If you haven’t played it, inFamous is a platform-shooter. It replaces firearms with electic powers that are indistinguishable from shooter gameplay, right down to the controls. So it’s Crackdown on the PS3 with updated art, though the art does not approach the best graphics that the PS3 we’ve seen. I like the comic book-style cinematics, even if I’m jealous of how cheap they must have been to produce. But I barely passed my 8th grade art class, so let’s talk about the design issues.
There’s a lot to like. Collecting and side missions slowly capture map sections and generate the feeling of real progress. At times, the navigation play on city wires can drop into a enjoyable rthyhm. Then there’s some game systems that need help.
- Hivemind AI. Once an enemy has spotted you, they all know where you are, pretty much permanently. Run away from one, then come around a corner, and another enemy will shoot your eyebrows off just as you become visible. The game should be hiding more information from its own AI.
- Hyperaccurate AI. Never seen a game that tried so hard to kill me. Enemy snipers on every rooftop. If you’re not tumbling, they will hit you.
- High Durability AI. The punks on the street take a lot of hits to kill. After they get up off the ground the third time, I was rather annoyed. For a superhero game, I expect the character to demonstrate the power to chew up the default thug-level bad guys like so much popcorn.
- The Targeting UI. It lies to us. If you put a targeting ring in the middle of your game screen, and it lights up when over an enemy, and the player pulls the trigger…. guess what should happen? Hit the bad guy! Sadly, not so in inFamous. Given how much action and movement goes on, I wish I could play the game with lock-on targeting akin to that found in its predecessor Crackdown.
Combat is challenging, though not in a good way. The game ramps difficulty by turning the knob to the right on monster hit points. Fine, if rather pointless, if the character damage scales similiarly. It doesn’t. This combat design belongs in a different game. This is a superhero game, ultimately, but the emotion most fights leave me with is relief. I survived. Fine in a realistic game. In a superhero game, I should end battles pumped full of adrenaline. confident in my ass-kicking power.
What else deserves some attention in the inevitable sequel? The repetition. inFamous isn’t alone in the open world genre with the issue of repetitive objective (hello, Assassin’s Creed!). In fact, it’s better than many, which is sad. Still, the gameplay and side missions spread a 6 hour game over a period twice that length. Finishing the game was an act of wanting to see how the story ended, not a desire to play more of the game.