Review by ayame95
"Strong Gameplay and Art Direction Make up for a Weak Story and Characters"
The current console generation's technological capabilities have allowed the trend of Open World gaming (popularized by titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series) to blossom. We have seen a bevy of sandbox games, with varying degrees of success.
Along comes Infamous, a Playstation-exclusive title that puts the player in the role of Cole, a man who finds himself at the center of a terrorist attack that has somehow left him with the mysterious ability to control electricity. Unlike many games in the genre, Infamous eschews vehicle control entirely, placing the emphasis on maneuvering through the urban environment using the main character's ever-increasing powers.
STORY & CHARACTERS 6/10
Unfortunately there is little, if anything, memorable about the story of Infamous. Much of it is clichéd and I rarely found myself caring about what happened or interested in where the story was going. There is an arbitrary twist or two in the game, but nothing especially original. Simply put, players hoping for an engaging story should look elsewhere.
This is rivaled only by the unbelievably poor quality of character design in the game. All the characters in the game (including the main character and villain) feel incredibly stock, and there is almost no depth to them. One enemy type, I kid you not, is costumed in a garbage bag.
Infamous also attempts to implement a morality system, where the player can choose between good and evil actions. Unfortunately these choices are far too clear cut, and the most beneficial play-style is to make all evil or all good choices, so there is little incentive to treat these decisions as serious moral quandaries. You just pick option A or B based on whether you are trying to do a good or bad playthrough.
Considering how starkly these elements stand in contrast to the high quality of the rest of the game, one can only come to the conclusion that either the story and characters were implemented very late in the design process, or simply were not a priority for the developers. Either way, it's a real disappointment.
Infamous is, at heart, a platformer. Its developer Sucker Punch has shown in the past that it can do 3D platforming quite well, and Infamous is of the same pedigree as their Sly Cooper series. Part of this lies in the actual control of the main character. Cole runs, climbs, jumps and lands exactly where you want him to every time. When a near an object in mid-jump, he will be sucked in slightly to land on it properly, and this is implemented subtlety enough so that you can more easily hit your target, but never get pulled off course accidentally. Powers such as the ability to hover and grind telephone lines and train tracks emerge throughout the game, increasing his ability to traverse the city quickly. The other key element is the excellent layout of the city. Buildings, ledges pipes and other elements are laid out to create various lines, so that Cole always has a way to get where he wants.
With regards to combat, Infamous is basically a shooter. Although the weapon is electricity shot from Cole's hand, the various functions still act as a sniper rifle, rocket launcher, etc. But the smoothness of targeting and the addition of a simple cover system make the combat very satisfying, if not particularly innovative.
Taking down enemies and completing missions earns experience points, which are then used to purchase new powers and upgrade existing ones. Different powers are available based on whether the player has chosen a good or evil path. This system is not horribly deep, but does allow the player some choice as to how Cole develops (though doing all the side missions and going after the collectibles will earn you enough to purchase everything by the end of the game).
Infamous does deserve a strike for the inclusion of quicktime events in boss battles, something this generation of developers rely on way too often. It may be a nitpick, but it's something enough people are annoyed by to be worth mentioning. Getting a boss' energy down to a certain predetermined level, only to initiate a series of button presses in order to put an end to him feels like a bit of a cope out.
GRAPHICS & SOUND 9/10
The creators of Infamous choose to go with a more stylized art direction (as opposed to ultra-realistic graphics), and the result is a distinctive look that really sets Infamous apart from the pack. It would be inaccurate to describe Infamous' graphics as cell-shaded, but the whole thing has the feel of a western comic book. Empire City (the game's fictional location) feels very alive, with various neighborhoods and structures that avoid the frequent pitfall of such games where the entire city looks the same (see Infamous' competitor, Prototype).
But the high quality of the graphics is set off by the aforementioned issue with poor character design. As good as the city looks, nearly every person in it (friend, foe or innocent bystander) looks boring or occasionally downright awful. It doesn't matter how good a game can render a design that has no inspiration in the first place.
In terms of sound, Infamous scores relatively well. The music is appropriate and even memorable at points. It is relatively unobtrusive at most times (as it should be in this style of game), building to a crescendo at key moments. The voice acting is acceptable, but is marred by the poor quality of the characters (see above).
Despite being a singleplayer only experience, Infamous does give the player some reasons to pursue multiple playthroughs. Besides the aforementioned good/evil choice, there are multiple difficulty settings and a number of side quests. Even the dreaded collection quest is made somewhat easier by the addition of a sort of radar button that reveals the general location of the collectible shards (though it would have been nice to have a listing of how many were left in each area of the game). The game is also of a fairly decent length, although many of the side quests are repeats of earlier story missions and basically act as filler (see above).
Infamous is, at its core, a very fun game. Moving around the world and battling enemies is very fun, and is likely to keep most gamers interested enough to pursue a second playthough. If you are looking for a fun, open world platforming experience with solid gameplay and unique art direction, don't hesitate to give Infamous a try.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/10
Game Release: inFamous (US, 05/26/09)
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