on August 28, 2009
Cole is a regular guy with a dead-end job as a bicycle messenger in the fictional Empire City, until the day that one of his packages explodes. He wakes up in a burning crater that used to be a downtown high-rise, alive and suddenly possessing the ability to shoot electricity from his body.
That's the good news. The bad news is, Empire City is falling apart. Infected with a plague and cut off from the outside world, the city quickly slips into total anarchy, with ruthless gangs ruling the streets. This city needs a hero, and Cole is just the man for the job... maybe. Depending on choices made by the player, he may become the selfless, altruistic hero we grew up reading about in comic books. Or, he may become the sociopathic monster that power has turned so many good men into.
The game follows a sandbox design that as usual employs missions instead of levels, which the player can accept at any time. Additionally the game features a Karma system, based on the goodness or evil-ness of Cole's actions, which affects his appearance, available powers, reactions from citizens, and (to a lesser extent) the outcome of certain missions.
Nothing too special here in the way of characters other than Cole, but the game's protagonist looks and moves great. The lightning effects are particularly good, along with all Cole's other powers. The physics are appropriately amped-up for a superhero game, and Empire City itself does feature some interesting locales. On the whole, however, the city looks very drab and monotonous. It doesn't take away from the fun of combat, but more variety would have been nice.
Good voice acting for the most part, although Zeke and Moya will grate on your nerves from beginning to end. Musical score fits well with the genre.
Outstanding. The combat system was unquestionably the central focus of the designers, and it shines. Cole can use just about any of his powers from any position and at any time, which really gives the opportunity for some creative fighting. Controls are well laid-out and respond well for the most part, especially related to Cole's reactive parkour moves. The difficulty can seem a bit uneven (every single banger in Empire City can hit you with a rifle from 10 blocks away) and the pacing of the missions sometimes feels a little arbitrary, but the high level of combat mostly makes up for this. The boss battles are nothing new.
The Karma system was a good concept, but should have had much more development. Being good or evil yields few results beyond the superficial (appearance and power types), although taking the good path is of course more challenging. They could have created some much better story arcs based on Cole's choices. On the good side, some of the Karma moments are pulled off particularly well. I won't give too much away, but one in particular is essentially a remake of a "choice" moment of a popular superhero movie, but with legitimate consequences either way. The story, however, strings you along for three acts and then abruptly falls flat, literally leaving you back where you started. Granted, I know this is a video game and not a movie, but storytelling is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the genre, and such a half-baked attempt is disappointing.
Being evil absolutely rocks. Throwing cars into screaming throngs of disposable pedestrians or arc-shocking a dense crowd of protesters is as awesome as it sounds. However...
Once you beat the last boss, there is absolutely no reason to continue playing. Sure, you can start over as the other karma type (without keeping all your earned powers), but the outcome of the game does not change at all, beyond the ending cutscene.
Bottom Line: $38 out of $60
This game suffers from the exact opposite problem of Dead Space. By doing so many of the little things so well, Dead Space made it (usually) easy to forget that the core combat mechanic was fairly pedestrian and repetitive, leaving me with a sense of missed opportunity mixed with optimism for the next iteration. Infamous, on the other hand, handles the core combat mechanic so well that I can (usually) forget about the lame story, uneven difficulty, incomplete Karma system and ubiquitous glitches, leaving me with optimism mixed with disappointment. I hope that the sequel will give me a better city to play in and take more risks with the consequences of my choices. That said, there's a good foundation to build on with this franchise.