Written by: Andreus Narain, Special to CC2K
It’s been almost four years since Sucker Punch last released a game. Near the end of 2004 they released their third entry in their popular Playstation 2-era Sly Cooper series. Now Sucker Punch is back with a completely new title. InFamous is an open-world sandbox game; it’s Sucker Punch’s take on the superhero genre. It features an expansive city with three separate districts that players can explore with an original hero and engaging storyline. Despite the minor gripes that some players may face with the game, it is a very solid and welcome entry in the superhero genre. At the start of the game players are first welcomed to a city-wide explosion. Empire City is in shambles. In the center is the game’s hero (or anti-hero depending on your actions). You take on the role of Cole, a messenger boy, who gets caught up in this entire situation by inadvertently activating a device called the Raysphere. It gives Cole his electrical powers at the expense of thousands of lives in the city. The best part is that people know Cole was the cause of the explosion. His girlfriend, Trish, holds him responsible for the death of her sister, and people brand him a terrorist. It is up to the player to either use their newfound powers for good and live a life moving toward redemption or rain down chaos throughout the city.
After surviving the explosion Cole escapes from ground zero to meet up with his friend, Zeke (someone you will get to know very well throughout the game). After a brief run-in with cops Cole accidently calls down a huge series of lightning strikes which decimates the police. Soon after he wakes up in the hospital and the real game begins.
Instead of relying mainly on cut scenes to push the story forward, the game uses a comic book style of fully colored comic panels narrated by Cole. These give the game a great comic book superhero feel. However, when the game does utilize in-game cut scenes the character animations are very stiff. They do not look natural and are slightly distracting.
Infamous plays very much like a third person shooter. Cole’s primary attack, his lightning bolt, is done by holding down L1 and tapping R1. It shoots out a long string of energy. He unlocks many other attacks throughout the course of the game as he visits substations to restart electricity in various parts of the city. Each substation unlocks a new power. Soon you will gain his shock grenade and MegaWatt Hammer which will lead to some very destructive moments in the game.
Cole’s new found powers are not free to use; they require energy. Cole is able to extract electricity from almost any power source in the game. You simply hold L2 and Cole extracts what he can. There is also a nice little after-effect caused by draining power. You can see lights go off or cars go completely dark after they are drained. If you are taking a darker path in the city you can even drain the power you need from people.
Many of Cole’s powers are upgradeable. After gaining experience from a mission or downing an enemy you can go to the menu and purchase an upgrade. There are not that many upgrades to choose from. There is no real skill tree or branching powers. Each upgradeable power has three levels (some powers have no upgrades). Each new level may bring an increase in power, range or a type of special property. Some of these special properties include headshots transferring the lightning to nearby enemies or causing people caught in an explosion to float in the air.
There are also some karma specific upgrades. If you do good in the world you have access to a slightly different moveset than if you are evil. The color of his attacks also match his appearance. The good side of Cole’s arsenal revolves around being able to regenerate power with your attacks. Some of his attacks also have special properties of causing people to float in the air. The evil style of Cole’s attacks involve causing as much destruction as possible. If you take the dark side in this game then collateral damage is all part of the job. While the good branch of powers mainly try to avoid causing unnecessary damage, the evil tries to bring the pain to any and everyone. As your karma meter moves more to the side of your choosing Cole’s appearance changes to either blue (good) or red (evil).
As with every sandbox game, its all mission based. You are free to explore the city at your leisure as long as you have unlocked the area during a story mission. Cole typically receives information from his cell phone. He is contacted by various people in the game to run errands (even with super powers he’s still an errand boy). Missions range from clearing out a mob of enemies to removing poisonous water pipes from the neighborhood’s water supply. There is enough diversity in the game to not leave the player bored. As you travel through the city you will face many enemies and engage in many street fights. The game also gives the player numerous karma choices. You are given two choices you can take for a given situation, with each clearly representing a good or bad moral choice.
Enemy variety is lacking in the game. Each district has three sets of enemies. Sadly, each of the enemies attacks in the same manner. Aside from the Conduits (super powered enemies), who have a single special attack, all the enemies feel like swapped skins. Their actions are indistinguishable.
There are many side missions that you can do, but it is all for a small amount of XP (experience points). Karma-specific side missions give you XP and will boost your Karma. Once you do one choice it locks out the opposite, i.e. doing a good mission will lock out the corresponding evil option and vice versa. Missions will free up parts of the city infested with crime making it a safer place. It may be worthwhile to do different side missions to make traveling through the city easier.
One of best aspects of the game is that as you progress, by returning the power back to different sectors, you are able to make the city your own. When you first start playing your mobility it limited. Cole is very adept at parkour, free running, and is capable of scaling most buildings, yet he is not able to travel throughout the city well. You soon gain the ability to grind on power lines and train tracks, which become your fastest means of travel. Later, you obtain the ability to briefly glide. This allows for easier transitions from grind rails to better maintain your momentum. You’ll soon be freely traveling throughout the city.
Some minor annoyances that some will find with the game is that enemies can be unfairly difficult. Their aim –even in the normal difficulty- is amazingly accurate. If they can see you, they can shoot you. You will constantly be pelted from enemies in the street and on buildings as you move around in the city. Coupled with that problem is that Cole does not have many defensive options. He can’t block and he does not have any way of permanently increasing his health. You can usually find an electrical source to drain, but that is easier said than done in a firefight. Cole does receive a shield, but that is near the end of the game. Compared to some superheroes in an open-world Cole may not feel that powerful. His abilities do increase toward the end, but overall he is not an unstoppable force of destruction like some superheroes. His poor defense only serves to support the idea that even with nearly maxed out stats he isn’t god-like, as some would want. The game has three boss fights. It’s pity that they are all pretty basic. None of them require any type of special maneuvers. It is just point-and-shoot everything you have at them. The game builds up these confrontations, but they are all lackluster.
Infamous is a good game, that’s the bottom line. There hasn’t been a superhero game as good as this in a long while. You will love the first time you patrol the city, racing across rooftops, climbing on edges and dropping enemies off buildings. The story is engaging at points, with quite a few surprises. Though there isn’t much to do in the city once you finished the game. You can look for glass shards to boost your max energy capacity or run a few side missions to finish maxing out Cole. Playing through the game a second time to try out the other’s karma’s ability tree is as fun as the first. With Infamous you have many moral choices. You are given different ways of propelling the story in your choosing. Your actions usually have staggering consequences, which will ultimately determine whether you will become a hero or truly infamous.
+Game is worth playing twice
+Comic panel narration is cool
+/-Karma choices are only absolute good or absolute evil
-In-game cut scene animations are not fluid and distracting
-Cole has poor defensive options
-Limited upgrade options
-Weak boss fights