Shock, Then Awe
InFAMOUS; a game which has challenged my perceptions over the course of a 20 hour romp through the streets of a city plagued by gangs, plagues, and a general lack of back up generators. My experience with the game started out leaving my comfortable gaming chair in search of a sandwhich would would keep me company during the mandatory loading process that Sony games have become fond of. Upon my return, I found myself sitting on top of a mound with bulidings falling down all around me. The grainy image was, at first, difficult to get used to. Whether from the massive explosion of electricity or the terminal of an overworked game designer, my first experience with the graphics in the game were a bit disjaunting. Sound effects were barely audible as I tried to stumble my way through a building which was in the process of collapsing. By the time I reached the end of the introduction I was confused, hard of sight, and generally wondering why I couldn't hear the dialogue from the characters.
But first impressions can be deceiving. Upon being briefly introduced to the story and waking up on top of a renovated city rooftop, the game slowly began to even out. The static haze from the first opening moments of the game gave way to a skybox of neon signs, cars roaming the streets, electirc powerlines, and gun shots in the distance. After getting used to the haze of graphics gamers are presented with in the beginning, the game begins to take a shift for the better. Cole, the main character of the game, has a detailed character model that moves fluidly as one takes advantage of the various numbers of powers at his disposal. While there is a small degree of textures popping in, these problems are easily excusible for the variety of scenery in the game, as different locales sport various themes. The role of electricity is made readily apparent as zones without it are relegated to a murky shade of grey as the main character's head begins to spin. By the end of the game, the innitial poor showing of the graphics is readily excusible.
Once the introduction to the game is completed, you're given control of the main character. Cole is a bike messengar who inadvertantly set off an explosion which caused the city to dissolve into chaos. People are getting sick, gangs are fighting for power, and the average man is having problems finding medical supplies. Inside this chaos, the player is allowed to make the choice to play the archfiend or the saint as he tears through the gangs of this metropolis. Through the use of his powers, Cole slowly begins restoring power to the city, restoring a relative peace depending on the side one choses, and is involved in a number of different hardships. The characters in the game evolve at a rapid pace as friends potentially become enemies, loved ones act differently towards you, and evil villians make surprise decisions. By the end of the game, the confusing introduction I had was more than answerd, and the plot unfolded wonderfully.
As an extension of the plot and various moral choices, the player is allowed to have access to a wide variety of powers. If one becomes evil, they are allowed to use spells which have huge destructive capacity. If one becomes good, they are able to stun enemies and capture them alive, while minimizing collateral damage. The spells in the game range from attacks which affect a wide area, ability to launch grenades and rockets, and the ability to move objects around. Attacks in the game feel like an odd combination of attacks you may recognize from any number of different franchises. However, the ability to combine all of these attacks in various ways is extremely satisfying. Using these attacks, the player engages in a number of different side missions which range from destroying armored cars, returning bad guys to the police station, escorting people across town, taking down surveillance systems, and many more. The wide variety of side quests in the game is probably one of the primary strengths of InFAMOUS. Most sandbox games liike this usually have repetative missions.
While taking advantage of the plethora of content in the game, players will inevitably come across various tidbits of backstory. This backstory is voiced by a wide range of actors which add a great deal of believability to the environment. Cole's voice actor also does a good job of establishing the would-be-hero as a gruff, impulsive person. The music in the game also does a good job of establishing the ambience. Evil characters sound evil, good characters sound helpless, and pedestrians are decidedly meek. The quality of the music and voice acting in the game goes a long way in establishing InFAMOUS's sound design.
Despite InFAMOUS's strengths, there are a few problems which keep the game from getting a perfect score. Before I go into these problems, it is important to note that the game is an open world adventure game, and these types of games are prone to small bugs. With that said, InFAMOUS is home to a number of bugs which may frustrate the average gamer. Sometimes the character model will get stuck on the environment and flop around violently, sometimes the sound will fade out making it hard to hear, and other times the game may freeze. While these issues are minor to some, it is definitely a problem which needs to be pointed out. These minor problems, while not game breaking, may serve to dissuade some people from buying it.
With all that said, InFAMOUS is clearly a game which grows on you the more you play. The confusing plot and muddled graphics evolve into a great story and beautiful landscape. The character's abilities make for an entertaining romp through a city plagued with problems. Sidequests are varied, the sound design is adequate, and the game is generally extremely fun to play. Minor bugs may turn some players of to the game, but overall it is well worth the price tag. Clocking in at 20 hours for the average gamer, InFAMOUS is a game anyone remotely interested in sandbox action games should.