Friday, August 7, 2009

inFamous (PS3) Review

I think this a record on SuperPhillip Central, four new reviews in the span of one week. Phew! I think I've deserved a break from reviews for a little bit. Here's my review of the Playstation 3 game, inFamous.

A Game That Will Live in inFamy

Since Grand Theft Auto III, the open-world sandbox game has become increasingly popular with everything from rip-offs like Saints Row, True Crime, and Godfather to superhero games like Spider-man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. Going along with the theme of superheroes, Sucker Punch, developers of the magnificent Sly Cooper trilogy from the Playstation 2 era have put aside the cel-shading, thieving raccoons, and cartoon visuals and traded them in for the gritty expanses of Empire City. Will inFamous charge its way into your heart, or will it shock you with its mediocrity?

You take on the role of Cole MacGrath, a delivery man of sorts whose last package delivered was unknowingly and actually a bomb that destroyed a six block radius in the heart of Empire City. Now the entire city is under strict quarantine, mad men have taken over the city, and Cole now has the power to wield and harness electricity. All in a day's work as a delivery man for sure. There's a supporting cast of friends and foes from the ever-annoying and in-the-way best friend of Cole, Zeke, to a former girlfriend who is infuriated with Cole for causing the explosion that killed her sister, to a secret agent who is seemingly Cole's only way out of Empire City, that is, if he does what he's told. Everything sounds like something out of a comic book along with Cole's origin, and it makes sense that the in-game cinematics are told in a graphic novel-like approach.

Still-frame comic book cut-scenes tell the story.

Empire City is split up among three islands that gradually open up for Cole to explore as the game progresses. There's the Neon District where the Reaper gang calls home, the harbor-filled and maximum security prison-housing Warren full of the Dust Men gang, and the old, dilapidated confines of the Historic District where the First Sons reign. The developers did a great job of giving each island its own flavor and ambiance.

After the explosion, Empire City fell to pieces. Gangs rule with an iron fist and firepower to match, and the power grid is all f'ed up. There's thirty-nine story missions in all to complete, and several of them task Cole with going deep into the subterranean depths to turn the power back on. These sewer levels feel very much like Sucker Punch's previous franchise, Sly Cooper. You're shimmying from pipes, leaping from pole to pole, balancing off pipes, and other acrobatic feats in a linear level. As Cole supplies the energy to power an area's substation, part of Empire City regains their electricity, and Cole learns a new move to boot!

Cole enters the sewers to turn on the power.

Cole's arsenal of electrical powers is small at first, but as he ventures down into the deep dark depths of the sewers he learns new moves. Cole can push enemies off of buildings with his shockwave power, toss explosive electrical grenades at foes, grind on rails like Tony Hawk, call forth lightning bolts from the heavens, hover slowly to the ground with his shock thrusters, and zap baddies with a fury of electrical shocks. If Cole takes damage or runs out of juice, he can siphon energy off numerous objects in the city from traffic lights to transformers on rooftops. The game feels like a third-person shooter at times with you holding down the L1 button aim while using the face and shoulder buttons to utilize Cole's various powers.

From downtown! Score!

In order to get around, the game feels very much like the Xbox 360's Crackdown except for the fact that Cole can't drive cars-- he'd short circuit them and blow himself to Hell. Instead, Cole is equipped with heightened mobility. He can traverse across power lines, scale tall buildings, and climb almost everything in the city. Sucker Punch did an admirable job of making sure a player could ascend any building or structure without too many headaches. There's something to grab ahold of and scale seemingly everywhere and on everything.

The structure of the game has you running, climbing, grinding, etc. to a mission point, you listen to the objective of the mission, run to the point or points to complete it, and unlock the next mission to start the process all over again. One of the problems with inFamous is that sometimes it becomes time-consuming to go from point A to point B, especially if the objectives are spread out across multiple islands. As stated, there's thirty-nine individual missions that advance the story, and they range from your typical escort missions to taking down a swarm of enemies to protecting a vehicle or base from damage to blowing jet fighters out of the skies. There's also a bounty of side missions that open up for Cole to accomplish. Once completed, sections of the city will lose gang activity and be free to explore without getting a cap blown in Cole's butt. There's a wide variety of varying side missions to complete, and these can put Cole in charge of saving hostages, taking down an enemy, tracking down a hidden package, protecting a police station, destroying signal jammers, racing across rooftops, and you get the idea of the amount of different missions Cole can take up. inFamous thankfully uses frequent in-mission checkpoints, so dying rarely has you redoing a large section of a mission all over again unlike some games. *Ahem* Grand Theft Auto IV. *Ahem*

Cole can even attack while perched on a pole.

inFamous gives the player a choice of morality. Multiple missions give Cole the choice between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing. One of the earliest missions tasks Cole with hoarding a shipment of air dropped food to himself and his friends by scaring everyone else away or to give everyone their fair share. These morality moments alter Cole's appearance as well as several cut-scenes throughout the game. Cole can act as a hero, a savior to Empire City, or he can become a villain with cold, gravestone gray skin and the fear of the people. It's worth it just to play through the game twice just to see the subtle differences between being good and being infamous. In addition to that, completing all of the side missions, collecting all audio diaries (dead drops), and tracking down all 350 hidden blast shards-- ammo-increasing items-- will stretch the longevity of the game in spades.

inFamous looks very good running on the Playstation 3. There's some graphical glitches here and there such as texture pop-in as well as pop-in in general, but that's to be expected from a game the scope of Empire City. Character models are adequate, and buildings and their architecture are wonderful. The music is quite good though not very memorable, and the voice acting does an adequate job of advancing the story without coming across as corny.

Empire City: Will you save it or forsake it?

inFamous borrows some concepts from Sucker Punch's previous Sly Cooper games and puts them into an open-world sandbox game. There's plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to explore. Wandering around Empire City aimlessly is a joy to just zap random pedestrians or scale the tallest buildings just to glide off of them. With numerous story and side missions, a decent story with plenty of twists, and the ability to play through the game twice with two different karma ratings, inFamous is a terrific new franchise from a studio that shows it knows what it's doing.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

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