Infamous is an extremely polished sandbox game that is fun to play from start to finish due to the powers you have and the wonderful mission design. There are a few small issues like insanely accurate enemies and occasional bugs like freezing or collision issues but none of that holds the game back from being one of the best games to be released this year.
Amazing visuals and textures for a sandbox game. Terrific powers and pace to how you gain new ones. The diverse mission design keeps the game fresh as you progress through the 18 hours it'll roughly take you to finish the game. Platforming+blasting fools with lightning never gets old. Awesome art design in both the city and characters and some excellent voice acting which is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack.
There's some nasty pop-up/texture loading at times but it only seems to be apparent in certain areas or instances. You may also run into a few occasions where Cole may sink into an object due to a weird collision glitch but thankfully this never happens during the core platforming. The superb marksman skills of some of the enemies may piss a few gamers off at the start of the game.
For the past few years games have been trying to provide the player with a new and interesting mechanic that far exceeds the standard choice of what weapon to use to dispose of their enemy: the choice of morale dilemmas. Allowing the player to choose between good or evil or to let their friend die while saving a more important or more loved person has been something developers have been trying to accomplish with mixed results. Games like Bioshock have tried it but it was just missing that extra level of depth or gray area since if you chose to harvest one Little Sister and save the rest you instantly got the bad ending based on one decision, something that seemed a little odd to me. It seems like we finally have our first action game that has done a good job accomplishing the good/evil morale choice mechanic with Sucker Punch’s open-world superhero game Infamous.
As some of you may know by now Infamous allows the player to choose between being a savior and saving the people of Empire City or letting them die amongst the madness that ensues when the player decides to be evil. The unique thing about the game is that it isn’t as clear cut as simply playing three missions, making some decisions and then being stuck with that path for the rest of the game. As you progress you can constantly choose when to be good and evil and this is by far one of the most impressive things about the game. When you’re going through some of the later areas of the game you just feel like you’re actually progressing as your actions dictate how the world looks whether it’s through people cheering or snapping cell phone pics of you, seeing heroic posters of yourself plastered throughout the city or seeing a clear blue sky as opposed to the bleak and dark look the game starts out with at the beginning.
Even the key morale choices that appear in the story missions for the game never feel entirely forced or unnatural. Choosing between whether or not to let the hungry citizens of the city get the recently dropped food packs or zapping them and let you and your friends have all the food feels natural given the context of Empire City just having gone through a massive disaster and being in general disarray. The choices you make continue to be as big as that and even simpler as at times you can choose between letting a falsely accused man continue to hang upside down on a lightpole or zap him to set him free. Scenarios like the lightpole guy aren’t forced down your throat constantly or feel too set-up as you may just be going about your business through Empire City and stumble across an event like that.
The player also has the decision of whether to be good or evil through their actions during gameplay as well. Obviously if you go about shooting citizens in the face with your lightning you’re going to get Negative Karma but if you’re just facing off against some of the standard goons you may have to be careful as to what moves you use since there are often citizens caught in the crossfire. Not only does this add a level of immersion to making you feel like you’re in a living city but the player is forced to think about what powers or moves to use since you don’t want to use the Shockwave move sending a car towards an enemy only for a citizen to get plastered in the process. This instantly adds another level of depth to the game that others sandbox action games never had since you hardly had to take into account the actual citizens in battle since for the most part they were merely there as window dressing.
Choosing between good or evil also has the more obvious effects such as dialog changes, differing changes to the appearance of Cole (the protagonist), and of course different endings. So even if you finish the game as a hero with full Positive Karma and want to replay the game as a villain then it’ll still be a new and unique experience since not only will you and the city look different but even your powers get a change in appearance and in some instances are a bit more powerful compared to the heroic powers. The missions of course are the same but even in that aspect replaying or watching the cutscenes won’t be a bore since even the comic-book panel cutscenes get an evil look to go with your new path in the game. Your newfound evil nature will also allow you to play through several Evil side missions that will be new to the player if they played through the game as a hero since the evil missions are instantly locked out once you complete a good side mission. And trust me, once you finished the game as a hero you’ll want to see what it’s like to be a villain.
But none of this “Good or Evil” stuff would’ve meant a damn if the game wasn’t entertaining and thankfully Infamous is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable games I’ve played in quite some time. I’m sure at this point many of us are slowly growing tired of sandbox games that either don’t do anything new or just feel like a retread of games we’ve played before. In the case of Infamous I’ve never felt a “been there done that” attitude while playing. Comparisons to games like GTAIV or the similarly super-powered themed game Crackdown are valid in the sense that they’re both sandbox games that feature stuff that blows up but ultimately that’s it. Infamous is just an entirely different beast that is completely original in what it does and how it goes about presenting its story and missions. If you can’t see how using parkour skills and shooting lightning from your fingers is different from what we’ve played before then I feel sorry for your gaming soul.
The first and most obvious thing in what makes the game fun is the aforementioned electrical based powers. Not only is shooting bolts of electricity from your hands looks cool but it’s a really fun mechanic since you can do unique things like zapping enemies that are in water or later in the game summon a massive lightning storm that will destroy trucks. But even though you have the powers of Zeus you never feel entirely over-powered as you constantly need to get energy for your powers as some skills drain more energy compared to others. Thankfully recharging your powers never feels like a chore or is hard to do since there’s an abundance of electrically charged items in the world. And if you ever are getting tired of running out of energy quickly you can look for 350 items called Blast Shards which will add a new power pack to your energy bar once a certain amount has been collected. I found this to be a unique feature since it allows the player to both explore the world of Empire City and it immediately pays off since they’re given a power-up that is instantly beneficial to them in the game as opposed to a one-off weapon or vehicle.
There are also some more defensive and navigation based powers like the Sonic Thruster and the electric shield. The Sonic Thruster allows the player to briefly fly which helps navigation to be a tad bit easier while the electric shield is what it sounds like and is a shield that Cole can bring up which blocks bullets and other projectile based attacks. The shield is a lifesaver in the last few story missions of the game and it definitely helps in some of the tougher side missions.
The interesting thing about these powers is that they’re never given out too fast or too late and feel just about right when you get them based on your progress in the story. Just when you’re getting to the end of game you get the lightning storm ability which feels right since it’s by far the most powerful power in the game and it helps makes the last few story missions a bit easier to pass before the big end battle. You can also upgrade some of your existing powers like your standard lightning bolt and grenade powers. Upgrading your powers is done through the XP you gain from the story and side missions and once again it never feels like a chore or requires too much grinding in order to purchase these powers. Before the final battle of the game you should be able to have bought every power for your character which is definitely a good thing since you’ll need the added power to go through some of the tougher missions in the game.
When battling the various gangs in the game you will definitely feel like a badass but at the start of the game you won’t feel like you’re completely in power as you can easily be taken out from any of the various gun or rocket launcher toting enemies that occupy Empire City. In fact, expect to die quite often as some of the enemies have Revolver Ocelot accuracy to the point where it’s scaring and at times a bit annoying. Should an enemy that I didn’t alert instantly be on my ass when I’m three or four buildings away? Having the AI be like this is both a positive and a negative since it helps make combat feel fresh since not all the enemies are pushovers and merely act as fodder in the beginning but it can be highly frustrating towards some of the more intense sections like the prison escape level since you’re tasked with taking on two massive enemies at the same time whilst dealing with their highly accurate machine gun pals. But once you get some of the stronger powers and the electric shield the enemies shouldn’t really pose a threat to you unless you’re flat out being reckless in how you take them on.
Now the second best thing about Infamous aside from the powers you have is the platforming. Being able to scale every building in the world of Empire City and doing it without it feeling like a chore or boring after awhile is one of the best things the game does. You just get a real sense of being a complete badass while you climb up a side of a building zapping enemies above or below you and then use your Sonic Thrusters to move on to the next building. The plaforming mechanics are also a bit user friendly in that it doesn’t require precision but it isn’t entirely automated like how the last Prince of Persia game felt. There is a slight feeling of stickiness to the platforming as Cole will automatically grab an object if you fall or grab the nearest object when you make a leap but it doesn’t detract from the game and the later stages of the game have some really intense platforming sections that does require you to be precise or else Cole will be making a swan dive towards pavement. The platforming and general traversing feels satisfying although there were a few moments of awkwardness when Cole wasn’t grabbing on the right ledge or object but these moments were rare in my time with the game.
Another and perhaps more important aspect that the game excels in are the mission design and structure. To be honest I wasn’t really expect much in the story missions and thought it would be the standard “blast some fools for three missions and fight boss X” but that wasn’t the case with the game. Instead Infamous has quite a diverse range of missions which range from chasing a helicopter, taking out UAV’s in order to take out blimps spreading deadly gas in the city and massive setpiece levels where you’re at a prison taking on a gang as they attempt to break their leader free. Sucker Punch manages to keep the flow and design of the levels going at a steady pace as to never bore the player or make them feel like they’re never making any progress. And the missions gets absolutely insane towards the end both in a gameplay aspect and especially from a story standpoint since you’ll be face with some tough decisions and shocking revelations.
The missions are definitely challenging towards the end of the game but it never feels cheap in terms of their difficulty and I never got entirely frustrated if I kept dying during a particular section. Instead I simply started from the last checkpoint and kept on trying until I finished the mission. The checkpoint system is also something else Infamous does quite well as they’re given out at a steady flow. You never have to restart a level or an entire section if you fail and the game has checkpoints just where you need them like when you face two massive enemies at the same time in an enclosed prison courtyard. Having a checkpoint system like this will surely keep players in the game and other titles on the market (hi Grand Theft Auto) could take note of how Sucker Punch implemented their checkpoint system.
Most sandbox titles really aren’t known for their visual quality and instead rely on immersing the player with how the world is designed and small visual touches. Being the first big sandbox game from Sony Infamous definitely sets the bar in some respects to how the world is designed and the quality of the visuals. The game still suffers from some of the standard issues such as having some nasty pop-up at times and a few framerate drops but the texture work and main animation is extremely solid. The buildings that occupy Empire City almost put to shame what we’ve seen in Liberty City due to how impressive and diverse the building textures and architecture are and how sharp they look. In most cases most players wouldn’t go around the world and stare at how good looking the building textures are but since you constantly see them at an up close angle due to the platforming you really come to appreciate what Sucker Punch managed to do with this being their first sandbox game of this scale. The city may not be as filled to the brim and dense as other sandbox games are but everything in the game feels like it has a purpose and nothing has that recycled feel to it in terms of the buildings you see though you will of course see the same citizen model a few times on the streets of Empire City. Seeing Cole climb various structures or glide across the city is impressive due to how good the animation looks but the same can’t be said of the animations in the in-game cutscenes. While not bad it just seems to be a bit stiff at times and is missing the fluidness that is present during actual gameplay.
Surprisingly being a superhero game Infamous has quite a good story that may leave many surprised by how good it is. It’s not entirely deep or complex but the world and mythology that Sucker Punch has set up will get many hooked and interested to learn more. How Cole got his powers and what the various organizations want with the mysterious Ray Sphere that gave Cole his powers and left the city in the state it’s currently in are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the various mysteries the game has. Like any comic book style hero Cole is backed up by his trusty friend Zeke who is a bit of a goofy Southern guy but knows what he’s doing when it comes to surviving and helping Cole. There’s also Trish, Cole’s girlfriend who later breaks up with him when she finds out that Cole “caused” the destruction in the city which resulted in the death of her sister. Both of these characters are likeable in their roles and both go through a lot during the course of the story. The roster of villains fit their roles nicely given their brief time in the game and the lead villain Kessler has a massive surprise for players once they get to the end of the game. The way the story is told through art stills is quite effective and doesn’t feel off like I had thought it would. This is in part due to how damn good the art is for the game and how good the voice acting and music is during these sections.
Infamous is easily one of the most entertaining PS3 games to be released so far and is one of the top sandbox games this gen. It captures the superhero aspect perfectly without feeling too generic or by the numbers and manages to establish its own identity amidst all the generic action games we’ve been getting as of late. The art design and visuals are solid and blasting fools never gets old due to the missions and how much fun it is seeing their bodies fly in the air when you hit them. The story in the game is extremely solid given the nature of the game and what we’re used to from the genre but just be prepared for a mind explosion ending that will almost make you question everything you’ve played and seen so far and immediately make you want to see Infamous 2 come out soon. Infamous is in the top 10 PS3 games for me so far and is easily a nominee for GOTY due to the polish it has and how much fun it is to play.