Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Genre: Open World Action
Release Dates: May 26, 2009 (NA) / May 29, 2009 (EU)
Price: 17.42£ (Amazon)
Imagine waking up one morning and suddenly realizing you now have superpowers and it is up to you to decide how to use them as the entire world around you is collapsing; that's what playing Infamous feels like, and for most times, it feels damn good. You play as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger caught in the center of an explosion that devastates several city blocks of the fictional Empire City, giving him superpowers in the process. From that point onwards, it is not long before gangs take control of the blasted city and everything turns to chaos and it is up to you to restore the city or ruin it even more. That works based on the game's karma system, which rewards you "Good Side" or "Evil Side" points based on your actions, unlocking additional missions and tools for you to play based on which side you choose.
There is a mandatory storyline of course, and not all events can be changed by your decisions, but even in those missions you often have the option to choose a different approach that may reward you with karma points based on the path you took. Playing on the good side, I was surprised to see how well the Karma system worked and how disappointed I was when I accidentally did a bad thing and my karma bar slightly went down, as it all became an essential part of the story and the good Cole that I was trying to build, and once I've reached the end of the game I was excited to see how many things I can change by doing things the evil way. Playing on the evil side however, I was surprised to see how much some of my actions destroyed the logic of the story: why am I working with the cops when just minutes ago I was blowing the entire police station to pieces? Sure, some of actions you take have different outcomes, but that doesn't change the fact that you have to go through those mandatory missions that feel modelled for the good side Cole, and doing something bad often doesn't make much sense from a plot perspective.
Aside from the main story however, Empire City is the perfect playground for a superhero or on the opposite case a supervillain as the city is divided into different areas that you must take back from the gangs by completing different side quests in order to unlock and free them of enemy presence. Each karma side also has 10 unique quests that somehow tie in together to add to the story and really make you feel as if you were responsible for saving the city or sinking in the chaos even further.
Like the story, the gameplay is also influenced by your karma, adding different effects and unlocking different skills depending on the path you chose; even though most skills that you use constantly are the same for both sides, there are different visual effects added to them to make them drive you forward towards that edge of your chosen karma. There's a wide range of skills, introduced slowly throughout the game to help you get out of different situations, but at the same time giving you more tools to play around with outside of the main story, making travelling around the city easier and unlocking new abilities to help you on your other endeavours.
The game runs smoothly, using the left trigger to aim and the right trigger to shoot your main ability feels natural and the use of the action button for your other skills makes it easy to choose exactly the skill you want and cast it at the right time. Even though there's a large variety when it comes to skills, there are only a few enemy types, which all follow the same movement schemes and even though playing on hard feels more challenging, once you learned their movements, it becomes easy to get by without much effort. The boss battles feel more challenging, but unfortunately there are only a couple of them in what is easily 10 hours worth of gametime, so for most times you're stuck with random errand missions and reckless killing of the same enemy types.
What makes inFamous such a unique game to play however is just how well Cole's powers fit within the environment, using electric energy to refill your power bar serves as a convenient way to give you a limit on how much you can use exactly as there are limited objects that you can drain energy from around you, but enough to give you a fair chance against your enemies. Those limitations are strictly to restrict you from abusing the stronger powers such as Thunder Storm which will ensure success against a larger number of enemies. In addition to that your powers will allow you travel around the city faster by using rails and cables, heal civilians to become a bigger hero or bio-leech them to fulfil your evil desires and replenish your HP. Apart from the main missions, Empire City is filled with side quests that unlock different areas and free them of enemy presence and numerous Shards used to create Battery Cores that will increase the amount of energy Cole can store at a time and open up possibilities for more powerful skills.
Empire City looks great and so does almost everything that's a part of it, with half destroyed buildings and post-apocalyptic areas that bring the story inFamous wants to tell to life and making you feel like you belong just where you are in that exact moment. Characters look just as good, even though animations could use some work; Cole's powers look stunning and different visuals for good and evil powers add to the karma value, even though overdosing on some of those powers will sometimes result in framerate issues. The game is not lacking visual glitches either, as civilians will often get stuck into the environment and secondary quest marks will be unavailable to return to their place after an attack, having to go back and forth just so you can interact with them.
For a post-apocalyptic scenario, Empire City makes quite the noise, which is a good thing since there will always be something going on in the background as you roam through the city. The soundtrack fits the game perfectly and the effects add to the strong feeling of your superpowers, which do a pretty good stunt when you're going for big explosions. Jason Cottle does an excellent job capturing Cole's personality through his voice act, with actors such as Caleb Moody (Zeke) and Kimberli Colbourne (Moya) adding value to the cast; some of the minor characters lack the quality of the main ones and the dialogue sometimes feel weird, but apart from that the characters do a pretty good job making you feel like a part of their world.
There is no multiplayer, but the singleplayer experience alone will keep you busy for 20-30 hours depending on how much you explore and how many trophies you aim for, as the story is worth playing twice to see the outcome on both karma sides and once you get that over with, you still have all the side quests needed to free the districts and lots of collectibles that provide a good enough excuse to use Empire City as a playground for your superpowers even after finishing the campaign.
inFamous is one of the best games in the PlayStation 3 library and a must play for any open world superhero type of games fan, as the game captivates you with an unique story and karma decisions that influence both the gameplay and the outcome of some events in the story, making it a personal experience modelled after the way you are playing the game and giving you freedom to make that way the way you truly want your character to act and interact with the world around you.