Let’s Review Infamous!

September 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

You can see it in his eyes, that lingering, longing look towards that ledge that’s just out of your way. You didn’t want to land on it this time, this time the floor’s your aim, but that doesn’t matter to protagonist Cole. He’s drawn to it, like a fly to honey, and without meaning to you find yourself stuck to yet another building edge. You tell him to drop down, but he’s got another surface in his sights…

The free running – or parkour as some would have you call it – is simultaneously both one of Infamous’s strongest and weakest points. The pros of the system are easy to see, it animates well, feels intuitive for most of the game, and is forgiving enough to avoid you falling to street level too often. These very things that make it so easy to use however, also cause it’s problems. Cole, our electrically charged superhero, is incapable of falling past anything he could conceivably climb. You’ll be pleading with him, begging him, just to drop down to street level, but he has other plans, stopping at nothing to try and keep himself in the air.

Though it can cause such a problem at times, these occasions are few and far between. For the most part it’s up you’ll be wanting to go, and not down, and thus the fact that he’ll lovingly attach himself to surfaces is a helpful feature. Perhaps if a button could have been included to put him in this Spiderman mode, or better yet, one to turn his fingers to butter, the game’s biggest issue could be avoided.

After all, the rest of the game is a solid open world adventure which for the most part avoids the problems that so many other titles in the genre have. Missions are hugely varied, rarely falling into repetitive territory, indeed it’s only in the obligatory side missions that you’ll see scenarios repeated, and even then it doesn’t cheapen the experience.

It’s about here that a reviewer would normally describe the typical mission, but in this case it’s difficult to come up with one, by virtue of just how much variation the game manages to squeeze in. Suffice to say throughout the course of your adventure you’ll shoot down aircraft, act as a turret for hospital bound busses, and climb seemingly insurmountable towers, all whilst attacking, and being attacked by, hordes of enemies.

It’s clear that avoiding repetition was a high priority in developer Sucker Punch’s offices. Enemies across the game’s three architecturally distinct islands each have a unique aesthetic to them, and each different army – for lack of a better term – will contain enemies unique to it. As an example the Dustmen, the trash bag wearing hobos from one island, will send small insect robots to attack you, whereas the formerly drug dealing Reapers from the first island will have amongst their ranks enemies with a devastating wave attack that forces you to vary up your battle tactics.

Even the city’s citizen’s don’t repeat themselves as much as you’d expect, indeed it’s only when you force your way through a large chunk of side missions in one go that you’ll notice similar looking NPC’s at all. In my playthrough I didn’t even notice any repeated voice work, which is surprising when there’s so much of it, partly because of the game’s karma system.

Yes, there’s a morality system in Infamous, but it’s prominence makes it important to pay attention to. You’re choices about whether to save citizens or let them fight amongst themselves, take more power for yourself, or even let those close to you survive at the expense of the city’s inhabitants, will not just affect the story, and the powers available to you, but also just how people react to you whilst you’re out and about in the city.

If you choose to use your powers responsibly people will thank you, and take you’re picture as you run around. If you choose to harvest downed civilians rather than save them then people will react less favourably, throwing stones at you or calling out insults. It’s a feature that gives your decisions weight, and can make you feel that much more heroic for making the right choice, even if these decisions are presented as excruciatingly simple ‘do this or do this’ situations where the right and wrong path is spelled out to you as clearly as possible.

It’s hard to attack the game for this though, seeing as its inspiration comes not from the morally ambiguous anti-hero- of modern comics, but from the black and white morality of older stories. The game’s presentation is very representative of this, each cutscene is a lovingly created comic book style animation, oozing cool at every turn, and never failing to pique this old comic-book nerd’s nostalgia.

What we have here is one of the most solid super-hero games this side of the latest Batman release. Some points might make you curse the guided nature of the control scheme but for the most part you’ll find that it’s working with you rather than against you in your quest for justice (or world domination of course).

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