A Great Start for a Promising Franchise
Speaking of those shortcomings, I’ll run down the short list of problems that popped up during my playthrough to get them out of the way quickly.
- Perhaps my biggest complaint with the gameplay is the sidequests. Like Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect, inFamous suffers from some excessive recycling of sidequest content. There are a couple standard archetypes that show up a number of times and get pretty redundant as they keep popping up. My least favorites were the Counter-surveillance and prisoner escort quests for the simple reason that those 2 types take the most time and they’re boring. The other sidequest models, for the most part, can be completed quickly which helps to make them bearable since you start and finish them so fast.
- From a technical standpoint, inFamous is lacking some polish. Especially on uneven terrain Cole will sometimes get stuck in a position or the controls will react as though the camera is in one fixed position no matter where you move it. The character models aside from Cole look a little funky and they animated unnaturally during conversation scenes in the in-game engine. Thankfully those scenes are fairly infrequent and problems with the camera are usually fixed by moving to more level terrain and jumping around a bit.
- Finally, and I admit that others may not feel as strongly about this as I, in the beginning the storyline isn’t very engaging. While it is functional enough to get the game moving and introduce characters, it took a while for the plot to ramp up and grab my attention. Once it picks up the pace, though, inFamous delivers a twist-filled story that made up for its early deficiencies with one of the best finales in recent memory.
- OK, I lied; that last point wasn’t the final one. This one is: I HATE ZEKE. I don’t feel like I can or need to elaborate any further on that, but you’ll see what I mean.
Now that those are out of the way, what does inFamous do correctly?
Pretty much everything else. The controls, Cole’s powers, the comic panel style story scenes, and Cole’s voiceovers all blend together to create one of the most fun games available on any of the current consoles.
Of all those things inFamous does so well, the controls are the real standout. It’s immediately apparent that Sucker Punch spent a great deal of time fine-tuning the movement and combat control schemes until they had them just perfect. All that attention paid off because inFamous plays better than virtually all predecessors in the action genre. Cole handles tightly but not so much that directing and targeting become touchy; there’s still a looseness to the control schemes that lets you execute what you want to do when you want to, whether it’s running, climbing, hiding, grinding, recharging, or targeting.
Switching from your normal movement actions to the over-the-shoulder combat targeting is as easy as holding down the L1 button, and this is when the game gets really fun. Combat moves fast in inFamous and to cope with the speed Cole never slows down while aiming and each of the many powers are mapped to a combination of L1 and a face or shoulder button, making it really quick and smooth to switch between powers to better suit the situation.
Being able to smoothly transition between powers and shoot from any position is vital to survival in inFamous not only because you’ll be fighting large groups of enemies coming from different directions and elevations, but also because each of Cole’s powers is useful to neutralize different enemy types. Creativity in using and combing Cole’s powers is also rewarded by the experience system as you can earn bonuses for chaining together specific powers or using them on the environment to take down enemies.
Cole’s powers are electric versions of your standard action game weapons and each fills a niche that will come in handy at some point during combat. I don’t want to spoil all the different powers and upgrades you get, but believe me that the upgrades of each power are all really well thought out and never feel bland or useless.
The comic book style still panels used for most of the important story scenes are also very impressive. The art is stylized and slick with great color palettes that perfectly compliment the tone and atmosphere of inFamous. As the game reached the climax and events started happening rapidly, Cole’s monologues during the still panels convey a lot of emotion and succeeded in bringing me into the story more and more. A lot of credit goes to Jason Cottle, the man growling Cole’s lines, for his performance. He provides a lot of depth in places where the game may otherwise have fallen a little flat. He also sells the moral choice scenes very well, making it so they don't seem contrived and flow well with the quests.
Everything considered, inFamous is a remarkable start for a franchise and sets the stage well for future installments. There is a lot of Cole’s story left to tell and Sucker Punch has an amazing opportunity to establish a premier gaming franchise if they, like BioWare with Mass Effect and UbiSoft with Assassin’s Creed, listen to the complaints of the fans and polish the presentation and fix some of the bugs that occur more frequently while adding to Cole’s arsenal.