thinking to be done. Each time you have a choice it clearly explains which is which, taking away what could have been a great player moment.

Ultimately however, the game was great. I played all the way through as evil, and part way as a Hero, and still have more to find and unlock. I highly recommend this game, whether as a rental on a long break, or as a purchase, especially if you find yourself in the habit of revisiting and replaying games.
-The Big Man

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. thescapist permalink
    June 10, 2009 3:13 pm

    it really is a great game to kill some time. playing the evil side is kinda like just playing GTAIV :p

    anyway keep it up nice review

  2. thebigmanandgarrett permalink*
    June 10, 2009 3:23 pm

    Thanks for reading! Yeah, it’s definitely got some neat mechanics that set it apart from GTA IV control-wise, but I can see the comparison between being evil in inFAMOUS and just being normal in GTA. Haha. Hopefully The Big Man will continue his excellent reviews with Prototype next week 🙂

    -Garrett

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