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Good or Evil? You decide in Sucker Punch's debut PS3 title...
You have to feel a little sympathy for Cole, the star of Sucker Punch's debut PS3 title. He's little more than a deliveryman sent to deliver a package, which unbeknown to him leads to a cataclysmic explosion that rips through six square blocks of Empire City, levelling everything in its path and obliterating everybody before it. Understandably, the citizens that survived the blast are pissed off and believe he's the main culprit; even worse, his girlfriend's sister died in the blast and she's blaming Cole for it - talk about shooting the messenger.
As the sole survivor of the explosion, Cole has discovered a new penchant for electricity, a beneficial side-effect of the blast that gives him the power to shoot bolts of lightning from his hands. With the situation stacked up against him and a growing mob baying for blood, Cole could use such powers to bring Empire City to its knees and demand some respect, or perhaps battle against the Reapers that have emerged since the explosion and fight to restore Empire City's faith in him.
This is the dilemma presented throughout inFamous with a Karma system that underpins the entire experience, much like Fable before it. Unlike Lionhead's series however, inFamous does a better job of blurring the lines and making things a little greyer than the polar distinctions between good and evil. A range of scripted events are presented throughout the entire game, such as whether you choose to scare people away from the food you've just found so you can keep it to yourself or let them eat? These provide the memorable moments and makes for some genuinely tough decisions towards the end which we won't spoil.
Your actions in the main missions are all taken into account, so it's possible to finish a mission with bad karma, despite otherwise being a good guy, simply because you've been a little over-zealous with your powers and induced a little too much collateral damage. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking and we'd like to see developers push the moral angle even further going forwards, but it serves as a satisfying backdrop to the game. Just make sure to save often and in different files if you want to check out the multiple permutations without having to play through everything repeatedly.
The main storyline mission presents plenty of twists and turns, and provides a genuinely surprising conclusion, which again we won't spoil. As with any sandbox game, inFamous presents the standard offering of main and secondary missions to undertake. Initially most of the main missions revolve around bringing power back to the different districts of Empire City, which in turn benefits Cole with more outlets to charge his powers and electricity cables to grind. The process of travelling down to the sewers to bring back power, in turn gaining new abilities, is perhaps recycled a little too much for our liking, but generally Sucker Punch has done a good job of injecting a little creativity into the objectives.
Cole gains new powers throughout the entire duration of the game, upgrading these with experience points and choosing between different powers dependant upon your alignment. Sucker Punch has certainly made sure there are plenty of scenarios for Cole to cause havoc with his new found skills. We've played plenty of conventional superhero sandbox titles, but there's little denying Cole could show them all a trick or two in the superhuman power stakes. Towards the end of the game the action is a pyrotechnic extravaganza, with huge explosions engulfing you as lightning crackles all around. You'll often find yourself fighting dozens upon dozens of adversaries in massive battles, with gigantic mutated beasts and entertaining boss battles thrown in as well.
inFamous handles the tricky area of secondary missions particularly well. Highlighted with a yellow exclamation mark on the map, secondary objectives are dotted throughout Empire City and by completing them you can take back parts of the city and drive out the enemy from within the district. As such secondary missions never feel as though they're just tacked on to add a little length; there's a genuine advantage to completing them but it's up to you whether you want this help. On top of this, Empire City's citizens will occasionally call out for Cole's assistance, which provides a natural link to additional 'tertiary' missions. You don't have to go out of your way to find them, they'll come to you - which being lazy we quite liked. As a result of strong design there's a good sense of direction and urgency to inFamous. It manages to maintain your interest from start through to the end, without waning in the middle like most sandbox games tend to.
As a sandbox game, inFamous is closer to the superhero games such as Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and the Spider-Man series than GTA. There are no cars to hijack (they're in a pretty poor state in any case), so instead Cole has to get around Empire City on foot. Fortunately Cole is quite an agile main character, scaling buildings in a similar manner to Microsoft's Crackdown. Sucker Punch has created a wonderful setup which binds Cole to nearby objects, allowing him to run effortlessly across electricity lines, jump between pillars, latch onto railings and perform other exquisite motions without ever feeling overly twitchy yet never becoming entirely restrictive. It's easily one of the finest control setups we've seen. Although ensuring Empire City's many buildings can be scaled in such a way must have been a considerable undertaking for Sucker Punch, it's not entirely flawless. We found ourselves falling through buildings on a handful of occasions, leading to an instant death or, in the worst case, a game crash that needed a PS3 reboot. It could just be the early build that we received, but we felt it was worth mentioning.
Although Empire City isn't vast, travelling around everywhere on foot could get a little tedious. Fortunately Cole quickly gains alternative means for getting around. When you've found the grind and hover abilities you'll soon find yourself whizzing around Empire City, combining these techniques gives the game a sense of fluidity more in common with Tony Hawk's than a third-person action title.
It's hard to fault inFamous, although there are a few issues that prevent it from being a genre defining must-have. Travelling down into the sewers to bring power back to different districts - in turn gaining a new ability - is perhaps overused, which can also be levelled at some of the main missions. We'd also suggest that the game suffers from a few visual glitches that detract from what's otherwise a good looking title. Objects pop into view on an alarmingly regular basis and there's a discernible pop of textures. Furthermore, inFamous' good/evil dynamic comes to a singular choice towards the end of the game, which does seem like a bit of a cop-out but makes it a little easier to go back to a saved game and check out the alternative ending.