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Infamous (video game)

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS3
Release Date: May 29th 2009 (EU)
PEGI: 16

… Not really but close. The endless ability to climb and explore just like in Assassins Creed but without the annoyance of being yanked out by that Animus device ( AC1 experience). With the title of the article explained I can move on.

Due to the recent PlayStation Network fiasco resulting in Sony giving away 2 free games, Infamous landed itself on my hard drive. I’ve read numerous pieces online about the game and read an endless amount of comment from people on various different websites singing the game’s praises. I will be honest, I wasn’t sold on the game before hand, I had no intentions of buying it and actually thought it didn’t look very impressive. As I already had the other ‘big’ game Sony was giving away (Little Big Planet) I thought I’d take the plunge and give Infamous a go. I can now safely say I’m SO glad I did.

Now for a review I guess I’m kind of late as the game was released in 2009 but hey ho. Despite my initial hesitations,(unusually for me on a PS3 exclusive) Infamous is a great game. Brilliant/perfect? No. The most fun I’ve had playing a game in a long time? Yes! Infamous does a lot of things very well but it has its imperfections. Its floors can be easily seen but I found that for 99% of the time I was playing I didn’t care, I was too busy launching massive blasts of lightening towards unsuspecting victims on the games 3 islands.

Story:

Along with the gameplay, this is my favourite part of Infamous. You play as Cole MacGrath and in the beginning the story explains how Cole got his powers (He is at the centre of a large explosion caused by a special sphere) then the game is centred around retrieving said sphere and stopping it getting into the wrong hands. It does seem like a basic premise but when you learn about the back story you realise it is not as straight forward as first thought and very intriguing. The game starts off light-hearted and friendly but as you dive deeper it becomes a lot more serious and the danger increases. I thought it was really good for once to play an open world game with a good story and a character that I liked. I found it very focused and I wanted to complete the game so I could find out all the answers. Other games such as Grand Theft Auto I find you go through the game without much purpose, murder drug dealer → steal a car → kill a prostitute → save a friend → run over random bystander. In Infamous I really enjoyed the sense of purpose and I felt I was fighting for the good of the city. The support characters are really good as well. Zeke; the best friend that means well, Trish; Cole’s girlfriend, John; an agent, Alden; one of Cole’s enemies and the illusive Kessler; the main antagonist in the game. Each of these characters and more play a significant part in the story and there are many good twists and turns to discover that keeps the story fresh and exciting. The final reveal and when everything comes clear at the very end of the game is very good, one of those moment when I sat back and thought “oh wow, that’s what really happened” it helps answer a few more question you still might have left as well. I really hope the story of Infamous 2 continues directly on from this (I’ve not looked as I know its out now) and goes in a certain direction (I don’t want to say what direction as not to spoil the end of this game). A really nice touch is the presentation of the cutscenes and story telling moments. As a reference superhero comics, all the cutscenes have a comic book art style and are really well illustrated and fit in perfectly with every aspect of the game, it just feels like the way it should be done for the game.

Graphics:

As I mentioned above, originally I didn’t think much of Infamous in the graphics department however I realise now I was mistaken. I was trying to compare it with graphical power houses such as Uncharted 2 and God of war 3 when really I should have been looking at GTA, I was forgetting it was an open world game. For an open world game the graphics are good but I don’t think they will blow anyone away (I’m taking into account its a few years old now). Cole; the main protagonist, looks good both in the 3rd person view and on close-ups such as when you zoom in with the precision attack. Some of the textures in the environment are a bit muddy and can get blurry when close up but this only really become apparent when Cole is standing still, something you don’t do often in Infamous. Being in a destroyed city the colour palette is predominately variants of grey, but cities are made of concrete!. The inclusion of some grassy parks in the centre of the neon and historic districts along with bright signs and billboards help to break up what could have turned into a monotony of grey. These greys may be a bit cliché (though appropriate) for gritty war town landscapes (Killzone 2 and Gears, I’m looking at you) it works great as a background to highlight Cole’s electrical powers. The lighting really stands out when fired towards an enemy. The game also has an impressive draw distance, if high enough you can see the boarders of all three cities and down to the tiny little ant people directly below you and from these high vantage points you really get a sense of the destruction that befell the city. The clouds look nice too.

Gameplay:

This is an area that Infamous has really nailed. It’s just brilliant fun to play and that’s why you buy a game. The gameplay in Infamous really sets it apart from other games in its genre. It has elements that I’ve seen before in other games but never combined into one, it has the climbing and vertical scale I have seen in Assassins Creed, an open world similar to GTA and a karma system vaguely similar to that of fallout 3, just with a bit more meaning. The karma system works really well to add an extra layer to the game and seems to fit in well with the story. At certain points in the game you will be shown a miniature cutscene where Cole explains the situation and his options along with the possible repercussions. I felt the small explanations given by Cole helped draw me further into the story as it appeared Cole was thinking hard about what to do and therefore so should I. One criticism I could have of this system is that it is very obvious when you reach these moments. Everything stops and by your actions you pick either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, despite this for the most part I didn’t mind the straight forward approach. Unfortunately a couple of times I was under the impression I had done a good deed but was given bad karma, this could well have been my fault but nevertheless the small portion of bad karma didn’t stop me reaching hero status. There were also a few time when I could see the karma moments coming and knew beforehand that saving or setting a guy free would be a good karma moment whereas leaving him there would be bad. To keep a track of your moral compass you have a gauge on-screen with 6 categories ranging from hero coloured blue to infamous coloured red. The most noticeable effect the karma system has in the game is your lighting, you have electric blue if you are good or a vibrant red; like The Sith, if you are bad. Your karma also affects other aspects of your lightening but I’ll explain that in a bit. Finally, one small thing developers Sucker Punch included to make the system more robust was the civilians reaction to you. During my play through as a good character when I was a ‘Hero’ people would run up to me and take pictures and ask me for help to save other people. This was a sweet touch and lets you know your actions are doing something.

As I alluded to above, Cole has gained the power of electricity, a pretty darn cool power and I can’t think of any other lead protagonist in a video game that has this ability (I’m sure there is one somewhere if I looked hard enough). Shooting bolts of lightening at people is very rewarding but regardless of that fact the powers in Infamous are well thought out. You have a power gauge which is made up of power cores. Your main lightening attack; a straight forward zap, does not use up any of these cores and will form your main attack, it has a decent range and you can unleash lots in quick succession. The power cores do get used up however when you use one of Cole’s more powerful attacks that you unlock as you progress through the game. As well as unlocking new powers, most of these have three levels of upgrades available and some are dependent on if you are good or evil. The upgrades don’t just add more power to your attacks, which is nice, some add small extra effects that make choosing your next upgrade more of a carefully thought out process. As well as upgrades to your powers you can also increase the number of power cores you have by collecting ‘Blast Shards’, these are scattered throughout the game and are one of two ‘collectables’ available. I wanted to write about each power but as I didn’t know any of them myself before I played the game, I know how good that extra surprise was when I unlocked a really useful new power so I don’t want to spoil anything. The powers you do unlocked all feel well-balanced and warrant their own space. There isn’t one power that is useless, like that stat or item no one ever uses or upgrades in many other games. As I’ve said, they each have their uses and work well together and there is not one that is overpowered… well maybe there is but you know its supposed to be like that. Cole can also use his electrical powers outside of combat. You can revive “Heal”, trap “Arc Restraint” or leech energy “Bio Leech” from fallen civilians and foes. This has been implemented in a logical and appropriate way as the three option you are giving seem like genuine tasks you could undertake if you had such powers. For instance Cole uses his electrical ability like a defibrillator to bring civilians back to their feet.

Once you have used lots of your powers to zap numerous enemies you will need to recharge; the more powerful the attack, the more power cores it uses. Luckily, as you are in a city you can take power from almost anything, street lights, cars, electricity pylons and much more. On items that require more power to run you can absorb power for longer and usually fill all your power cores (depending on the number of cores you have). Objects that require less power, obviously, only allow you to drain for a second or so; such as cars. It would be nice to be able to absorb power from EVERY electrical device. There were a few small light I wasn’t able to recharge from, but the options available are far from limited and you’ll never be more than a couple of seconds away from a recharge point. I’m glad that you have the ability to absorb electricity from such a vast variety of sources as there would be nothing more frustrating than having to travel across the map or to designated spots in order to get more juice and I’m glad Sucker Punch avoided this. Not only does it save me from throwing my controller around, it enabled you to stay in the action longer. After launching some powerful attacks to clear the majority or your enemies you can absorb the power from a nearby car or street light and run in fully armed for the final kill.

The other main feature of the gameplay that I have yet to write about is the climbing. It works in an almost identical way to Assassins Creed (this is the only comparison I’m making between the two games). Cole can run up to any building and most objects and start to climb. Keep the left analogue stick forward while continually hammering X will take you to the top in no time. Cole isn’t Spiderman though, he doesn’t stick to walls and with a more refined approach to climbing you’ll notice Cole hangs onto window ledges, drain pipes, outcrops of stone and other objects that protrude from the buildings. I personally love this ability within the game, running from A to B on foot get very boring after a short while regardless of what game your playing, so leaping and gliding across the rooftops helps make getting to that mission marker the other side of the map enjoyable in its own right and not a tedious waste of time. Climbing is also brilliant for escaping danger, the heat getting too much?, run round the back of a build, climb up and start picking them off from above. Some enemies are on the roofs though so it’s not a complete safe haven. The climbing has been well worked but it’s not perfect. I found myself getting frustrated on a number of occasions as Cole wouldn’t grab the ledge I wanted or leapt off in the wrong direction. This does happen a fair amount but you learn to live with it and take your time to help the game out. My biggest pet peeve was climbing down. So many times I wanted to drop down to collect something and he would drop the opposite side but more annoying was coming off a building. If you want to drop to the floor below you press O to drop down, but Cole catches onto every ledge on the way down. You have to make sure you jump out far enough so he doesn’t catch anything or be prepared to tap tap tap that O button.

To summarise Infamous has become one of my favourite game and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second. The gameplay makes it so much fun to play and one I found hard to put down, one of those reasons is the story and character development, that are excellent. It has instance re-play value as you need to play at least twice to get the full experience (Hero and Infamous) and with numerous collectables, side missions and trophies to acquire it will keep you busy for hours. The graphics aren’t top draw and the climbing can get a little frustrating at times but neither points are negative enough to really detract from the over experience. For a brand new IP and Sucker Punch’s first venture onto the PS3 they have done brilliantly and I can’t wait for more.

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