adrenaline's inFamous (PlayStation 3) review

inFamous

 This was a bit of a tough one to figure out. In some ways, inFamous was one of the must fun and addicting games I played all year. But it screwed up in too many ways for me to say I really loved it. Some of those flaws could be fixed with a few more months of polishing, while others are just fundamental issues I have with the whole experience. I will say that this is one of the few instances when the story actually docked points for me.

Before I talk about that, I'll go over the basics. inFamous is another open world game, but in this one you play a man who accidentally acquires electricity based super powers right before it begins. Sucker Punch is known for the slick-playing Sly series on the PS2, and that fluidity of movement and control carries over to inFamous star Cole MacGrath. He's probably the most fun to control of 2009's protagonists, as running through the city, climbing buildings, jumping from roof to roof, and even sliding along electrified rails and hovering are simple, intuitive, and fun things to do. Your main mode of fighting off the game's ridiculously numerous hordes of enemies is by hitting them with various powers that behave like you'd expect from a third person shooter, with different sorts of weaponry being replicated in electrified form. Things end up a lot more intense than in the standard shooter when you send out wave after wave of deadly electricity and face fire from every direction, but it's familiar enough that it's not too hard to get into. The system for unlocking and upgrading new powers works well enough, and it's satisfying to watch your strength grow even if you're only keeping up with the toughness of the enemies.

The structure of the game seems a little rote, with the same sequence of returning power to an area, unlocking side missions, seeing the next bit of the plot, and moving to the next place, but it's a pretty fun one to go through. I actually liked the optional tasks quite a bit. Side missions push enemies out the territory you find them in, and while it doesn't work perfectly because that would make returning to an earlier location pretty boring, it is a satisfying way to show your progress in righting what went wrong and made me do all of them. I could have done without the addition of hundreds of a collectible item to increase your supply of energy, but the dead drops that unlock bits of background information were interesting and fun to find since you can ping them on your radar. The main story missions themselves have the appropriate amount of dramatic height over the optional stuff, although a bit too often it would challenge you to do something and then basically say "Okay, now do that three more times." I will mention that this is one of the glitchiest games I've played this generation, which is surprising coming from this studio. There were occasional control issues where something wouldn't happen the way it should, and I frequently got stuck in the environment. It's okay if this happens once in a blue moon, but it was way too consistent to really be acceptable.

And that brings me to my main beef, the story. The game has the framework for an interesting long-term plot, and I hope the probably sequels (though I'd prefer a fourth Sly game) make good on that, but there are just things it does wrong that make me wonder if they were really paying attention to their own crap. Throughout the game you're given a bunch of ethical decisions to make, usually focusing on helping others at your own expense, or only worrying about your own hide. This plays into your powers, as these decisions contribute to your overall karma meter that determines what sort of upgrades you have access to. It mostly works fine, but there's a point where the whole system jumped the shark for me. I won't spoil details, but at one point, no matter what you choose, something unfortunate has to happen that couldn't possibly happen if you made the opposite choice, but it does either way. It's not a real decision, just a BS judgment of your character and it cheats. The game simply lost me there. It's not that there's anything wrong with the unavoidable plot event itself, I just hate that they pretended you could do anything about it. And the ending. Lord. It makes enough sense premise-wise and is suitably shocking! and dramatic! enough to close the game on, but the logical leaps it takes to establish basically everything about the entire situation are fairly ludicrous. Whatever. inFamous is a game that I loved at times and hated at others, and in the end it came out mostly on the positive end, though I don't know how much affection I'll have for it in the long run.

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