InFamous

The open-world or sandbox genre has been able to shine on the most recent generation of consoles. The additional firepower found within the PS3 and 360 has improved the scale, the graphical fidelity, the AI and pretty much every other aspect found within these types of games. From the relatively sparse world depicted in _GTA3_, the genre has come on leaps and bounds diversifying into a number of sub-categories with underlying themes that range from crime to sci-fi with everything else in-between.

In the last twelve months alone there have been a number of additions. _Far Cry 2_, _Fallout 3_ and more recently _Prototype _have all been released; each centring around the open-world concept giving players unprecedented freedom and multiple avenues of exploration. However, not since _Crackdown _has a game given the player the abilities and power of a superhero, nor has a game made the player feel like a god among mere mortals. That is until _InFamous_, an entirely new, exclusive title for the Playstation 3.

I have to be honest; the release of _InFamous _crept up on me. Although I was aware of the game, we did a small preview of it a while back, I didn’t release it was coming out so soon into 2009. Titles like this usually come out near Christmas so I was pretty surprised when reviews of _InFamous _started to pop-up near the end of May. When I say “titles like this”, I mean high-budget, incredibly varied and of such unequalled quality that they are the reason you buy a particular console; _InFamous _is definitely this sort of game.

_InFamous _starts abruptly. You play Cole, a messenger tasked with delivering a package on the island of Empire City. On route, the package explodes; killing thousands while granting Cole electricity-based superpowers that expand and improve throughout the rest of the game. Afterwards, Empire City quickly becomes ravaged by a mysterious plague and quarantined from the rest of the world; it’s up to Cole to figure out what’s going on. This premise, above all else, means one thing; _InFamous _is fun.

This is mainly due to the gameplay; the precise aiming, fluid movement and the range of abilities that unlock at certain points throughout the game all combine to make _InFamous _a joy to play. The game’s a hybrid between an action-adventure title and a third person shooter, in a similar vain to the _Gears of War_ franchise. While traversing _InFamous’_ game world, it feels somewhat like _Assassin’s Creed_; you have the ability to climb any obstacle you come into contact with. It doesn’t feel as fluid as the system implemented in _Creed_, where you simply held down a button, but it’s functional and instils a strong sense of freedom throughout the game.

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When combat’s necessary, holding down the L1 button swings the camera behind Cole’s shoulder, at which point the face buttons control Cole’s different powers. The range of abilities, although not mindblowing, is enough to form tactics that go beyond zapping every enemy over and over again. Once you’ve unlocked most of the powers you can throw electric grenades that cause enemies to be propelled into the air, push projectiles and objects with a wave of electrical energy and even summon directional missiles. All of which can be done seamlessly, as the game allows you to instantly switch between Cole’s powers. This makes _InFamous_’ combat both dynamic and entertaining; by the end of the game, the combination of abilities and the fluidity with which you can control Cole makes you feel extremely powerful, as a superhero should.

The premise also cleverly applies limits to the character; due to the electricity surging through Cole’s body, jumping into water only leads to bad things. This makes getting off an island pretty difficult when all the bridges have been destroyed. The same problem means that Cole can’t use guns as they’d simply explode in his hands. It’s nice to have these issues addressed as I hate invisible walls and story plot holes.

The story of _InFamous_, although not completely engaging, has enough there to keep the game flowing; the game has substance and the narrative is easy to follow. More importantly the story leads to a well thought-out quest structure. Main quests progress the story while side quests remove enemies from particular zones of the city; once all completed, the entire city is free of bad guys. There’s good variation between the quests, ranging from posing for photographs to destroying enemy outposts, but most boil down to using your superpowers to kill all of the enemies present in an area. Luckily, due to the stellar combat, this never gets old. The cut-scenes are also dealt with intelligently; 2D, comic book style images portray important story elements when necessary. This method comes across as artistic and is a welcome change to the bland, in-game cut-scenes found in most games.

Moral consequence seems to be popular with developers at the moment; giving the player the ability to choose if they are good or bad normally adds a layer of depth to somewhat shallow games. Although not as emotionally potent as games such as _Fable 2 _or _Fallout 3_, the choices you make in _InFamous _greatly affect Cole both visually and, more importantly, in terms of the powers that he can unlock. Your powers follow your karmic choices; while most can be unlocked by either a good or bad character, some cannot. This could have been annoying if, for example, choosing to be good lead to a version of Cole that was underpowered when compared to his evil counterpart. This isn’t the case in _InFamous_. Neither feels limited and having a distinct difference between the two means that a second play through of the game will have enough variation in it to be interesting.

The final piece that brings _InFamous _all together is its presentation that, although rugged, is remarkable, both in terms of the scale of the world that has been created and the generally good visual fidelity found throughout. There are some rough edges here and there but the graphics are good enough to immerse you in Empire City with the lighting effects, most pronounced in the underground sections of the game, being of particular merit. There are also some graphical glitches, such up pop-up, but when you take into account the lack of loading, past the initial game start-up, _InFamous’_ presentation comes off as rather impressive. More importantly, the game runs well for the majority; some intense fights can cause the framerate to drop but it’s never bad enough to affect the gameplay.

_InFamous _is a must-own title for any Playstation 3 owner, for one reason alone, it’s fun. Although there’s no multiplayer, it doesn’t matter as the singleplayer has so much depth and replayability that you’ll be coming back to _InFamous _time and time again. There’s so much variation between the two different moral paths, you’ll at least want to play through twice. At the beginning of this review I mentioned how the open-world game has really come into its own on this generation of consoles; _InFamous _is at the forefront, pushing the boundaries in every aspect. From its intelligent power progression to the world Cole inhabits, _InFamous _is a fantastic game.

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