Developer: Sucker Punch
Release Date: June 2009
After finally getting some hands-on time with inFamous, the PS3-exclusive action game, I hope that if I am ever imbued with superpowers, at least one of them will be the ability to shoot lightning from my fingertips. The title makes it pretty clear that anytime you get the lightning crackling, awesomeness is about to ensue.
For the unaware, inFamous tells the story of a guy named Cole, a poor sap who gets caught in the middle of an explosion that wipes out half the city. When he snaps out of a coma a couple of weeks later, he awakens to a world where law and order have taken a holiday and all routes out of the city have been cut off. Roving gangs now control the streets, and ordinary citizens live in fear. Oh, and Cole also has the ability to control electricity because that's the sort of thing that usually happens when you're at ground zero of a massive kaboom.
Regardless of how he got his powers, Cole finds himself as the only one who can fight back against the grotesque thugs who now run roughshod over the city. He can take the heroic route and save the populace out of the goodness of his heart, or he can use his power to oppress and destroy, thus becoming infamous. The player's decisions have substantial effects on Cole, and his decision to fight for good or evil goes a long way in determining his powers and abilities.
This year at GDC, the Sucker Punch folks were showing off four levels of inFamous, two of which are brand new. The first showcased level was the game's opening stage, which is a mission that's been discussed numerous times in various publications. Basically, Cole and his survivalist buddy Zeke find out about a food drop and head down to the location to grab their share of the grub. Unfortunately, the crate has gotten tangled in a statue, and it's up to Cole to scale the monument and liberate the supplies. This level is meant to showcase Cole's acrobatic prowess, as he can climb almost any structure with a simple press of the jump button, thanks to his parkour background. Anyway, once the foodstuffs are freed, a gang known as the Reapers attacks, and Cole must use his newfound powers to blast the baddies and deliver the goods to the starving populace.
The other previously revealed stage takes place later in the game, where Cole must defend a prison/makeshift stronghold against the attacks of the Dust Men, another group of mutated baddies. As foes lob flaming debris over the walls, Cole can fling it back using a repulse power. Eventually, the Dust Men break through into the compound, and players must to battle against massive combat suits that have been cobbled together from trash. If you dish out enough pain, the trash suits will open and reveal the driver inside, which allows Cole a brief window to blast the baddies. All the while chaos reigns all around and the few surviving cops are doing all they can to try and keep the advancing Dust Men at bay.
The newly showcased levels feature an attack on some armored vehicles as well as our first look at a boss battle. The "Terrorized Streets" stage is another battle with the Dust Men wherein they have used barbed wire and machine guns to turn old city buses into makeshift tanks. Many fear that the bad guys will use this homemade armor to break through the quarantine set up around the city and begin wreaking havoc on the rest of the world. Cole must stop these rolling death traps, but it's easier said than done. Obviously, he can't approach on foot for fear of being cut to ribbons before even getting close. Instead, he must take to the rooftops and drop onto the buses when they pass nearby. Unfortunately, the high ground is also guarded by Dust Men, and they aren't about to make matters any easier.
The final level we checked out was a boss battle against the head of the Reapers. The matriarch of the clan has the ability to control some sort of ooze, which she uses to blind Cole, cause hallucinations and taunt our poor protagonist. As the battle rages, players are forced to contend with goo tentacles, hallucinations and plenty of other attacks. Once you wear down the boss, Cole can close in and go for a button-mashing attack that takes out a huge chunk of our lady friend's health.
While electricity is the source of Cole's power, he can't generate the power himself, so gamers must keep a constant vigil on his charge level. Powerful moves, like chucking concentrated energy grenades and using an electromagnetic blast to flip cars and toss foes, exact a large toll, so gamers will have to constantly be on the lookout for sources of juice. Thankfully, electricity is abundant in most parts of the city so Cole can easily top off his meter with a quick stop by a transformer or slide down an electric wire. Some parts of the city are blacked out, though, meaning that if Cole is to get the energy he needs to keep fighting, he may have to leech it out of the body of a civilian. Obviously, there's a bit of a moral quandary in feeding off the very people who are looking to you for salvation.
My biggest fear with inFamous was that with so many available powers and ways to fight, the control scheme may be overly complicated. Things aren't too bad, but there is a definite learning curve that will hopefully be gradually introduced to players. Once you get the hang of things, it's very satisfying to stop worrying about how you're going to survive so you can begin to plot elaborate and painful ways to kill enemies and earn experience to upgrade Cole's powers. Much like any modern game, the slow and gradual introduction of skills will be what ultimately makes or breaks the title.
Coming away from the event, I'm struck by just how good inFamous looks and plays. The frame rate is smooth, the animations look great and Cole bears a striking resemblance to a certain secret Sith apprentice, especially when he is on the dark moral path and his body is surrounded by sinister red lightning. The game is barreling headlong into its June release date, and at this point, it seems that PS3 fans will have quite the exclusive to cheer about this summer.
More articles about inFamous