Thursday, August 12, 2010

Infamous: Ever wish you had superpowers?

Ever wish you had superpowers? Have you wanted to jump off a building and smash into the ground at Mach speed? Or maybe shoot electricity from your fingertips and fry a whole block of baddies? If so, you might want to supercharge your game collection by picking up Infamous, a third person open world action game developed by Sucker Punch.

You take control of Cole, a man who unknowingly set off a bomb that led to the city being placed under quarantine. In the process, Cole finds that he now has electrical superpowers that he can use for good or evil. The street gangs and criminals of the city are also transformed and aim to take power in the now lawless Empire City. The story revolves around Cole’s quest to obtain the Ray Sphere – the device that granted Cole his powers and can wreak massive havoc if it falls into the wrong hands.

Along the way Cole is guided by Moya, a mysterious FBI agent who offers to help Cole if he can retrieve the Ray Sphere. He’s also assisted by his best buddy Zeke, an annoying hillbilly, and his girlfriend Trish, an EMT worker. There’s not a ton of growth or development but there is the potential to get somewhat attached to some of them. Cole himself is a stereotypical white tough guy who fits in well with the game but we’ve seen this type of character all too often in other games.

The villain characters are actually slightly more interesting. Alden is the leader The Dust Men, one of Empire City’s street gangs. He grew up as a privileged youth, poised to take power, but lost his way. Now as an old but formidable man, he leads the Dust Men on his quest to find the Ray Sphere and unimaginable power. But the game’s main villain is even more foreboding and diabolical.

That role is filled by a shadowy figure named Kessler. He seems one-dimensional at first but ends up being involved in one of the game’s bigger plot twists. The story is good but not great; there are some interesting twists and you’ll have fun trying to piece together the mystery of the Ray Sphere but you’ll soon see this isn’t exactly Final Fantasy VII.

The game’s main draw is the superpowers and karma system. You have the power to blast devastating lightning bombs at your enemy, create a lightning shield, or even call down massive thunderblasts from the heavens to lay waste to everything in your path. As you upgrade your powers, you gain the ability to regain a small amount of health from shooting at enemies, or you can set off a chain reaction thunderstrike that hits other enemies in the area.

What types of upgrades you get depend on how you handle the karma system. Throughout the game, there will be karma moments where you can choose the good or evil path. The route you take will also affect what type of side missions are available, and how people react to you. The superhero game type combined with the morality system makes for a nice change of pace, but even in spite of that I can’t help but feel that this game is a little on the generic side. It feels like Uncharted 2 combined with The Force Unleashed-type superpowers. When I took cover behind an object and popped out to blast a few lightning bolts at the enemy, it felt exactly the same as Uncharted 2 (just replace bullets with lightning bolts).

There are even a couple of platforming sections in Infamous that reminded me specifically of Uncharted. I also thought the city was pretty generic. Despite the fact this is a sandbox game, there’s really no reason to want to explore unless you feel compelled to complete every sidequest and find every collectible (all 350 of them.)

The controls could also stand to be tightened up a little. Sometimes trying to jump to a ladder or make a leap on to some platform tends to be a little harder than it should be because Cole seems like he wants to go all over the place sometimes. The only other serious issue is replay value. Once you’ve finished the mission, the only other thing to do (besides all the aforementioned repetitive sidequests) is to replay the game taking the opposite karma path. But by that point, you already know the story so it loses a little luster.

Despite these shortcomings, Infamous is still a good game that never seriously fails at anything it tries to do. I don't see it winning game of the year, but it’s more than capable of providing you with several hours of mindless fun.

Score: 8.0/10

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