Infamous. This PS3-exclusive came out in 2009 and I never really gave it much of a chance, although I’ve always been infatuated with superheroes and I absolutely open-world video games. So now, after the PlayStation Network outage, they’ve offered a free download of Infamous and I took the chance to give the game another go. And I’m glad I did.
Infamous takes place in “Empire City,” which is pretty much like any big city you’ve ever seen. A bike messenger named Cole is just doing his job when his package explodes and causes a city-wide epidemic. He’s at the center of the explosion and somehow gains the power to control electricity. The story then follows Cole as he finds out who caused the explosion, what his role is, and what he can do to either save or destroy the city.
There are three things that I love about this game.
One. Amazing super powers. Very few games get super powers right. They rarely feel like you’re extraordinary. But in Infamous, you feel powerful. You start off the game being able to zap people and send out a wave of energy that can knock cars over and stuff. But as you progress, you unlock new powers, and each one is incredibly useful. You can jump onto phone lines and zip about the city, high above the streets. You can summon a lightning storm from the sky and aim it wherever you’d like. You can bring up a shield of pure energy which can deflect gunfire. It’s a really versatile set of powers and it lets you handle situations in very different ways. I was an aggressive gamer so I ran straight into battle, summoning lightning all around me and throwing energy bombs everywhere I could look. It usually did the trick. For more cautious gamers (and maybe harder difficulties), you could sneak onto rooftops and use a precision shot (a lighting bolt version of a sniper rifle) to take out each enemy, one at a time. The powers are exciting to use and each upgrade for them gives the power a new feeling and it’s extremely rewarding.
Reason two. An open world. The world of Empire City is huge. It is pretty consistent with the Grand Theft Auto style of open world. You have an island. As you complete missions, new sections or new islands will open up. Even though Empire City is gigantic, luckily Cole has three very cool ways to traverse it. As I mentioned earlier, the powerlines are really fun to ride and you end up shooting over rooftops. You can also just jump from rooftop to rooftop and you eventually gain the power to glide using “static thrusters.” You can soar over the city and take it all in. You can also use railroad tracks. You can either glide on the tracks themselves or you can wait for a train and hop on top. The train goes much faster than you can go, so it’s usually a good move to catch one.
The only downside to this open world is that each section of the city is pretty similar. In the Grand Theft Auto games, each section or island usually had a defining atmosphere. One island was suburbia, one was mansions, one was kind of a slum, and one was downtown businesses. Here, each island is a cookie-cutter image of the others. The signs on buildings are the same, the people react the same… The only difference is that each island is controlled by a different gang, so that’s how you know what island you’re on. My favorite part of the city is the bridges that connect the islands and where two opposings gangs are duking it out. I usually sit back and watch.
Reason three. Moral choice. I’m a sucker for moral choices in games. It gives it some replayability. I almost always play my first runthrough as a villain. In Infamous, you get to do some pretty diabolical things. It starts off slow. A shipment of food arrives in the city, since it’s quarantined off. Do you distribute the food or keep it for yourself? But then the choices become much more impactful. A man is hanging from a lightpole and an angry crowd is stoning him to death. Do you walk away or save him?
I do have some qualms with the moral system though. It only rewards you for being all-good or all-evil. Once you reach the end of the spectrum, it unlocks special abilities. So once you’ve started down a path, you pretty much have to play the whole game in that direction, to get any sort of reward. And some of the decisions are really drastic. Why can’t I just make an average decision? Do I save the 15 children and send them to college or do I throw the bus off a cliff? Why can’t I just not throw the bus off a cliff?
Overall though, these three factors add up. You have an large open world at your disposal, you have some amazing powers to help navigate it, and you can either control the city as the villain or save it as the hero. It’s a highly enjoyable experience. Infamous 2 just came out on PS3 and I will for sure be looking to rent it in the coming months.