Ride the lightning!
There’s been a lot of talk about inFamous, and for good reasons too. This is a great sandbox game that appeals to the badass in all of us.
In the game you play as Cole, a bike messenger who gets himself entangled in a thick web of lies and conspiracies that leads to a catastrophic explosion in Empire City – killing thousands of citizens. As you wake up, mysteriously unscathed, you discover you somehow got enabled with electricity-based super powers. Sometimes, along with your good friend Zeke or your girlfriend Trish, but most of the time by yourself, you will explore what has become of the quarantined Empire City as you grow in power and get buried into the conspiracy more and more, discovering why you are what you are – as you suspect, it’s hardly a fluke. But will you use your powers for good or evil? It’s up to you to decide, and you’ll soon find yourself sucked in a very interesting and engaging plot with plenty of twists and turns. I even liked the way you got in the story at first: you pop in the CD and the game asks you to press start. This triggers a new game right in the middle of the action, immersing you in the world right away – no tedious game creator or multi-layered menu.
Now if you’ve played sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto, you will be very familiar with the gameplay. There are three districts in inFamous: Neon, the Warren, and the Historic District. Each one is controlled by different gangs, who are somehow all connected to the event – because once again, as you suspect, you’re not the only one that was transformed by the blast. Although they grow in power and resistance, I found the three gangs in inFamous to be mostly more of the same, except for those called Conduits – gang members with high super-powers ranging from teleportation, driving giant exo-skeletons or producing insane amounts of mildly dangerous but increasingly irritating robo-spiders. That gets me to one of inFamous’ strong points: the battles.
It’s hard to get tired of grinding a power line at full speed whilst blasting waves of electricity at a machine-gun-mounted artillery truck.
Some would argue that Cole is on the weak side of super-heroes. For example, you can’t get in contact with lots of water, which rises the question, how do you wash yourself? Also, you constantly have to repower up , but to me that’s a good thing. You generally cannot just land in the middle of a battle and start blasting away – as much fun as it is to experiment with that at the beginning. You soon learn to strategically skim your opponents from afar, using gradually more powerful superpowers such as electric grenades or shockwaves to weaken them. The battles are fun and fast-paced, and the AI is bright enough to get behind cover and try to gang up on you, at least most of the time. You can find yourself in an open area on top of a bus with giant robot conduits, rockets and grenades flying by, concealed enemies on the distant rooftops, all of them spraying you with a generous amount of bullets. The most fun – and sometimes frustrating – aspect of inFamous is how you can just run in a bunch of enemies pretty much anywhere at anytime, resulting in unscheduled, totally epic battles…which can be a hassle if you’re trying to just get from point A to point B. But thanks to a wide variety of electricity-based powers (including a sweet electrical shield), you can shock and blast your enemies into oblivion and it never feels impossible. In fact, despite everything the game throws at you, I found the game leant on the easy side, although there are definitely a lot of challenging moments that may or may not get you cursing.
Missions are fun and varied, although a few side missions do tediously repeat themselves if you choose to go through all of them. Every time you complete a side mission, you regain control of a portion of the district, meaning that slain enemies will not respawn there. It can sound trivial, but it can be a great help when you do the story missions to not stumble across a nest of bad guys hell-bent on destroying you. There are basically three kind of missions: the side missions, the story missions (that make the plot evolve) and the Karma missions. There are 30 of them in total, 15 evil and 15 good. These missions add a little bit of replay value to the game, as you’ll typically choose to complete one string or the other. Good missions might include freeing a train from bad guys, or escorting them to the prison, bad missions can be to cause enough raucous to provoke the police forces, or once again escorting bad guys, but this time only to execute them in cold blood. Each time you complete a mission a screen will appear telling you if you were good or evil, and this will change your Karma.
The Karma system is one of the key features of inFamous. Basically, you can choose to do evil or good deeds and there are even quite a few ‘Karma moments’ throughout the game where you have to make a very clear choice between good or bad behaviour. For example, freeing a man accused of stealing food or leaving him tied upside down from a lamppost to rot. When weakening enemies you can shackle them to the ground, earning good points, or consume their body energy, earning evil points. I liked how being good or evil affected your everyday superhero approach. Playing as evil, your physical aspect is more sinister, your powers are red instead of blue, and you don’t have to worry the least about public safety, blasting away like a madman in the middle of downtown. Powers are also slightly different when you play as one or another, and you can always switch from one side to another, but playing through the story missions it takes almost the entire game to get to the top good or evil level. Without giving away plot elements, this aspect comes into play almost every time you complete a major story mission but, unfortunately, while it does have an effect on the content of the cut scenes (through clever editing, using mostly different audio tracks), it does not change the storyline one single notch. Now I understand that in order to create a great game you can’t have two completely separate plots, but I was having great hopes that the story would not be exactly similar. The only major thing that differs noticeably is the post-credits at the end.
The movement controls in inFamous are deceptively simple, yet you can do a lot with them. Cole can jump, glide in the air and (one of the coolest powers) grind electric lines and even the railroad. Using the grind you can build a lot of speed and momentum resulting in a few pretty awesome chase scenes during the course of the game. It’s hard to get tired of grinding a power line at full speed whilst blasting waves of electricity at a machine-gun-mounted artillery truck. 99% of the time Cole does what you want him to do, whether that is glide to a nearby platform and latching onto it, or get out of the way of a rocket. But the system is not perfect. On a few occasions, I stood witness as Cole glided to a platform and failed to latch on, falling in the water to an untimely death. The camera is simple and efficient, as Cole will rarely get stuck in a hot corner during a battle, the camera in his face, able to see absolutely nothing (There’s nothing more frustrating that getting killed because of sloppy camera work.) Thanks to the attention geared towards it, camera work that cripples otherwise good games
is not a problem in inFamous.
I’ve never been a big fan of pushing the graphics in games – partly because my TV sucks – but I could appreciate the details of inFamous, particularly the feel of the buildings in the city. For a completely fictitious metropolis, Empire City felt alive and each district had a distinct feel, with people roaming, trying to go through everyday life despite the catastrophe. Sounds and voices were also generally spot-on, although voiceovers were on par with most other video games.
All in all, inFamous is entirely worth the wait and worth the buy. Have fun!
The Bad: The story doesn’t really change with your moral choices