Infamous Preview (PS3)

Coming from the award winning team behind the Sly Cooper series, it may surprise many that inFamous isnít your child-friendly, instantly accessible funfest. Gone are the vibrant visuals, humorous dialogue and wacky cast of characters, as Sucker Punch dismiss their furry friends in favour of a gritty, thought-provoking tale. Based round the depth of mankindís lustful greed, inFamous asks the ultimate question for those in power- exploit or unite your world?

As far as history is concerned, having power also means youíve got great responsibility. Many have been praised as revered leaders, paving the way towards a better life for their fellow man. Many, however, have mistreated it like a deadly drug, poisoning the helpless society with terror and forming an addiction that consists of pain on all of those beneath them. Fortunately, youíre now the man with the power, transforming from a run-of-the-mill human into an electrified superhero who just so happens to be the talk of Empire City.

Red Reapers are pests in groups, and harmless by themselves.
Whether you're high or low, your defence never loses its spark.

Itís this stark contrast, the difference between being good and evil, that forms the basis of inFamous. After a catastrophic electrical blast on the city, the previously idyllic everyday setting is transformed into a concrete jungle: seething with death, lunacy, and terminal conflict. At the centre of the carnage is Cole, a normal guy who comes within an inch of death. Although heavily injured, Cole scrapes through events with the support of his loved one. The fact is, Coleís mind has changed, as he endlessly relives the horrors of that attack until he finally breaks free from his coma. Finding that the city has become an isolated and hugely corrupt reflection of hell, itís Coleís new powers that are going to save, or very well destroy, the day.

Thrown straight from a mixture of cinematic and comic-book style cutscenes into the thick of the action, it wonít be long before youíve got to grips with the empowering feeling of being a superhero. Soaring over a landscape of dark browns and dull greys, youíll be pushed into the direction of the faltering railway system, as itís clear you need to ensure a particular train arrives at its intended destination without any major hassle. From the outset, itís apparent that the city is shrouded amidst a cloud of terror, as youíll come into contact with the gameís main group of enemies (the sinisterly presented Reapers) as soon as you start tackling the wealth of problems. Enforcing death in abundance and public unrest at all times, the Reapers attack in hardworking, always planning groups. Appearing like a sadistic hybrid of the iconic Grim Reaper and the modern day hooded hooligan, the developers have created a breed of foe thatíll install fear into the heart of most players: as their contemporary style and religious connotations create some of the darkest and deepest imagery seen in this generation.

Of course, you wonít get the train back on track until youíve learnt the most basic of offence strategies. Shooting your electric bolt is seamless, and works just like any FPS on the console- holding L1 to aim and R1 to fire. Alongside this, there is a basic (and largely unneeded) melee system to utilise if proceedings manage to get up close and personal. Luckily, we hardly ever stood close enough to an enemy to plant our fists into their repulsive face, so our route of progress came from a mixture of the simple bolt and use of electric bombs. These devastating attacks are amongst the weakest in the game, and even they ripped through cars like they were made out of cardboard, and flung both citizens and Reapers into the sky with a significant disregard for gravity. This simple approach can then be backed up by aerial attacks, as itís clear that running through the street isnít going to save the city, or yourself, from the ominous threat of extermination.

Beware: Not all Reapers are pushovers, and will arrive without warning to equal the fight.
Empire City has lost control, and is now a place of sheer terror and human greed.

From the objectives on show, we were a little disappointed with how quickly mundane they all became. The aforementioned train mission was repetitive, as it lost power many times; forcing you to hop off, restore power, kill some enemies and repeat. We were also asked to defend a crate of precious cargo, which amounted to killing the Reapers that dared get close enough. Again, this lacked any real imagination, as the potential of the city failed to be explored. No doubt the best mission we tackled lied within trying to destroy a Reaper lorry that had been equipped with a huge arsenal of destructive weapons. Blowing this up within a measly five seconds, weíve never felt more like a superhero, as that inevitable air of coolness blew through the room to coincide with the cocky smile across our face. Hopefully in the full game, weíll see Empire City utilised for some truly original and memorable objectives, as so far, weíre feeling underwhelmed.

By all means, Cole isnít your average superhero. Within the missions we tackled, it was already clear to see that he will face a personal journey of self-acceptance, as we plummeted to the depths of a villain and rose to the strength of a god within minutes. Emitting an attractive blue light when performing admirably, youíll notice that the average Joe on the street will be pleased to see you, often praising you for your work. However, slaughter a group of civilians or disrupt society enough and this fickle bunch will turn on you considerably, as you enter the ĎinFamousí stage. Glowing a vibrant, visceral blood red, youíll begin to experience different attacks from your hero, as he struggles to secure his true identity in a world of doubt and constant pressure. Your once appreciative audience will now also spit at you in disgust, and bellow for you to leave the stage of Earth, and wallow in the depths of hell. We firmly expect this to play a huge part in the story, as Cole faces a number of battles from his personal life, the residents of Empire City, and indeed, the location itself.

Helping those in need will push you to the heights of a hero- is being evil too tempting though?
Expect endless carnage and some superb set-pieces as you harness the full potential of Cole's power.

For a sandbox game, Empire City will feel instantly familiar, bordering on the lines of actually being Liberty City (especially with the stylish, monochrome outlines, seen in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars). Traversing this urban playground is great fun, as Sucker Punch ensures you have enough interaction to make each movement feel unique. Whether you are jumping off buildings to land on lampposts, gliding through the air to surf on telephone wires, or even crashing to the ground to eliminate enemies, you always feel in control. This is a huge improvement over games such as Assassins Creed, as you actually have to get across the city in an engaging and wholly entertaining manner, rather than holding one button and running towards a building to progress.

With not long until release, inFamous is definitely shaping up to be one of the top prospects of 2009. Weíre hoping the mission objectives vary a lot more in the retail version, and that the monochrome city can come under a few splatters of colour, but all in all, this should be an excellently balanced adventure. For those wanting a challenge, this is much tougher than your average Saints Row/Crackdown sandbox title, as its adult themes and violent nature enable the developers to pack a real punch within Empire City. After our time with the game, weíre looking forward to unravelling the mysteries of Coleís life, as itís still unclear as to who is the main villain behind the shocking events. Whether we rule with an iron fist or a limp wrist, itís clear that inFamous is going to arrive with a hair-raising bang later this year.

Top Game Moment:
Travelling across the city is immense fun, and hugely rewarding.


By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on May 15, 2009
What's this? Zinedine Zidane with Sith power? looks nice on the graphic though....