We love superheroes, mainly because they can do things we can’t. They fly, have metal claws, control things with their minds — but at some point, they had to choose whether or not to fight for others or just start tearing everything up.
That’s the same choice game players face in Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS, a brilliant bit of comic-book fantasy about a free-running courier who wakes up with the ability to control electricity.
The backdrop is the fictional Empire City, freshly torn apart by a mysterious energy blast that’s killed hundreds and knocked out the city’s power. Adding to that is a plague that’s caused chunks of the surviving populace to degenerate into insane gangs. The rest of the survivors are the prey.
Enter Cole, the courier, who wakes up in the middle of a crater with his new powers, eventually mastering them to the point of being able to do things like call lightning from the sky, hover in the air or lob electricity-filled grenades (in addition to firing bolts out of his hands). I expected Sucker Punch to go borderline silly on the array of powers, but was glad to see a balanced set that fell right in tune with the game’s tone.
Cole operates in the torn-down but visually impressive expanses of Empire City, which feature all manners of enemies to fight and buildings that Cole can use to demonstrate his impressive climbing skills. No matter what it is — ledges, skyscrapers, buses, glowing signs — Cole can grab onto it.
Cole can also choose to walk the path of pristine good or wayward chaos as he progresses through the game’s multitude of story and side missions. Many games have offered the same kind of choice, but inFAMOUS finds a way to do it within the rhythm of the game’s action.
The path of good can be acheived by being a generally helpful guy, shooting only the bad guys, minimizing collateral damage and making tough choices in “karmic” moments that further the greater good (such as deciding whether take a flying gas tank to the face, because shooting it in the air would kill people nearby). Evil is simpler: Everyone is expendable, and only your goals matter.
Both paths are extremely fun to play, as everything from the dialogue to the comic-book narrative stills change depending on the kind of person you shape Cole into being. Even the look of Cole is altered to fit his good or evil persona, and it says something about the quality of the game’s writing to craft a character that’s equally believable as either a subdued do-gooder or a warmongering electric barbarian.
The only issues I had with the game dealt with some gameplay, as Cole is sometimes a little too “sticky,” grabbing onto things when you don’t want him to, which can sometimes slow him down during speed missions.
The manual in-game camera also has it’s on-crack moments, sometimes giving me cool shots of the inside of Cole’s head or within the wall of a building.
I’ve played through inFAMOUS more than once, and it remains near the top of my list for favorite PS3 titles. Time will tell how much good this hero will do for the system’s lineup, but whether you’re bad or good, it’ll be time well spent.
Sony Computer Entertainment / Sucker Punch
Rated T for Teen