Review by CyhortI82
"inFamous: How to ruin a sure thing."
Introduction: So, if you're like me you probably first heard about this game from Game Informer's cover story several months back. And if you're like me you immediately thought upon reading about it, "Wow, this sounds AWESOME". A guy survives an explosion and gets superpowers, then has to choose whether to save the city or destroy it all while finding out what caused the explosion, why he got his powers and how it's going to change his life and the lives of everyone around him. Sounds like a sure thing right? I thought so too. However after buying the game on release day and playing it for several days I can say with 100% certainty that inFamous is many things, but a sure thing isn't one of them. How can anyone screw up such a great concept and turn what should have been the great PS3 game of 2009 into an exercise in frustration? Let me count the ways.
Story: Without spoiling anything important here's the basic story. The main character, Cole, is a courier and survives an explosion in Empire City that kills thousands only to discover that the explosion somehow gave him superpowers. He can shoot electricity out of his hands, heal by absorbing electricity and survive a fall from any height (as well as other powers that you unlock later on). Sounds good so far right? Well to tell the truth it is. Aside from starting out slowly the story itself is very good. What brings the story down and ruins any enjoyment that might be found in it however are the writing itself and pretty much every character in the game. Let's do a quick run down of the most pathetic.
Trish: Cole's girlfriend at the start of the game. Her main role throughout the game is to call up Cole and verbally abuse him. I'm not joking. After the first mission or two 90% of her dialogue is yelling at Cole, blaming him for everything bad that happens and generally treating him like total garbage. Oh, and then telling him that he has to help her because he "owes her". She is easily the most unlikeable character in the entire game.
Zeke: Cole's best friend. The typical crazy conspiracy theorist. He thinks everything is a government plot, he hates cops and of course thinks Cole's superpowers are awesome. He's very one dimensional for most of the game and there's no real reason for him to be there except for a plot "twist" (it's in quotes because you can see it coming a mile away) in the last 85% of the game. Until that "twist" he does nothing but spout off conspiracy theories, talk about getting laid and extend the game slightly by appearing randomly in certain missions. I can't say too much without spoiling the plot but by the time you get to "Zeke's Big Moment" you want nothing more than for Cole to slowly electrocute him in a 15 minute long cutscene. Or just to shut off the game.
Moya: I know I'm probably spelling it wrong but it really doesn't matter. She's the one who gives you the majority of your story missions. Her character isn't so much annoying as just plain bad. Badly written, badly acted, even the character model is bad. She's the typical government agent that forces the reluctant hero to do things for her that you've seen in pretty much every comic, action movie and video game since the beginning of time. Or at least the last 30 or so years.
Cole: Yes, the MAIN CHARACTER is one of the most annoying characters in the game. He is also the most whipped character in video game history. You read earlier about Trish's constant verbal abuse and now it's time to tell you about Cole's reaction. He takes it. Yes, he sits back, almost never defends himself and almost never says anything to her besides periodically begging her to take him back. Even if you play through the game Evil, Cole still acts like a 13 year old with his first girlfriend. That, combined with his being written like every other comic book hero and his "no I swear I'm totally not trying to sound like Solid Snake" voice acting makes him a pretty unlikeable main character for pretty much the entire second half of the game.
Gameplay: Every once and a while you get drawn into the story. You start to feel like you can really lose yourself in the game and ignore the bad characters and shallow writing. Then you hit one of the many instances of shoddy gameplay and remember why you keep taking 4 hour bathroom breaks. I'm going to start off by talking about what they got right. They, mostly, got the powers perfectly. Think Resident Evil 4 if Leon could move and shoot lightning, mixed with Assassin's Creed type dodging and climbing and you get a good idea of the basic gameplay of inFamous. However to truly understand the gameplay you need to take Assassin's Creed climbing and replace it with the beta version that's filled with annoying bugs and put that in the final game. The platforming in this game is broken. There's no other way to put it. You can climb up the side of buildings very well. But once you start doing things like trying to jump down or go from building to building or climb up one of the more complicated structures like the police station or the Dustmen tower it starts to get frustrating.
To start off you constantly clip through any part of the map that you're not supposed to climb on. That barrel that would give you enough starting height to get to that roof? Not supposed to climb on it so you clip through it. That car that would let you reach the ledge you need to get to? Not the right way so you clip through it. Now that you know which way to go however you run into more problems. inFamous has a very annoying gameplay mechanic that automatically makes Cole grab onto things if he falls near them. You may think that this would make climbing easier, and to be fair it does, however you can never turn it off. When you jump off a roof to reach a waypoint on the ground Cole will drift toward the nearest ledge and grab onto it. When you're trying to jump from pole to pole in the sewers Cols will turn and fall towards the nearest one, even if you're pressing the control stick in the complete opposite direction. Cole also seems to love jumping without you pressing the jump button. If you're at all above the ground and walk off something (when the game lets you walk off because most of the time when you get near the edge of anything you hit an invisible wall that keeps you from going further. This also happens sometimes when Cole tries to use stairs) you automatically jump towards the nearest climbable object. Assassin's Creed had the same mechanic but in Assassin's Creed you needed to hold down a button to utilize it. In inFamous it's on all the time and it makes what should be an easy trip to a waypoint a frustrating game of "the ground is lava".
There is a lot of diversity in the mission types, and a lot are truly original, but there are way too many search quests, fetch quests, timed missions and protect quests. And on one of the timed missions (a main story mission mind you) you don't get a timer. The person giving you the quest just randomly tells you how much time is left. Poor design masked as originality in my opinion.
Graphics: The graphics are probably consistently the best thing about the game. Everything is beautiful. The lightning effects are wonderfully done, the city looks gritty and real, the character models (for the most part) are well rendered and look great. The only real problem is the aforementioned clipping issue.
Conclusion: This could have been a top contender for game of the year easily if the developers had just put more effort into it. If the characters has a little more depth and were a little less annoying, if the gameplay was tweaked just a little bit more, if the story had just a little more thought put into it this would have been a very decent game. If they had spend 6 more months working on all those issues, it could have easily been the best PS3 game since Metal Gear Solid 4. As it is, it's a decent game for the first half, but it goes rapidly downhill after that until you find yourself unable to even force yourself to try to finish the game.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/09
Game Release: inFamous (US, 05/26/09)
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