|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
Over the years, superhero games have failed to live up to their potential. Whether it was a failing of technology, poor implementation by the developer, or being too closely tied to a movie's release, I've never played a great superhero game, let alone a near perfect one. Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of playing two titles in the genre that strive for perfection and largely achieve it.
Of course, I'm referring to the impending releases of Sucker Punch's inFAMOUS and Radical's Prototype. While a full review of Prototype will have to wait a couple weeks, I'm happy to announce that inFAMOUS is everything I'd hoped it would be. This game gives players access to a host of amazing powers, a living, breathing open-world, an interesting dual-storyline, and a load of content. Top that all off with solid visuals and a control scheme that's silky-shmoot and you're in for a real treat!
Upon starting the game, players are introduced to the protagonist, Cole MacGrath. While his name and look scream NASCAR driver or country singer, he's really just a lowly courier having a really bad day. How bad? Try waking up in the epicenter of a city-leveling electrical explosion. To make matters worse, the three island metropolis of Empire City has been quarantined by the outside world due to a rampant outbreak of pathogens. This has led various groups within the city (the Reapers, Dust Men, and First Sons) to vie for control of the diverse districts (Neon, Warren, and Historic), leaving the helpless citizens to struggle mightily in the face of disease, wanton destruction, raging gang violence, and a cryptic organization. Luckily for Cole, the electrical blast has imbued him with electricity-based abilities that he'll soon unlock and harness, allowing him to not only survive the horrors but to rescue the city as its patron and savior or dominate it as its tyrant. In this open-world of high-rises, broad streets, stately homes, fetid shanties, dirty back alleys, and corrupted sewers the choice is yours, making inFAMOUS the ideal playground for a hero or a villain.
Despite his amazing abilities, Cole is not invincible nor is his power unlimited. Consequently, Cole will have to regularly seek out sources of electricity to instantly heal himself and replenish the energy nodes sapped through the use of more potent abilities. Luckily, Cole will find energy sources everywhere. What's more, collectible Ray Sphere shards (from the object that exploded at the beginning of the game) are strewn across Empire City and will allow Cole to increase the amount of nodes he has at his disposal. Not only do these shards make your character more devastating, they also act as a collection meta-game that extends the life of the title. Likewise, bits and pieces of the story are revealed to Cole and his handler Moya via Dead Drops - telecommunication points where Moya's husband John has left information.
Combat in inFAMOUS is comprised of over-the-top brawling and electrical sniping and blasting. This electrically-charged man is capable of beating his foes to a pulp or zapping them from distance with his lightning bolts. Players will have to use a variety of skills throughout the game in order to beat the minions and their overlords controlling Empire City. The use of cover and shooter-like mechanics are prevalent throughout the game, while this may not sit well with everyone, I found it to be a ton of fun.
inFAMOUS is also marked by its vertical gameplay. Because Cole is so massively electrically charged, he can't just hop in a car. Other than going Teen Wolf on the roofs of vehicles, you'll have to head out on foot throughout the game. While this makes the game drag a bit initially, you'll quickly get used to scaling buildings and using them as tools of surprise, cover, and transportation. Thankfully, Cole can fall from any height thanks to his newfound abilities, so leaping from rooftop to rooftop and taking the quick way down to street level is not a problem. Sure, you can run around the streets to get where you're going, but climbing up buildings like a spider, zipping along power cables and light-rail, and free running is far more enjoyable, not to mention a heck of a lot faster. Furthermore, Cole will constantly run into vying factions intent on his demise (while in the street he's somewhat of a sitting duck). As such, the architecture becomes Cole's sanctuary. Players will find it very easy to take cover, locate strategic angles of attack, and hustle their way to the next objective by taking to rooftops. Best of all, platforming your way around the city is dreamy. Cole MacGrath almost never stumbles, misses jumps, or falls unexpectedly. The ease with which you will navigate and negotiate the world allows players to take their minds off frustration, transporting them into the game world. I found the vertical gameplay to be both enjoyable and rewarding, adding an element of complexity to the action genre rarely seen.
Of course, jumping around like a suped-up cat will only get you so far in this game. That's where Cole's bodacious powers come into play. At the beginning of the game, Cole is already pretty awesome - the guy can jump off buildings and shoot lightning bolts from his hands. But, as Cole begins to harness his abilities, he'll be able to tap into their true might. In order to do so, players will have to accrue experience by completing missions and taking out baddies in style (employing techniques to kills such as head shots and stunts will garner you more XP). These points can then be used to unlock new abilities such as Shock Grenades (sticky, electric, exploding orbs), the Polarity Wall (a shielding force field), Arc Lightning (sustained chain-lightning that leaps from one target to the next), among several others. In addition to unlocking these powers, you'll also be able to increase their potency several fold. However, in order to do so you'll have to increase the positive or negative level of your Karma Meter.