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Welcome to Empire City unfortunately an explosion has just happened, we’ve been quarantined by the government, and gangs control the city; but it’s still a place you’re going to want to visit…. a lot.
You will be playing as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger that luckily the device that caused the explosion gave superpowers over electricity to. Cole as a character is pretty generic, he’s the typical stoic gruff voiced guy from any other video game or movie; ironically he sounds like a mesh of Solid Snake and Christian Bale’s Batman. Most of the game plays as a 3rd person shooter with some platforming. InFamous isn’t usually described as a shooter, but essentially that’s what it is. Instead of shooting guns, you’re shooting lightning out of your hands or you’re creating an electrical grenade instead of throwing an actual frag grenade.
Throughout most of the game you’ll be fighting gangs, most of them look like Scooby Doo rejects; but they can be lethal. Majority of the enemies don’t have superpowers, they just use guns and they’re accurate; sometimes annoyingly so. A lot of the fights will be Cole versus six to maybe a dozen guys, so the combat can be frantic; but it’s always fun. Luckily, the level of progression of powers and that of enemies is always equal. While the combat is exciting and does take some strategy, the only problem with the platforming is that it’s sometime too automatic. There are many times where you’ll watch Cole make a jump instead you actually doing it, but for the most part the platforming is good and adds another dimension to the game.
The game centers around whether you want to be good or evil, in fact that’s supposed to be one its major mechanics; but in reality it doesn’t really matter story wise. After beating the game both ways, if a major event is going to happen, like (to avoid spoilers) “Person A” dies, that person will always die either way you play as. The way they die might be slightly different, but the effect is the same. Going good or evil does have effect on your appearance and powers. While good you look like normal Cole and your electrical powers are blue and focus on restraining rather than killing. Evil Cole has red electricity, which later turns blacker as you get more powerful and his powers are more destructive and less controlled. The game is what makes these ideals about Cole being good or evil, really there is no evil Cole; he’s more of an anti-hero. Sure while playing as evil you might keep food and medicine for yourself, but you’re really not doing anything truly hideous or destructive.
The game actually shoots itself in the foot with its moral and upgrade system. The more good actions you do the more good XP you get, which unlocks new tiers in your powers. That allows your powers to be upgraded; the same rules apply inversely for evil. The problem is, if you want to be powerful there’s no middle of the road, you either need to be fully good or fully evil; which narrows your freedom.
Another problem with the moral dilemmas in the game is when decision time comes it always pulls you out of the game, with a cut-scene and Cole narrating the obvious decision to you; like you’re a child that wouldn’t be able to figure it out. On top of that they sometimes actually put the buttons on the screen like, “triangle for good, square for evil”; which just makes the situations feel even more forced. In most recent video games the player is being directed by a voice that the main character hears, usually this is fine; but in InFamous you don’t make one decision for yourself other than the few moral dilemmas. This makes it feel like you’re a dog being led on a leash, which is counterproductive to the badass superhero feel the game is going for.
The game’s narrative feels like a comic book inspired video game, but of course, in reality there is no InFamous comic book. Many of the game’s cut-scenes are delivered in a very artistic comic book panel format, which makes the game seem very unique and is refreshing over your typical CG cut-scene. That unique aspect aside, the first two thirds of the game’s story feels bland, like it’s just going through the motions. In addition, many of the characters you’re supposed to like and care for are actually pretty annoying. In contrast to the comic book cut-scenes, the in-engine cut-scenes seem half-assed; many times the lip-syncing is clearly off, the animation is weird, and the dialogue isn’t that great. Those cut-scenes draw attention to the game’s graphics, which are far from the best.
Most “next-gen” games look good, but usually the exclusive ones look even better, due to them being designed for a specific piece of hardware. Surprisingly InFamous isn’t really a beauty and it has many typical open-world game bugs. It suffers from pop-ins, a few frame rate slow downs, getting stuck on walls, randomly walking backwards, and even falling through the level. It really comes as a shock that Grand Theft Auto 4; a game that came out more than a year ago has less bugs, better graphics, physics, animation, and even better moral choices than InFamous; but it’s true. The only impressive technical aspect of InFamous is that it has very few load screens.
Some people might be wondering, “If InFamous has problems with story, graphics, its moral choices, and bugs how is it still a good game?” It’s simple, the gameplay saves it. The developers did a good job nailing the seemingly fun experience of being someone with superpowers. The different array of powers good or evil Cole has is fun and are practical to use. Also, the last one third of the story really amps things up and raises the stakes and scale of the game.
Basically, InFamous is that okay looking girl with a good personality, sure there are far hotter women out there; but lets face it, most of them have boring personalities (cough) Killzone 2 (cough). While InFamous obviously has some problems, it’s still one of the most fun experiences on the console. Being fairly flawed, but still a blast to play truly does make it the PS3’s version of Crackdown.