inFAMOUS – Energy non-Crisis

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I’ve been struggling to write this for awhile now. It’s very easy to talk about something that’s bad; the bile flows easily from my mind and into text, and soon I have an over abundance of complaining to work with (see: Bionic Commando). When confronted by a truly good game — one where the enjoyment is mainly derived from actually playing it — I’m kinda at a loss as to how I should discuss it.

So I’ll try to keep this short, simple, and electric pun-free.

inFAMOUS literally starts off with a bang: after hitting start on the unassuming title screen, the blast that sets the games’ events in motion immediately occurs. It’s a novel way to start things off, and it does a good job of getting you right into the thick of things and interested in what’s going on — even if you didn’t know a whole lot about the game before starting. You play as Cole, a bike messenger before the blast, and after walking out of the blast crater you learn of your newly gained power over electricity. What follows is a rather substantial trek through the now quarantined city as you assist the citizens (or not), tap into the city’s power grid to unlock new abilities, and generally wreck up the place (even if you’re good!) — all the while searching for the ‘Ray Sphere’, which is what got you into this situation to begin with.

While having control over electricity may initially seem somewhat limiting in the variety of attacks available, there is a steady progression of unique abilities — both utility and combat — to unlock as you play, as well as both a good-only and evil-only power. In addition, the secondary effects of many of the powers differ depending on whether you play as good or evil: Good powers generally have more precision, keep enemies aloft longer, and conserve energy; Evil powers are all about excessive firepower, adding additional collateral damage, and the like.

Speaking of Good and Evil, there are many “morality” moments in the game. Don’t fool yourself into thinking these are deep choices that will have you second guessing your decisions; they merely boil down to being a decent human being or King Douche of Douchelldorf. The evil choices are always intentionally excessive or over the top, and really, why shouldn’t they be? They’re simply there to help fast-track you to Hero or Infamous status, and nothing more. However, the game does do a good job of making you feel bad when you pick the evil choices, and rightly so (you fucking jerk).  I would go a bit more in depth about how morality systems just do not work in games (as we currently know them), but that’s probably better suited for somewhere else and by someone smarter than myself.

The game is challenging, but not frustratingly so — something many of the games I’ve recently played fail to understand. Checkpoints come often and death is usually a mere inconvenience; you get to keep any XP or Blast Shards you got before you died. Any time you feel stuck, approaching the situation from a different angle or changing up your attacks will get you through. Epic sized battles that seem difficult early on become a veritable ballet of destruction that is both entertaining to watch and fun to play once you’ve gotten the hang of the powers available to you. Jumping and climbing has also been simplified to remove any of the frustrations that usually come with platforming. The game has a ‘sticky’ effect when jumping to objects, similar to how the Sly games handled, and even prevents you from having to start from the bottom when falling from certain high places during a couple missions by popping you back to the nearest checkpoint. Overall, the game feels like it was made for the kind of players that don’t like to feel restricted: you can abandon missions at any point while keeping all the XP you got during it (!) and the game regularly (and invisibly!) auto-saves, for all those people who don’t always have time to wait around for the next checkpoint.

Similarly refreshing is the varied encounters throughout the game. There are 3 different groups you’ll fight, each with a variety of enemy types. Conduits — enemies that also gained powers from the Ray Sphere — are also present in these groups, giving you a super-powered opponent to tangle with from time to time. While not on a mission, random encounters can occur pretty much anywhere, which range from ambushes in alleyways to brawls between two of the groups in the streets. This means you merely have to walk in a direction and you’ll find something to do; something other open world games don’t do enough of.

Rounding out the overall experience is a very good soundtrack that non other than Amon Tobin worked on. Tobin previously worked on one of my favorite game soundtracks ever (Chaos Theory), and his unique style fits well here.

There’s a saying: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Whether or not they intended it, I feel that Sucker Punch — creators of the vastly under appreciated Sly Cooper series — have managed to make a game that embodies this with inFAMOUS. Even the story of the game seems to allude to this; regardless of whether you’re a Hero or Infamous, you’ve still got a difficult road ahead of you.

But hey, the journey was so good that I experienced it 3 times. And thats probably the highest praise I can give.

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13 Responses to “inFAMOUS – Energy non-Crisis”

  1. John Mora Says:

    I played the demo and just didn’t like the missions they gave me at all. They’d put a checkpoint exactly at a point where the enemies would start shooting me before I had a chance to move, which I thought was silly. It was fun to just go around in the sandbox world destroying things and if they could put a game around that that was more compelling I might have fun.

  2. Riskbreaker255 Says:

    It was a demo. Derp derp derp.

  3. RD Says:

    It gives you two missions story missions and two side quests. This game has dozens upon dozens of different quests, each unique in its own way.

    If anything Mora you might appreciate a rental first, Demo seemed (to me) a representation of the combat system.

  4. John Mora Says:

    Rentals cost, like, $10. If I like it, that turns a $60 game into a $70 game.

    And what are demos supposed to do, if not give you an idea on whether or not you’d like a game?! I had this same discussion with Marcman, if it was a shitty demo, they’d have been better off not letting anyone play it and get disappointed.

  5. RD Says:

    They can’t make demos strictly for you Mora!

  6. John Mora Says:

    Maybe not. But he was the one agreeing that the demo wasn’t indicative of the final product, so I guess I still don’t see your point?!

  7. Joe Says:

    One of the biggest things we learned from Infamous’s PSN demo is that if a player didn’t like any of the particular missions we let him play (or that he had the patience to play), we didn’t do a great job of convincing him that there might be other things that he might enjoy about the game.

    Next time Sucker Punch releases a demo (if ever), we will certainly take that into account, but it’s worth pointing out that it was a particularly difficult challenge for an open-world-but-still-mostly-story-mission-centric-but-we-try-to-keep-the-missions-as-varied-as-much-as-we-can game like Infamous.

    Luckily, most of the feedback about the demo’s been positive, so I think we did a decent job of picking good representative missions, but I am certainly sorry you didn’t like them, John. Of course, it’s also possible that we DID pick good representative missions and that Infamous just isn’t for you. In that case, I’m happy we didn’t trick you into wasting your money!

    One possible COA for you might be to borrow Infamous from a friend. Or, if you haven’t already, it might be worth it to play through the demo until you hit the open world portions where you can screw around in the city at your leisure.

    Or don’t. It’s your time and your money, spend both however you think would be most prudent. :)

    But, Marc, glad you liked Infamous so much! I didn’t personally have much to do with most of the micro-design decisions that you appreciated so much, but it’s still a ton of fun to read praise for something I worked on! :)

    -“Joe”, “joeishikura”, “sirtmagus’s friend”

  8. John Mora Says:

    I got to the open world elements and I enjoyed them. I think it’s a well-made game, at least from a nuts and bolts perspective. I would like to fiddle around with the full game some to see what it’s like starting from the beginning, but unfortunately I don’t have any friends that live near me anymore.

    And gosh, I didn’t expect anyone that actually had a hand in this to read my comments! I hope I didn’t hurt any feelings. D:

  9. Marc M Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling, and keep up the good work Joe!

  10. Joe Says:

    Good or bad, just keep sharing your honest opinion and there’s nothing to worry about! Love it or hate it, go nuts– it’s our jobs to have thick skin and learn from every criticism. :)

    I just feel bad that I made you feel like you have to back away from your statement. It sounds like inFAMOUS wasn’t really your bag. That’s okay, lots of other people feel the same way (*cough*Eurogamer*cough*), we’ll try again with our next game. :)

    I’m just happy that I get to occasionally pop my head up and receive some accolades on behalf of an awesome team. Getting constructive criticism is a very small price to pay for all of the benefits.

  11. John Mora Says:

    Make no mistake, I wasn’t backing away. |:3

    I just genuinely didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. That isn’t what this is about!

  12. Bigfoot Says:

    Mora just likes to make lesser nerds cry.

  13. John Mora Says:

    :kermit

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