Evil Cole looks EvilNot a day goes by that I don’t hear a joke about the PlayStation 3 being “a great Blu-ray player… and not much else.” Yes, these jokes are often from fanboys of one brand or another, but the greater gaming populace is under this impression as well. The only way for Sony to change this image is to have some really fantastic games available for their system. Multiplatform games are important, of course, but they are just that: you can play them on other systems. The real key, then, is for great exclusive content, games you can’t play anywhere else than on the PlayStation 3. Luckily, Sucker Punch Studios, after a long career with the PS2, decided to stick by Sony’s side and come to their rescue with inFAMOUS.
There is certainly no dearth of action/adventure games. Even the superhero sandbox game, where you’re given a city to explore freely while pulling off superhuman feats, is becoming a large genre all its own. To stand out from this crowded field, you have to do something new and do it well. The first key to success for inFAMOUS is in movement. The motion is inspired by Parkour, or free-running. Parkour has become somewhat popular in video games recently, as it is a very visual form of getting from point A to point B. Climbing up poles, gutters, leaping from wall to wall, the idea is if there’s the slightest foot or handhold to use, then Cole MacGrath, the star of the game, can use it to get around. The animations used for this are so fluid and natural that it all looks very believable. It’s still remarkable, but I can see someone being able to actually do all this. More advanced movement, like rail/wire sliding and a nice glide move, are unlocked as the game goes on. These just complement the initial motion, making it even easier to quickly move across Empire City.
The rest of the controls are likewise spot-on. Aiming is easy, but has a natural learning curve, so you won’t be picking off enemies from across the map the first time you play the game. Everything is easy to access, requiring only one or two buttons at the same time. These abilities are incredibly varied, as well; I was amazed by how many ways the developers thought up to use electricity in super powers. Offensive, defensive, movement, exploration, burst, steady, explosive; there are a ton of cool tricks to play with, and something will be the favorite of every player.
A page from the inFAMOUS prequel comicThe other surprising standout, again necessary for the game to rise above its many peers, is the story. The story was written by William Harms (Impaler Comic, Supreme Commander game). While there were a couple of cliché moments and a misstep in dialogue here and there, overall, this was a solid story that only got better as it moved along. Divided pretty neatly into three acts, the story runs the gamut of emotion, with moments of betrayal, hard decisions, and some genuine sadness. None of the choices that Cole has to make seem arbitrary, and they directly affect the gameplay, making him more good or more evil. The twists toward the end of Act 2 and all throughout Act 3 lead to an even twistier surprise ending that was both shocking and organic to the story. I was so enraptured, I played Act 3 in one sitting, just wanting to see what happens next. I’d be remiss when talking about the story to skip over the awesome cutscenes. They’re done in comic book art style (drawn by Edward Pun, art director for Sucker Punch, who also did an online preview comic with Harms), complete with panel views; it’s not gratuitous, though, just really freaking cool.
So, some innovative new movement styles, a great story and solid controls are all present and accounted for. Likewise, the visual style and sound are great. Little story beats are delivered via TV broadcasts, and the high-action points, including a few battles against 30+ enemies simultaneously, sound great on a nice surround sound system. Like most games, though, there are a few flaws.
The number one complaint I have on this game are some of the side missions. I am a completist when it comes to games like these. I like to have my character maxed out, and I feel side missions are a fun way to explore the other mechanics of the game. Some of them in this, however, are so forced that they actually pulled me out of the game. The worst offenders by far are the “spy” missions. In these, you use the rooftops to follow a “courier” until he drops a package in a secret location. You then immediately pick up the package, and boom, mission complete. The problem I have with these, aside from just generally hating chase missions in this kind of game, is that they make zero sense. If you, as Cole, know that a courier, who is traveling alone, has an item of worth to you, why wouldn’t you just zap him and take it? There is never any story reason for you to not use the myriad powers at your disposal, and that kind of forced mission is just Another prequel comic pageannoying. Some of the side missions, while basic, are at least still fun; even the “hidden package” missions give you something new, as it forces you to look at the environment in a different light. Chase missions as a whole need a moratorium until someone can figure out something new to add to them, especially when they fly in the face of all the other gameplay.
Arbitrary side missions notwithstanding, there’s not much I can say is wrong with this game. The enemies are well balanced, progressively getting harder and stronger as the game progresses. “Continues” are done really well, with very little loading time and no menu screen making you choose to keep playing the game; it just starts off from the last logical starting point and keeps you involved.
This is really a great game, and a huge coup for PlayStation 3 owners. Sucker Punch strayed from their usual comedy-infused games (though there are some funny moments, and a couple easter eggs for Sly Cooper fans) and delivered on almost every level. What’s better is there is some genuine replayablitiy, with tons of side missions and collectibles, plus two completely different play types in evil vs. good. I played the slightly more difficult good side first, and immediately fired up a new game upon completion to start my evil campaign. PS3 owners, this is one of those all around fun gaming experiences you’ve been waiting for, so go out and get it, now.
inFAMOUS is available now, exclusively on the PlayStation 3