Infamous, the PS3 exclusive, open world action title from Sucker Punch, was an extremely anticipated title during its journey towards release. It had a lot on offer, but its primary goal was to allow players to take on the role of an ordinary person who suddenly gains super powers, which will either be used to save what is left - or destroy it all.
- Worth The Time?Yes, it's fantastic.
- Things LovedThe amazing story, the game feels like a comic book during its cutscenes, the great graphics and fantastic visual effects, the powers are really fun and enjoyable to use.
- Things HatedThe sandbox elements are lacking, you don't really feel like you're in a living city, the Karma system isn't well thought out, platforming can become a bit of a chore in the latter stages of the game.
- RecommendationMost PS3 gamers should give this game a go especially for its story alone. Otherwise, for the casuals, comic book fans and sandbox lovers, you can't really go wrong with Infamous.
- Name: Infamous
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PS3 Exclusive
- Developer: Sucker Punch
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R500
- Reviewed On: PS3
Infamous puts players in the role of Cole, a bike messenger and former urban explorer living in Empire City. At the beginning of the game, a package Cole is delivering suddenly explodes in his hands, completely annihilating everyone and everything within the massive blast radius except for Cole, who gained electrical super powers. The game starts fourteen days after the bomb where the city is under quarantine and, with no help from the outside, everything deteriorated into a gang war, between the three rival gangs in the three city districts. The whole feel is similar to your comic book super hero theme with Cole having great responsibility as a result of his powers. However, Cole must decide to use his powers in order to be the saviour or destroyer of Empire City.
The problem is that soon after the blast and gang takeover, everybody blames Cole for the explosion. Quite naturally, the rest of the city turns against him and even his girlfriend, Trish, leaves him after discovering that he was responsible for the death of her sister, Amy. The only person left standing at Cole’s side is his best friend, Zeke. This signifies the beginning of Cole’s adventure as he balances between the good and evil of making amends for what he’s done or giving into his own wants and needs and letting his new-found powers take control.
The story is told using graphic novel cutscenes that really add to the whole comic super hero feel. The story is interesting for the most part, but unfortunately it’s not particularly well told. The game often takes for granted that you’re doing the side quests to get more background information and the result is that the cutscenes tend to summarise more than explain. So if you’re not following carefully you’ll probably end up confused as to how everything gets to where it is. However, on the contrary, the graphic novel cutscenes themselves are excellently done, to the point that the story will often be your driving force to continue playing. The characters in the game are quite realistic and interesting all the way through which really makes the story seem much more authentic than a comic book. The voice acting is good, the artwork is attractive and the plot is engaging. The one flaw, however, with the characters is that Cole himself is never really explained, so he doesn’t always fit the “everyman” role and, on another point, his voice actor is a little too gruff for when you’re being a hero. Overall though the story is an interesting premise to the game and keeps you more or less hooked until the end.
Taking inspiration from Assassin’s Creed, Empire City is designed in a way that any building or object that looks climbable will definitely be just that. And since Cole used to be an urban explorer he is very skilled when it comes to climbing and scaling buildings which means the city pretty much becomes his to traverse across. Infamous has some fun and unique parkour exploration mechanics due to the design of the city, as well as the powers Cole will gain access to during the game. Unfortunately, Infamous only gives you those powers later on, so for the most part the platforming can come across as quite a chore early in the game. Even once you’ve gotten those powers, you’ll still find yourself wishing now and again that you had a faster method of travel because the platforming isn’t always as speedy as you’ll usually want in a sandbox game. All in all, though, the platforming is enjoyable, but the above flaws just can’t be ignored during the course of the game.
At the core Infamous is an open world game, but it comes across as surprising that the combat actually plays out like a third person shooter, with the different powers basically coming down to different guns. There are a variety of electrical-based powers that Cole will be able to use throughout the game. The powers are given at set points in the game and thereafter the player will have to use accumulated experience points, from missions, battles, stunt challenges and such, to upgrade them. Holding down the L1 button puts you in the over-the-shoulder aiming mode where you then gain access to the majority of your powers by using the face buttons. The catch is that using powers will drain Cole’s electric energy, so you’ll have to be aware of your surroundings in order to recharge your power by draining energy from nearby electrical sources. This is made more convenient with Cole having the ability to detect all electrical sources in the area by pressing the left analogue stick, where doing so will briefly highlight all sources both on-screen and on the map. Draining electricity also restores Cole’s health, which is a much better option than waiting for the slow auto-regeneration system to kick in.
The powers are enjoyable to use, and also differ in their attributes depending on whether you’re following the path of a hero or villain. Being evil brings heavily destructive results with the powers, while the heroic path gives access to safer, defensive and more controlled powers. For example, the Shock Grenade ability, an early power in the game, allows the player to hurl an electrical ball that detonates shortly after impact. The evil version turns it into a cluster grenade, splitting the single ball into many which largely increases the scale of destruction, while the good version generates a controlled blast that shackles enemies to the ground.
From the word go you’ll pretty much be free to do as you please, from taking on story missions and side quests, to exploring the city for collectibles and enemies to fry. From the outset Infamous looks to be equipped with all the goods to be had in an open world game, but unfortunately the sandbox element is severely lacking. For starters, while Empire City itself has a great atmosphere and fits the theme of the game nicely, the people in it feel lifeless. For instance, if you’re going down the evil route, you’ll often be blasting away at everything that moves. However the crowd hardly seems to give any reaction at all even when you’re directing your hatred at them. You could be electrocuting someone to death while others just stand there and spectate. This is reinforced by the fact that the city has no penalty system for your crimes, (such as the wanted level in GTA) which means that you get no reaction from the city, ultimately giving you no sadistic satisfaction for creating crowd chaos. It does seem like the crowd only start to react to you once you’re at the highest alignment rank, either Hero or Infamous, but even then their involvement is hardly noticeable. I admit that the first time I saw a civilian run up to me and snap a picture or beg me to heal a friend (when I was good) I was quite impressed, but when you’ve seen and heard these limited examples for the hundredth time, it just loses its appeal.
The actual gameplay itself consists more or less of traveling to point A to begin a mission and then proceeding to blast your way through said mission, stopping every now and again to refill your energy meter and health by draining electricity from a nearby source. This might sound like a repetitive formula, but somehow inFamous manages to remain fun and entertaining throughout the duration of the game. Perhaps it’s due to the power progression or satisfaction and enjoyment of actually using the powers, but inFamous is a game that doesn’t easily lose its fun-factor. Another contribution to this is that the controls are very responsive, easy to master and frustration-free which makes playing the game a lot easier. As I mentioned earlier, the powers are indeed fun to use, but unfortunately most of them just come down to different ways of blowing things up. Coupled together with the rather empty enemy AI (which I will get to later) and the combat pretty much has no strategy. Basically every single enemy, including bosses, are beaten by repeated lightning spam, and nothing else, which doesn’t make the most use of the sandbox environment.
One of the biggest selling points to inFamous is the “Karma” system, a device located at the top left of the screen, that constantly monitors your good and evil deeds and choices throughout the game. Fry a couple of people and you’ll shift a little to the dark side, but lend a hand to a fallen civilian and you’ll get the opposite effect. The main choices are basically given at set story points in the game, where the outcomes will influence your Karma meter, ultimately gearing the game towards one of two possible endings. The plus side is that the game lays out the choices clearly, by means of Cole’s narration, so you’ll always know exactly which option will influence your Karma meter and how. The choices themselves are interesting and realistic but that’s unfortunately where it ends. The large problem is that being good or bad has hardly any effect on the story, because all of the outcomes remain the same. There are slight changes here and there, more commonly in a few pieces of dialogue, but the end results are near identical. This leaves you with the feeling that the Karma system is more of a gimmick in the whole experience and, therefore, there isn’t much reason to play the game a second time for both endings. It’s a nice addition to the game, but it could have been implemented a lot better.
inFamous has really great visuals, probably some of the best seen in an open world game so far. The city and environments are nicely detailed in all areas and it’s easy to say that the graphics and design does well to capture the dark, broody theme in the game. The most impressive area of the visuals, however, is definitely the electricity physics, which are excellently done, both in their sound and looks. A lot of effort was put into making the electricity as realistic as possible, and it definitely shows. From metal surfaces working as conductors, to Cole being unable to touch water without damaging himself, or to him being only able to drain electricity from a charged source – it’s all right there in the game. The powers are awesome to look at and create very pleasing results, especially when you’re blowing things up with shock grenades or hurling cars and people into the air with a shockwave. It’s impressive how much action can happen on-screen at once without the game suffering from slowdown and framerate drops. The unfortunate part is that the game suffers from a list of other technical issues, such as various graphical glitches and bugs that range from physics and animation glitches to the rare, but harsh, crash bugs and collision detection problems. The enemy AI also fits under the list of issues as the enemies seemingly have no brains or method of attack. They’ll simply stand there and repeatedly shoot at you with rigged accuracy or resort to grenade spam, moving themselves in random directions, sometimes even killing their own allies with explosives, which results in the game lacking any form of challenge, even on the hardest difficulty.
In conclusion, while inFamous doesn’t bring anything entirely new to the table, it certainly comes through as an enjoyable experience. The best part of the game is the compelling story backed up by the fun gameplay, if nothing else. It’s unlikely that this title will go down in the history books, but it’s most definitely a worthy addition to the PS3’s library of exclusives and one I’d recommend any PS3 owner to give a try. It’s not perfect, but it provides more than enough action and thrills to see it through to the end.