Did you know that the human body is a mild generator of electricity? Every ounce of information is passed through neurochemicals and electricity. Heck, if it wasn’t for the electric current of -40 mv then we wouldn’t even be able to move! I bring up this ultra-brief neurology lesson because, I have been a bit obsessed with Sony’s inFamous. Well, who can really blame me? It’s been a while since I’ve immersed myself in an open-ended world, and playing “hero” is a fun pastime. I love how electrifyingly simple it is. And I hate how unrefined it is at other moments. But is it worth a $30 purchase?
inFAMOUS follows a young man named Cole who happens to open a package that rips Empire City in half. Thousands of people die, and he’s the only survivor. However, it does grant him control over electricity. As he comes to terms with his new found superpowers, the city is placed under a massive quarantine that makes what Norton anti-virus does seem like kiddie-stuff. Gangs are all over the place, bossing citizens around. A plague haunts the city, and people are slowly dying off. And then there are the power shortages. Add to the mix the threat of an impending A-bomb to render the city toast to keep the plague from spreading keeps everything feeling gloomier than any other situation. So can Cole clean up the city and escape? Or does he add to it?
To say the least, it is an interesting plot, and it flows naturally. There are “dead drops” that add background to the main story. But the emphasis here is how you want Cole to be known (hence the title). The game constantly hands out these black and white moments that let you define his personality with no gray. Does he heal the sick or kill them? Does he bind his opponents for the police to capture, or does he leach their life away? It feels like one is creating a comic book hero rather than controlling one. The cutscenes make certain you know this because of its comic book style attitude.
So how does the game play? inFAMOUS is a mixture between a third-person shooter and open-ended exploration. Cole is able to shoot bolts of electricity at his enemies, electric grenades and rockets (and yes, there is a difference), thunder drop and attack with his electrifying fists. After he’s done taking down gang members, he can literally climb up almost any vertical surface to reach the rooftops in search of dead drops and blast cores that increase his electric attack reserves. Plus, the map does an excellent job of keeping track of the various quests — though they all follow the same few types: escort, protect, find package of shards and races.
Since Cole is electric, he heavily relies on electricity to refuel his armory and heal. What’s cool is that he drains the electricity out of anything with a current: cars, traffic lights, generators, cooling fans ... you name it, he drains it. However, he can’t swim as it “shorts” him out. This allows for some pretty cool level design and occasionally feels very fluid. A crazed prince might have been the first one to make acrobatics seem cool, Cole solidifies it in ways that some characters can only dream since he makes it look organic.
Graphically, the game looks great. infamous mixes superhero fandom in a realistic looking world. Empire City has three different districts, each with their own feel. One district can be considered the “ghetto” and looks rundown. Another acts like any other downtown area, complete with skyscrapers. And the third is a mixture of 20th century and present-day buildings. Citizens meander about the city going about their business, though your alignment will influence how they respond to Cole. They’ll even take his picture as he defends them and even throw stones at enemies. Explosions are cool, and finding hotspots is simple.
However, there are problems with the overall game engine. First and foremost are the graphical clippings. Depending on the surface, Cole can “worm” his way through solid objects and end up on the other side. Combine this with Cole either being too/under “sticky” to grabbing objects for platforming sections adds to the frustration. Another problem is that enemies’ health seems to constantly increase, but Cole’s always remains the same. Although the “unlimited” lives are great, constantly repeating the same fire-fights in the same exact locations during a gaming session is not. What it ultimately comes down to is an issue of balance. There are moments when everything gels together, and it is awesome. Then one of the issues above happens, and the fluidity slows down if not stops. It isn’t game breaking, just annoying because the game deserves much more. I don’t know if it is due to the game coming off PlayStation Network or if it is a universal problem.
Sound wise, the game is easy on the ears. The electricity is shocking (pun highly intended), the explosions are potent, the gunfire is solid and the jumps have a certain “spring” to them. Most of the tunes are drum-based and the game’s introduction tune is a tense electric guitar solo. The voice acting is awesome. Cole has deep, raspy and cynical voice. Moya is commanding and domineering without being too condescending. And the villains make those from comic books look like crossing guards.
I enjoyed inFAMOUS immensely. I am one of those anti-comic-book-super-hero-folks. And now I’m in love with the idea. But as awesome as the game is, it is also just as flawed: Cole over-latches onto things, falls through things, the game has crashed on me once, the game doesn’t always recognize when a stunt has been performed and the game isn’t properly setup for a “cover-and-shoot” type game. But when it flows, man, it is like nothing else.
I only hesitate slightly in recommending inFAMOUS. If you’re looking for something that mixes open world with superhero action, then look no further. Fans of action and exploration should feel quite at home with this game. It costs about $30 and will provide the proper amount of entertainment at the price. So now please excuse me; I’m going to dream about shooting electricity from my hands.