Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Infamous (Playstation 3)

Sucker Punch has delivered several knock-out blows for Sony over the years, most notably with its Sly Cooper series. The developers have taken a radically different direction this time around with Infamous. Giving players electricity charged super-powers, such as the ability to throw objects, scale high buildings and throw bolts of electricity out of his body to destroy or kill enemies. An open-ended world allows for plenty of exploration, with varied missions and objectives. Infamous is a highly-polished and involving game that gives you superhero abilities and lets you decide to use them for good or evil. It's a highly-polished, deep title that provides a deep and satisfying experience that most players will definitely enjoy.

Infamous is a highly-polished gaming experience that mixes super hero abilities and puts them in an open-ended city to explore, and gives them the choice between saving or destroying it. The game begins as Cole finds himself at the center of a large explosion that wipes out the center of Empire. As the only survivor of the blast, he is imbued with super-powers and can go virtually anywhere in the massive metropolis. While this might sound like a lot of fun, there are a few twists to keep things grounded in reality. This isn't some comic-book fantasy, instead it takes the modern approach to comic book lore where super-heroes aren't seen as completely good or evil. First, many people blame him for the explosion, since he was carrying the mysterious package that exploded. As such, he's not seen as completely heroic by many of the citizens. Secondly, after the explosion, the city was placed under military quarantine and the citizens were left to fend for themselves. This led to the rise of a deadly gang called the Reapers who terrorize the city and run riot over its streets. It's a complicated situation and you have a moral choice - you can be the good guy and try and help citizens and battle gang members or you can take a darker path, looking out only for yourself. What's interesting about this approach is that it lets you choose which path to go and the reaction you get on the street is largely dependent on how you're perceived. Additionally, you're trying to figure out what happened to you and who did it - which keeps the story driving along. As you play through the game, good deeds increase your rating in the positive sector of your rank, while bad actions give you a poorer reputation. This affects how the story progresses and also changes which missions you're allowed to take on. It makes Infamous feel less predictable than other games and gives the storyline a more organic feel. Infamous' story is interesting, but the gameplay is what will really keep you motivated. As you might expect from Sucker Punch, the game delivers a highly-polished, engrossing and varied experience.

You begin with a fairly simple, but powerful set of abilities. Cole can run up and down the sides of buildings, climb steep walls and jump incredible distances. This is just the start, because he can also shoot electric bolts from his hands, which can zap enemies almost instantly. Aiming takes place from an above-the-shoulder perspective, which can be annoying if you're accustomed to standard FPS controls, but becomes more intuitive once you get used to it. You can also throw energy blasts which throw any nearby enemies and objects around. Performing these special moves drains your power-meter, which you can replenish by sucking energy out of nearby power-sources such as cars, light-fixtures and generators. As you progress through Infamous, you'll earn other abilities, such as throwing electric grenades, which is good for wiping out enemies from a safe distance. There are also more positive elements, such as the ability to revive fallen civilians. You can also use these close-range powers to suck the energy out of enemies or trap them in force fields to make them powerless. These abilities gradually build up and keep things interesting, so you're not always using the same techniques. You can also add to your powers by collecting the bomb fragments scattered throughout the city. Accumulating enough of these will add to your electric meter, allowing you to perform more attacks before your energy bar is depleted. While you're quite powerful, you aren't invincible and take damage from enemy shots. As in many current games, the screen turns gray with blood splotches, meaning you're in danger. In order to revive yourself, you need to take cover and wait until your health meter gradually comes back. The controls are fairly simple and straightforward, and you can move around, glide over wires and perform massive jumps relatively easily. Targeting foes is a simple task as well, just use your super-senses to locate them, and they'll glow bright red. After that, use your reticule and fire away until they fall away. They'll usually fire at you in rapid succession, but the gang members are usually dangerous only when they attack in large groups. They're fairly easy to knock-off at first, but later in the game they smarten up and use shields to protect themselves. Boss characters are usually much harder to defeat, and require some persistence to defeat. Infamous offers an excellent mix between these action sequences and more puzzle-oriented sequences, such as when you have to travel through Empire's sewers to locate and start up power-stations. This gives a good balance in the play mechanics between these types of gameplay and makes for a more interesting experience overall.

Standing alone on the street, you can communicate with one of your contacts who will guide you to the next mission. Using your onscreen map, you can locate the next waypoint which will then begin your next quest. It's usually simple to locate these, but they're sometimes above or below where you'd expect them to be. After you locate your task, you can choose whether or not to take up the mission. Infamous' mission-structure is open-ended and you can complete story missions to move the plot forward or take on side-quests to earn additional rep. The danger is real no matter which path you choose, so you need to be careful not to take on more than you can handle. Infamous' progression isn't simply linear, and the open-ended feel of Empire City allows you to explore many of its areas and sections. Exploration is another key part of the game, and taking advantage of the game's sandbox approach allows you to map out areas in advance, which can be quite helpful. Traveling can be done either on the ground, or over the building tops. It's a fairly large place and consists of huge sections, divided into sections. Some of these are more dangerous than others and this usually depends on whether you've restored power to one section or not. As you travel through the city, you can see enemy locations on your map, as well as electric charge points and other significant locations. You can also press down on the analog stick to give a quick sensory view that highlights electric field and enemies as well, which can be helpful when your under attack and need to find where shots are coming from. In general traveling above ground on the wires is safer, since enemies are much farther away and usually don't cluster on rooftops. Air travel is mostly quicker since you don't have as many barriers in front of you. Its this sense of freedom that is probably the best part of Infamous, it gives you a sense of limitless possibilities and the developers have smartly set very large parameters for players, so you never feel like you're forced to do anything. While this non-linear 'sandbox' approach has been seen in other games, adding a dual good/evil approach to your actions grounds the action in a kind of moral reality where you have to deal with the consequences. This makes you think before you act, which is a really effective way of putting you in Cole's shoes.

Presenting players with these moral choices is important, but so is setting the game in a believable environment. While the setting of Empire City is fictional, there's enough realism in its approach to create what appears to be a city under siege. Players will see a metropolis already damaged by a blast of unknown origin battling both the forces of an oppressive government and the raging, nearly demonic presence of an out of control street gang. From a technical standpoint, Infamous brings these forces to life vividly. Its city layout is both massive and believable. The action takes place on high roof-tops, back alleys, parks, abandoned warehouses and other typical locations. Everything is rendered expertly to make this feel like a living, breathing urban environment. Citizens roam around the streets and behave in realistic ways, such as the way they scatter when battles erupt, or stand over fallen friends and ask you to save them or blame you. Infamous' voice-acting is excellent and brings the characters to life vividly. While you'd expect Cole to have plenty to say, the supporting characters' backstories are also well fleshed out, such as your ex-girlfriend who blames you for her sister's death or your buddy Zeke who helps you out. This makes your interactions feel like they mean something, and aren't the usual NPC filler. Its presentation is superb, and the overall structure is solid, but there are a few minor issues. While there are many missions in the game, some of them become monotonous, such as going through the sewers multiple times, or collecting objects. The gangs are numerous, but they attack in similar ways each time, which can become repetitive and predictable. Finally, the large scale of the city can also turn on itself sometimes, causing you to become lost or spend an excessive amount of time backtracking. This minor issues aside, Infamous is still a remarkably interesting and entertaining title. Your super-powers live up to their name, but they don't make you invincible which helps to keep things challenging. It's immersive storyline that gives you moral choices where you need to put some thought into your actions. Will you take the easy way out, and jeopardize your standing, or do you take the harsher road and maintain your heroic status. This means you're not just zapping everything in sight. This non-linear approach to gameplay and what paths you take is probably the key reason that helps the game stand out from the pack. Infamous delivers a challenging and consistently entertaining experience that will keep you coming back for more.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: A

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