Infamous Review

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Infamous, the electric super hero PS3 exclusive, is aggravating, repetitive and hackneyed.  It’s also one of the best games of the year.  How can this be?  Because the game is also none of these things.  Here’s why:

Aggravating:

Infamous has lots of the memorable moments full of bad ass… bad assery.  I just wish that every once and a while I could scale a skyscraper or grind a power cable and not be sniped from 7 miles away by some jack ass with an AK-47.  These are street gangs with machine guns, not Navy snipers, so why don’t they ever miss?

Another annoyance is the feel of the climbing.  Infamous takes more of a Crackdown route than Assassin’s Creed style climbing mechanic, meaning their is some skill involved.  Crawling over bridges and jumping across building is made a little easier by a stickiness that sucks you to ledges and outcrops.  This is usually appreciated… except when you want to let go.  This problem is exacerbated when falling in water kills you instantly and super accurate gangs are everywhere.

What really surprises me though is how much of the game could have been absolutely infuriating but manages to stay in the perfect zone of challenging fun.  Check points are liberally and well placed, something you often don’t find in open world games.  Many of your electric powers require (surprise surprise) electricity from sources found around town.  These sources of power are easy to find, well placed and make sense within the game world.  Being sniped and falling off buildings at an inoppurtune time might be annoying, but never so much as to make me quit playing.

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Repetitive:

Grey.  Dark grey, light grey, grey grey.  Their, I have painted you a picture of Infamous’ open world, Empire City.  It’s a lot more noticeable in a game where you’re climbing to the top of buildings that you’ve climber that same building on all three islands. If I remember correctly, Crackdown managed to craft 3 themed islands full of distinct buildings, so I don’t think it’s impossible to do.  This helps in navigation because if you remember that the Nuclear power plant is east of the docks, or that the dome topped tower is at the northern part of the city, you can find your way around town without hopping into a map every 3 seconds.  Not so with Infamous.

The repetitive nature of the buildings in Empire City is only made more unbearable when you find one of the very few original landmarks, like the junk tower or Arkam Asylum-esque jail.  While it’s enjoyable to find a new landmark to conquer, why does an open world game force you to take the one special route to the top of the trash tower?

The missions almost succumb to this same repetitive nature, throwing out the same missions over and over.  Side missions are usually some flavor of collectathon, satellite beacon hunts, medical supply retrieval, kill these dudes, kill those dudes, etc.  Thing is,their’s a reason I said almost.  I was pleasantly surprised throughout Infamous to find completely new side missions types at just about the time I was feeling drenched in sameness.  The main story mission are even better at throwing out completely new types of gameplay right up to the end of the game.  When you’re so use to open world games like Assassin’s Creed of GTA throwing the same recycled mission structures at you over and over, Infamous’ main story missions are a breath of fresh air.

Hackneyed:

I’ll make this simple: Infamous’ story is bad.  It’s sloppy, shallow and melodramatic.  Villains pop into the story at random, so you have a boss at the end of a mission arc.  Friends and foe can be counted on taking the most cliched option possible.  The highly vaunted morality choices are so black and white and presented so mechanically that their robbed of any possible significance.  It’s not long before every moral choice breaks down to “do you want the good super powers or the evil super powers? Press X or O”.

And like all my other criticisms, I can’t help but sort of enjoy it despite it’s faults.  Instead of cutscenes, the game usuually uses slick graphic novel style comics as exposition, lending to the whole super hero motif.  And like the comics it’s supposed to emulate, the story should be excessively corny, with just about every government conspiracy and superhero cliche thrown in for no good reason at all.  I can’t help but think the morality choices at some point became a running joke over at Sucker Punch, but even if they weren’t, they are useful in making a second run through little different.

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If your still wobbling on whether Infamous is a worth while investment, here’s the most important thing you should know: it’s fun. Really, really pleasurable to play, climb and fry enemies with all manner of electric powers.  The game progress at a good rate or new missions and powers, theirs almost always a variety of missions or activities to choose from, and the controls are just spot on.  It’s may not be perfect but it still one of the best games the PS3 will ever get.

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