Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony Entertainment of America
HDTV – 720p
Required HDD Space – 1.7GB
DTS Digital Surround
Prior to the final release, I kept my exposure to any information on Sony's PS3 exclusive game inFamous to a bare minimum. I didn't want to ruin the story, nor did I want any expectations to influence my time with it when I finally got a chance to play it. Sony has touted this game from day one as an open world adventure that is worth playing on their now present day console. Developed by Sucker Punch, the initial selling points to inFamous were that it would have an interesting story, an innovative morality system, and an environment that allows you to go anywhere. A game like this was not only anticipated, but somewhat needed to give Sony diehards a reason to tout their console of choice once again. Well I have finally have had a chance to play the final retail version of the game, and although it may not be the "be all that ends all" of videogames currently offered on any console to date, I have to say that inFamous is definitely a solid title anyone should have a lot of fun playing.
Visually speaking inFamous is a solid looking game. The first thing that caught my eye was how its’ story is told. The narrative is communicated via stylish cutscenes that are best explained as being out of a comic book. There are some various story elements that are played out using the in-game graphic engine, but it is the aforementioned comic book like scenes that really steal the show when telling the captivating story of inFamous. Each point where these were presented really made me pay attention. The style, colour and flare offered in each scene managed to jump off the screen. It is my humble opinion that a lot of work most likely went into this aspect, and I have to say that it really does pay off as it not only adds to how the game is visually presented but it also adds to how the story is told.
Your main character, Cole, is the star here and he moves as good as he should. He is nicely detailed and just as nicely animated as he runs, leaps, climbs, punches, and uses his special abilities in fine fashion. I was pretty amazed how well he moves given how much you can do in this game. The first time I jumped off a high building only to land down below with my ‘Thunder Drop’ was a sight I fully enjoyed. I knew that after this scene that the game was going to be a looker, and in many ways it is.
Of course given the setting and story, the use of special effects is to be expected, and those that were implemented made for an even better looking game. From the lighting effects to the explosions, everything is well presented and as solid as I could have hoped. This is extremely noticeable the first time you head into the sewers of Empire City. The lightning bolts that you fire at your enemies lights up the area just right. There are still shadowy and dark areas, but the lightning you shoot lights up the areas perfectly. This small, but yet very effective effect is yet another sign that Sucker Punch took the time to craft their art.
The setting for inFamous is well presented too. The city that you are free to explore is quite large and diverse. There are lots of different looking buildings and areas for you to venture across, over, and even under. From the streets of Empire City to the sewers down below, everything has a polished and somewhat lifelike look to it. There is a lot for you to destroy too. From parked cars to the radio towers high above the streets, there is more destructibility then I had imagined. That being said, you cannot destroy the buildings you climb up and over.
If there is any downer in the visuals it comes down to two things. The first is that the scenery in the distance is quite blurry and there is some occasional texture or scenery pop-up as you move from building to building. You have to realize that this game does not have any loading screens so this may be due to level ‘loading on the fly’. The other noticeable, but not particularly frequent, thing is that you will find that Cole will walk through or land inside solid items (e.g. railings or specific features of a building). This did not happen as often as other games of this nature, but it did still raise its nasty head now and then. Overall these two issues are not a deal breaker, but they are just something you might notice now and then. At the end of the day I was very happy with the on-screen visuals that were found in inFamous.
The overall sound package in inFamous compliments all the other aspects offered in the game. The soundtrack is great and it manages to amp up, or calm down, at just the right times furthering the impact that the various scenes and gameplay segments offer. As for the sound effects, all that makes the world of Empire City come to life is strongly reproduced. From the sound of innocent bystanders screaming as they are attacked by gangs to the sounds of lightning bolts hitting their targets or explosions going off, everything manages to bring the world of inFamous alive.
Given that the game is story driven, there is a lot of voice work in the game. There are a lot of characters you will come across and the game’s plot progresses along quite nicely. I found that the characters voice work did not feel forced and that it added to the presentation of the story offered. Cole’s voice in particular did a great job of making you feel like he knew he was in a bad situation and that he believed the current state of Empire City was his fault. I was also amazed how the NPC’s commented during the game. From hurling insults my way for their belief I was the originator of their negative state, to the cheers I earned as I began to clean up the city from all the gangs, there was nary a quiet moment to be found. Kudos to Sucker Punch for putting the all this work into the voice acting. They could have copped out and went text only, or something similar, but they stood up and made sure the voices in the game added to a great gaming experience.
For those lucky enough to be playing inFamous in a nicely equipped media room or home theatre, the sound is in 7.1 surround sound. When I took the game home and slipped it into my personal PS3 I was amazed to see all eight speaker indicators (left and right front, center, left and right surrounds, left and right rears, subwoofer) on my home theatre receiver light up. You are truly enveloped in the games audio if you have this kind of set up, but don’t fret, the game still sounds darn good no matter how you listen to it.
Given how much the story plays a part when you play inFamous, I think it would be prudent to speak about this aspect of the game prior to getting into anything else. The story that is offered up is as interesting as the gameplay. The game throws you right into the middle of the story without any introduction to what lead up to the events that you are about to become a major part of. You are treated to a title screen with a bicycle sitting against a fence in a quiet city neighbourhood. Once you hit start to commence your initial play you are treated to a brief scene of an explosion in the distance which grows to enormous proportions and eventually destroys the area where the title screen is. Oh yeah, this explosion also kills many, many people.
The gameplay commences right after this opening scene. Here you take on the role of Cole, an innocent bicycle courier whose delivery package is the source of the explosion you just witnessed. You awake in a crater that is found somewhere in Empire City. This city has been decimated by the blast. This introductory level is an in-game tutorial where you learn the basics of the third person control set-up and you also learn that your body is now much different then before the explosion. The tutorial level also allows us the game to further the plotline as Empire City is now quarantined as there is an outbreak of an unknown plague and total social chaos that must be contained by the government.
An interesting turning point with the story is that when you wake up in the middle of the crater, and you make your way to the end of the tutorial level, you eventually discover you have the ability to shoot lighting from your hands. As the game progresses you discover that not only do you have quite the control over your new lightening based powers, but you are now capable of scaling surfaces, jumping off of tall buildings, and taking a lot of damage in battle. You are a superhero so to speak. It is up to you how you want to use these powers and this leads me the most interesting facet of the game, the morality system known as Karma Moments.
InFamous employs a morality system throughout the game where you will be tasked to choose one of two avenues during key points with the game. The first such choice is one where the government has dropped food into Archer Square, a park in the middle of the opening level. Here you can choose to save the food for you and your friends which would result in you have to shoot lighting at the citizens of Empire City. On the other hand you can share it with all those who have come seeking nourishment and do no harm to them. By weighing the pros and cons of each decision you affect your moral rating which is represented by a meter in the upper left hand side of your HUD. By being a 'good guy' and choosing the positive decisions with good karma you will eventually climb the ranks to 'hero' status. By choosing the negative decisions which result in bad karma you will fall down the meter to the ranks of InFamous. It is up to you which path you will take, and deciding on which way you go will actually affect your gameplay experience. This can be in the form of the storyline, how NPC's react to you, powers available, particular side missions, and even the color of the lightning you control (blue lightning represents the good karma while red represents bad karma). You will discover that many of the decisions you make are not simple good versus evil as some seem to intertwine with each other causing you some difficulty in making a choice. I found that the decisions I had to choose actually made the game more enjoyable in the long run. Besides, making one set of choices will give you a reason to play through the game again but choosing those avenues that you ignored before.
Something that I really enjoyed during my time playing the game was the varying missions. There are story missions and side missions that are strewn throughout the city. They are easy to distinguish as blue are the story missions and yellow are the side missions. The side missions focus on taking back the city whereas the story missions focus on the narrative the game presents. These missions all vary somewhat too, from simple exploration or combat to plaforming or escorting of people. You will find that there is a pretty wide range of things to do during your gameplay experience. As you make your way through the various missions you will power up Cole’s abilities via experience points you earn for killing baddies or completing missions. As they the powers level up they make the later missions even more enjoyable as your new powers add new dynamics to what you have to do. As I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, what path you take (good or evil) will affect some of the missions you have access too. So make sure that if you want to be good, or if you want to be evil, that this is the path you wish to follow as you will lock yourself out from some of the missions available.
So far you have heard me rave about the story, presentation and the Karma system, but what about the environments and control. Although there is a hiccup or two I have to say that most of this is done just as well as the rest of the game. Empire City is broken up into three main islands. As you progress through the game you will open up more of Empire City, and more of the enemies that exist. Cole runs at a pretty good clip from the get-go, but in order to cover more ground you are able to scale pretty much any surface in the game. So you can climb up, around, and all over most buildings and structures in the city. Sucker Punch has fine tuned this ability so well that you can focus on exploring the environments without worrying if you can grab on to a specific ledge, pole, or even electrical wire as you make your way from building to building. As with most of your powers, as you make your way deeper into the game you will open up more ways to traverse across the landscape such as gliding and grinding on railroad tracks. If there is any thing that hampers this experience it is that sometimes you can grab onto too much and you may find Cole grabbing onto a ledge or railing when you don’t want too.
Along with the control of navigating the rooftops of Empire City, there is also the combat to consider. You are given some base powers at the start, but as the game continues and you increase the abilities you will eventually pull off some pretty cool moves during battle. The aiming is pretty much bang on and the fluid control using the analog sticks makes for a pleasing experience, even using the PS3 controller, something I know most readers have come to understand is a sticking point with me. Regardless of my bias though I was happy with how the game controlled from bouncing about the tops of buildings to fighting all the enemies that I came across.
Gameplay length will vary from 25-35 hours your first time through and will depend on such things as your skill level, the number of missions you do (e.g. side versus story) and how much of the city you wish to explore. In terms of replay, there is a lot to do here. Along with the various missions you will find that there are other things to keep you busy. You can search for 350 blast shards which help you build up your electrical charge meter. You can also search for a specific number of hidden satellite dishes that each contains a recorded transmission which helps tell even more of the story. You can even attempt to pull of a set number of ‘stunts’ which are each different and require more and more complex moves. Finally, you can play through the game a second time but by taking the opposite Karma path then you did the first time you went through the game. All in all you’ll find yourself playing inFamous a lot more then you might expect.
There is no multiplayer experience, and I honestly don’t think that inFamous would have benefitted from such. The game’s story and gameplay elements really do lend itself more to the single player experience more then any multiplayer one, be it cooperative or adversarial. I believe that trying to play this game with more then one player in any mode would have been a less then satisfying experience.
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