5/28/09

Review: inFAMOUS

After playing through one of the three islands in inFAMOUS, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what inFAMOUS has to offer. In short--it's the game I've been waiting to play for over 2 years. Ever since Crackdown's release in early 2007 I've been itching for something that's even remotely close to what that over-the-top, explosive world has to offers. Though different games overall it does seem to satiate the same appetite. I love a game with a moral compass, at least when it's put to good use, and inFAMOUS does a pretty decent job of doing that. But to be frank--it's not perfect.

inFAMOUS calls it's moral system "Karma" and it takes form in a three-stage slide scale. The function of the Karma scale is to allow the player to unlock certain abilities, as they progress up it, to unluck and upgrade abilities depending on their moral choices in the game. Being a do-gooder will unlock that allow for more precise attacks, while acts of evil will allow for chaotic, power surging ones. For instance one exclusive evil power allows you the ability to slamming down onto the ground, shooting out electrical charges, in mid-jump.

The people of the city will react accordingly to your persona by cheering you on as you run by and taking your picture if you're a hero, or by gathering around as a mob to boo and hiss as they throw rocks at you. It's a pretty entertaining sight in some respects and it really does help you feel like you're affecting the world around you. It reminds me of the Fable series where people run up to you cheering and clapping over their head, but also, like in Fable, I found myself wanting it to be a little more practical instead of "showy". Assassin's Creed did something relatively similar as well where someone you save--which is effectively what you're doing in inFAMOUS--actually physically restrain the guards as you attempt to escape. I really think Sucker Punch missed at opportunity to innovate and do something special here.

These morality choices are presented to you throughout the main story and then through side missions as well. The side missions consist of two types: Standard ones that are marked on your map in the form of a yellow exclamation point, and then Karma based ones with either a red (evil) or blue (good) circle around it. You will be offered to choose one of these karma-based missions per territorial section and when completing, will wipe out the alternate one off the map.

It just so happens that the single most important aspect of a video game is the one thing Sucker Punch really nailed--the gameplay. It just feels really really good to play! Running, jumping, dashing, climbing, sliding, punching..I mean I could go on and on for days here.

But being able to jump off of the main story’s mission line is an essential element to an open world game and inFAMOUS does this by offering a host of side quests that range anywhere from rescuing some captive civilians from thugs (the Reapers gang) who are escorting them to certain death, to following a ghost to their killers is location. They’re interesting, fun and are repeated a few times throughout the first island (unsure of the second or third island). As you complete these side quests you are rewarded with experience (which is used to unlock more powers and upgrades) and a small “cleansed” segment of the cities territory. These cleansed segments will no long allow Reapers to respawn in their respective area. If you played Viking: Battle for Asgard, it's very similar to that in that, aesthetically speaking, everything becomes a little brighter and happier. It’s a nice and appreciated touch.

Initially one of my concerns about the game was transportation. I think Rockstar created a graceful solution with the Taxi system that was introduced in GTAIV. They essentially act as teleporters for the impatient (ME!), or a "rollercoaster 'o fun" for the vacationers. But that particular system just wouldn’t make sense in inFAMOUS’s world, plus it would rob the game of it's chance to remind you of how much of a badass you really are. After a few hours of playing the game you unlock the ability to slide along power lines and it's just a fast and fun way to get around town. The first time you do it I guarantee you'll exclaim "woooo hooo!" But it really wasn’t until I repaired the cities train system that I stood up cheering for Cole. Once I hopped onto that crazy train (aaall aboooard HAHAHAHAHAH! -Ozzy) I realized that utilizing this system for transportation around the city would allow me to get from one side of the city to the other in no time. The sense of speed when you're on top of one of these things just has to be experienced, and wait until you jump off that thing moving at those speeds. :)

For an open-world game I think the game, graphically speaking, looks great. After reading some comments on various gaming forums I think some people have too high of expectations for the current generations console's rendering power (and the software that drives them). Rendering games like inFAMOUS and GTAIV are extremely taxing on these system's resources. But to me, in the end, it really comes down to the art direction. That's what makes all the difference! It's what separates the good from the bad (pun intended). If I had to pick a better looking game, for comparisions sake, I would probably say GTAIV looking a bit better--mainly because of the impeccable city designs where nothing is copy & pasted. unofrtunately I did notice once or twice that the same building was being used in different locations of the same island, but just flipped around in disguise. For some this is completely trival, but for me it was a bit of a bummer as I had high expectations for the city's design.

I do have a few more gripes.

I adore the animated comic book style panel sequences that move the narrative along, but found the in-game cutscenes to be much lower in quality. It's almost as if they were tacked on at the very end of development. They appears to be less polished and are certainly not at the same level as the rest of the game's offerings. It actually left me wanting more of the well animated storyboarding instead.

The voice and general deign of Cole isn’t too spectacular either. Though I find his overall attire to be pretty cool, his facial design is rather bland. He looks like...well just some dude off of the streets, which I suppose is the point but now that he's got all this power he's not generic--he's special. My point is that I think it would have done some good for the character to have some distinguishing physical marks (of some sort, just please no tattoos) left on him after the incident.

In regards to his voice, it appears to be straight out of the David Hayter school of video game voice acting but with less passion (and grunting). It's dry and dull and does nothing to invoke likability for Cole.

My final complaint might be insignificant to some, but for me it’s a point that is grating. There is a very slight and faint squeaking noise that is made when Cole runs. It's a lame complaint, I'll agree. But there are times when I completely forget about it, and then sudden hear it again! This mainly happens when I've been fighting or watching a cutscene for a while and as I begin running I hear it again. I'm left scratching my head wondering why Sucker Punch left this in the game. What appreciative value does it add to the overall experience?

In the end though the good far outweigh the little gripes I have with inFAMOUS. With incredibly fun gameplay that just feels right, excellent graphics, spectacular music, a huge city to explore, excellent transportation methods, a decent morality system, and wonderful fighting mechanics--this game is absolutely amazing! Buy it now.

1 comment:

Darq D said...

Well Said brother! I will have to try my copy this weekend and get immersed in the world of inFAMOUS!