The makers of Sly Cooper have abandoned their cutesy background for a much darker and more interactive experience. The result: a fun time.
Unlike other open world sandbox titles, inFamous stands out from the crowd by offering a higher level of presentation values and wise game design choices. From the game’s deeper take on narrative, comic book style cut scenes, excellent voice work, and solid controls with great gameplay, inFamous is a great addition to the relatively weak PS3 line-up.
You play as courier boy, Cole, whose delivery package actually blows up and destroys several city blocks while turning him into an electrifying super hero, or super villain. Taking a Fable approach, it is up to the player to decide how the game is played. If you want to walk around killing everyone, go right ahead. Want to use your power for the good of mankind by stopping baddies and healing the sick, then go for it. How you play the game changes more than the mission approach and plotline, but it also affects which powers you unlock. Like Fable, playing this game as a super hero will play out differently as if you played it as a super villain.
Coincidentally, some of the biggest games that were released in the last couple months have been open world sandbox titles. While Red Faction: Guerrilla contained an unmatched level of environmental destruction and Prototype made you feel more like a Venom symbiote, inFamous gets the most things right out of the three games. Even though the game is an open world and the player is free to take on missions at will, inFamous contains more of a structured presentation by unlocking specific parts of the game in chunks. Taking on each of the game’s three islands at a time brings balance to the game while still taking off the leash. Because each of the game’s main areas contain stronger enemies, the game grows as the player does.
Empire City is a dangerous place because entire city blocks lay in ruin from Cole’s explosion, the government has quarantined the entire area, and a virus is infecting the locals. Using a Metroid style of progression, Cole gains a new ability just as the last one was starting to grow stale. By turning on electricity to parts of the darkened city, the player will unlock a new ability and extra side missions. But unlike Guerrilla and Prototype, the extra missions in inFamous never feel like a chore, are entertaining to participate in, and warrant rewards. Using a sophisticated map system, the player will always know where the story based missions are and where the side missions are located. There are even times when Cole will randomly be walking down the street when a pedestrian will ask for his help. These “don’t look for us, we’ll find you” missions are good and unexpected distractions. Combine this with Cole’s electric powers and open ended gameplay, the player can even choose to heal sick people in the street or take their life to add to his own. The game’s morality meter will keep track of all the good and bad things you do. This ultimately determines which powers will be unlocked and how the story unfolds.
One thing that inFamous lacks is the ability to hijack and drive vehicles. However, I realized this fact after about playing the game for about a half dozen hours. Because Cole is extremely agile, traveling around the Empire City is not only easy, but also entertaining. Whether you are using your electric powers to hover from rooftop to rooftop or power sliding on train rails, getting around the environment never requires the use of a vehicle. This fact alone deserves major props to the game’s developers for making this bold/creative, but functional game design decision. Simply climbing a building is also fun. Cole’s movements when climbing objects are just as good as, if not better, than Spiderman or Assassin’s Creed.
No question, this game looks amazing when played in 1080p. The game’s engine is solidly built so rarely will frames drop or flicker. The draw distance is quite impressive too. Each of the game’s comic book style cut scenes have been hand drawn with great detail and really make the player feel like they are playing as a super hero as opposed to just some dude who happened to obtain special powers. From the very first “press START to play” message, the player will be sucked into the plot line and gameplay. Opening with a bang has never been more literal.
inFamous is a great ride to take and only suffers from a few bumps along the way. There is no denying the fact that Cole controls wonderfully, but there are times he is a little too “clingy.” Because he magnetically latches on to ledges, there will be an occasion where you just want to fall down, not walk off the edge and grab the side. Secondly, there are way too many enemy snipers randomly placed on rooftops. For some reason, they only target Cole and know that he is coming from a mile away. It becomes annoying when you get shot in the face from a rooftop sniper when you are just randomly walking down the street. Finally, there are times when the game locks out parts of the game. For example, when you complete the last story mission on the first island, you automatically travel to the second island and cannot go back to the first. So if you had unfinished side missions, you are basically out of luck.
It is such a sigh of relief to finally play a game on the PS3 is that an exclusive and worthy of a $60 purchase. inFamous makes a lot of smart and entertaining game design decisions topped off with a high level of presentation values. While not perfect, this game is definitely one of the best open world sandbox titles in recent memory. Once you play the free demo on the PSN, you will be hooked. You even unlock inFamous Playstation HOME clothes with your save file. This disc is a complete package and should be a game to put on your “need to play” list, especially if you only own a PS3.