Are you ready to become inFamous?
Developed by famed studio, Sucker Punch, masterminds of the Sly Cooper franchise, inFamous is a PlayStation 3 exclusive open-world superhero game in the same vain as Activision's Spiderman series. The story follows the path of Cole, a courier in Empire City, who unwittingly finds himself delivering the most deadly of packages. The game opens after Cole's mysterious delivery goes horribly wrong, causing a huge explosion which tears the city apart, levelling 6 blocks completely. Somehow Cole survives the explosion and discovers to his surprise that he has developed powerful electrical abilities. With the city in ruins and cut off by the US government, Cole pledges to make amends for the disaster that he started.
Welcome to Empire City
inFamous' gorgeous opening cutscene makes a great first impression with it's stylised comic book visuals. Once you're in engine some of that sheen is lost, but the hyper-reality of the world remains instantly engaging. Unfortunately, as Sucker Punch themselves have admitted, the game engine clearly wasn't designed with PS3 architecture in mind. Many of the NPC character models lack detail and the odd low-res texture can look a little out of place. Secondary characters and enemies can sometimes appear a little stiff and robotic in the way they animate as well, especially during the occasional in-engine cutscenes.
Thankfully the special effects have enough of an impact that you often won't be paying too much attention to what's underneath. The electricity and lightening effects that Cole can create with his superpowers are really something to behold. They completely draw you into the fast-paced and frenetic combat. The blue and red of the electricity really stand out against the often grey background of Empire City. The city itself is teeming with pedestrians and enemies and is definitely one of the better realised open-worlds in recent gaming history.
Become the hero… or the antihero
Controlling Cole and navigating the massive city is an absolute joy. The basic movement and platforming mechanics lean heavily towards the style of Xbox 360 hit Crackdown, so don't expect to get away with holding down a couple of buttons, Assassin's Creed style. Right from the start you'll quickly be using ledges and pipes to scale tall buildings. Cole is much more agile than most other game characters and can even climb up flat surfaces, provided they're narrow enough for him to hold onto each side of them.
The major difference to other games of this style is in the way that inFamous approaches your character's abilities. Cole never holds a weapon as such; he relies on his electrical abilities instead. Powers include firing bolts of lightening, creating electrical storms and throwing "energy grenades," as well as many others. How his power develops depends entirely on your "karmic choices." Good actions give you points towards your heroic karma and negative actions give you points towards your inFamous karma. Many powers are only accessible to you if you reach a certain level of good or bad karma. You must also maintain that karmic level, or you will lose those powers again.
Karma has a few other effects as well. The more of a hero you are, the more the city's citizens will react positively to you, taking photos of you and ganging up on smaller groups of enemies to help you out. Of course they'll also expect you to go out of your way to help them more often. Become inFamous and pedestrians will throw rocks at you and run away in fear.
Unfortunately the major karmic choices in the game suffer from that classic videogame problem of being far too black and white. inFamous even flashes up on-screen warnings effectively saying "hey, do this if you want to take the good path, or maybe do it this way if you want to be inFamous!" Early on in the game you'll probably decide whether you are going to play good or bad, so you'll always know exactly which choice you're going to make in advance. There are no shades of grey to be found here.
The fight for Empire City
The combat in the game is very shooter like despite the uniqueness of Cole's powers. Basic moves use standard left trigger aim and right trigger shoot controls. When you've progressed a bit further you'll use the game's experience system to unlock a ton of powers which can be combined to great effect. Very quickly you'll learn how to "thunder drop" from tall buildings, use shockwaves to launch enemies into the air and then shoot them down with lightening. As you become more powerful the combat becomes hugely gratifying and spectacular just to watch. Try not to get caught up in staring at the explosions though because the enemies will keep coming thick and fast!
Missions are structured in the typical open-world way. You go to a checkpoint on your map to activate them and then follow the instructions given to you. The vast majority of the story missions are very entertaining and constantly apply your skills to different scenarios. There are a good number of side missions too, some of which contribute specifically to your good or bad karma. Completing a good side mission in an area of the city automatically locks out the evil version, further encouraging you to pick one style of play from the beginning. These missions also allow Cole to take back areas of Empire City from the gangs controlling them, in a mechanic very reminiscent of GTA: San Andreas.
There are several types of side mission such as removing surveillance equipment from friendly areas, escorting gangsters to police stations, collecting medical supplies for civilians and many others. Unfortunately certain types of side mission occur too often, leaving you wanting for something new to do. Each area of the city also requires you to do several missions to activate generators to restore power to that region. These sections always involve you jumping around in the sewers and this type of enclosed environment doesn't play to the game's strengths in the slightest. Thankfully they don't usually last too long.
A few too many technical flaws
For all its superb entertainment value and fast-paced action, inFamous certainly isn't without its frustrating bugs and glitches. There is some obvious environmental pop-in, as well as for traffic and pedestrians. The game also suffers from some clipping issues and noticeable framerate slowdown. Perhaps most annoying though is that on a couple of occasions I found myself falling through infinite empty space after executing a thunder drop from a tall building. Chances are you won't experience these rare issues, but they are definitely present and could do with a patch at some stage.
A wonderful adventure for PS3 owners
Despite its numerous flaws it cannot be denied that the core experience which inFamous provides is just plain fun. Anyone who enjoyed Crackdown will have a blast with this game and so will anyone else who's a fan of great platforming and free-flowing adventure games. It may leave a bit to be desired in a few areas, but you won't find a more entertaining gaming blockbuster released so far this year. Not only that, but as soon as you're done playing one way, you'll immediately want to go back and try the other karmic options so that you can see all of the superpowers available. inFamous has it's issues, but they never get in the way of it being a joy to play.