|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sucker Punch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 26, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
April 21, 2009 - We recently got to spend some time with the GDC 2009 build of inFAMOUS, the third-person action RPG from Sucker Punch, exclusively for the Sony PS3. This preview code led us through four distinct levels, giving us a great idea of what we can expect from the upcoming title, ahead of its May 26, 2009 release.
Taking on the role of Cole MacGrath, players will have to negotiate the quarantined streets of Empire City - a metropolis plagued by the chaos of a panicked citizenry, a callous government and outside world, vying factions on multiple sides of the power vacuum, and nasty, mutated evil running amuck. Luckily, Cole has recently obtained some electricity-based powers that seem to be growing stronger every day. Essentially a walking, super-powered battery, Cole can leap from tall buildings, electrocute enemies with deadly precision, power up and heal himself by absorbing electricity, climb and hop from platforms like some kind of a spider monkey, and unleash ever-more powerful attacks with increased experience. As such, gamers will love playing as Cole MacGrath. After all, pulling off melee and power attacks is very natural, and bounding up the sides of buildings makes exploration a treat. I ran around with a giddy perma-grin on my face, bouncing around structures and letting loose my electric fury; Cole's superhuman abilities are extremely user-friendly and quite compelling.
Perhaps the most intriguing portion of inFAMOUS already becoming apparent is that of the vertical gameplay. Because Cole so easily clings to edifices, using elevation and perspective to your advantage will help you both accomplish the main storyline and have you eagerly accepting side missions. Moreover, dispatching groups of enemies by jumping from a 20-story rooftop and releasing an electric shockwave is not only strategically rewarding but god-like in its implementation. It's the kind of ultra-heroic action that next-gen gamers crave from modern action/adventures.
The developers at Sucker Punch have married this fast-paced, multi-level action with some RPG mechanics that will doubtless make the game even more intriguing. For starters, inFAMOUS allows you to choose your own adventure - there are a ton of main plot and side missions to plow through in the vast open-world. Second, you can decide to be a heroic or evil protagonist. This is called your "Karmic State," and it will have you heading toward being "Heoric" or "Infamous" - whichever path you choose, it will have both story and character development consequences. That's because your appearance, how normal citizens react to you, and the powers that will be available to you will constantly change depending on your actions. These mechanics don't seem to innovate much upon those already established in fan-favorite RPG staples including the Fable franchise and various Star Wars entries, but it's cool nonetheless. Third, dispatching numbers of enemies in various ways will help Cole acquire experience to unlock the potential within him - simple power-leveling found in almost every RPG that is proven to be rewarding. While these RPG mechanics aren't ground-breaking, their familiarity and simplicity also won't dismay a moral general, core demographic. In the end, playing around the massive Empire City, developing your character's moral compass, and shaping his powers to your specifications should appeal to players at multiple levels without bogging them down in minutia.
Expanding on power development, there are a total of 16 power categories that Cole will acquire. Access to powers is keyed to either being good or evil, or simply to how much experience you've accrued. Of course, being good or evil isn't good enough. You'll have to become a true paragon or a real bastard to gain access to the really important powers. Throughout the game, you'll make decisions that keep you headed down the path of good (Guardian, Champion, Hero) or down that of evil (Thug, Outlaw, Infamous). Of course, there won't be any middle ground - players will simply have to be Mr. goody-two-shoes or Johnny Rotten. However, this will have players playing through the game at least twice to gain access to the divergent gameplay and storyline - Sony knows we love extended replay value! Nevertheless, from what we've seen so far, the story doesn't seem to differ greatly. In fact, gameplay doesn't feel too different either. Of course, we're definitely going to hold our judgment under wraps until the final, polished retail copy is in our hot hands.
On the subject of polish, inFAMOUS is shaping up to be a quality game both visually and aurally, though perhaps not stunningly so. The cityscape seems to be nicely fleshed out in terms of draw distance, the character and boss designs are compelling, the movement and power animations are very fluid and impressive, and chapter segment interludes have an awesome comic book presentation. We did notice some major framerate issues, though. Also, there were rampant, friendly-A.I. pathfinding foibles and environmental glitches. That being said, these kinds of problems in a AAA title such as this will undoubtedly be ironed out before release (*knocks on wood*). As far as sounds are concerned, the voice acting seems to be quite professional though somewhat typical. Interestingly, there isn't much of an emphasis on music. We'll have to wait and see if that's going to be a positive or negative in the final product.
While inFAMOUS will undoubtedly be compared to Prototype, the prospect of hanging from walls, unleashing powers such as Bio Leech, Arc Restraint, Shock Grenades, and the Megawatt Hammer could give this game an edge. Moreover, taking advantage of elevation and silky-smooth platforming should make for strategic battles and a good deal of exploration. Finally, daunting boss confrontations and a dual narrative will likely keep players coming back. Stay tuned for our full review of inFAMOUS coming to you in May!
CCC Editor / News Director