The great PSN blackout of 2011 was a dark time (no pun intended). It was in fact, an even worse event than the great power outage of 2003 that swept the USA. While the Xbox 360 fanboys were laughing and prancing about on their precious Xbox Live, we PlayStation devotees had to go more than a month without online. Just when I was thinking that Sony was full of it, my next PSN email update changed my mind.
My first free game was wipEout HD, a game I had wanted since before the famous Welcome Back package made it possible for me to afford it. My second freebie was inFAMOUS, a game that interested me but I couldnít afford to buy at the time. After spending days pondering if I wanted to choose this game over Dead Nation, a few days of playing it later ascertained that I had indeed made the right decision. This is a superhero game unlike any other.
inFAMOUS, brought to us by those lovely folks who also brought us the Sly Cooper series, Sucker Punch,is a sandbox style superhero game where players take control of Cole MacGrath, who has the power to manipulate electricity. While that may sound like a dull power, MacGrath does it better than Static Shock; he can throw electric grenades, create polar shields, glide with static thrusters, and even summon giant bolts of lightning from the sky to destroy large hordes of enemies! Of course, you earn these different powers over the course of the game, but itís definitely an interesting ride along the way.
You are Cole MacGrath, a bike courier in Empire City. One day you are delivering a package that suddenly explodes, destroying six square blocks of the city and killing thousands upon thousands of people. The Federal Government subsequently places Empire City under quarantine. Miraculously, you survive the bombing and wake up with newfound electrokinetic abilities. After attempting to escape, you are captured by an FBI agent who needs you to find another agent somewhere in the city before she will let you leave. Meanwhile, things get even worse as gangs start to terrorize the quarantined city, overwhelming the police and killing countless innocent pedestrians. Throughout this whole mess, you are trying to figure out the person responsible for that package, and why they did this. As the plot thickens and the mystery unravels itself, thereís love, betrayal, and one hell of a twist that will definitely have you on the edge until the end credits. It has been quite a long while since I was so engrossed in a gameís plot the way I was with that of inFAMOUS.
The way that the story is presented to you is really unique and I thought it gave the game much charm and personality; all of the major cutscenes are presented in the style of a comic book, to go with the superhero theme. (The game would later have comics by DC, but it is a superhero game not based on a comic.) The art style of these comic drawings is pretty sweet as well, they move and have ink splotches around them, you would have to see it!
What separates inFAMOUS from similar, previous games of the genre is that you may choose for the main character to become good or evil using a karma system. Your karmic status affects how the citizens on the streets react to you. Good deeds include helping citizens in need instead of ignoring them, capturing bad guys instead of killing them, and not killing innocent bystanders. Killing civilians, ignoring pleas for help from citizens, and being selfish at all will earn you evil karma points. Most of your karma points will come from these moments where time freezes, and Cole thinks about how to resolve a situation. Usually, thereís the good way to resolve it which usually involves making a sacrifice on your part, or thereís the evil way which is usually the ďeasierĒ way but it involves making a sacrifice at the expense of innocent bystanders.
I really found this to be a unique and refreshing concept, as itís not often that you get to decide on turning your character good or evil, they are simply the way they are and what you do is based on that.
The only thing is, being good or evil does not really have an effect on the story. It might alter a few cutscenes a little and have a slight change on the dialogue, but the story remains the same for both sides which is strange. Infamous Cole still has to do all the same story missions as Hero Cole which I found a bit odd. You would think Infamous Cole would not care to help the police fend off a gang attack on the jail or disable terror buses with machine guns mounted on them gunning down civilians.
The only thing that your karmic status affects is how youíre treated by people on the streets. If youíre playing as Hero, crime rates will decrease dramatically, the citizens will love you, and police will help you if they see youíre being attacked by the gangs. Empire City will start returning to normal. If youíre Infamous, the citizens will fear you/hate you, some will attack you, and the cops will try to apprehend you/kill you, and the city becomes hell on earth for the citizens (even the look of it will become bleak and gloomy as Infamous Cole). Even if youíre a bad guy, the gangs will still try to kill you as well. This is definitely a more realistic take on what itís like being a superhero than Iíve seen in some other games and one of the things that really engrossed players, including myself.
The problem with trying to play as Hero is the AI for the civilians. If youíre in a shootout with some baddies, they will run right into the mix, and you are subjected to injure or occasionally even kill some by mistake. As aforementioned killing civilians earns you evil points whether you meant to or not, and this can make trying to maintain your good karmic status a real chore at times.
Speaking of broken AI, the thugs in the city take the cake. There are times where I was shot by a guy who was a good two or three blocks away from my position. No kidding. So far away that they donít even show up on radar. Unfortunately, every gang member in the city has aim that good. There are some instances where I was just running down the street on my way to the next mission and the next thing I know, I get showered in bullets and then Iím out for the count. The gangsters often like to hide and wait to snipe you from the rooftops, and it tends to be really time-consuming to have to drop what youíre doing and climb up there to stop them.
Such is why if you really want a challenge, become Infamous. Itís ďeasierĒ to play as Infamous in the sense that your choices donít involve you making sacrifices on your part, but essentially it means that everyone on the street is an enemy. Playing as Hero, it did help quite a lot to have assistance from pedestrians as well as the cops.
What also changes is the type of side missions Cole embarks on. Infamous side missions usually involve assassinations and killing hordes of civilians and police officers. Heroic side missions involve saving groups of people from being abducted and forced into the gangs, helping police defeat the gangs in shootouts, and healing injured people on the streets using electric pulse heal like the Jaws of Life. I was amazed at how they managed to get creative with electricity; Cole even has the ability to read residual neuro-electrons from the brain of a dead body and see the ghost image of the personís final moments before death. Props to Sucker Punch for that.
There isnít really a soundtrack to comment on because most of the time when you are just exploring the city, you just hear the ambience. Wind blowing, cars cruising the streets, people complaining, crying out, sirens, and gunshots. There is music on some missions but for the most part itís just ambience, which I am actually okay with. It gives the city a more realistic feel and makes it seem more alive in my opinion. The voice acting is pretty well done as well, fitting of the characterís personalities and not overdone, with the possible exception of Cole himself. All he needs to do is grow his hair out and say ďColonel!Ē
Aside from Coleís voice though, I really like the idea behind him. inFAMOUS tells the story of a much more modern day superhero; Cole doesnít wear his underwear on the outside, he remains dressed like a regular guy, and for the most part he still acts as much like a regular guy as he can, which I really love because it gives players a hero that is much easier to relate to. At the core, he is just an average guy with superpowered abilities trying to find his place in a city where he is an outcast (unless of course you take the Infamous route where he becomes a monstrous killing machine), while making his own choices about how to use his powers. Again, heís much easier for players to identify with than many other video game characters out there (especially since theyíre the ones deciding how to use his powers whether it be for good or for evil).
The only thing that in my opinion could have made the game even better than it is was some type of multiplayer. Many people would debate against that, countering that inFAMOUS was built to be a solid single player experience and having to invest extra time into an online mode would have taken away from that. While thatís possible, I donít think it would have hurt. It would have given the game more longevity and replay value. If they didnít want to take away any time, they could have made it DLC.
Nevertheless, I really have no significant issues with the game. The only flaws that hinder it somewhat are the snipers who can shoot you from miles away, and the fact that the aiming controls are inverted when youíre Hero than when youíre Infamous. After doing an entire playthrough with the controls one way, doing the opposite takes getting used to. Also, in the graphics department, sometimes there are ďpop upsĒ (objects that suddenly just pop up and appear in an instant once you reach a certain point. Cars, buildings, people, it can be annoying at times and make navigation a pain at times).
At the end of the day however, I really cannot say that inFAMOUS was anything short of fantastic. If I was stranded on a desert island with only a few games, this would be one of them hands down. And there are many contenders. I may have had withdrawal with no PSN for over a month, but this game proves that good things come to those who wait.
Overall Grade: A
(9/10; only rarely are glitches encountered, refreshing concept, no real hinderences that make it less enjoyable)