inFamous

inFamous

You play a delivery man called Cole, who lives on a roof with an annoying friend and is dating a woman called Trish who whinges a lot. (Although this is kind of justified). One day there is a massive explosion in the city and you wake up in the middle of a huge blast crater with special powers. You can control electricity. Which would be pretty exciting. Although as far as I can see, he can never wash or drink liquid again.

There seems to be a disease that is turning people either ill, or mental, so the government blockades the city, declares quarantine, and shoots anyone trying to escape. A bit like Escape from New York but with less cool characters. (And there it was a prison.) Cue the rise of fairly unique gangs on each of the islands that comprise the city. As the story unfolds you learn more about yourself and the shadowy figures and groups behind everything. The story is actually pretty good with stylish comic-book cut scenes that really add to the superhero theme.

infamousAnother thing that develops are your abilities and your karma. You learn more skills as the game progresses and the learning curve as you master these new zappy powers is actually pretty easy. There are various city zones without electricity and each time you start up the generator you get a blast of electricity and a new skill. Some of them are very cool but it feels a bit artificial. I know it is a game but I find it mildly annoying when you gain a power in a game like this and suddenly it turns out to be the very thing that’s need right afterwards. It’s like a mini tutorial, which is handy, but it subtracts from the, er, reality. I won’t gripe about it here but this sort of thing seems to be a tedious unrealistic necessity in games (like in 1st person shooters when you find ammo and a drink that heals physical wounds in a clay pot or something).

Sliding along power cable never gets dull

Sliding along power cable never gets dull

At first you are limited to just one island and travelling around is slow – although you are pretty damn nimble. You unlock other islands as the game progresses (like GTA) at the same time as finding other ways to move about. Like zipping along train tracks and power cables or even flying. These are fun and easy and look fantastic.

In fact all the controls are easy and intuitive and by the end you truly feel mega-powerful. I just thought it was a shame there wasn’t more to destroy. Don’t get me wrong – there are cars and people you can chuck about and blast but if you’re nice, you have to be a bit careful.

I should talk here about being good. Like other games (eg Fallout 3 or Knights of the Old Republic) there is karma. You can be good or bad. This is a great idea and adds to replayability. When you are good there are posters of you everywhere looking heroic and noble. Everyone loves you and gathers around cheering and taking photos whenever you pause for a second. When you are evil a much cooler poster appears with half your face and half demon skull. Whenever you stop for a second people hurl abuse or stones. Which is a pretty dumb thing to do to someone who is evil and has mega powers – especially given how fun it is to throw a car at them. The more good deeds and missions you do the better karma you get. And vice-versa. There are three grades of good/evil until you are either famous or infamous and each grade unlocks even more abilities. Which is all well and good except that there is no point in being neutral. In Fallout 3, for example, there are advantages for whatever state you choose. People fear you or like you and do better deals. Too good or bad and some won’t deal with you, and so on. In inFamous you will miss out on a ton of abilities if neutral – it is only worth your while to be a goody two shoes or out and out bastard.

inf-poster-cole-evil

If you're evil your electricity goes red. Because that's what happens...

The game is sandbox with sidemissions and game missions and lots of other little tasks. There are also missions that are exclusively good or evil. They’re all fairly fun but unsurprisingly the evil ones are better. In fact, the whole game is more enjoyable when you’re a bad guy. You don’t have to care about innocent people, you can just blow the crap out of everything that moves. It also makes it easier.

InFamous is a great fun game but it lacks any real depth. You can’t alter the main character in any way, some missions are a bit repetitive, and you don’t feel as fully immersed in the world as other games manage to achieve. You can cause a lot of chaos in the city but there doesn’t seem much point. You don’t feel like you’re going to get anything out of it. There are no repercussions. In Grand Theft Auto you can go mental and crash cars into traffic, jump out and blow the resulting pile of automobiles up with a grenade. There would be a satisfying explosion, cars flying everywhere, and dead passers by. You take take all their money and occasionally weapons but at the same time become wanted and the police get called in. If you start shooting them the FBI and army and helicopters and so on turn up. There are advantages and consequences and escalation and thrills. Do this in inFamous and nothing happens except some burnt cars.

Don’t get me wrong. The game is great fun, looks fantastic and plays brilliantly. There’s no need to become the insane overly violent psychopath I tend to become in games like this. You will very probably love it. Just not for long. You will play the game as good, then as bad, then you’re done. The story doesn’t vary that much for each karmic state – just enough to warrant two play throughs. You will finish after your two 10 hour sessions and think “That was fun, what next?”

InFamous is recommended, great fun, good-looking, has an intriguing story, is stylish and definitely worth a go. It’s just a bit shallow.

You should be able to find it pretty cheap as inFamous 2 is due out soon. At some point.

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