inFAMOUS is all about the electrons.
Cole MacGrath is a bike messenger who delivers a package that, unbeknownst to him, decimates Empire City.
He wakes up several days later, imbued with electrical powers that he quickly finds a need for. The city has been quarantined by the outside world, leaving the populace defenseless against roving bands of criminals.
The three boroughs in Empire City are ruled by a specific group intent on controlling their territory. The Reapers, the weakest of the gangs, rule the Neon District. The Dust Men are more powerful, gathering scrap metal to create more powerful weapons and also a massive tower. The Historic District is home to a secret organization, more powerful than the other two.
Cole’s powers – lightning bolts, electric grenades, shockwave and others – all involve electricity and can be upgraded, with new powers being revealed as the main storyline progresses.
One way the enemies battle Cole is by deactivating power substations, making it necessary for him to go into the underground passageways to restart them. Doing so reveals to him another power that he can use.
They also confront him head-on, bringing rockets, giant trash robots and numerous other weapons. Side missions are always available to take a break from the storyline. Completing side missions permanently eliminates enemies from a section of the city, creating safe zones and making medical clinics available to respawn at.
This game will inevitably be compared with 2007’s Crackdown, another open world game with a protagonist sporting superhuman powers. It is similar, but with enough differences to make it stand out on its own.
For one, the storyline is much more intricate and emotional and draws you into Cole’s world – tortured as it is.
The game also brings a moral sense to the gameplay. Cole can choose an evil or a good path while working to eventually escape from the quarantined sections of the city. At points in the game, he is confronted with karmic decisions that force a choice. Choosing one or the other tips a meter that keeps track of growing evil or good.
The karmic meter also keeps track of other deeds by Cole. When confronted by injured citizens of Empire City, he can either heal them (good) or drain them of electrical charge (evil). Even the color of his lightning bolts changes depending on his moral bent.
As the karmic meter builds in one direction, new skills and side missions become available. The reactions to Cole by the populace also changes over time.
As he becomes more famous, citizens shout encouragement or snap photos if on the good path and shun him if going evil. Posters begin appearing around the city focusing on his karmic arc. When evil, people curse him and run away from him.
inFAMOUS is created by Sucker Punch Productions, makers of the Sly Cooper series of PlayStation 2 games. Fans of those games will notice some similarities.
For one thing, both Sly, a crime-solving raccoon, and Cole have similar styles when running across high wire lines. For another, both games conduct much of their business among rooftops and high wires. The games also employ a comic-book sensibility and style.
Gameplay is crisp, with nary a glitch or hitch. Visually, a decimated city has never looked better.
There is no multiplayer action at all, but not every game has to have a tacked-on, badly-executed multiplayer mode.
inFAMOUS is the best game for the PlayStation 3 so far this year.
Platform: Playstation 3
Score: 9.5 electrifying chilies