InFamous Review: Shockingly Good!

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Platform(s): PlayStation 3infamous-cover
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Rating:T
Players: 1

Now that I’ve gotten the inevitable electricity pun out of the way early on (see: title), we can proceed with a serious discussion about the merits of InFamous for the PlayStation 3.  Developer Sucker Punch Productions is no stranger to platform games, but this time ’round they’ve taken a more mature approach than with their popular and critically acclaimed PlayStation 2 Sly Cooper series.  At it’s core, InFamous is an action/platformer super-hero game that combines RPG elements with intense 3rd person combat, all layered with a series of situations that tap into the player’s morality, similar to the Xbox’s Fable 1&2 games, or Bioware’s Knights of The Old Republic series.  Does InFamous live up to the hero that the PS3 so desperately needs, or does InFamous turn out to be another average game behind a shiny mask?

Story

InFamous opens where the main protagonist/delivery boy Cole, finds himself at ground zero for a cataclysmic event that forever changes the face of Empire City.  Over the coming days, Cole discovers that the explosion has changed something inside him, giving him the ability to harness the power of electricity.  Aided by his friend Zeke and pseudo-ex-girlfriend Trish (trust me, it’s complicated), the group finds themselves in a lawless city overrun with The Warriors-esque gangs that are wreaking havoc among Empire City’s 3 quarantined burroughs.  Initially Cole acts out of necessity in the chaotic environment but as his super-powers grow, he soon realizes he can leverage them to become a catalyst for change – whether for good or for bad.  The plot thickens with a dash of government conspiracy mixed with a hint of super-villiany and there are plenty of twists along the way to keep the player guessing throughout the course of the game.  As mentioned before, the game also incorporates a karma system, which gives the player options for moral decisions which are carried over into the story and affects the outcomes.  Overall, the story is well written and is presented well through in-game cutscenes and a series of comic-book style vignettes.

Gameplay

While the story of InFamous might be enough for some gamers, the gameplay is really where InFamous shines.  Cole moves with incredible fluidity and his animations while climbing about Empire City are top notch.  Moving through the dense urban environments is a joy and as the game progresses, Cole learns new abilities which help him traverse Empire City with ease by allowing him to grind on subway rails and telephone wires, or use his electricity to shoot out of his hands and glide safely down from rooftops (any physicists wanna tackle that one??).

Combat is varied from standard electricity infused melee attacks, to ranged electric bolts, chained lightning that propagates through conductive sources, electric grenades that stick to enemies and even a full-on electric storm with bolts of lightning!  The action is fast and furious (not 2 fast or 2 furious) and gives the player enough freedom to aim for “head shocks” while unlocking many of the games “stunts” for bonus experience points.  These points are then spent to increase Cole’s available arsenal or improving existing powers.  Also, depending on whether the player chooses to be good or evil will modify certain abilities behaviors.

The game itself is an open-world design consisting of 3 islands unlocked sequentially by completing the game’s main quest chain.  Additionally, there are plenty of side quests available where Cole will complete a variety of tasks for Empire City’s inhabitants to rid sections of the city from gang tyranny.  These missions include freeing groups of hostages, climbing on buildings to destroy surveillance devices and destroying water towers that have been contaminated with a plague.  While the main story missions tend to be the most rewarding, the side quests are very well done and for the most part are not repeated excessively.

Overall

InFamous is a sandbox style game that delivers a focused super-hero action game where the player feels in control of his own destiny.  The progression of the character really gives the player the sense of discovery as the game steadily unveils new powers and Empire City is the perfect playground to to use them in.  The story is compeling and full of twists and the developers are able to control the mood through set time-of-day lightning and a hollywood-quality score to accompany it.  The only real shortcomings of InFamous might be in that lack of depth as far as the variety or powers go, as they tend to be similiar in nature.  While the karma decisions are a welcome addition, in reality they really don’t allow much room for ambiguity in the player – the game is really designed for an all-or-nothing approach of specializing in either good or evil.  Regardless of whether you aspire to be infamous or a hero, there are 15 unique side quests for to help you commit to choosing a path and plenty of reason to play through the game twice.

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