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InFamous PS3 Review

17/06/2009 Thinking Soulful Gamer Review
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InFamous PS3




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Telling a deep and involving story in a videogame can be a tough ask at the best of times. Telling one in an open-world environment is even harder and Infamous struggles to make use of its well-realised world and falls short of its potential. Although the core game mechanics and platforming aspects are fun with a lot of interesting and memorable moments, I never felt sympathy for any of the characters or found them believable.

This isn’t to say I found Infamous dull or didn’t enjoy it. From the very moment the game starts with a huge explosion in Empire City, it shows some impressive visual set-pieces. The nature of starting the game in a crater of your own making, with strange electrical powers and a devastated city at your feet is dramatic and enticing. I’ve always wanted a superhero genesis game with this amount of content and polish. Having a new character free from any graphic novel lore or canonical restrictions was refreshing and gave me hope that it would have a storyline to match.

Unfortunately Infamous is a victim of shallow storytelling that many open-world videogames fall victim of. Too often the side-missions have one-dimensional affects on you and the world, rarely interacting with the main storyline other than to give you more powers or experience points.

Grand Theft Auto 4, even with its elongated campaign, managed to work side-quests into the main story and consequently enriched the world and its characters with more depth. Infamous feels shallow in comparison with its characters doing very little to endear themselves to you. I found myself annoyed by Trish, Cole’s on/off girlfriend or irritated with Zeke, the main characters best friend. With characters like this the conflict between Cole and Trish seemed perfunctory at best and downright pointless at worst.

The choices in Empire City are far too black and white. Either you save an innocent life or cause wholesale slaughter, rescue drowning puppies or murder a grandmother.

What drew me to the game initially was this good/evil split that I could experience. In GTA 4 the choices were tough because the game was so harsh. It was a case of choosing between two bleak options, neither one of which was particularly heroic or uplifting. The choices in Empire City are far too black and white. Either you save an innocent life or cause wholesale slaughter, rescue drowning puppies or murder a grandmother. It’s hardly the stuff of real moral quandaries.

Even worse are the story-based choices later on which seem to promise a real split in the path where taking one option over the other might make a significant change to the plot. Unfortunately it matters very little. The populace of Empire City will react to your moral stance with adoration or fear, Trish will hate or love you but the core story remains exactly the same. I’m not criticising the element of choice in the game but it makes me wonder if the game would have had more impact if the narrative had been locked into one thread rather than hinting at diversions that don’t exist.

When I stayed away from the story the game returned to its excellent start. The simple process of scaling buildings and launching aerial attacks on the enemies below was always entertaining. The range of powers and how they alter depending on your good/evil leanings was also a nice touch. My initial concern was that electrical powers wouldn’t give enough variety but the final few were impressively destructive - regardless of what moral path you took.

Though the side-missions drew from a very limited pool of quests the main plot had some amazing moments. The most memorable for me was scaling the tallest building in the city and seeing the entire metropolis below. The way scale was portrayed and the precarious nature of climbing up this tower gave me some serious vertigo-like moments. This was something Infamous excelled at and it would have enriched the game to have more instances like this throughout the game.

The twist, whilst clever in theory, was totally divorced from the rest of the game and made little sense in context.

The core mechanics of playing this game were fun and enjoyable but I have to save my biggest criticism for the ending. The twist, whilst clever in theory, was totally divorced from the rest of the game and made little sense in context. It felt tacked on, clichéd and gave me the impression that nobody knew quite how to end the story - making a hokey conclusion which promised more for Infamous 2 than it delivered for the current game.

But should I really be so critical of it having enjoyed Infamous the majority of the time? The platforming aspects and working through the side-quests to reclaim Empire City and its collectable shards was an entertaining experience. The reason I feel so strongly about the game is because it showed the potential to be more than just another open-world platforming action/adventure.

The elements of a great story are all present and correct with Empire City’s impressive environment and Cole’s new superhero abilities. But the poor characters pull the experience down and the erratic plot meant I was left wholly unsatisfied at Infamous’ end.

Written by Adam Standing

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Adam Standing writes the Soulful Gamer column.

"Soulful gaming is found in a myriad of places. Games that tell a meaningful story with believable characters. Games that tackle issues larger than the latest run and gun technology. And for me in particular, games that connect me to an inspiring story often quietly overlooked by other players."

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