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inFamous – Hands-On

1:0021/04/2009Posted by David Scammell4 Comments

Cole McGrath stands atop an Empire City skyscraper overlooking the sprawling metropolis that trails beneath him. Droves of dying citizens line the cold, stone streets and shells of burned out vehicles litter the once-bustling metropolitan as a peculiar orange haze sweeps over the cityscape. Cole remains eerily unphased by the surrounding desolation; “I thought you were going to watch TV?” he asks podgy pal Zeke as an electrical charge pulses through his body. “Batteries are dead again. You mind putting on the freak show?” Zeke replies. Cole duly obliges.

infamous1From the very beginning of the four-level GDC demo, it’s clear that Sucker Punch mean business. inFamous isn’t a title merely looking to jump on the open world bandwagon, nor is it a superhero game created simply to profiteer off the back of recent Hollywood successes. Instead it’s a promising mix of Fable and Crackdown; a game that combines the best of both to create a superhero tale with a zesty moral centre. And from what we’ve played of it, it looks like Sucker Punch has delivered; the leap from the confined, cartoon world of Sly Raccoon to the vast open world of inFamous has been pulled off with such aplomb that, come its June release, the game shouldn’t end up being eclipsed by its inspirations.

A lot of inFamous’s success comes down to the remarkable concrete playground at the player’s disposal. Empire City has been designed as one colossal climbing frame primed for the player to exploit, with each of the game’s three different islands (each similar in size to those of Crackdown’s Pacific City) filled with plenty of scope for exploration. Whether it’s window frames, traffic lights or scaffolding, anything within Empire City that looks climbable almost certainly is.

infamous2Perhaps most importantly, navigating through Empire City is a joy, complemented by a fantastic animation system similar to that of Assassin’s Creed. When leaping about the rooftops Cole subtly reacts to any nearby objects, delicately shifting his approach to automatically attach him to anything climbable. It means that you’ll never ‘just miss’ that ledge you were aiming for or have a pole slip through your fingers, removing any sense of infuriation without ever making exploration feel overly simplistic.

The system is demonstrated perfectly in the demo’s opening mission, which sees Cole clambering up pipes and across narrow walkways to recover a food drop. It’s in this same mission that you’ll encounter inFamous’s first ‘Karmic Moment’; instances throughout the game where the player is asked to make a moral choice. In this particular instance we were tasked with deciding whether or not to allow citizens to take the food we’d recovered or hoarding it for ourselves, with our decision directly affecting Cole’s ‘Karmic State’. Though our choice didn’t appear to have an effect on the game’s story (we were disappointed that whatever decision we made resulted in the same successive cutscene – a branching storyline, it seems, is out), Cole’s Karmic State does help shape the player’s experience in alternate ways.

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