Snap Judgment – inFAMOUS (PS3)

Sony was victimized one of the worst data breaches in history in 2011, impacting some 77 million users. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Sony shut down the PSN for a staggering 23 days while it rebuilt its security architecture to ensure nothing like this happened again. To apologize, Sony offered a Welcome Back promotion that included a number of gifts.  Among these was inFAMOUS.

I had heard good things about the game but hadn’t paid enough attention to actually buy it myself. In fact, it sat unplayed on my hard drive until 2013 when I started getting hyped for the PS4 and realized there were a number of cornerstone PlayStation franchises I hadn’t yet experienced.  I’m really glad that I finally did because Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS is an incredible title that succeeds in making you feel like an actual demigod, like an unstoppable force of nature, in a way that few other games achieve.

inFAMOUS follows Cole McGrath, a bike messenger in Empire City (a quasi-New York), who’s been given a package to deliver at the story’s outset. Little does Cole know, that package is actually a weapon of mass destruction that detonates once he reaches his destination.  The ensuing blast doesn’t kill him, as it did millions of others, but rather activates a latent “Conduit gene” that causes him to evolve into something far greater.  As the game progresses, Cole makes multiple “karmic choices” that will not only influence the game’s plot and how other characters react to him, but also direct how his powers continue to evolve. They’re all based on electricity but vary between precision and large-scale carnage. These choices will either lead Cole to become a hero or villain.

The game is mechanically imperfect (some of the platforming aspects are awkward), and it features several one-dimensional characters, but it is clever overall. It especially excels presentation-wise with its comic-style cutscenes, which are accompanied by dramatic music and voiceovers and combined with slick camera pans and cuts to convey this tale.  While there is fair bit of formula followed in this plot, there are a couple of well-done twists and turns to keep everything interesting.

The biggest complaint I have about inFAMOUS (and its sequels, and frankly a lot of other games) is that the ongoing karmic choices are a bit meaningless. There’s no incentive to mix up your decisions between good and evil, and there are no neutral ones to make either. You’re either meant to be all the way good, or all the way bad. It would work better to have you pick a destiny right away and then etch out your own custom version of what it means to be a hero or villain. Better still, dispense with black-and-white choices altogether.

Even so, inFAMOUS is fantastic.  I hope Sony re-releases this game on PS4 someday, but even if it doesn’t, it’s available for streaming on PlayStation Now.  Go play it.  B+

Written by Michael

24 August 2015 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Games, Reviews

Tagged with ,

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