"Do I want them to love me...or fear me?"
"Do I want them to love me...or fear me?"
That quote and title up there represents a lot about what makes inFAMOUS, well inFAMOUS. It is an open world sandbox game by Sucker Punch Productions. Does that ring any bells? Hopefully you do recall something, as those guys at Sucker Punch developed the Sly Cooper games back on the PS2. So there is a bit of a pedigree going into this title.
inFAMOUS is the story of Cole McGrath, an ordinary joe who works as a bike messenger. One day he finds himself delivering a package to a random location in the middle of which turns out to be a bomb. After blowing up nearly half the city, Cole wakes up bruised and battered but seemingly alive with the ability to manipulate electricity. Sounds like your standard comic book origin, right? Well yes, inFAMOUS takes a lot of its style and story telling from comic books and does it especially well.
As you get more control of your powers, Cole runs into a slew of characters like Zeke, his best friend who's a conspiracy nut. There's also Trish, Cole's girlfriend who now hates him for seemingly blowing up the city and killing her sister, Moya a government agent who's willing to give Cole a one way ticket out of the hellhole that's left of if he does a few errands. That's only speaking of supporting characters, there's also several villains with equally surprising origins as Cole, the various gangs of : The Reapers, the Dust Men and the First Sons and a mysterious hooded man who may have all the answers. The story and the characters really surprised me, as I wasn't expecting a serious tale with several twists.
Moving along, is the main attraction of inFAMOUS. The city is composed of three islands connected by bridges and power lines. Each island looks different and has its own theme from the downtown Neon District to the harbor centered and finally to the aesthetically old Historic District. After the blast, the city is essentially falling apart. There's no electricity, barely any food or water and the darn place is quarantined due to a plague. So the citizens are anxiously waiting for help while gangs are looting and causing mayhem everywhere. The government isn't going to come and help so it's up to Cole to either help save the city with his new found powers or let it consume itself.
But how does Cole go about saving the city or doing whatever he wants? Well as I've said, the game is an open world sandbox title. Cole can traverse by literally climbing everything. As back story, it's said that Cole has a hobby of urban exploration, so he's well acquainted with the nuances of the various tunnels and building that are everywhere in Empire. The climbing controls and very fluid as Cole is automatically attracted to the nearest object you want to grab or land onto. So say you'd like to jump from a building to a lamp post on the street, all you'd have to do is jump off into the general location of the lamp post and Cole will definitely land there. Cole has access to his electrical powers, his standard ability being able to shoot short bursts of electricity. He's also able to grind on train tracks and power lines and even glide. The shooting controls work very much like other third person shooters, by holding L1 to aim and R1 to fire, similar to Uncharted. Even while climbing or grinding on rails, Cole can still access his powers. So the controls are very tightly woven together so you can do anything of your choosing with fluidity to boot.
Speaking of his electrical powers, Cole gains access to more as you progress through the game, by powering up sections of the city. He initially starts with a short burst of electricity and an electrical push move that seems like something out of Star Wars. He later gains access to other powers that are analog to various weapons found in shooters like grenades, rocket launchers, and snipers. He's also able to call down lightning from the sky, which actually uses the six-axis controls pretty well. Cole can also use his electrical abilities to act as defibrillator, to suck the bio-electricity out of an enemy or pedestrian or he can create electrical handcuffs to lock up enemies.
Those last three abilities work towards the karma system featured in the game. Cole starts off as neutral but can either by your choice become a Hero or an Anti-Hero/Villain through your actions. Healing a pedestrian nets you Good Karma while leeching off their bio-electricity nets you Evil karma. There's also “Karma moments”, where the game screen will change yellowish in tone while Cole thinks to himself whether he should do such and such good action or such and such bad action. Most of these are black and white but as the game progresses the decisions get a bit more difficult to make. There are several decisions near the end of the game that are quite surprising. These Karma points you get also net you experience, which can be used for upgrades for your powers. There's also Good and Evil exclusive upgrades and powers so your decisions really do affect how your game will be played. Good upgrade lean toward more precision based abilities to minimize the amount bystanders hurt from your actions when fighting with the various enemies. Evil upgrades on the other hand lean toward splash effect damage, since when you're evil you don't care about who gets hurt in your fights.
The game mission structure is much like every other open world game. Get to this point in the city, listen to what the mission is about, get to the mission location, etc. The story missions’ variety is quite large, from stopping armored buses from hurting civilians to stopping balloons from poisoning civilians with toxic gases. The side missions, boasted to be around in total one hundred, fifteen exclusive to the Good Karma side and fifteen exclusive to the Evil Karma side are also surprisingly varied for an open world game. Sometimes you're told to deliver some prisoners to a police station, you're told to stop some warring gangs and other times you're told to destroy surveillance camera surrounding a building.
I'm personally not much of a music buff, but I enjoyed the electronic and unconventional music used in the game. Acclaimed electronic artist Amon Tobin wrote and did several tracks for the game, so that's a major positive. The graphics are also very good for an open-world game, with very good textures and detailed building. Character models aren't anything especially to write home about but they do the job well for the most part.
The game also has a lot of replayability for a single player game. There are the obvious trophies to collect, but there are also the three hundred and fifty Blast shards which increase Cole's battery cores, essentially his ammo capacity. There's also the Dead Drops that give more back-story on the game's plot, and stunts which the player should try to go for to become more stylish in his or her combat. But the most important replayability option is playing the game again on the other side of the Karma spectrum. As of writing this review, I have only finished the good route which took me around twenty hours to complete. But there are plot changes and a different ending and trophies for both routes so the player is encouraged to do both.
There are a couple of problem with the game though. There's some pop-up and draw distance problems as you move around the city, Cole may go through objects he's standing on, and there's the occasional slow down in the very hectic battles with the gangs of Empire. Cutscenes that don't use the comic book style approach can be a bit jarring as the models are just not as good of a substitute. But all in all, none of these cons are detrimental to the experience.
When I first heard about inFAMOUS and saw footage of it, I was a bit disappointed. It didn't seem like anything I was used to seeing from Sucker Punch Productions, who worked on the excellent Sly Cooper games back on the PS2. It was gritty, the main character didn't seem appealing and I was a bit put off by open world games. But the more I read and watched of the game, the more entranced I was with it. When I finally got to play it, my opinions completely changed. The grittiness worked toward the games' aesthetic, Cole was an interesting and every-man type of a character which I have started to like a lot lately and the open world system worked very well. inFAMOUS completely blew my expectations away and I highly recommend it.