Sucker Punch's new PS3 exclusive, open-world action game, inFamous, really came out of nowhere. I follow the gaming press fairly closely and aside from a tidbit here and there, I hadn't heard thing one about this game until, mere days before its release, it garnered some extremely high scores from reviewers across the Internet. It only took a 9.5 or two from some of the bigger gaming sites to pique my interest, and before I knew it I was picking up my pre-order. What I ended up buying was an ambitious, if rather flawed, action game with some very positive aspects, but enough repetition to make the game feel like Assassin's Creed 1.5.
inFamous follows the story of a normal guy named Cole, who wakes up at the center of a completely destroyed city with some very cool electricity-based superpowers, kind of like Spider-man's Shocker, but not so lame. Is the city's destruction his fault? If not, then whose fault is it? How will the inhabitants of the smashed metropolis, which is eventually quarantined and cordoned off from the rest of the U.S.A., manage to rebuild? Should you, someone with the power to help, play good guy or lay waste to all you see? These questions set up what can be a rather lame, contrived plot that serves its purpose in moving the game forward, but rarely draws any emotion from the player. For example, you have a best friend and ex-girlfriend trapped in the city with you, but between my first and second sessions with the game, I'd already forgotten their names and back stories. But Grand Theft Auto, arguably the king of the open-world action genre, never really wowed me with the story either; in fact, I couldn't tell you a single GTA character name aside from "Oh, that fat guy who was like Easy-E" or "The obnoxious, wooden, super-serious Russian jerk." So a strong, compelling narrative wasn't really necessary here. As you plow further into the game, though, a clear villain emerges, along with some less-lame emotional relationships than to your fat, never funny best friend, but after dozens of side missions, it comes off as too little, too late. Don't worry, we're getting there.
So, with a late bloomer story, what should be important in inFamous? That's right… the gameplay. And it is fun… like, a whole lot of fun. At first. In following your path to reclaim or level the city (I have only played through to the end being a "good guy," so most of this will be about what players who choose to be nice will experience), you'll need to complete a number of required, move-the-plot-along missions in addition to dozens and dozens of side missions. As you complete these side missions, you'll reclaim small segments of the city from the Reapers, a gang of hooded street toughs who have a thing for machine guns. Basically, you'll be taking on side missions that when completed, section-off a space where the Reapers will no longer respawn. Even though they are "side" missions, they become almost impossible to skip as clearing the Reapers makes your life much easier. You see, the Reapers not only CONSTANTLY respawn in danger zones, they are also more skilled with their AK-47s than some U.S. Army snipers. If you're running at street level, climbing a building or using power lines to surf around, attacking Reapers will hit you about 85-90 percent of the time. As the enemies get tougher, their inhuman accuracy becomes more and more of a problem, often resulting in cheap feeling deaths while you're doing nothing more than trying to get to the next mission, rather than fighting for the greater good.
And the Reapers are only the enemy du jour first of the game's three major areas. By the time you start butting heads with Dust Men (larger, cape-wearing psychos) or Conduits (at first, just strong Reapers… eventually, rocket-launcher wielding, almost indestructible powerhouses with armies of respawning spiders at their beck and call… and worse…), completing the side missions to clear your path becomes every bit as necessary as each of the main story missions. Personally, side missions feel less like "side missions" when completing them becomes essential to just being able to get around the city unmolested.