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Infamous Review: It Feels Good Being Bad

“Infamous” is Sucker Punch Studios’ first game outside of the “Sly Cooper” franchise since “Rocket: Robot on Wheels” for the Nintendo 64 way back in 1997. It’s also their first foray into developing for the Playstation 3. In fact, when Sucker Punch announced they were stepping outside the “Sly Cooper” franchise, many fans were surprised and disappointed. Fortunately, those worries were unfounded however, as “Infamous” is not only one of the best games developed by Sucker Punch yet, but one of the better games available for the PS3.

Set in fictional Empire city, “Infamous” takes you on the journey of a man named Cole. A bike messenger in Empire City, Cole is delivering a package when it suddenly explodes, decimating six city blocks in the process. Cole wakes up at the epicenter of the blast and while he is slightly burned and beaten, he remains relatively unscathed. As he tries to flee the ensuing chaos, he gets electrocuted by various downed power wires. This incident does not kill him however, but invigorates him, shooting pulsing electricity through his veins, seemingly regenerating him. In the days that follow Cole sees the city, which is now under government quarantine, go to hell, and many people believe that Cole is the terrorist behind the explosion. Not all is wrong for Cole however, as he begins to develop various super powers allowing him to shoot bolts of electricity from his hands, send pulsating shockwaves through the air, and heal people with a minute shock to the body. This is where the game begins, throwing Cole into a island filled with people that despise him, but are helpless to do anything against him. From there on out, how you deal with the citizens of Empire City is completely left up to you.

And that’s the big draw to “Infamous”. If you want to help fight the gangs that are now running rampant within Empire City’s walls, you can. Not only will you clean up the streets, but public opinion of you will begin to sway, and people will not only put up posters of you, but may even throw stones at baddies trying to get in your way. If you’re feeling a bit more sinister Cole can do nothing, and stand idly by while a police station blows up, killing many cops in the process. However, such actions won’t do much to help your image, and not only will people run away from you in fear, but Cole may begin to lose the ones closest to him. “Infamous” provides dynamic changes to the environment depending on the choices you make, and it does so while providing great superhero thrills in an open-world, sandbox setting.

The manner in which “Infamous’” story is told really helps add to the game. Comic book-style, cut scenes are shown throughout the game and different stories are available depending on how you decide to play. Empire City exudes a desperate, gritty feel to it, and the cut scenes do a great job of representing that. This is not a game intended for the same audience as the Sly franchise, and deals with themes of betrayal, love, and revenge. I won’t give anything away, but the story in “Infamous” really impressed, and it was refreshing to see its progression take such dark turns, even if you choose to do the right thing.

Think of “Infamous” as a much better version of those open-world “Spider-Man” games Activision came out with a couple years back. Cole goes around Empire City performing both story and side missions in whichever manner he sees fit. If you want to finish all the side missions in a certain area before touching the story you can. If you want to focus solely on the story mode, you can do that to. Doing so, however, will make things harder on you in the long run since you won’t have access to certain powers.

By completing missions Cole earns experience. This experience acts as the games currency for purchasing new or improved forms of super powers for Cole. Also, when a side mission is finished, it creates a safe zone in an area of the city where criminals will no longer linger. So in the end, it behooves the player to complete most side missions. “Infamous” does a good job at making the side missions interesting, without having to much repetition. Yea, you will get tired of doing certain types of side missions, like the boring counter-surveillance side missions, but for everyone of those there is an equally interesting, intense goal that awaits. Certain side missions are only available depending on how you choose to play the game. If you go down the honorable route, you’ll be asked to help out the police in various missions. Conversely, if you’re evil, people may come up to you and ask you to do their dirty work.

Cole has an impressive arsenal of powers to aid him. Throughout the game, the cities three factions of gangs have shut down the power grids to the city, leaving you powerless in areas where electricity is absent. Cole must take to the sewers and find the corresponding power stations in order to restore power to the city. Every time he touches one of these power stations, he himself gains a new power. Cole can do anything from leeching energy from people, to parting the clouds and making lighting rain down on his largest foes. You’re powers are dependent on whether you’re a hero or badass, but they all have variations depending on which side you choose. For example, as a good guy, Cole’s shock grenades explode, but handcuff people to the ground with electricity, allowing cops to arrest them. Evil grenades lack this ability, but instead form clusters to cause extra damage.

All his moves are simple to pull off as well. Very little control issues are present in “Infamous” as Sucker Punch did a fantastic job making complex movements handle with ease. Cole spends the majority of his time in the city climbing buildings of all sizes. All the player must do to quickly ascend is tap x and Cole will pull himself toward the nearest ledge. Climbing Empire City’s tallest building takes only a matter of seconds once you get a feel for the controls. Cole is also given the ability to glide in the air and ride on rails via static energy.

The game’s not perfect, however. There is an occasional slowdown when the action gets chaotic, and there were a lot of issues with pop-up. While I can’t say enough good things about the story, I would’ve liked to see a more internal view on how Cole is struggling with his powers, or a better look at how him being viewed as a terrorist affects his psyche. Also, there is one power in the game that is exclusive to you depending on whether you good or evil, but not only did I find it fairly useless, I found both variations pretty similar, only switching color depending on your allegiance.

Those are all pretty minor complaints, though. “Infamous” is a flat-out, must-have game. Even on its hardest setting, it remains accessible to players. The controls are very intuitive, and I haven’t enjoyed a story like this in a game for quite some time. From its onset, the game delivers a gritty, action packed, comic book-like experience, and easily pulls you into the world of Empire City. Whether you choose to be the terrorist everyone thinks you are, or the sole savior of a city going to hell, you’ll have a blast, and you’ll likely play the game a second time to see how the other route ends up. Before “Infamous” came along, most fans of Sucker Punch studios couldn’t wait for the announcement of “Sly Cooper 4.” With the introduction of “Infamous,” that wait just became much, much more bearable.

Rating: ★★★★½

 
“Infamous” was developed by Sucker Punch Productions and released for the Playstation 3 by SCEA on May 26th, 2009.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Infamous Review: It Feels Good Being Bad”

  1. DaveDaGamer on June 9th, 2009 10:16 pm

    Good review I agree completely. But again what do you say to those who may pass on Infamous and lean more towards the destruction (pun intended) of Prototype?

    I don’t think there’s ever been this type of head to head in similar genres before.

    Both are open world games. Both are characters who wake up with powers bestowed on them and don’t know why. Both can air glide instead of fly ;-)

    My vote? I like Infamous’ polish and overall tightness. I like the speed of Prototype and the action during his fights. This is a tough call but I would give the edge to my boys at Sucker Punch.

    Who found a way to keep telephone/power lines in their games.

    Reply

  2. Nat X7 on June 10th, 2009 12:23 am

    Hey DW,

    Good question. I haven’t seen Prototype playable yet, but it looks badass. I was just so impressed by the overall package of Infamous. I’m sure Prototype will kick ass, but Infamous really gets it right with its morality system, and Cole is a hero/antihero anyone can get behind. Definitely looking forward to Alex Mercer’s adventure, but until then, Cole is the guy to beat!

    Reply

  3. Nat X7 on June 10th, 2009 12:25 am

    haha, I meant DaveDaGamer, not DW. I am getting my TGH’rs confused.

    Reply

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