Live and Let…?
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!
August 2, 2007 – This E3 we had quite a few games mentioned that could get the gears turning in gamers’ heads about what game they should be looking out for the most. One of those games would have to be Infamous from Sucker Punch.
I know what some of you may be saying: Sucker Punch did those Sly Cooper games, albeit entertaining games, why would this game be an automatic explosion of anticipation? Simple, it blends the comic book mentality of characterization and allows you to choose what type of character you will become during the game. Again, this is nothing new to gamers considering the Fable title on the original Xbox and then, of course, Fable 2 coming for the Xbox 360. The only rebuttal I have for that is that this seems to be deeply rooted in the fascination of the comic book mythos, and that alone has me as giddy as New Comic Wednesday.
There is not much known about the game. That, however, has never really stopped us from getting giddy or excited about a game. What is known is that the main character is the reason for the destruction of the city that will be the landscape for the game. In addition, when the tragic events that devastated the city were unleashed, they also gave him his powers. A classic translation of the comic book characters gaining their powers. The difference in this game, compared to the comics people love and devour, is that you as the player will decide the path the character will take: that of a hero, saving the city and citizens, or that of the villain, completing the destruction you started when you obtained your powers. As the quote from the trailer indicates, anyone can live with diversity, but to judge one’s character all you need to do is give them power. This will be something I hope is different from the Fable good and evil functionality, mainly because of the fact that it is never clean cut when you are a superhero. You have to make decisions that may not appear as heroism, but in the end, you should have the opportunity to decide your fate.
What I do know about the game comes from the miraculous trailer that Sony showed at their E3 conference. Moreover, judging by the graphics of the game it will definitely be different from anything we have seen from Sucker Punch before now. The city is highly detailed, and actually looks like it should after a devastating landscape accident. The character models may not look amazing, but with the fact that they move with great precision we can only assume that the characters themselves will get a polish to match that of the landscape. The character abilities of agility along the rooftops have given some the indication this could be Sony’s answer to the Xbox 360 exclusive Crackdown. I would like to say that even though the similarities appear to be there, Infamous has one thing going for it that Crackdown did not, the ability to electrify your enemies with at least one of your abilities. The inner turmoil of the character also seems to be one of the appeals to the character as well. Given that there were several shots of the character brooding atop a roof, it reminds me of the fascination fans have had for such legendary characters as Batman, Spawn, and more prominent in recent months, Spider-Man. These little things about the game are sure to make the game enjoyable and one to watch for.
As I mentioned about the environments of the game, the graphics are holding up to be rather eye pleasing. The apocalyptic music from the trailer bodes well to keep the sounds of the game pleasant, including the dialogue from the female voice telling a brief snippet of the main characters past and potential future. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the dialogue is being handled with a Hollywood flare. In fact, Hollywood’s mega blockbuster action sequences seem to be playing a part in some of the action from the trailer, yet another feature of the game that I am looking forward to.
There will be several games as we enter into the 2008 game year. Some that it seems we have been waiting for forever and those that were just announced that maybe should wait a little longer. That said, Infamous should be one of those titles to get your inner mind working to become the hero you have always wanted to be or the vile villain you have secretly desired to be. Being a hero comes with a price greater than that of being a villain. I hope that Sucker Punch has this figured out and are prepared to deliver that experience to us in 2008. Heroes rise and fall, villainy is always present, and both pave the path to becoming Infamous. Keep checking back to find out more about this first party title from Sony.