I can't count the number of times I have pretended to be Spider-Man, Superman, Hulk or Wolverine in a video game, but I know exactly how many times they have made me feel like a superhero: zero. I have have crossed gigantic cities in mere seconds, lifted several thousand tons of buildings and ripped enemies apart with my bare fists, but the sympathy and understanding for the characters, which functions as the most essential parts of the comics, has never been captured. In other words, the superheroes have quickly transformed into nameless game characters.
In the middle of a burning inferno, Cole has been knocked unconscious and finds himself on the only piece surviving piece on concrete. Neither he nor I has any idea what has happened as we take the first look at the destroyed world of Empire City. But the city is not all that has changed, and when a defective powerline hits Cole his old life dies, as his new starts.
By turning Cole into a human dynamo developer Sucker Punch has not only been able to create their own version of the wellknown superhero origin story, but has also created a deep personality with elements that make him unique in the gaming world.
The newly required powers come into use quickly, and after having been the victim of a presumed terrorist attack, Empire City has been put into quarantine. The quarantine has meant that the crime rate has exploded and that the Police have suddenly become a foreign word. The worst part of Empire Citys new fate though, is that the poverty has meant the rise of several cults, who have quickly made it their mission to take over the city with a mixture of brainwash and biological experiments.
If you have tried out the life of virtual superhero before this should be everyday life however, which is why the developer masterfully pulls the rug from underneath you mere minutes into the game. By letting Cole act heroic and receive the appreciation of the citizens of Empire City, you as a player get to receive just a tiny spec of the kind of adoration, that proves highly addictive even in a video game. But in a split-second the situation is turned around, and Cole must see his whole world crumple. The adoration of the public suddenly turns to hatred, your friend Zeke's trust to doubt, and worst of all your girlfriend Trish's love to indifference.
With all this on my conscience I am let loose on a city full of trouble, a grey, pulsating Ragnarok with Cole as the ultimate solution. Where I want to go is up to me, and because of earlier experience with parkour and a higher pain threshold, nowhere is off limit. He throws himself from one building to the next, while hanging on to most everything the city has to offer.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the superpowers available are sparse in the beginning of the game, and besides sending small bolts of electricity after enemies, I am able to fling people and minor objects like cars around. Everything besides the most basic powers has a tendency to wear on the internal battery though, and therefore Cole has to be recharged by pushing L2 when near a power source such as a street light or passing vehicle.
Your repertoire is constantly expanded and by helping the city and its citizens with some of their many problems, experience which can be used to better some of these skills, is earned. Depending on how you decide to solve the missions will also determine your "Karmic State", which in time unlocks some of the coolest powers in the game, and also shows itself in Coles exterior and how the world responds to him.
Missions are obtained in several different ways, but most commonly by responding to the needy citizens of Empire City. The problems of the populace are usually related to abductions or killings, and by clearing the troubled areas from gang activity the region will register as a liberated zone on your map, and gradually change the citys perception of Cole. For the most essential missions however, you will have to wait for Special Agent Moya to contact you. She is not only the one person with the knowledge to clear Coles name, but also has a hidden interest in the fate of the city herself.
The gameworld is spread out over three different islands, and Sucker Punch has tried to include small gameplay-prolonging objectives at every corner. Therefore you will also be looking for "Blast Shards" only a couple of minutes into the game, which not surprisingly turn out to be a not so distant cousin to Crackdowns "Agility Orbs".
These examples are from everything Infamous has to show however, end before the endcredits rolls over the screen, missions including removing spy-equipment from buildings, stopping abductions and protecting buildings will have been offered. Even though some variety is offered in the different sort of missions, it is kind of sad to see that none of them ever turn out as exciting as the missions that further the story of the game.
It would have been easy to conclude this review here, with me telling you that Sucker Punch has clearly taken a good look at almost every other superhero video game, and turned all these inspirations into their own, solid game. Infamous however, does so much more.
What quickly separates Infamous from every other game of the type, is the way that Sucker Punch never worries about turning Cole into their predetermined character, but instead just acts as a storyteller and let's my personal choices shape Cole.
Within the first hour of the game you are asked the ultimate question of why you should bother helping a city that has nothing but contempt for you, and don't expect Sucker Punch to be ready with rainbows and lollypops to lure you to the "good" side. It's the first time I have experienced the basic story of the conflicted superhero work in video game form.
The intricate web of different stories is also masterfully put together, and as in the best comics everyone has secrets that are slowly revealed. Furthermore Sucker Punch has made the media and their portrayal of what is going in Empire City, a big part of the story, showing that even the mightiest of superpowers are no match for a megaphone as long as it is big enough. Finally the way in which the main characters are evolved throughout the story has to be commended, and especially best friend Zeke's envy of Coles superpowers is a nice touch.
Best of all though, is the pacing which is almost perfect from start to end. Where Crackdown gave the player complete freedom to the world, but thereby also showed pretty much all it had in a matter of a few hours, Sucker Punch has understood how to constantly keep the player interested and wanting to do just one more mission.
Every time Cole begins to feel weak, you can therefore expect to gain some sort of new power allowing you to enjoy powers like floating in the air, zooming or shoot missile-like bolts of power with the fantastically named "Megawatt Hammer". Still the developer takes the time to show how fragile Cole really is, in the missions where the power grid of the city is suddenly short-circuited, and the human dynamo goes from superhero to regular guy on the street.
Because Infamous does so many things almost perfectly, it is easy to forget the small mistakes that were made, but they are still there. The missions are repeated too much, and the controls sometimes seem to lack a certain finesse. Cole automatically sticks to any surface, and you will not be able to shake the feeling that the game is taking much of the fun out of traversing a concrete jungle, before much later in the game where the repertoire of powers has been expanded.
The critique of Infamous is minimal however, and it's hard not to recommend it as one of the very best reasons to buy a Playstation 3, as well as the potentially best superhero game to date. It is fantastic story that without a hitch manages to tell several different, exciting stores, introduce characters that are more than just empty background noise, and offers up cool action sequences that only becomes better as the game progresses. In other words, it is gaming at it's very best.
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