Sucker Punch has made a name for themselves as the developer of Sony's Sly Cooper franchise. So when we got wind that they were going in a whole other direction with inFamous, we were curious. Making up the massive list of all new I.P.s for Sony, inFamous is a fairly unique title, albeit one that mixes elements from other games.
By now, you're well aware that there's a 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, follows this trend, but unlike others, it doesn't use guns.
When I played the preview build of inFamous back in March, I genuinely had fun with it. While certain parts did leave me feeling a lack of amazement, I chalked it up to it just being an issue of the early build. As I mentioned already, 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. But there is a little catch to being good and evil. You see, each side has a set of unique powers and abilities that you can purchase using your experience points. And many of those abilities will feature enhancements, but will require you to have achieved a certain Karmic state.
Now, to delve more into the action, 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, send out powerful shockwaves that are strong enough to repel massive fireballs and various other attacks, for example, among other attacks, melee included. 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 the standard enemies, gameplay feels straightforward, although for some odd reason is just 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, which makes them more interesting. I honestly can't quite put my finger on what makes fighting the enemies feel a little bit hollow, because I do enjoy zapping a horde of Reapers, as I'll often go out of my way to hunt packs of them. Maybe it's a slight lack of feedback? Because when I'm really far from an enemy I can't always tell when I've successfully hit him, or when I've missed.
My small quibble aside, I noticed that there is a solid amount of strategy required behind every fight I engage in. Seeing as how enemies are never alone, jumping into a crowd of them is never a good idea and will result in death. Instead, you'll have to utilize your ability to scale the environment and use leverage as your advantage. But don't think for one second that the A.I. is dumb, because most of them actually hang out on roof tops, as well, so when you're climbing a building, make sure it's taller than the ones they're on. Furthermore, use the environment to your advantage, so if you see an enemy nearby a car shoot the car until it explodes. And if you see an enemy hiding behind a machine gun turret mounted on a truck, shoot to blow the truck up. I really have to give Sucker Punch credit with the A.I., they're extremely smart.
Gameplay is definitely solid here, as the game mixes elements of Grand Theft Auto with elements from other third-person shooters. The game world is huge, and scaling buildings is a ton of fun, especially when you're jumping from one to the next. Mission variety is good too, and the game has a tendency to really suck you in for hours. I do feel like the controls could've been a bit tighter, and the feedback in action could also be a bit more pronounced. Other than that, this is a very fine playing game.
Visually, inFamous is a good looking game with a large playground to explore, but it isn't the most gorgeous title out there. For starters, character detail is a bit weak in some spots, as you'll notice even the main characters sport sloppy textures, diminishing their level of quality. On the other hand, as I've already said, the game world is huge, and seeing as how there is barely a sign of any pop-up or draw-in and the fact that the engine is rendering everything so seamlessly is impressive. There are some framerate hiccups occasionally, but they aren't very common and almost never get in the way of the game. Lastly, texture detail is nice, but again, not great considering the size of the game. What I do find very impressive is how interactive the world is, and how virtually everything around you has a purpose of some sort - be it something you can grab while you're climbing a building, or an electrical object that can recharge Cole's power.
Voice acting is heavy in the game, as you'd expect, and thankfully, it's pretty good. The voiceover for Cole has a deep and gruff voice which suits the character, even if he does sound a bit like Solid Snake. There isn't any blaring music (although there is a decent soundtrack), so what you hear in the game is the sound of a community. Sound effects are pretty solid, as explosions, crashes, and other sounds that go 'boom' sound terrific. Although I must complain about the slightly muffled cut-scene audio, as the voice acting sounds noticeably different between in-game and the game's comic book-esque cut-scenes.
All in all, inFamous is well worth the wait and well worth your cash. It's yet another fantastic exclusive to add to Sony's never ending list, and it's also yet another great action game to add to yours. inFamous plays extremely well, and has an unusually fun character to it, on top of an addictive one. It boasts a massive game world that you can scale fully and interact with extensively, on top of a game engine that makes it all happen with minimal issues. You've waited for a while now, and you should be happy to know this is a great game.
5/22/2009 Arnold Katayev