There's a sort of new trend going on in the third-person genre, one that can be directly linked to the massive success of Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War. Resident Evil 4 introduced an over-the-shoulder camera perspective that did away with the typical third-person perspective for shooters, and years later Gears of War would go on to perfect the setup, creating a trend of games that would strive to achieve the same effect as Epic's game. InFamous, Sony's latest action title, follows this trend, but unlike others, it doesn't use guns.
We've got our preview build of the game some weeks back, and while its an early look into the game, it still gave us a proper impression of the gameplay, which is key. For starters, your main source of power as Cole McGrath is...well, yourself. After getting caught in a massive blast, Cole has slowly gained the ability to control the use electricity that flows through his body. It started out as being barely able to cast a spark, to generating massive shockwaves and withstanding massive jumps from buildings. And the more you play the game, the more powerful Cole will become in your control.
Because Cole was the only survivor of this explosion, an airwave hijacker who calls himself "The Voice of Survival" convinces the city that Cole is a terrorist, turning the population against him. And so this sets up a moral dilemma that you'll encounter throughout parts of the game with civilians. In the first mission, you will put your morality to the test after helping the city receive their supply of food. The test is simple: do you scare the civilians off and take the food for yourself and your buddy Zeke? Or do you let them have the food and wait for something else? Karma plays a major role in the game, and your actions will have an effect on your progression, which makes for a more dynamic experience.
The color of your energy blasts determine your karma level, red being evil, and blue being good. If you go down one path, you can always have a change of heart and take the righteous way, so you won't be forced to stay on the same course of action all throughout the game. We noticed that with different actions, the civilians reacted to Cole differently: if you're evil, they'd run away; if you're good they'd cheer you, give you things, and etc.
Now, as far as the action goes, InFamous plays a lot like other third-person games do, but instead of guns you're using powerful blasts of electricity. You can either shoot electricity using the over-the-shoulder camera, or send out powerful shockwaves that are strong enough to repel massive fireballs and various other attacks, for example. Your fighting style will also differ, depending on your karma level, with good and evil featuring two different styles: aggressive for evil, and defensive for good. But don't get that classification wrong, because Cole is damn powerful in either form, and you'll have anywhere in the neighborhood of 70 different powers at your disposal.
When battling enemies, gameplay felt straightforward, although fell short of feeling amazing. On the smaller enemies you'll primarily use your standard electrical attack, where as boss fights will require the combined use of a number of different powers. Scaling the buildings in the game felt nice, and jumping around Empire City while thousands of feet up is a lot of fun.
Visually, I'm going to refrain from making any final judgments here, as this build indicates some rather early and unfinished work. I will say that the the game world is large, and the framerate has been pretty solid. As far as all of the other details, you'll have to wait until I review the final game for that.
InFamous is going to his May 26th. The build I have in my hands is fairly early and so perhaps the final product will boast tighter action to make the experience feel more amazing. And seeing as how there are a number of bugs in this early preview build, I'd say that there's a good chance that most of the problems will be addressed in the final game. Stay posted, folks.
5/3/2009 Arnold Katayev