Open-world games have been something of a mixed bunch quality wise over the past decade. From Radical Entertainment’s decent to good attempts with The Simpsons games and Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, to the finally decent superhero experience of Treyarch’s Spiderman 2 (and whatever the hell Spiderman 3 was), these wide open playground games have been mostly hit or miss. Cue the entrance of Sucker Punch’s newest hero/anti-hero experience inFamous, a gaming experience that makes past attempts at the genre look like indie games.
- Press Start
inFamous starts you off in a fairly original fashion. No start menus or flashy cinematics come up after you put the disk in, as it creates a new save file automatically if it is your first time playing. It simply shows a first-person view of a peaceful park in the middle of what looks like a major city. Birds are chirping, people are talking and walking by. All is right with the world. Then you press start. A massive explosion is heard far away and the lights instantly go out, leaving an ethereal blue glow in the distance as the only light source. People begin to freak out and scream. Electricity starts crackling as the person whose head you’re attached to looks toward the source of the sound. A massive bubble of electrical fury is slowly consuming the city miles away. It keeps getting bigger. The view switches to that of a reporter in a helicopter, who proceeds to let a bus thrown in the air by the explosion destroy his ride. The screen goes black.
If that doesn’t get your mind filling with questions I don’t know what will, and that’s only the first 20 seconds of the game. What follows is an epic tale of an average Joe delivery boy/ Urban Explorer (Parkourist) who develops amazing powers and must decide what to do with them; powers you get to help him use and decisions you must help him make.
- The Story – 5/5
The tale begin with the protagonist, a gruff voiced man in his 20′s named Cole McGrath, waking up in the middle of the epicenter of the explosion which destroyed a chunk of Empire City. This massive city spanning three islands is where inFamous takes place, and has been quarantined by the government due to the outbreak of a plague which happened conveniently right after the explosion. As is Sucker Punch’s custom, having made the Sly Cooper series, games known for their engrossing storylines and humor, inFamous’s story is very well done. It is told mostly through a series of detailed and creative comic-style cinematics and through the characters’ interactions. The characters in inFamous are interesting and well created, with the morality system changing how interactions go. It also feels like Empire City is a character in the story as well, as it changes as you rid the streets of crime by either fear or an evil-purging crusade. The setting of inFamous is a desolate one, as Empire City has fallen into a state of unregulated chaos. Cops are dead, criminals run loose, and the government does nothing but make food drops.
Unfortunately, he story happens basically the same way no matter what choices you make, with changes happening mostly to the cinematics rather than the events themselves. Regardless, inFamous has one of the most twisted stories I’ve ever seen in a game, with the ending leaving most people gaping at their TVs. Without spoiling too much, I will say it’s a story that must be experienced.
Being an open-world sandbox game, the moment the game drops you in the Neon District of Empire City you are free to go wherever and do whatever you wish. There are many side missions, story missions, and little events that help you decide your morality. In terms of controls, inFamous plays very well. It takes a third person perspective for exploring and holding L1 will pull the camera over Cole’s shoulder to fire lightning, and other things you acquire as the game progresses. By the end of the game, Cole gets so powered up that the rage of Mother Nature herself is at his disposal.
As mentioned before, morality is a HUGE element in inFamous, as the entire game is built around you choosing to be good, evil, or neutral. Everything from making main story choices, deciding the fate of your enemies, and helping out citizens affects how the world perceives you and how your abilities work. That aspect of the morality system really mixes up the gameplay, as your abilities can either be more destructive or more energy conserving, and a few abilities are just plain different. Add in the change of Cole’s appearance and lightning color based on morality and you get a morality system polished to a sheen that really makes the game. Now obviously, being neutral isn’t very exciting, but then again that’s likely not how most people will play it.
Since Cole apparently explored Empire City Assassin’s Creed style in his downtime, he is very agile and can climb any building and perform many acrobatics. Even regular melee attacks are fancied up with flips and the like, with a hint of electrical kick. The climbing mechanics work very well with the odd exception that the game will pull Cole towards objects he can grab in midair to make climbing easier, making it seem like those electrical powers did a little something extra for him gravity wise. This also plays into the ability obtaining aspect of inFamous. You must explore the sewers of Empire City to personally jump start the power for sections of the city so Cole can survive. This jump start moment when Cole is in contact with the electricity of an entire city sector grants him a new ability each time which get more and more awesome as the game goes on.
Fighting enemies, which you will be doing quite often unless you’re a chicken, is fluid and works very well. Cole can fire lightning bolts during any action, be it climbing a wall or pole, hanging from a ledge, or just jumping. Cole can also dodge very acrobatically, which is very useful since you will be dodging a lot since some of the super powered enemies in the city can really cause some havoc. Once you reach the third island of Empire City, the enemies almost become individual threats rather than threats in groups. In terms of difficulty, inFamous can get pretty rough on hard, but most casual people should be fine on normal.
- Graphics: 4/5
inFamous is a PS3 exclusive, and because of that, Sucker Punch didn’t have to spend time dealing with the problems multi-platform developing brings with it. This has created a game with one of the most highly detailed main characters to date. Now, having said that, Empire City can be just plain dull. The graphics are by no means bad, but the overall color palette, main characters and villains excluded, is very grey and uninspiring. For such a lively city, and Empire city is quite lively (citizens constantly ask you for aid and interact with you), it is a shame the look of the city is anything but. Now this is likely due to putting so much attention on Cole and the look of his abilities, which by the way are some of the best details on a character model that I have yet to see, but still a nicer looking city would have been nice. Having said that, the powers look insanely awesome, and the animations are spot on.
- Music: 5/5
inFamous wasn’t gifted with a sweeping orchestral soundtrack. Rather, it was gifted an interesting hybrid of real instruments with “everyday object music” created by electronic musician Amon Tobin alongside composers James Dooley, Mel Wesson, and electric violinist Martin Tillman. Instead of using traditional instruments, the team used sounds created by objects found in an urban environment and played real instruments with the everyday noises to create a unique sound. From bungee cords to trash can lids, Tobin went nuts with inFamous’s soundtrack. The music was divided between Tobin, who worked on the in-game music, and Dooley who worked on the music for the cinematics, both of which sound pretty good. The main theme is one of sorrow which conveys the devastation of Empire City well, and the cinematic’s music creates an epic feel perfect for storytelling.
- Replayability: 4/5
Like most open-world games, inFamous is quite a long game if you choose to get involved in the world. Doing all the side missions and finding all of the collectible Blast Shards will shoot your playtime past 20 hours easy, and it is most definitely not difficult to get immersed in the lively world. The gameplay and cinematic differences that come from being either good or evil practically demand at least two playthroughs, and there are a few Easter Eggs for hardcore gamers. This is a game you’ll be playing for a while.
- Final Grade: 5/5
inFamous is a fantastic game, and an even more incredible open-world game. A few bug and graphical problems hinder this great experience, but not nearly enough to detract from the great comic-book style super-powered action experience. The story is good with its fantastically twisted ending, the gameplay is interesting and fun, the music is unique and original, the characters are well developed and entertaining, and the side missions are varied enough to keep things fresh. If you’re not fighting the gangs that have taken over Empire City or searching the sewers for amazing new powers, you’re probably climbing a huge building while dodging gunfire and searching for Blast Shards to more effectively master nature. Sucker Punch has outdone itself with this original and epic superhero tale. I give inFamous 5/5 angry electric men for its superb combo of super-powered gameplay and amazing story, and a personal nostalgic burst of Sly Cooper-style fun.