InFamous

When an explosion gives Cole power over electricity, he must choose between helping himself and helping others.
Michael Caleb - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Death by electrocution, explosion, high falls, bludgeoning, and gunshot; suicide bombers; executions are possible; blood as damage indicator; mentions of rape; cutscenes depict beatings, massacred police officers, complete with blood, and a man's skeleton.

Spirituality: Advertisement for yoga; precognition and channeling are mentioned; powers of electricity, telepathy, and telekinesis play a large part of the story; karma is used to gauge morality; the First Sons' logo is a pentagram with an eye in the center.

Language: Hell, d---, a--, b----, pr---, d-----bag, s---, pissed, bastard, whore, screw, crap, "boob tube", and "sucks donkey b---s".

Adult Content: Sasha attempts to be seductive and makes sexual remarks; poster of a bikini-clad girl; Alden is said to be overcompensating with his tower.

Miscellaneous: Zeke is a jerk; the government is out to get everyone; character mentions urinating on a cop; able to purposely poison people with psychotropic, mind-controlling tar; teaming up with villains; alcohol references.

Positive: Self-sacrifice for the good of all mankind is held up as an ideal.

Story

Cole is an everyman employed as a bike messenger. One of his packages explodes upon delivery, leaving Cole in a coma. When he awakens, Empire City is in shambles: the government has quarantined the city to stop the spread of a virus and superpowered gangs have taken over the streets. Cole, himself, now has control over electricity, which will allow him to combat these malefactors. Unfortunately, footage turns up that shows him making the fateful delivery, causing all of Empire City, including his girlfriend, to see him as the heartless terrorist that caused all of the current problems. With everyone against him, Cole must decide whether to use his powers for good or prove that their suspicions are true.

Much of the story is revealed via exposition during comic book-style clips. While this is an effective method of explaining backstory, it hampers character development: instead of having a conversation with another character, Cole will often summarize, then move on, cutting the player out of the loop. Because of this, some characters feel flat or, in some cases, outright annoying since their actions and reactions often lack any sort of logical explanation.

The above is not to say that the story is bad. On the contrary, I rather enjoyed the story as a whole. There are enough mysteries, twists, and obscurities strewn throughout to keep it interesting but not at all convoluted. Unfortunately, whether Cole is good or evil has no real impact on any of the climactic moments of the story, including the final outcome.

Audiovisual

The graphics and voice acting in inFAMOUS are great, on the whole. Cole’s character model will change depending on his morality, and the different gangs have costumes that vary, even within the same type of enemy. The environments are not quite as varied, but are still different enough to not get old: even though the setting is an apocalyptic cityscape, there are still dock areas, tunnels, parks, sewers, a shanty town, and different levels of disrepair to mix things up. Cole uses electricity for everything from lighting up dark sewers to creating energy missiles, and his surroundings light up accordingly: if he is good, his blue electricity will be reflected, and likewise for the evil red electricity.

The enemies and environments might look good, but there can also be considerable issues: there can be noticeable drops in framerate, even without much going on; Cole, enemies, allies, and vehicles will suffer from clipping issues; and there is pop-up for shadows, characters, and entire buildings. The latter of these problems was so bad during one mission that I could not see the enemies on the next building until I jumped over, which put me at a considerable disadvantage.

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Gameplay

Cole’s parkour adeptness is rather similar to another of Sucker Punch’s heroes, Sly Cooper. He can climb almost anything, land on small points, run along telephone lines, and eventually grind upon rails. All of these moves combine with his electrical powers to make him a powerful combatant that can enter, exit, and attack from nearly any direction. Although Cole begins with only a couple abilities, he will steadily gain new powers over the course of the game, and can use experience gained from combat, stunts, and good or bad actions to add supplementary effects to his emerging abilities. These supplements will often have a moral alignment, with good powers focusing more on precise strikes to avoid collateral damage and evil powers focusing on less concentrated, mass destruction.

The missions are fairly varied, and all are explained well enough that players will understand what is expected of them. Completing side-missions will capture sections of the city, causing enemies to not appear there as often. There are fifteen side-missions for both good and evil characters, with a power or upgrade being granted for every five that are completed. Even though the game is open-world, many of the missions must be tackled in a certain way or failure will be almost assured, with the chase and rare stealth missions being the biggest offenders. One known issue is that a certain side-mission will end abruptly, without giving the mission complete screen, which can be a bit confusing. Thankfully, this does not prevent the player from capturing the surrounding territory.

With how fun it is to zip around the city fighting gang members, it really is a disappointment that the mechanics will occasionally just not work. Cole will automatically lock on to nearby scenery, making it easier for the player to guide him around the city. Unfortunately, he will do this even if the player does not want him to. Even more unfortunate is that he will sometimes spontaneously stop reaching out, causing him to fall to his death in a few missions. This can lead to understandable frustration, although the latter can normally be averted if the player stops gliding when Cole begins to reach out.

There are also some issues with Cole’s hand abilities. When someone is wounded, Cole can suck the life from them, restoring his own and fully replenishing his electricity stores, revive them, or incapacitate them. Unfortunately, Cole will often stand over the injured, doing nothing, for a few moments before carrying out whichever action the player has decided. If this happens in the midst of battle, this can cause frustration that does not stem from difficulty but from poor programming.

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Violence

inFAMOUS is a game about a man with powers over electricity, so death by electric shock is to be expected. Cole can zap enemies with his hands, condense electricity into grenades and missiles, blow enemies off of buildings, electrify his extremities so that physical attacks have more force, and produce electric blades to injure enemies. If a character, good or bad, walks into a puddle that Cole also happens to be standing in, they will be electrocuted and die. A more purposeful use of this is to have Cole electrify bodies of water that enemies are hiding in. Enemies will try to kill Cole with machine guns, pistols, grenades, rockets, and large chunks of trash. Some enemies will actually strap explosives to themselves and play the role of suicide bombers.

The player is never directly required to kill anyone during the course of the game, but it is nearly impossible to complete without at least accidentally killing someone at some point. Cole can heal wounded police officers and civilians, but can also drain the life from them, along with his enemies. It is possible to restrain wounded enemies instead of finishing them off, but it is also possible to then execute them while they are helplessly strapped down. No experience is gained from murdering civilians, which takes away some of the incentive a player might have to do so.

There is not much blood during actual gameplay: blood will appear on the outer rim of the screen to indicate how badly Cole is wounded. During cutscenes, though, the game becomes a bit more graphic: there are still images of beatings, a man being reduced to his skeleton before disappearing completely, and protestors being gunned down by the military. There are multiple dead drops that provide insight into the inner workings of the First Sons, and son of them mention beatings and an animal being mangled during an experiment. One cutscene mentions that rape has become prevalent post-blast, but the player is spared from any visual indication of such.

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Spirituality

Much of the game involves an organization known as the First Sons, and it is mentioned that they were once viewed as witches that were in league with the devil because of their supernatural abilities. The organization is said to focus primarily on telekinesis, precognition, and channeling. Cole is able to see traces or “echoes” of people, which allows him to follow the trail of those at the scene of murders. He is also able to use this ability to take images from the minds of dead people and track down objects that they have hidden.

The lower-ranking gang members will only attack with machine guns and explosives, but the higher ranking “Conduits” have powers that include being able to move quick enough to appear to be teleporting, sending an explosion along the ground, creating sentient scorpion creatures out of trash, controlling giant golems made out of trash, creating a much larger, ethereal body around them, and turning invisible.

Much like other games that have morality systems, inFAMOUS uses good and bad karma to gauge whether Cole is good or evil.

SPOILERS (Highlight to view)

It is eventually revealed that the Ray Sphere, the object that has bestowed powers upon seemingly random citizens, will only grant powers to conduits, people who would have eventually developed powers, anyways. It is shown that Cole would have eventually developed electrical powers even if the Ray Sphere had not given them to him, although it would have happened later in his life. Alden, one of the gang leaders, already had telekinetic powers before, but the blast amplified his powers by a great degree.

END SPOILERS

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Language

Hell, d—, a–, b—-, pr—, d—–bag, and various forms of s— are spoken throughout the game. More mild language is also used, including pissed, bastard, whore, screw, and crap. The TV is called a “boob tube” once. Very early on, Zeke says that something, “sucks donkey b—s.”

God is used as an interjection once, and the subtitles render it in lower case.

Adult Content

Sasha, leader of the Reapers, speaks with a seductive voice and seems to be obsessed with Cole. When Cole meets her, she has an outfit on that reveals a lot of cleavage, and her pants–which look like they may be made out of the tar she uses–are skin-tight. During this meeting, she also refers to staying in bed together over a weekend. Elsewhere, Zeke has a poster that shows a blonde girl wearing a bikini top and shorts. When Cole asks why Alden would be building such a large tower, another character remarks that he might be overcompensating.

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MiscellaneousContent

Zeke is selfish and manipulative, constantly trying to use the fact that he’s friends with Cole to his advantage. He is also convinced that the United States government is malevolent, and he is proven to be right, at least in part. Zeke and Cole reminisce about Zeke urinating on a police officer before fleeing arrest. Besides these examples, he routinely sells homemade batteries that are known to explode upon use without letting his customers, and potential victims, know about the dangers.

Sasha uses a psychotropic tar to control the minds of her victims, poisoning the water supply and forcefully spraying it onto captured civilians in order to create more Reapers. Some of the later evil side-missions involve spraying civilians with the tar and leading them in a rampage, teaming up with Reaper conduits to attack police stations and rival gangs, and breaking Reapers out of prison.

There are advertisements for a bar called “Drunken Uncle” and alcohol is referenced a few other times in during the game.

Positive Content

Self-sacrifice for the greater good is a running theme throughout the story. Doing things that are harmful to Cole but will save lives is rewarded with good karma, while saving your own skin at the cost of others has the opposite effect. Besides this, there are some story elements that spell it out even further.

SPOILERS (Highlight to read)

Kessler sets the events of the game into motion so that Cole will be ready to make sacrifices for the greater good when a world-ending conduit, known only as the “beast”, rises to power.

END SPOILERS

Conclusion

Sucker Punch has created a fun, open-world superhero game that builds upon their past ventures. Unlike their former works, inFAMOUS contains profane and crude language, a fair bit of violence, and revolves around supernatural elements. For those unwilling or unable to put up with such content, I recommend looking into their previous games, such as the Sly Cooper series.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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