Review by MattVSin

"Mmmm, the power"

Yes, Sucker Punch's inFAMOUS is all about power and what you do with that power. Will you rule with an iron fist or will you be the white knight people need?

Story

Taking place in the fictional Empire City, inFAMOUS gives you control of Cole McGrath, a carrier, who is given a normal package to deliver downtown when things go wrong. Finding himself in the middle of a crater, with no memory of what happened, and the old survivor in site, you first take control of Cole and make your way out. As you run for your life, electrical charges burst at you from every direction until you make it across a bridge as it's destroyed by lightning strikes. From there the game jumps 2 weeks ahead in time and uses a comic book style storytelling method to show that following the explosion the city and a mysterious virus the city was quarantined. The citizens of Empire City are left to fight for their lives against the gangs that have taken over. Once Cole is awake and healthy again he becomes aware of some powers he has developed where he can absorb and control electricity and use it as weapons. Will you use it against the gangs to defend the city or will you just destroy everything? The path you must choose will be affected by everything you do. Heal citizens, attack them, missions, attack gangs, etc... It all affects the game's morality system and it works quite well. The story has the usual twist and turns with a nice surprise plot twist at the end that I won't spoil. Overall the story is quite interesting, has a comic book feel to it (along with the cutscenes), and is very solid.

Gameplay

As I've already talked about, you are given control of Cole and his electrical abilities. Along with these you are able to scale almost anything from vehicles, buildings, light posts, and trees to make your way around the city which is separated into 3 islands. You won't be able to drive cars as you cause them to explode when you enter them (damn, electricity) but you can jump on top of the trains (once you get them working) and a grinding ability becomes available for fast movement around the city. Anytime you use your abilities you gain experience points that can go towards upgrading them while you unlock new abilities by re-establishing the power in areas through the city. Once you gain a new ability the game gives you a tutorial as you play to help you use the new power and understand where it can be vital. There are 3 gangs in the city and each controls an island. The first group, Reapers, control the island you start on and they can be quite a challenge since your powers are limited. As you progress to the other islands the enemies increase in difficulty to match your abilities nicely. Each group has special enemies called Conduits that act like mini-bosses due to their ability to absorb more punishment.

To match your increase in abilities you can collect metal shards that have been charged with energy during the initial blast. Collect a certain number of these and you can store more energy. You can collect up to 350 shards which can more than double the electricity you can store. When you use up the electricity you have, Cole will become weak and must recharge from anything around him that has a charge. Cars, lamps, power stations, electrical boxes, and even people and enemies can be drained to heal and re-establish you strength. Since Cole draws his power from electricity, when you enter areas without it you need to be careful as it will only recharge very slightly with no other source around you.

Personally, I found the gameplay fantastic. Climbing buildings, upgrading powers, having some huge battles with gangs, collecting shards and dead drops (audio files that fill in the story), and even helping citizens was a blast. I could run around just for fun and heal people because you would hear them crying out to you and feel like you needed to help. As far as the differences between good and bad, the good abilities tend to be more accurate (so you don't hurt people around the enemies) while the evil abilities tended to be more destructive. Good powers can suspend enemies in the air for a short period while evil grenades will break up into multiple grenades for more damage. Aside from the regular missions there are side missions that, once complete, free an area from enemy control. These side missions vary into 5 or so different types of missions and can get a bit tedious but I didn't really mind them. You can pretty much do what you want in this game and you are encouraged to play through it at least twice, good and evil. You don't get special items or anything for completing the game so you start any new game with the base powers again. I have experienced this in any open world game I've ever played so I don't see that as a downside and I have now completed this game 3 times with more playthroughs to follow. Overall, the gameplay is fantastic and a highlight.

Graphics

I'll get this out quickly: this is no Uncharted. Due to its open world setting you will certainly notice that the graphics won't be nominated best of the year. However, the character models, environment, and effects are certainly well done and won't distract you from the game itself. Characters speak in synch with the words, explosions of cars and other items are fantastic, and everything is colourful and interesting. As for the smoothness of it, I have experienced some slowdowns here and there but only during huge fights or big explosions. They were noticeable but never affected my play. Some pop-ins of cars or citizens can occur as well ala Grand Theft Auto. Basically, the graphics and framerate is good with some slight issues that never detract from the game.

Audio

The bulk of the sound effects reside with the electricity powers which are done very well. What should sound like electricity or the various powers does, which is good. As for the voice actors, I have heard some complaints about Cole's voice acting but I really didn't see much issue with it. Yes, he pulls off the "Christian Bale's Batman" voice but it never really hurt the story for me. As for the other main actors they all do a good job on their work and no performances are "phoned in". The main antagonist does a very good job with the evil, menacing, yet intelligent voice and I really enjoyed that person's work. As for the secondary sounds, characters on the street talk about you based on whether you are good or evil, explosions sound good, and enemies have there own unique sounds. One notable standout in the audio department is the soundtrack. The game uses typical metal type music but the main theme "Silent Melody" is simply fantastic and suits the game very well.

Closing Comments

inFAMOUS is a fantastic game that has a superhero/comic book take on the sandbox genre. The world is huge, the story is engaging, characters are likeable, gameplay is smooth, and it's simply fun. You can certainly find yourself plowing through the story or just travelling around finding hidden items, causing destruction, or helping the citizens of Empire City. Basically, you do what you want, when you want. A great PS3 exclusive and definitely a top game of 2009.

Story - 9.5/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 7.5/10
Audio - 9/10
Overall - 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/09

Game Release: inFamous (US, 05/26/09)


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