inFamous (PS3)

In honour of inFamous being one of the PSN North American ‘Welcome Back’ game options, and with inFamous 2 just a few weeks away, I figured doing a review for it here would be a good idea. Enjoy!

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to manipulate electricity in a demolished American city quarantined off by the government? Well, inFamous gives you a pretty good sampling of that. You get to see the ups, and to a lesser extent downs, of being the above.

The Basics

inFamous takes place following a massive electrical explosion. This explosion is caused by a device that you, Cole McGrath, are hired to deliver to the Historic District, one of the game’s three regions. You wake up 2 weeks later, on a rooftop where you and your best friend Zeke are living. What follows is a very comic book style hero origin story. You can decide to be either good or evil, a decision that doesn’t impact the overall story at all, but changes the side missions, the details of how the story unfolds, the final ending of the game, and most importantly your powers. To not spoil the game too much, suffice it to say that the story will surprise you at several twists, and the motivation to go on is rather expertly done within the game, regardless of how you choose to play it. None of the details feel tacked on and the story is very interesting, but if you’re not into comic book style stories, you probably won’t like it too much. Even the game’s cutscenes feel that influence, being told in a beautiful animated comic-book style which really helps to tell the story without running into the trap of ‘realistic vs stylized’ that a lot of games run into in their movies and cutscenes.

As you progress through the game, you find yourself alternating between powered and unpowered areas of the game, as you work to turn the city’s power back on. This is relevent because you have a finite amount of power for most of your abilities, and one of your only ways to recharge is by draining objects tied to the city’s power grid, an act that also has the benefit of healing you of damage you’ve taken. So in unpowered areas, you’re pretty vulnerable, which really adds to the challenge.

Good vs Infamous

The game gives you just enough power at the start to make you feel strong and it only grows from there. The games powers are just varied enough that nothing feels ripped off, and the infamous/good special abilities both feel really suitable. When you’re playing as good, your abilities become more focused, accurate, and more likely to capture than kill. From your shockwave suspending people in the air allowing for precision shots to your lightning healing you, you become a superhero able to save pedestrians, defeat people without killing them, and take prisoners easily. When you choose to be infamous(evil), however, you becoming a wrecking ball destroying everything in your path. Your explosions have huge area effect, your shockwave causes things to explode, and even your regular shots start causing explosions by the end.

The really awesome thing about good vs infamous is the way the environment changes around you. If you’re good, people will start calling your name and cheering for you, they’ll assist you in killing enemies somewhat, and they’ll start putting heroic posters of you all over the place. And there’s something truly rewarding about running around healing people, even if it is such a simple little action. If you choose to be infamous, however, the people will start throwing stones at you, calling you a villain, and the posters are all red and gloomy. You also start getting a white complexion and start looking evil. This all lends to making it feel almost like two separate games. Which, by the way, the game is certainly still fun the second time through if you pick the other path.

The two problems I see with the moral system are as follows:

1) The game punishes you if you try to follow the middle path. If you want to become powerful you either have to be good or bad, not in between.

2) Some of the story is a little weird if you play it through on both sides. If you only played it through one way, it doesn’t feel so bad, but on the second time through, some of the story feels like a cop out. I won’t go into many examples here, but trust me on this, on the second play through(I did good first and infamous second), a lot of my decisions made it feel like I didn’t really have a choice and that it didn’t matter one way or the other.

Overall though, the moral system works beautifully and lets you feel like either a real hero or a selfish anti-hero. Without making either path inherently easier or harder than the other.

Controlling Cole

Here’s one of the best parts of the game: The controls are intuitive, fun, flexible, and easy to get the hang of. That doesn’t mean the game is easy however, the game can be punishingly difficult at parts. Luckily the quicksave/waypoint design prevents the difficulty from becoming frustrating. You get the satisfaction of beating your head against a wall without having to replace controllers and fix holes in the wall where you threw them!

Starting out, moving around the city feels very intuitive. Navigating the city feels seemless, with wellplaced powerlines to run on, buildings just the perfect height to jump between, and pipes/sills/holds laid out perfectly for climbing buildings. The city is a masterpiece, and because of that, it makes navigation a joy. Combat feels fairly intuitive as well, with your abilities all being accessible. This allows you to create your own playstyle, to choose powers that are more suitable to your personal playstyle. Meaning even besides just being good or infamous, the game will never play the same in the hands of two different people and this allows you to feel as though your ‘Cole’ is really unique to you. Which upgrades you pick, which abilities you primarily use, how you approach situations… all add up to make the game feel unique to you. Also, you get extra experience points for being creative in how you beat enemies. From gaining experience points for knocking people off buildings, to headshots on enemies that are falling and killing people using environmental explosions… it encourages you to be creative so you can improve your abilities more quickly.

Last thoughts

The game does a lot of things right. The controls are intuitive, the difficulty is punishing but not frustrating, the graphics are impressive, the story is fun and easy to follow, but still twists enough to keep you guessing. But its not a perfect game.

So here I’m gonna give you a quick run through of the very minor flaws this game has.

It feels a little ‘herded’ and linear at times. The controls are good, but a few of the abilities are a bit tough to aim and judge the impact. As mentioned above, some parts of the game seem a little poorly planned when you do them from both ‘sides’. The story really doesn’t change at all when you take it from good to infamous. And last but not least, it doesn’t seem to innovate all that much. Nearly everything done here can be seen in other games, to some extent. Not necessarily as well done, but done nonetheless.

However, all in all, this is an exceptionnal game, and if you’re at all into third person shooters, action rpgs, or open world adventure games… this is a must play. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I highly highly recommend using one of your two ‘free game downloads’ on Tuesday when the PSN comes back up to get your hands on this fantastic game.

Pros:

  1. Controls are intuitive and easy to use.
  2. Navigation of the city is an absolute joy.
  3. Graphics and sound are great, one of the best looking and sounding early-ps3 games.
  4. The story is clever, unique, and well written; with an unbelievable twist at the end.
  5. The voice acting is really well done.
  6. Pacing of your abilities is handled incredibly well, with you feeling incredibly powerful at the end, but still having enough strength to have fun with at the start.
  7. Moral system works very well on a personal level – your powers truly feel suited to your choices and the environmental aspects are awesome.
  8. Difficulty level is just about perfect, punishing yet not frustrating.

Cons

  1. The moral system doesn’t effect the story much – leaving choices feeling a little hollow if you play the game all the way through.
  2. Some aspects of the story feel a little herded.
  3. Some of the abilities can be hard to gauge in actual combat.
  4. Not much in the way of innovation, even given when it came out.

 

Review written by: Sean

Comments are closed.