Sandbox-style action games lately seem to be running out of ideas, with little innovation in them. Superhero games have been even more hopeless, with over 90 per cent of them ending up sucking. So you could be forgiven for not brimming with excitement at the prospect of a superhero sandbox title. And that’s where inFamous surprises you; it is one of the better sandbox titles to have released in recent times, and it’s one of the best superhero games ever made.
You play Cole McGrath, a bike messenger in fictional Empire City. A package Cole is carrying causes a massive explosion, wiping out half the city and setting off a plague. Soon after, the government blocks off all exits from Empire City to quell the spread of the epidemic and as the law and order situation deteriorates, gangs take over the city. Despite being at the epicenter, Cole somehow survives the blast, and on regaining consciousness weeks later, finds himself with special powers.
The blast gives Cole the ability to absorb, manipulate and channel electricity in many ways, allowing him to use it as a weapon, a defense mechanism or a healing tool. Besides these powers, Cole is now also stronger and more agile, allowing him to land from high drops without a scratch and effortlessly scale pretty much any manmade structure.
Cole starts out with three basic attacks; the ability to zap enemies, a shockwave attack that takes out all objects within its range, and an atomic drop, which can be performed while landing from jumps, sending a similar shockwave through the ground. All these attacks dish out minimum damage at the start, but as you earn experience points (XP), you can upgrade these attacks and even buy new ones.
Weapons in inFamous are basically variants of weapons you would find in any shooting game. But there are no guns here; just electricity. You have the shock grenades, which are sticky hand grenades, a precision attack that acts as Cole’s sniper rifle, the Megawatt Hammer that is essentially a rocket launcher, and many more. You also have other unlockable powers that help to make life a lot easier. These include the grinding ability, which helps Cole travel fast along rail tracks and the many power cables connecting rooftops. Later on, you also unlock the static thrusters, which allow Cole to glide in mid-air.
The great thing is the game doesn’t spoil you with all these powers and weapons from the get-go and you will unlock them gradually over the course of the game. XP is earned from completing missions across Empire City’s three islands. You have story missions as well as optional side missions.
While the main missions help you progress on your quest to find who caused the explosion that gave Cole his powers, side missions, besides giving you XP, help clearing enemies from a particular area. Clearing enemies makes it a lot easier to take your time in collecting blast shards and dead drops, which are collectibles strewn all around the city, usually on the top or sides of buildings.
The main missions have a fair amount of variety to them, and there is a lot of emphasis on vertical platforming, which the game does Game review very well thanks to some wonderfully fluid animations. The enemies attack by the numbers and combat segments often get pretty intense, so you will need to strategize to come out alive.
While the powers and weapons are great, the real clincher in inFamous is the moral decisions you need to make throughout the game. Considering the superhuman powers Cole possesses, he could either use them for good or evil, and you can actually make Cole play the way you want him to. You will often be given moral choices, where you can either choose the selfless act, which could be harder, or go the easier route and possibly harm innocent citizens in the process.
A karma scale keeps track of your moral decisions. If you perform selfless, helpful acts, you earn good karma, and this is reflected in Cole’s appearance and his electrical powers. While good Cole will be dressed immaculately and shoot blue electricity, bad Cole looks more evil with torn, dusty clothes and paler skin. He will also shoot red electricity.
The nature of the weapons also changes according to your moral position. Good Cole’s weapons are more precise, while bad Cole’s are more geared towards maximum chaos, even if that means causing harm to innocent civilians. The citizens will also react differently to Cole based on his karmic standing. While they’ll praise, applaud, and take pictures of good Cole, bad Cole is hated and feared.
Many of the game’s main missions also require you to take moral decisions, and some of these will really make you think twice. They aren’t superficial in nature either and the decisions you make will affect how the game plays out. Even though the game will eventually lead to a predetermined conclusion, developers Sucker Punch have done tremendously well to let the player feel like he is in complete control of Cole’s fate.
They’ve also done a remarkable job of portraying the self-doubt and dilemma that any superhero would go through given the overwhelming superpowers granted to him. With no multi-player component to this game, the morality system ensures that you will play inFamous at least twice; that’s more than you get from most single-player campaigns.
While inFamous is far from the best looking game on the PS3, or even the best looking sandbox title, the art design is incredible. The portrayal of a city in ruins and the helplessness of its citizens is nailed down to perfection. While character models, shadows and textures may not be the best, draw distances are phenomenal and there are only occasional drops in frame rate. In the sound department, the game has some solid voice acting, backed up by a competent musical score that never seems out of place.
inFamous also manages to accomplish something most sandbox titles have failed to do, and that is to keep the game’s story from getting lost in the cacophony of missions, side quests and collectibles. The story is always at the forefront, and combined with the brilliant morality system and Cole’s addictive powers, it helps inFamous deliver a complete single-player experience few other games can match.
Genre : Action/Adventure
Platforms : PS3
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer : Sucker Punch Productions
Score : 8/10