Friday, 29 May 2009

InFamous - PS3

Taking elements from Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Assassin's Creed and 360 title Crackdown, InFamous puts you in the electricity-filled shoes of reluctant protagonist Cole MacGrath - a man who has inadvertently caused a massive explosion in the heart of Empire City.

Thanks to the electric tsunami from the explosion, Cole becomes imbued with the powers of electricity and he sets out to either make amends for his part in the city- wide destruction, or use his powers for nefarious uses.

Not long into the game, Cole meets FBI agent Moya, who embroils him in a quest to find her missing husband, a man who could hold the key to Cole's special powers.

What follows is a high octane romp across Empire City's rooftops, streets and back alleys, with Cole utilising his acrobatic skills to nimbly climb buildings, leap gracefully from rooftops and traverse power lines high above the city streets.

Every object in the game has a slight gravitational pull, which allows you to launch Cole from a high rooftop on to a power line 50 ft below with ease. This lets the player enjoy the thrill of rooftop free-running and eliminates frustrations which could easily have crept in if this feature had been excluded.

However, not everything in the garden is rosy for Cole and his new powers. Since the explosion, Empire City has become hostile, with gangs of gun-toting Reapers only too eager to snipe Cole from a precarious ledge or ambush him en masse while out on the streets.

Confronting these hoodie-wearing enemies is initially a frustrating experience, as Cole starts the game with only minimal powers. It's easy to gnash your teeth in anger as you are shot at for the umpteenth time by an enemy perched on a rooftop two blocks away.

However, by making good or bad choices - such as killing citizens or healing them - Cole opens up new branches of special powers, which make dealing with these tiresome adversaries a breeze.

There's no doubt the evil branch gives the player more exciting special powers, but both sides of the karmic spectrum yield impressive abilities. From beefing up your Lightning Bolt power and increasing your electromagnetic Shockwave ability, to causing mass destruction with Sadistic Strikes - taking on and defeating enemies using the power of fizzing, neon bolts of lightning never gets old.

The flip side to this raft of special powers is that Cole quickly becomes drained of electricity. However, he can recharge his powers by locking himself into the city's electrical grid via generators and light sources.

While the main quest is engaging - each new chapter held together perfectly with beautiful stylised comic book cut scenes - InFamous encourages the player to explore the three huge islands that make up Empire City.

Side quests are peppered throughout the streets and completing them 'cleans up' an area of the city, stopping Reapers from entering for the remainder of the game. This gives the player the opportunity to freely explore the environment, and, as with Crackdown, there is plenty of incentive to do so.

Along with locating all the satellite uplink dishes which reside on Empire City's rooftops, 350 shards are scattered about the metropolis, and collecting them becomes an obsession - with these shining blue trophies frequently distracting you as you go about your business. They also serve to increase your energy meter, which is vital for sustained electrical attacks.

There are a few niggles which stop InFamous reaching its full potential, however. The graphics, while solid-looking - throw up some issues, such as small frame rate glitches and pedestrians and enemies get stuck in the scenery. The side missions, while a fun diversion, can become repetitive, with similar tasks repeating throughout the course of the game. Cole also ventures underground to restore power to areas of the city during the main quest, and these confined sections become tedious trawls - although you are frequently rewarded with new powers for your trouble.

However, despite a few flaws, the real joy of InFamous is the core free-running gameplay. It's effortlessly handled and it is a real thrill to throw Cole off a high point into a group of enemies below, bowling them over like skittles.

It takes a while to get going, and being sniped at constantly at the start of the game can infuriate. But stick with InFamous, unlock some new abilities, and you'll uncover one of the most satisfying gaming experiences on the PlayStation 3.

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