Infamous Review

inFamous-WallpaperAlrighty Nigma, you’re calling yourself by your screen name so you’re already nuts.  But why would you buy a new computer within weeks of getting your mate’s PS3?  Sure, he doesn’t have a large selection, but at least go through the Playstation Plus gambit before diving into your 70 PC games already purchased!  Bloody hell, you’re editing this on the day your new PC is up and running!  Oh, but I’m here to talk about inFAMOUS, so I’ll do that first before arguing with my internal rivals.

Infamous Review
Release Date: 26/5/2009
Platform: Playstation 3
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

The base premise of Infamous is fairly simple.  A courier by the name of Cole MacGrath is told to deliver a package, except said package is actually a bomb that destroyed a chunk of a city and embeds him with the power to manipulate electricity and a resistance to bullets.  Unfortunately, much to my surprise, the game takes a very serious route in telling the story of a man who can summon lightning from the sky.  Directing the plot in a direction of government control, people being quarantined and barely surviving following a large disaster, and poorly explained gangs that rule the fictitious Empire City by presumably having all the guns.

I do occasionally complain about a story being too dreary, but that is simply due to how I can not care about a world when it is a half destroyed pile of concrete and littered with corpses or people infected with some sort of disease.  Also, 80% grey.  Even when it comes to telling the story, the game most often chooses to have Cole narrate what happened over a motion comic, which is likely where all the color in the budget went.  Sure, a few neat twists are thrown about, but I had a very faulty idea of what the blazes was going on, with rabid hobos in trash bags being my main enemy for quite some time when not dealing with elite warriors in red hoodies that only desire to murder me.  Although, the latter is explained in what almost justified how they can hit Cole when they are not even on the minimap, and two hundred feet above him.Infamous-Satellite-Uplinks-Trailer_5

But what sours the deal more than anything is just how dull I found the character of Cole MacGrath.  A big part of it is how the game gives players the assumption that they are in some way controlling his actions in the plot, which is only somewhat true.  Cole can choose to be “good” or “evil” during certain instances, signified by him debating the choice internally, always seeming like an ass for even considering the “evil” option.  They also seldom make much sense as to why one would choose the evil action.  You can either blow up a sludge pump, but have it seep into the drinking water, or you could stop it from doing that, but lose a bit of something that automatically restores over time.  There is no real weight in any option, but if you chose to take the sludge in the face, people supposedly “like” you more.

I use those words in quotes because aside from an upgrade system that felt fairly moot as time went on, the only major difference is the NPCs that liter about in this quarantine city and go about their daily lives as guys in gas masks supposedly shoot them for fun.  Even then, their behavior is not always consistent with the world.  I played a “good” Cole due to how the game is very all or nothing in terms of morality, hiding away bonuses until you’re a Saint or the reincarnation of Satan.  Yet nothing bad happened when I murdered several innocent women and blew up countless cars.  Sure, the Karma meter that is always present in gameplay nudged an invisible amount, but there was hardly a reaction from most people.942025_20090507_screen005

You do gain quite a few toys as time goes on, all of which are based off of a bar of sorts for your electricity powers, with electricity regained through the absorption of, well, things that electricity would be running through in the city.  However, using these powers becomes a bit troubling due to how most of them are locked into the face buttons, so aiming can be a bit annoying especially due to how it is hard enough finding the enemies without pressing the L3 button.  Let alone hit some of them due to how your electric powers still have a range at the end of the day.

Yet, to cap it off, most enemies take a suspicious amount of electricity to fall and stay down.  I’m guessing this is due to how most of them are psychopaths, brainwashed, or what have you.  However, when you are wearing metal armor, and I hit you with electricity, well, what do you think should happen?  Metal in general more often than not acts as your enemy in the game, absorbing blasts as enemies hide behind it, their guns presumably made of plastic so they in no way act as lightning rods.  One could say that Sucker Punch didn’t want that to be a core mechanic of the game, but rubber soles of not, have the enemies react to their surroundings getting electrified.  It can sound pretty rad to climb up buildings, zip along power lines or be a coursing wad of energy going along train tracks, but it wasn’t, due to how there was seldom anything I liked looking at.infamous-ps3-screen1

I mentioned the game’s boring aesthetics early on, and while the textures do try and make the most of the whole Playstation 3 exclusivity, every non combat animation looks very, how to say this, appropriate for the PS2.  While Cole moves around the city fairly well, sporadic climbing animations aside, something as simple as offering a quest leads to very awkward movements from the quest giver.  And the cutscenes that do use the models, with most of them being a motion comic, look almost comical in how overdone the animations can be.

However, above all else, I think what made this game a boring slog to me was due to how there is not really any music in the game.  Occasionally some electronic gibberish pops in, but it is then that I must question why the rest of the game isn’t filled with at least something.  When creating a world that players could spend hours getting lost in, you need to have something for them to listen to, whether it just be ambiance, or give Cole an MP3 player.  It could probably change the tone, but begrudging seriousness as large quantities of trying to be gritty could probably be helped by a few cherry picked tracks.Infamous-Satellite-Uplinks-Trailer_1

Infamous is not so much a game that I dislike, but am dismissive of.  While nothing about it is downright horrible, the world is drab, and that goes a long way in bringing a game down, at least for me.  Perhaps I’m missing the point, where a game about being a man with the powers of electricity shouldn’t be very cheery, but in the end it just wasn’t all that fun, plain and simple.

Subpar (7/20)
There are a few high point, yet the entire experience is hampered by issues that outnumber the good.  Not the worst, but not all that great.

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2 thoughts on “Infamous Review

  1. “I do occasionally complain about a story being too dreary, but that is simply due to how I can not care about a world when it is a half destroyed pile of concrete and littered with corpses or people infected with some sort of disease. Also, 80% grey.”

    …Sorry, can I just give you ALL OF THE GOLD STARS for that comment? Why developers can’t seem to learn that lesson and toss in a good joke or a shade other than gunmetal gray every now and then is a question scholars will be debating thirty years from now.

    I haven’t played Infamous in a long while, but one of the things that stuck out to me was that for a man who wielded the power of Zeus, Thor, and Pikachu in the palm of his hand, the most he — or the game and its developers at large — could do with it was find ways to make his electricity act like guns you’d see in any given shooter. Seriously, you could replace almost all of Cole’s powers with guns and it’d have the exact same impact, give or take a particle effect. Then again, I guess that’s to be expected in a world where you spend a good sixty percent of your day fending off hooded dudes shooting at you from rooftops.

    I think the score you gave is a relatively fair one (I can’t remember a thing about Cole’s personality, and that’s NEVER a good sign), but in spite of that I can’t help but like Infamous. It had a plan and an ambition, and while it didn’t really deliver in some aspects, it was at least a building block for better things to come. Hopefully Second Son will give us the game the first one wanted to be.

    • *Shuffles through a pile of golden stickers shaped like stars* Yeah, Infamous was certainly not as feel-good as I hoped for it to be, and when a big part of the game is going through a world that is really not all that fun to explore, I sorta want to stop playing.

      Yet, Second Son is looking to fix that, if only because the main character actually cracked a smile in the promotional footage. That, and you can become smoke… I think it’s keen!

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