Retrospective: Infamous first look

My first assignment for Game Console was a visit to see PlayStation NZ and have a go on an early build of Infamous. The resultant preview article is presented below in its entirety, complete with the stylised inFAMOUS title.

I remember at the time being left feeling apprehensive about the game, a view that I still hold. I was later invited to review the finished game, which I’ll post up soon. As much as I enjoyed the game, the empty feeling that it left me with is what put me off trying the sequel (although I’m told that I’m missing out).

Check it out, then maybe post a comment on how you found the game.

If you developed amazing super powers, would you really put together an elaborate costume and rush out to save the city? Or would you just look after yourself? These are the questions asked in Sucker Punch Productions’ upcoming PS3 exclusive super-powered sandbox game, inFAMOUS.

Sony Computer Entertainment, publishers of inFAMOUS, kindly invited Games Console to try out an early build of the game.  Instead of the usual super-hero cliché, inFAMOUS takes a grey approach to super powers recently explored in films such as Hancock and Jumper.

A nice looking comic-book style animated intro gives us the usual superhero origin story. A huge explosion has devastated Empire City and society hangs by a thread. You are Cole, a courier caught in the centre of the blast that has since developed super powers. As always, it’s up to you to find out who is responsible. But will you be the saviour or destroyer of the city?

The action takes place in a vast, fully realised city with buildings that can be climbed and rooftops to leap across. Cole’s powers consist of electrical blasts and shockwaves, which can be upgraded using skill points to suit your style of play. Cole can regain health and recharge his powers from the various streetlights, cars and power terminals around the city. The main plot progresses with the completion of missions, with extra side missions thrown in


for a bit of variety.

Scattered across the rooftops and alleyways are sinister-looking bad guys just waiting to pick a fight with you.  While no match for your powers on their own, a group of bad guys of can present quite a challenge. The game is quick to pick up, and you soon get into the exhilarating rhythm of climbing buildings, leaping across rooftops and jumping down onto unsuspecting foes.

Both Cole and the city itself change according to your actions. If you don’t help the citizens of Empire City, they will start to hurl insults and objects at you.  The more damage you do to the city, the more Cole’s powers change and evil-looking his appearance gets.

The northern hemisphere’s summer season is usually bereft of any decent game releases. Perhaps this is the reason for the buzz surrounding inFAMOUS. I may be missing something here, but from the preview, there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before (cough, Crackdown, cough, Force Unleashed, cough).

There is, clearly, a lot of effort on the screen, but sandbox games need to be more that just technically clever. Assassin’s Creed was clever, I even enjoyed playing it, but it had no soul, no real substance. I fear that inFAMOUS will be the same. It is early days yet and maybe the programmers are, at this very moment, filling the gaps to give us a well-rounded experience for the final game.

"I can see your house from here"

I’m not too sure on the developer’s choice of electrical powers, why not pyrotechnic powers that set the whole environment alight? I can just see the innocent people running around screaming as you burn them alive in a frivolous moment of devilish naughtiness. Sure, it is perversely satisfying to reap electrical havoc on friends and enemies alike, but I already did that as Vader’s dark apprentice in Force Unleashed. Vertical combat is not new, nor is having super powers and I wouldn’t be at all surprise if by the end of the game story it all works out fine, regardless of your shameless actions during play.

inFAMOUS could be a promising break from the usual superhero game.  Visually, it is to the standards expected of current-generation consoles, but nothing special. The game is well stocked with things to blow up, bad guys to fight and buildings to climb. All this is topped off with customisable super powers, vertical combat and the choice of playing as a good guy or a bad guy. inFAMOUS has all the hallmarks of a good game, but I’ll reserve judgement on whether it is going to be an outstanding game, until I see the finished version.


Originally published in the May 2009 issue of New Zealand’s NetGuide magazine.