When I first saw some longer gameplay footage of inFamous for the PS3 I thought: “Crackdown + shooting electricity from your hands? I’m in”. But inFamous is more than just a simple iteration or only a slight improvement over the two-year-old Xbox360 game. And with its successor still far away, there was nothing holding me back on getting this one.
You play Cole McGrath, a bike messenger, roaming through the streets of a now destroyed and locked down city. And you were the one delivering the bomb that lead to this catastrophe. Now you have to face the consequences of the blast that destroyed the life of every citizen but at the same time gave you super-powers.
As with any disaster the bad guys already in town saw their opportunity and you end up fighting your way through three armies of thugs to find out what really happened. These three armies are split up onto three islands. On these islands you have to complete 40 missions and tons of side-missions, some of which also come with choices that influence your karma and either make you the hero of the citizens or another villain that doesn’t care about anything or anyone but himself.
This karma also influences your powers. There are two sets of powers, one for good, one for evil. The good ones aim at disabling enemies without putting non-combatants at risk, while the evil ones’ goal is to produce as much havoc as possible. And the powers are pretty neat. Once you get enough experience points you can let Cole for instance glide, grind on rails, shoot electric grenades or “force-push” people through the air.
Using these powers in the immense city with all its (remaining) citizens) is just great fun. It’s like Crackdown in this regard and doesn’t prevent you from exploring the city at will. Nearly everything you see, you can reach, and you might find some Shards (similar to the Agility Obs in Crackdown) on your way up.
While comparisons with Crackdown are obvious in most parts, there is one where inFamous has something that Crackdown doesn’t: A story. It’s not like it is the best story out there, but at least there is one and it is actually good. Not en-par with something like Mass Effect, mind you, but good. In the end I really wanted to see how all those intrigues and weird events played out.
That said, inFamous is not a perfect game. Nearly all story missions up to the last island are mostly repetitions and tutorials for a new power you get. On islands one and two you have to complete three missions each to power-up its power grid and each of these missions gave you a new super power. There are also some technical issues with some popups but also some weird clipping problems, light-flickering and on a couple of spots really strange physics problems where you get the impression, that someone forgot to click the “is solid” checkbox in the level-editor.
But none of these issues really annoyed me all that much sine the rest of the game was just absolutely stunning. That also includes about 50% of the story-telling, i.e. the part where a comic-like style was used. In-game story telling was a not all that great, though, since the engine doesn’t really provide all that nice close-ups.