Alright fellow gamers, without spending too much time on describing the pre-release hype surrounding this game, let me get straight to the point – inFamous rocks! There. You may continue to read the rest of my (rather lengthy) review or go out and buy the game, if you haven’t already. And if you don’t have a PlayStation 3, consider getting one because you just got one more reason to buy it.
For the uninitiated, inFamous is an open-world sandbox action game from Sucker Punch Productions featuring a protagonist with super powers. Yes, it’s been done before in games like Crackdown, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and various Spider-Man games. But what separates inFamous from other similar games is its overall execution and presentation. Right off the bat, the game pulls you into its gritty urban comic book style and doesn’t let up until the final cut-scene. The atmosphere is straight out of a graphic novel on the lines of Mark Millar’s Wanted or Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. It’s the classic superhero origin and coming-of-age story but with a twist.
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You play as Cole McGrath, a courier working in the fictitious Empire City. The game literally starts off with a bang as the item Cole is carrying on one of his routine delivery runs suddenly explodes causing a devastating blast, levelling several city blocks and killing hundreds of people. Despite being caught in the epicentre of the blast, Cole somehow survives. Not just that, but his body undergoes several changes making him stronger and far more agile. He is able to scale up buildings with ease, jump across long distances and survive long falls. But the most important change is his newfound ability to absorb and control electricity.
Meanwhile things are not looking so good for Empire City. As a result of the explosion, most of the city lies in ruins and a strange epidemic has been spreading out. The city is put under quarantine with most of the surviving citizens trapped inside. To make matters worse, various gangs rise up to take control of each of the city’s three islands and with no significant threat from the authorities, Empire City soon becomes an urban nightmare with ruthless psychotic criminals roaming free and the police severely outnumbered. It’s now up to Cole to bring order to this lawless city while trying to master his new abilities and find out the actual reason behind his powers. Will he become the hero and save the day or will he use his powers to crush everyone in his path? Well, it’s up to you.
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You can either choose to play as a hero and help citizens or just simply wreak havoc on Empire City. The game offers you “karma moments”, scripted scenes where you will be given a choice between a selfless act of heroism or an opposite selfish evil act. The way these choices are played out is quite interesting. Instead of choosing between two text options and hitting a button to confirm, the game lets you act out the choice, so if you decide choose to attack an innocent character, you will actually have to do it rather than some cut-scene depicting the act. This is a minor touch, but it adds a lot of meaning to the choices. Your choices decide what Cole will eventually become. Some of the decisions in the game are truly difficult, at times even heartbreaking, and do a great job of portraying the burden of being a hero (or the perverse thrill of being an anti-hero).
The story is one of inFamous’ strong areas. Most of it is told through in-game cut-scenes, conversations with Cole’s friends and acquaintances and occasional 2D comic book like sequences. These sequences are extremely well done and add a lot to the overall appeal of the game. Unlike most other sandbox games, where the story gets lost between the various gameplay options, inFamous maintains a very strong narrative throughout. You’ll never feel like you’re simply wasting time doing random stuff while there is a looming threat lingering somewhere in the background. The story is always in the forefront, even if you’re doing random side missions or hunting for collectible items. This is a very tricky thing to achieve and Sucker Punch has done an exceptional job at making inFamous a story-driven sandbox game.
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inFamous is primarily an action game with a large amount of platforming thrown in. You see, Cole is made up of electricity, so he cannot travel in vehicles, as they explode when he’s in one, nor can he use firearms. So his only option is to travel by foot or by air and everything in between. The city is his playground and sources of electricity are his friends while water is his enemy. The city itself is a platforming enthusiast’s heaven with strategically placed buildings, ledges, pipes, poles and cables connecting rooftops. Cole can traverse these environments with extreme ease with parkour-like moves. The animation during platforming is simply incredible and looks very natural.
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