Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PS3 Look - inFAMOUS

In the world of game balance you have to make sacrifices in order to keep the game playable. Sometimes you go in with all these ideas about enemies, level-designs, and powers but when it's all over you're left with a small fraction of what you started with. Sometimes you just have to let it go and move on and other times you feel you have to make up for this drop in content in other ways. Say you wanted to make a planet with mountains, deserts, forests, and oceans. When the cuts(time, budget, etc) come around you lose the forests and the oceans. So in response you make two planets, one with mountains and one with deserts. This is what it feels like to me when I play Infamous, a content-light game that goes for just too long.

What you've just read is for the most part an assumption. I did not complete Infamous and I have no intention of doing so. I'm just one of those guys who didn't follow the development process of this game and merely bought it at a whim for $10 because I liked the demo. Furthermore since this review has already started on a negative note you may as well stop reading as what follows is a bunch of fluff and then finally a low score.

The story involves a man named Cole surviving some horrific attack and gaining super-powers as a result. There's a bunch of stuff involving a corrupt-government and a lot of nonsense about karma and doing what's right or wrong but really it all works out to be rather dull. The whole karma aspect really bugs me because in this game it's the most black and white decision imaginable half the time. In the first instance Cole is given the choice between allowing starving people to eat or killing starving people so he can eat. It probably would have made at least some kind of sense if in the game the player had to eat to stay alive. Therefore the only reason to even choose one way or the other is for the power-ups available. Good guys have access to slightly different abilities than bad guys.

Given the choice I should have went with being a bad guy because doing good is more of a nuisance than anything. The cities this game takes place in are about as bad off as one can imagine. Just to give an idea there's no food, apparently the water makes everyone sick, thousands of people are just lying on the street dead or dying, and there are gangs everywhere shooting helpless civilians indiscriminately. Cole isn't really affected by all that because as long as there's electricity he can just fly around, zap people, and just ignore the plight of the city until he gets bored. If anything Cole's dealings with the people really have no effect on himself. He just does bad because he wants to be a jerk. Karma is meaningless so what it all comes down to is whether the game should reward or punish me when my errant bolt of electricity blows up an old lady. Oh sure further down the line Cole's friends may dump him and the city will be even worse off but how would I know or care when I didn't bother to finish the game?

The reason why I didn't beat this game is simple. I saw what was coming for once. Way back when I reviewed Viking: Battle for Asgard on the 360 I noted that it was essentially the same thing a few times over. I arrive at a new country, complete a bunch of tasks and upgrading my powers as I see fit, take back territory from the enemy, and then engage in a climatic battle with the enemy army to restore peace. If I had played infamous first I likely would have beaten it and not finished Viking. The problem with Infamous is that they made it far too obvious so I knew exactly what was coming so I got out and saved myself a lot of time. I completed the first third of the game which involved much of the same stuff as I retook a bunch of territory, did some repetitive missions, and had a completely mediocre boss-battle to cap things off. Both games even share a similar overworld structure in that the player will be overwhelmed if they attempt to go deep into enemy territory. The areas that Cole shouldn't access yet have no power so he is weakened severely while the enemy territories in Viking are heavily patrolled and far out-number the player.

Infamous can be considered a well-made game as the powers are developed properly and enemy encounters have a solid and functional design to them but it's all so stiff and boring. There's never enough in terms of chaotic action and at the same time not enough reason for me to go back in case I feel like I gypped myself for quitting. Just as soon as I arrived on the second part of the game I felt like I was back at square one, like I was replaying the entire game but at a slightly higher difficulty and with most of my powers unlocked. The same could be said about Viking but that got a pass because it was my first-time dealing with such a setup in terms of game progression.

When my best comparison is a C-level game nobody remembers there's really no reason at all for me to continue going on about this game. It's a fine piece of software that won't throw garbage in your face but at the same time it keeps itself just a bit too clean and too structured to be any fun. All I can say is better luck with the sequel.

Game rating - 2.5 out of 5

My rating - 1 out of 5

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