Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: 3rd person open-world action/adventure game (sandbox)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Hours Played: 35
Game Progress: Finished main story and all side quests
Sucker Punch, the developers best known for the Sly Cooper series on the Playstation 2, bring us an open world, super-hero epic, exclusively for the Playstation 3. inFamous combines elements of Crackdown, Assassins Creed and Spiderman: Web of Shadows and bundles it into one of the best Playstation 3 games this year.
The game sees you taking the role of Cole; a courier who is charged with delivering a seemingly plain looking bag somewhere within the fictional metropolis of Empire City. The bag turns out to contain a highly potent, electronic, explosive device referred to as the “Ray Sphere”, which detonates while in Cole’s possession. The explosion levels a large part of one of the city’s three, island-based burrows, and imbues our protagonist with electrical super-powers. The effects of the explosion cause people to become sick, in some cases turning them into violent and uncontrollable degenerates. The government quickly acts and quarantines the city, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves as Empire City rapidly falls into chaos. This is where it’s time for you to step in, with your newfound powers you can choose to save the city from the various gangs that have sprung up and restore order, or to completely annihilate the city and let nothing stand in your way.
inFamous’ story is well written; the early stages of the game focus on Cole slowly coming to terms with his powers and the role he is to assume as the saviour or tyrant of the city. Cole’s close friend Zeke is there to provide comical relief at first but eventually adds dramatic elements to the game’s story. The rest of the supporting cast is made up of Trish; Cole’s estranged girlfriend and Moia; a female FBI agent who enlists Cole’s help to prevent the US government from destroying the city for fear of spreading its disease. The main villain of the game is a man named Kesller with electrical powers similar to Cole’s. Kessler has established an organization which invented the Ray Sphere and threatens much more than just the city limits of Empire City. Other baddies involved in his evil plot are the elderly, telekinetic Alden and a young girl named Sasha, who has mind controlling power. Story elements consist of in game segments as well as static cut scenes with a hand drawn, comic-inspired art style. While not overly intrusive, the story is engrossing enough to keep the player motivated to progress, while the excellent voice acting brings the presentation up to a solid calibre.
The in-game graphics are very impressive, the game world, which consists of three distinct parts, is quite large and the draw distance is stunning. There is hardly any pop-in and very little fogging; most of the city can be seen from any rooftop, including cars and passersby at street level. Empire City is nicely populated with vehicles and citizens everywhere. The scripts used to run the behaviour of the city’s populace is fairly limited, but not any worse than we’ve seen in other sandbox-style games. Between the trees, newspaper stands, benches, bus stops and so on, the level of detail at street level is not bad, texture work is very solid with sharp looking textures and the special effects, generated mostly by Cole’s powers, look great. It is a shame that you’re unable to enter any of the buildings in the game, as it makes the city’s many structures seem no more than simple set pieces. By dividing the city into three distinct parts, the developers attempted to create some diversity in the scenery, but if truth be told; the architecture and texture work between the different burrows are very similar and could’ve done with more colour and variety. The frame rate is usually good, especially considering the draw distance and number of citizens and enemies that can be on screen at the same time. There are times however, when the framerate dips, and on three occasions the game froze on me altogether, requiring a hard reset of the console, overall though, inFamous makes for a fitting display of the Playstation 3’s power.
To round off the solid presentation package, the sound effects and music in the game are great. Unfortunately the music usually doesn’t kick-in until certain events or story elements are triggered, meaning that if you’re simply exploring the city, the game can be a little quiet, when the music does kick in, it’s great; with a nice balance of atmospheric tones and fully orchestral scores. Voice acting is of an incredible calibre, especially the voice work for the game’s main character: Cole McGrath, whose voice is convincing and powerful if a little guttural. Sound effects are great as well, especially the city’s ambient noises and the electrical crackling of Cole’s powers.
The use of your super-powers is a huge source of entertainment and excitement in the game. During the course of the main story your arsenal of electric powers will increase as you delve further into the different parts of Empire City. You start out with a simple lightning bolt fired from your hands, but will soon be able to throw electric grenades that stick to enemies, zoom in to perform lethal head shots, perform earthshaking slams, fire waves of energy that send enemies flying and much more. The progression of how you receive your powers is nicely balanced: by completing quests in the main story line you’re sent to different underground locations that open up new powers. These powers can then be further upgraded by spending experience which you gain from completing quests and defeating enemies. Usually the unlocking of new powers goes along with the unlocking of new areas or missions that require you to use these new skills, thus encouraging you to utilize your full arsenal. The control scheme is fairly intuitive with the left trigger button being used for aiming, and the right trigger button for shooting lightning bolts. The face buttons are mainly used for triggering your other powers such as grenades and explosive bolts. Using your powers requires energy, which can be replenished by draining any source of electricity nearby. A bar at the left side of the screen shows your energy level, this bar can be increased by finding “blast shards”, which are pieces of the exploded Ray Sphere. These shards are scattered all over the city and finding them provides a fun and exhaustive side quest that encourages exploration of the entire city. There’s a lot to be said for increasing your energy bar, as using your powers is incredibly fun and effective. Going from pushing back enemies and cars with a shockwave and then making them explode with an explosive blast is fluid and very satisfying. This is just one of many examples of how you can kick some serious butt playing inFamous.
inFamous is an open world, sandbox-style game, which encourages freedom of exploration. Right from the start Cole is able to scale any object or building; the game will prompt Cole to automatically grab any source of footing when near to it. Pressing the jump button allows you to quickly move up the side of the building as your super-powered protagonist will systematically grab hold of the next source of footing. The developers have imbued the main character with a type of “stickiness” that makes it less likely to miss structures and objects while jumping around the city. All of this makes Cole incredibly nimble and seemingly able to go anywhere, not unlike Altair from Assassins Creed. [Ed. note: sometimes it's hard to get down buildings as you find yourself incrementally "sticking" to their sides by grabbing onto them when you actually want to fall.]
Certain missions as well as interactions with your enemies and the citizens of Empire City can be divided into good or bad. These actions are tracked on your karma gauge, which is divided into three good ranks and three evil ranks. The powers you can use are dependent on whether you have good or evil karma. Most objective related decisions are fairly cut and dry, such as “am I going to help this poor citizen out and hope to get a reward?” or “do I let the gang members have their fun and take the guy’s stash after they leave?”. The same is true for interactions with the people of Empire City, you can heal them by giving them a small electrical charge, or you can kill them by draining their life force. Enemies can likewise be drained, or humanely kept alive by binding them to the ground. Replay value is enhanced by not being able to experience all the powers and plot consequences with just one play through.
The best things about inFamous are intangible in the shape of the fluid and well-balanced gameplay. Sucker Punch has done a marvellous job of making getting around the city easy and enjoyable. You’ll be able to grind power lines (and railroad tracks too), which are placed in such a way that you can jump from rooftop to rooftop speedily and without much effort. The same is true for climbing buildings and other structures. You’ll never be at a loss for ledges or sources of footing to grab onto when scaling the city’s many buildings. The game’s difficulty is also nicely balanced; objectives and enemies become more difficult as the player progresses, which is aptly demonstrated by how many more shots it takes to eliminate an enemy in Empire city’s third burrow, versus enemies in the one where you start out; something we don’t see as much in sandbox-style games. Including the optional side missions, there are a lot of quests to complete and when taking all the hidden blast shards into consideration, there is a lot of gameplay for PS3 owners to sink their teeth into.
inFamous is a great experience with a large game world to explore, fun powers and solid graphics. The gameplay is incredibly smooth and fluid with an engrossing story line. It’s a must-have title for any PS3 owners who love action/adventure games and an essential part of your gaming library.
+ Nice scale, there is a lot to explore in Empire City
+ Great draw distance, little fogging or pop-in.
- Texture and architectural variety can be a bit lacking, occasional frame rate hiccups
+ The score and sound effects are great
+ Very good voice work
- In-game music can be sparse
+ Nicely balanced and satisfying gameplay
+ Great selection of powers
- Shame you can’t enter any of the game’s buildings
+ Large number of quests
+ Exploration is fun and encouraged (blast shards)
+ Possibility to play as hero and villain enhances replayability
- No multiplayer