Infamous

infamous
9.5 Overall Score

Excellent pacing | Blends best of run-and-gun action, free-roaming exploration and fleet-footed platforming into a seamless, exhilarating experience | Captures look and feel of a true comic book hero origin story

Sorry Magneto, but magnetism is a terrible superpower | Some minor graphical glitches | Some repetitive side missions

Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS takes the stale superhero story and makes it fresh again, borrowing a little Spider-Man here, a little Punisher there, and a little Wolverine to garnish a super powered origin story all its own. In everyday bike messenger Cole McGrath, who wakes up in the middle of a burning crater with lightning coursing through his veins, the Sly Cooper developers have created the perfect conduit for players to act out their superhero fantasies, freed from the constraints of established comic book continuity. You can become the city’s savior, freeing it from the gangs, disease and chaos that have been unleashed in the blast, or subjugator, bringing it to its knees with your devastating new abilities. Either way, the choice is entirely yours. This freedom is perhaps the best power in the game. The ability to leap, grind and glide around a sprawling urban cityscape, doling out your ever evolving god-like powers as you see fit, makes up for inFAMOUS’ occasional gameplay and graphical glitches and heavy-handed storytelling. Sucker Punch has infused their first high-def offering with enough plot twists, epic battles and super powers to keep you engaged to the very end, and still leave you wanting more.

 

The game starts with Cole delivering a mysterious package to the heart of Empire City, where it promptly explodes in his hands, killing thousands of people, leveling several square blocks, and leaving him in a coma. He awakens to find that gangs rule the streets, a plague is making people sick and the government has quarantined the city, ensuring that no one enters or leaves under penalty of a merciless wall of machine gun fire. But on the plus side, he can shoot lightning from his fingertips. So begins Cole’s origin story, one rooted firmly in comic book clichés, where the world is seen in morally monochromatic hues. Almost every mission in inFAMOUS gives you a choice between good and evil, without much use for the shades between. Sure, you could let the hungry take the emergency provisions here and use a group of innocent civilians as human shields there, but it doesn’t really pay to walk the middle of the moral road, as the evolution of Cole’s powers are directly tied to the decisions he makes.

The moment you press start, you need to decide which side of the fence you fall on to get the most out of your powers, as the best abilities are reserved for once you reach one end of the spectrum. At the “Hero” level, Cole’s lighting bolt power will restore his health and electrify nearby enemies, completely bypassing innocent civilians. At the “Infamous” level, that same power will create major destruction, causing an electric explosion that harms both enemies and innocents. Every action is tracked on a six-part morality gauge, converting every innocent you revive and every enemy you drain into a point on your sliding scale of karma. During certain major moral crossroads, the action will pause and Cole will reflect on his choices, audibly weighing the pros and the cons of each. These “Karma Moments” tend to be heavy-handed, laughably obvious in their predilection for heroics or villainy, but they shape everything about the game. Good Cole looks clean and healthy while Bad Cole looks dirty and pale. Good Cole shoots blue electricity while Bad Cole wields red lightning. Good Cole is cheered and photographed by the grateful citizenry while Bad Cole is jeered and stoned (not the good kind). Even the city itself is affected by your choices, appearing cleaner and brighter or sinking ever deeper into depression and anarchy.

 

There is no such thing as neutrality in the world of inFAMOUS, a point driven home by how much the two types of play styles vary. The game makers did a great job of slowly handing out powers, pulling you deeper into the story before enabling you to unlock more powerful abilities catering either toward control and precision, for Good Cole, or chaos and destruction, for Bad Cole. You are continuously gaining new powers throughout the game, though they come with a caveat – working toward overload burst, a power awarded only to good players, means denying arc lightning, awarded only to evil players. There’s a constant sense of give and take, a constant temptation to alter your chosen course to obtain a specific power or ability that eloquently and effortlessly mirrors the game’s thematic core, the question of not just how you will use power, but to what lengths you will go to obtain it. InFAMOUS works these questions into every mission, of which there are many. Exploration, tracking, platforming, protection, and escorting missions are all represented, on top of copious amounts of straight up combat.

Empire City is composed of three islands, which by the end of the game you’ll be free to roam, like a giant parkour playground. Cole moves a lot like Sucker Punch’s thieving raccoon, Sly Cooper, latching on to windows, scampering across ledges, grinding along telephone lines and gliding over rooftops with ease. Going up, the platforming feels ultra tight, as Cole suctions to the nearest handhold and uses it to springboard himself higher, but going down can be a major pain. Being a human magnet is great when you’re racing across rooftops, but not so great when you’re aiming for a specific location. Cole will sometimes simply spin around in mid air, hypnotized by a nearby ledge, rail or pole. In addition to the minor platforming issues, inFAMOUS also suffers from some minor graphical glitches in the form of jaggies, pop-in textures and collision detection issues, meaning our humble hero is prone to fall through walls, walk through railings and other solid objects. But overall inFAMOUS looks good and plays great, making up for what it lack in beauty with ingenious exploration and exciting combat.

 

You have the living lightning, but the bad guys have high-powered sniper rifles, rocket launchers and armored vehicles, not to mention strength in numbers. As you earn experience points, upgrading your abilities, your enemies will also get faster and stronger. It makes the game more challenging and the story more compelling. Sure, it might be disappointing for those hoping to become an invincible über badass, but the gradual ramp in difficulty is the perfect counterpoint to the pacing of the story and evolution of the character. You may hold the power of life and death in your hands, but you’re still just a man. You will die. You will die many times. Thankfully this never becomes too frustrating thanks to a forgiving checkpoint system that picks up almost exactly where you forcibly left off. Add a solid targeting system, generous cover mechanic and plenty of structures perfect for strategic positioning and the action remains thrilling without ever becoming infuriating.

InFAMOUS starts with a literal bang and just gets better from there, thanks to the steady pacing of abilities, missions and powerful plot twists. Unlike most open world games, which only provide a skeleton of a tale on which to tack cool guns and cars, the narrative of inFAMOUS plays out in sprawling comic book fashion. Forced early on into the service of Moya, an FBI handler who tasks you with finding her missing secret agent hubby and procuring the Ray Sphere, the very device that gave you your powers and reduced the surrounding neighborhood to smoldering ash, you find yourself digging deeper not only into your powers, but your so-called friends and enemies. You’ll get a sidekick in the form of Zeke, your portly, pompadour-sporting best friend, a love interest, Trish, and a host of baddies on which to unleash your ever-evolving powers. There are plenty of twists and turns, accentuated by gorgeously animated graphic novel cut scenes, as the story barrels toward its surprising conclusion. Aside from one of the characters performing a personality 360 three-fourths of the way through the game, the narrative does a great job of keeping you immersed and interested in the characters, their problems and their struggles. In addition to the main story missions, there are also 84 districts to be freed from gang rule, 350 blast shards to collect, 32 audio recordings to discover, and 21 stunts to perform, rounding out the larger story. Some mission types end up feeling repetitive, specifically the missions that have you clear a building of listening devices, but there’s enough variety and flexibility to keep you coming back even after the credits have rolled.

InFAMOUS gives the cape and cowl crowd a reason to look over their shoulders, it’s blend of electrically-charged powers, interesting missions, exhilarating combat and engaging narrative making it worthy enough to stand alongside its comic book brethren. Sucker Punch has captured the beauty and the burden of finding yourself suddenly in possession of superpowers, and the tough choices that come with using those superpowers. They’ve done more than just set you loose in a massive urban playground, combining the excellent controls and abilities with an exciting, engaging story that constantly asks you whether you’ll use your powers for good or evil, turning what could have been just another shallow sandbox game into an ethically-charged opera.

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Author: Kristen Spencer View all posts by

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