Sunday, June 28, 2009
Game Review: Infamous
"Infamous" is Sony's newest pet project, developed by Sucker Punch studios. This was one of those superhero games that got a lot of hype when it was first announced. Unfortunately, some superhero games had their share of problems and never fully delivered. I was worried that this would be the case for this game. For those of you who played the Spider-man games, this might make you think so. Although they were good, they never hit all the right spots, either having some moments of difficult combat or being too short (sometimes both). Thankfully, this was not the case for this game.
The game starts off right away with an explosion in Empire City (which looks a LOT like New York). You play Cole, a messenger who is the soul survivor of those caught in the blast, who seems to be okay despite the destruction. This is strange, considering he carried the package that went off. While trying to get out of the epicenter of the ground zero, strange things begin to happen... very shocking things (and now I'm done with the puns). However, the city is also in quarantine due to this blast, which results in all out chaos in the city, spawning gangs and other problems as well. Now wielding the power of electricity in his very hands (literally), it's up to Cole to find out who caused this and deliver justice to them.
Although this is a very watered down synopsis of the main story, it is considerably deeper than this. Cole is constantly faced with moral decisions that you control, which could either save the city or ultimately destroy it. To further create conflict, there is an anarchist group constantly trying to give survival tips to the people and constantly puts blame on Cole due to his "terrorism," which sets off every one's hate for him. All of this results in losing his girlfriend Trish and being a social pariah, with the exception of his friend Zeke, who also wants a taste of Cole's power. The fact that both people of great importance are wanting him to in different directions also furthers the depth of the story, giving Cole a large amount of depth. Even villains make him question who he is and what he's becoming.
What really surprised me though was a side story in here, which involved searching for dead drops. I won't say how you meet this person, but an FBI agent named Moya asks you find these dead drops to acquire information relating to an undercover agent named John. This part of a deal in which by helping her out, you can be let out of Empire City. Although not exactly necessary to follow, it helps one understand the characters that you are facing, as well help the player understand how everything happened.
Of course, depending on what choices you make, it will ultimately decided how everything goes. By going the good route, you earn the city's respect and clean it up. Going the other route will create fear, panic, and destruction of the city. If gives you a chance to create your own story, rather than go on a deceptively linear one (like most superhero games these days). I never thought I'd see a superhero game take the Alan Moore route in development. In this game, it worked perfectly.
I'm not sure what it is about the gameplay, but something about it feels very... unique. If not unique, then definitely done properly (which is probably what I find so intriguing about it in comparison to other super-hero games). When you first start off, you're given a very bare set of powers: you can shoot lightning, create a blast from hitting the ground, and drain electricity. However, as time goes on, you have the ability to make these powers grow into something more, eventually earning grenades, the ability to glide, speedily slide across electric wires, and more. What's interesting about this is that only certain powers can be unlocked by going a certain route. For example, when going the good route, your lightning strike gains you health, while going the evil route makes it more powerful.
There are various things that change your Karma level, which is generally decided by taking down enemies or innocents, as well as decided their fate, being it capture or death. However, the actions that heavily affect your Karma rating are moments of moral choices. Every now and then, there is a moment where Cole needs to make a choice. What's interesting is how he weighs each choice, generally giving each importance. For example, there is a moment where Cole can choose a poster; one makes him respected, while another makes him feared. He actually thinks to himself how he can be a sign of hope or how he can just scare everyone. There are heavier moments (such as feeding either himself and his friends or letting civilians get a crate of emergency supply food), but every one of these have huge effects on Cole.
In order to use these powers, you have to absorb electricity. Because you're in a city, you're given plenty of things to absorb energy from: cars, stop lights, lamps, generators, etc. Of course, each source has a different amount of energy it can give as well, so if you're in a bind, you better hope there's a phone booth nearby and not just a dead car.
Although one is given a multitude of powers to use, controls were very simply to use. Everything is mapped in a way that you can use your powers effectively. You would be surprised how easy it is to take down an enemy with a grenade and lightning when speeding along train rails. Also, some powers are actually created to be used with each other. The overcharge shot, which is basically one big ball of lightning, can eventually be redirected once you use the lightning strike on an enemy.
Something also well created was the building scaling mechanics. In the game, Cole can basically climb anything he wants, as long as it's a ledge or some sort of prefecture sticking out from the wall. These prefectures include lights, statues, etc. This makes it possible to scale almost any building with ease, which allows total freedom in exploring the city. The one really good thing about this is that due to Cole's powers, you won't die if you fall. As for exploration, the city is divided into three different areas, with different sections of them being "unlocked" after a short amount of time. With each area there are enemies unique to the place (and obviously, they get tougher). Each area is given a different feel as well. This helps create enough diversity that the landscape never feels repetitive.
There is a lot of things you can do in this game. There's a the main story mode, plus side quests that clears up territory and prevents enemies from coming back. Although one might think that they'd all be the same, the moral path you choose can unlock different side quests for you as well. Going the good path unlocks missions were you side with the police, in which you either escorts prisoners, protect protesters, etc. The evil path can have you do other things like instigate riots. There are plenty of goodies to find as well, such as blast shards (which let you use your powers for longer periods of time without having to recharge), and dead drops, which acts as a side story involving an FBI agent searching for an undercover agent named John.
Now, this doesn't mean that there aren't problems. Although the controls are easy to use, there were times were I found it difficult to aim my lightning strikes. The reticule is rather small, so you generally have to get up close and personal to really hit them at time. Of course, for the bigger enemies, this wasn't a problem, but one would think that this wouldn't be a problem at all. Another minor complaint is that while I was "surfing" the lines (once I got the power anyway), it was impossible to stop. Although it never hampered the game play, it certainly acted as a minor annoyance. Also somewhat problematic at times was the building scaling. It was generally easy to deal with 95% of the time, but there were moments where I tried to collect something or tried to go to a different ledge. One of the things that this game does is an "auto-cling," grabbing whatever it can. When trying to get something, this can make it difficult to actually do so, as you may go a different way than you plan. There was no way to avoid grabbing these either (although it wasn't a problem to drop down from ledge to ledge).
Although there were problems present, I felt the overall gameplay was solid and sound. It allowed me to do plenty of things with general ease, and the amount I could do only grew over time. Definitely the pinnacle of super-hero gaming.
Displayed at max res. of 720p
Everyone knows that the PS3 has the potential to display great things. When it comes to the exclusives, if delivers. The city looks phenomenal. Great draw distances, heavy detail, and plenty of diversity in the buildings and structures make Empire City come to life. It always seems like cities are the best part of a game.
Character models are pretty solid. The various inhabitants are fairly diverse (although they do appear repetitive after a while). One of things that impressed me the most about them was the shading; it seemed that the character models were meant to showcase the complexity of lighting, as the slightest change in movement drastically changed how they appeared. As for the texture work on them, it was very good, although not as great as other games. Then again, considering the size and scope of the city, it would be pretty hard to appear much better. Even more impressive is that, despite all this, there was were only one or two moments of slowdown during the times I played.
I will probably say what I liked the most in the graphical department were the story cutscenes. Instead of using gameplay graphics or pre-rendered cutscenes, the game had comic book cutscenes, narrated by Cole. This fit the spirit of the subject matter, yet didn't distract me from the story. The quality of the cutscenes were very good as well; the art looked bright, vibrant, and highly detailed.
Although the graphics are great, there are some problems. One of the main problems are latent texture pop-ups. There were a definitely a few moments where these textures wouldn't appear for about a second. Also bringing down the score are the character animations. There were a lot of times that the movements just seemed robotic. Particle effects were a mixed bag. Things like Cole's power's looked great. Other things like explosions and electricity surging in certain areas seemed... generic. Despite these discrepancies, the overall graphics were solid.
Sound was tested on 5.1 DTS settings.
I have to say the audio in this was just astounding. It made sure to take full advantage of the system. There was always constant activity in the city: vehicles moving, people chatting, and the trains passing by all brought the city to life. It sounded just the way it should have... a real city. Other sound effects sound great and immersive as well, such as explosions, surges, and other various effects caused by chaos that comes with fighting. Of course, playing this is in DTS simply made it even better, boosting it's clarity and overall quality. What surprised me most about all this though was how they handled the people. It seemed that despite the multitude of people, there were heavy loads of different dialogue used between the people. It never felt like the dialogue or the voices I heard was repetitive. Such was the case with the voices. There was a vast diversity of voices throughout the city.
As for the main characters, they were able actors who delivered well-written dialogue with great professionalism. The acting always felt believable and the actors cast generally felt well cast. Although if I had one main complaint in this game, it's who was cast for Cole. Although a great voice actor, there was something that was up with hearing a Solid Snake wannabe while in a leather biker jacket and jeans. He always sounded like this, despite the path you choose. Admittedly though, I think it was the inconsistency in his voice that bothered me more than the voice itself. During gameplay (as I stated), he sounds like David Hayter. However, during the comic-style cutscenes, he sounds fairly normal, losing the grave voice. If it wasn't for this one problem, I'd probably give it a perfect score.
If you haven't figured it out from the gameplay, there is a lot to do in this game: missions, side missions, collectibles, trophies, and others. The fact that there are two different story paths, each with their own unique features, simply makes this game a joy and will never make you feel bored. Although it may seem repetitive to go over some of these missions again, the ability to make a different karma choice helps aid in the diversity. Being able to customize your character differently through another play through also aids as well. This game isn't Elder Scrolls in terms of length, but it certainly gives you a lot more do than most other games today, and that is a major plus. One can probably net a total of 20-30 hours of gameplay with this this. Definitely more bang for your buck.
This is definitely one of the best games of the year, if not THE best so far. With so many great things about this game, it would be hard for anyone to really dislike this game. One would be hard-pressed to make something better than this title in this particular genre as well. If anyone does though, I'll be waiting. While I do so though, I'll probably just be playing Infamous all the while.
An open ended game with a deep narrative and characters, long lasting playability, well crafted technical aspects, and solid gameplay; Infamous is the newest epitome of greatness in the super-hero game genre.