Videogame Review: InFamous in Retrospect

InFamous came out in 2009 along side such giants as Batman Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, and Assassin’s Creed 2 and is a PS3 exclusive.  Its an easy game to overlook in a world where most people prefer the 360 over the PS3.  Stack that on top of a cross platform release of a game with a similar concept (open world super villain game) Prototype and it wouldn’t surprise me if you missed Infamous.

The strangest part for me about Infamous is how much I loved it when I played it and then how much I stopped caring about afterwards.  I started playing it again recently, going on an evil play through, and this game still blows me away which was entirely unexpected.  Many aspects of Infamous at release were ahead of its time and a lot of those aspects are still ahead of present games.  No start screen, it just loads, say what?  That’s c-ra-zy!

If you aren’t familiar with Infamous, it is Sucker Punch’s open world super hero or villain game taking place in fictional locale Empire City.  As a matter of fact, Infamous has one of the more fascinating takes on what determines whether you are good or evil (shown by a karma meter in game).  On the surface, the player is given some blatant choices on what the results of an action will be.  For instance a character offers Cole (the protagonist) a couple items in trade for a favor.  Cole’s inner dialog shows the player that he can either a) do the mission for the items or b) kill the citizen and simply take the items.

The innovative aspect of Infamous’ karma system lies in the gameplay choices the player makes.  The city streets are littered with citizens dying of plague.  More karma points are earned by the accumulated incidental killing or saving of these citizens than by anything else in the game.  It is much more difficult to play through the game not killing the innocent bystanders than it is to simply blow up the enemies and whoever else is standing near by.  The good karma powers focus more on healing cole, healing bystanders, performing accurate attacks, and restoring energy.  The evil karma powers focus on explosions and electricity traveling from character to object to character.  Being good in Infamous is definitely much more difficult than being bad.

Pretty much anyone who has played Infamous will tell you, traveling is a blast in this game.  Its just a shame the fun aspects of traveling are locked out through almost a third of the game.  From skating on electrical lines and train tracks to jumping on a moving train, traversing Empire City is a blast.  But every game has its hiccups and problems.  When comparing Cole’s climbing skills to Nathan Drake (Uncharted) or Ezio (Assassin’s Creed 2), the made up word “videogamey” comes to mind.  If most players are like me, then simply pressing the jump button in rapid succession is the only input needed to scale a building.  Granted, my personal opinion on the matter is a more realistic, slow paced system like Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed 2 would have ruined part of Infamous.   Infamous’ combat system is built to be used a bit more readily than the aforementioned titles, and a slower pace would have hurt the game.

I have staggered in my recommendation on the game in the past because I didn’t expect it to hold up well modern day.  My recent experience has shown me how wrong that assumption was.  But Infamous is by no means a perfect game.  The majority of the electrical powers are simply different skins for traditional FPS weaponry (rocket launcher, sniper rifle, grenade).  Cole never goes inside a building and while Cole can climb a skyscraper, as Penny Arcade pointed out long ago, chain link fences seem to be his kryptonite.

I could go on and on about the different facets of this game that still continue to amaze and impress me.  The sensibility that this game was approached with by Sucker Punch is rarely seen and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.  The worst part of all this is, I haven’t gotten to write about the art direction, the story, or the ingenious reward to completing side missions.  If you own a PS3 and you haven’t played this game yet, you’re really doing the evil karma thing.  See you have to work to get the good karma and this particular brand of work just involves purchasing or borrowing an old game that goes for $20-$30 new.

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About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

One Response to Videogame Review: InFamous in Retrospect

  1. Pingback: Videogame Review: Infamous 2 « The Carousel Podcast

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