Infamous Review (PS3)

What do you get when you cross Realtime Worldsí Crackdown with Ubisoftís Assassinís Creed? The answer is inFamous, Sonyís latest great white hope PlayStation 3 exclusive from Sucker Punch, the developer responsible for the criminally underrated Sly Cooper games. An open-world superhero title, inFamous takes place amid the aftermath of a devastating explosion that has wiped out several blocks of Empire City, plunging the entirety of the surrounding areas into darkness. Playing as Cole - the courier who unwittingly carried the bomb during a delivery run Ė you find that youíve been imbued with a variety of awesome electrical powers, transforming you into a powerful human battery.

Having survived the explosion despite being right at the epicentre when the blast occurred, Cole is initially blamed and resented by the population at the beginning of the game. From hereon in, itís up to you whether you want the people of Empire City to grow to fear and hate you even more or gradually adore and value you as a hero. Your actions throughout the course of the game all contribute to shaping the type of character Cole will develop into, with distinct moral choices arising at certain junctures. These pivotal moments earn you red (evil) or blue (good) XP points, which build up your reputation while simultaneously acting as your currency to purchase new powers from the pause menu. Healing people lying on the streets and capturing enemies alive will also grant you a small sum of good XP, while Bio Leeching the life-force from anyone will add to your evil status.

Conduits are larger enemies that take a bit longer to dispatch. Restraining one alive gives you a nice little XP boost though.
Cole can blow up vehicles and explosive barrels with a well-aimed bolt for an environmental kill.

Regardless of which path you choose, Cole has access to some hugely fun and entertaining powers that look incredibly spectacular to boot. The sparking bolts of electric that he can project from his hands lights up the screen in an incandescent flash, illuminating darkened areas and wreaking havoc and destruction in whatever direction youíre facing. Lean towards the evil side and the bolts turn red, granting you a continuous stream of death dealing electricity when you accrue enough XP. This is one of the unique extra perks that the evil path allows, but being good carries its own set of unique moves too. The evil abilities are simply more destructive than their good counterparts. Your ultimate goal however is not to destroy the city, but to return it to its former state by restoring the inoperative underground generators, thereby granting you a constant source of electricity to keep your powers replenished. The regions of Empire City that are still enveloped in darkness are essentially no-go areas until you turn the power back on since Cole always requires an electricity source from which to draw energy to keep his battery cells full, enabling him to execute special moves. Collecting hidden blast shards dotted around the map build the number of cells you can charge, which means that you can go longer periods without having to recharge when youíre executing special abilities in a darkened zone.

At its most basic level, inFamous is a third-person shooter, so a standard blast of electricity doesnít expend any of Coleís energy. When things get heated and multiple enemies both on the ground and up on the rooftops ambush you, the special abilities that you acquire such as sticky charges, precision shots and shock waves are utterly indispensable, so keeping yourself charged up is important. The majority of enemy encounters in the game are intense affairs, so learning to conservatively use your abilities to minimise the number of cells you deplete is integral, as having to stop to recharge in the middle of a fight leaves you wide open to attacks. Fortunately, Coleís nimble athleticism makes fleeing an exceptionally overwhelming encounter a lot easier, as he can crawl up the side of a building in exactly the same way Altair can in Assassinís Creed. As well as being able to leap up the side of buildings, Cole can also run along suspended wires and beams and is later able to grind them at speed, which also means you can travel on the railways by grinding along them rather than having to take the train.

Empire City is quite an expansive place too, comprised of three different islands each of which is home to a specific gang that roam the streets creating anarchy amongst innocent citizens. Itís your job to erase their presence from each neighbourhood by completing yellow marked side quests, which fall into good, evil or neutral categories. Completing good missions locks out the evil one in that area and vice-versa, but theyíre a good way to acquire extra points towards your karmic alignment and unlock new powers. In addition to taking back territory from the marauding gangs of hooded miscreants, story missions propel the narrative revealing the dark forces behind the cityís descent into post-apocalyptic chaos.

The tutorial on Zekeís rooftop is a quick way to learn all of the basics that come with your newly granted powers.
These circuit boxes are an infinite source of electricity for Cole to feed upon when his battery cells are depleted.

Told using a mixture of illustrated cut-scenes and in-game sequences, the story is suitably engaging, but the animation of some of the NPCs is somewhat iffy and distracts from the action ever so slightly, even given the stylised, cartoony art design. As a result, itís hard to take certain characters seriously, such as your annoying part-time sidekick Zeke, who canít help but look a bit idiotic with his stilted gesticulations and dodgy lip-sync. Still, itís a minor niggle that doesnít detract from the overall quality of the game, which becomes increasingly compelling and enjoyable the more you play it. Unlocking new moves to add to your repertoire keeps things fresh and interesting, and exploring the city, jumping from rooftop to rooftop is great fun.

Sucker Punch have crafted a great PS3 game that is a fine addition to the sandbox genre, and although small vestiges of Sly Cooperís exploits remain present in inFamous, itís all the good stuff that we remember from those games that has made the transition such as nimble tightrope walking. It might also be an easy comparison to make between this and Crackdown, but as far as PS3 owners are concerned, inFamous is thematically disparate and ultimately something quite special indeed. Sucker Punch should be congratulated therefore, for creating such a dark and mature slice of open-world gaming that gives the Sony faithful reason to rejoice. It may not reinvent the wheel, but inFamous is electrifying. And although not quite worthy of all the hyperbolic praise heaped upon it so far by other gaming sites, this is nevertheless an essential purchase for every PS3 player thirsty for some sandbox, superhero action.

Top game moment: The gameís opening is dramatic and memorable, but the best bit for us has to be grinding rails in a shower of sparks and throwing electric fireballs as you pass enemies.



By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 25, 2009
I know what you mean about side-kicks being lame these days. The one in RE5 is just plain game destroying.
By Kres (SI Elite) on May 25, 2009
Ouu 8.5. Nice going Sucker Punch (the developer)!
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on May 31, 2009
well this is soooo sweet nowi just have to find a way to buy the game without losing 80 $
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Jun 01, 2009
The demo is pretty good. Housemate had it on earlier.