Monday, May 11, 2009

Playing with inFamous (I wish I was)

Lucky me sitting in an Asian timezone was able to enter pretty quick and quickly enough Game Hunter's contest for inFamous demo codes. With only 20 available on a first-come, first-serve basis, I, in my mid afternoon daze that always sets in after eating too much Chinese food, lumbered into action to register with USA Today and got myself a code! I know it was just a marketing ploy to increase viewership, and I probably would have cancelled my account the moment I found out I was too late, but I won and as a result happy enough to go on living.

Infamous, sorry inFamous (for some reason), is a 3rd person action game. I hesitate to call it a shooter, because you're not exactly shooting. I guess you shoot bolts of electricity and throw electricity bombs, so it's sort of shooting. But this is not a TPS by any stretch of the imagination.

Actually the attacks, which look beautiful and are made better by a largely destructible environment, are pretty conventional. You shoot stuff, it dies. It dies in cool ways, but it still dies, or is at least disabled. Disabled enemies or bystanders can be sucked dry of their life force, healed, or restrained with arc binders, which I don't understand really because they must shock the hell out of you.

The electrical powers are fun, but what really puts this game in a room of one's own is the controls. The controls, the controls! They work so, so amazingly well.

I feel like all the promos were telling me about this game was how you could manipulate the environment with your Force-like electrical powers or be Famous or inFamous, but failed to mention that you're actually a Parkour superstar as well. You run, jump, roll, sure, but did you know you can grab on to just about anything that appears grab-onable? Railings, building ledges, window sills, the sides of a train. You can crawl up lampposts and girders, or launch yourself up the wrong side of an emergency fire escape. Rail slide stair railings, even building-to-building electrical cables and electrified train rails. All the while setting limits--no scaling smooth walls. (I noticed one bug in the game though--I was unable to climb over a chain-link fence! How ironic! Maybe it's a kind of subtle commentary on the emptiness of the protagonist's soul).

The best thing about all this is how simple it is. You don't have to do special button presses, you character just does what is appropriate in the given situation. If you jump on the electrified wire, he'll slide--if you jump to it but let's say you miss judge and fall short, he can grab it as well. And to get on such narrow objects is not the painfully bone-crushing task it could be at times in Mirror's Edge, but rather your protagonist (I really should look up his name) is smart enough to jump exactly where you were intending for him to go, so if you were to have missed by a couple inches, you'll actually be fine.

Did I mention that the game also manages to include a cover system that works as well as GOW2 if not better? I guess because the button layout is kept sparse (a big plus for a button retard such as myself), they had the space for it.

So as great as blowing up vehicles, launching people a hundred feet, watching wooden objects shred to pieces (a pretty amazing touch) and sucking the life out of innocent bystanders is, I had just as much fun exploring the city in all directions. Sadly the demo forces you to take the next mission if you delay too long, but it has done its work--I want more.

p.s. There is one thing I wish (hopelessly I assume, since the game has already gone gold) that they would change--the sound your character makes when he runs. I'm not sure how to describe it other than utter crap. It doesn't even sound like a CD-quality sound, rather just some garbled computer pc speaker tonal grunts. It's a bit disturbing and actually takes you out of the game a bit. A normal swishing sound of jeans would probably suffice. 

(thanks Game Hunters!)

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