Wednesday, June 10, 2009

inFamous Review

You’ve got guts to name your game inFamous. If it’s a flop, you’ve served critics the headline on a silver platter; "At least they got the title right." Thankfully, the game is anything but - and one of the finest titles of the year.

At first glance inFamous doesn’t look like much. We’ve seen plenty of games starring a disassociated loner with memory loss in a post-apocalyptic setting who must kill lots of bad guys in order to save everyone. As a huge fan of Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper trilogy, inFamous initially drew suspicions that the platforming gurus had sold out. It looked as if they were thinking, "Well, open world games sell well, so let’s do that," or "dark and gritty ’mature’ games sell, so let’s do that." Those misgivings are quickly rendered moot as the game has one of the most emotionally engaging opening sections I’ve seen. Sucker Punch knows what they’re doing; this game is born from a deep love of comic books.

The game centers around a young messenger named Cole who wakes up in the center of an explosion blessed (or cursed) with electrical super powers. There’s a plague going around, so the government has quarantined the now-lawless city. Crime runs rampant and citizens fend for themselves. "Society," Cole notes early on, "has committed suicide." You are now the most powerful man in the world, and can decide to restore order to this crumbling berg or let it rot and use your powers to protect only yourself and your loved ones. Sounds like an easy decision, but soon hints surface indicating that Cole had something to do with this catastrophe, making him public enemy #1. His girlfriend won’t even talk to him (blaming him for her sister’s death in the catastrophe) and his best friend remains skeptical. Feeling betrayed by the city that he once loved, it’s not hard to buy either Cole going rogue or helping Empire City rise from the ashes.

The game play mixes Crackdown and Sly Cooper. The Crackdown comparison is simple enough - it has the same balance of free-roaming platforming allowing you collect things, shoot enemies, level up, complete side missions, and advance the plot. The controls and feel like Sly, where Cole can instinctively grab on to anything that should be grabbable (or is that grippable?) as he scales his way across the city. Phone lines and rails make for common transport because, as the game explains, a car would explode if he were to enter due to his electric powers. The missions follow a Sly-like structure, setting you to increasingly preposterous objectives as you try to save the day. Highlights include: an assault on prison where you and a squad of guards must band together to stop an army of robots, scaling a tower of junk that puts Crackdown’s Agency Tower to shame, and pursuing a series of hot-air balloons that, in pure super-villain form, spray toxic, mind-controlling gas all over the city. It’s silly at times, but fitting given the game’s comic book roots.

Check out the rest of the review here at TGR.
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