What a Shocker: inFamous Collection Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3
Considering the current console generation is approaching its seventh birthday, it makes sense some gamers might have missed out on earlier releases for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Furthermore, whilst it’s scary for older gamers to think about, for some gamers this might even be their first console generation, meaning the heady days of the PlayStation 2, N64, and Sega Genesis would have passed them by completely.
To accommodate these recent adopters, several companies over the past couple of years have been re-releasing some of their back catalog as HD-upgrades, or as part of collections that include each entry in a series. Sony is the most recent company to implement this technique, packaging its God of War, Ratchet and Clank, and inFamous franchises as part of the “PlayStation Collections” line. The InFamous collection, for example, comes packaged with inFamous , inFamous 2, inFamous: Festival of Blood, and a variety of character and weapon skins for InFamous 2. It’s quite similar to a “Game of the Year”-style re-release, except this package contains an entire franchise worth of games as opposed to a single title.
The inFamous franchise focuses on Cole McGrath, a bike courier who, in the first game, unwittingly sets off an experimental device known as the “Ray Sphere.” Acting as a kind of bomb, the Ray Sphere kills thousands of people and imbues Cole with electrical superpowers. InFamous tells the story of Cole’s acceptance of and adaptation to these powers in the fictional setting of Empire City, a city under quarantine. inFamous 2 sees Cole travel to the equally fictional town of New Marais, located in the south of the USA. The narrative of the second game lightly continues that of the first, but it is by no means necessary to be familiar with Cole’s story before jumping in. Festival of Blood, on the other hand, is an almost entirely separate story from the first two games, and can almost (for reasons discussed later) be described as a spin-off.
Both of the main entries in the InFamous series are played in an open-world environment, and perhaps the closest comparisons that can be made to the games are Prototype and Crackdown. The main similarity to Prototype is the inclusion of superpowers, though Cole’s electricity comes from a slightly different school than Alex Mercer’s biological abilities. InFamous does enough to stand separate from Radical Entertainment’s game, however, as Cole is able to decide whether or not to be viewed as a hero or a villain by the public, by way of his actions. As with most of these types of adventures, once Cole is perceived as good or evil you’ll notice a change in how the general populous interacts with him. If Cole is deemed a hero, NPCs will praise him, take his picture – treating him much like a celebrity. Alternatively, if you go the evil route, you’re an outcast and NPCs will throw stones at you (among other things). In terms of Crackdown, inFamous comes close as, in a similar manner to the experience orbs scattered around Pacific City, both Empire City and New Marais have a number of blast shards located within them. These lack the varying bonuses of Crackdown’s orbs, but do serve to increase the capacity of Cole’s powers, once you collect a set amount.
Cole is a quasi-superhero in both Empire City and New Marais, and whilst there are some NPCs who exhibit a similar level of power to our protagonist, most of the game is spent squaring off against weaker foes in large numbers, using Cole’s wide variety of electrical superpowers to dispatch them. Both cities are broken down into a number of sections that gradually unlock as you play through the main story. In inFamous 2 these environments are fairly distinct from each other, with the main city, the swamps, and Floodtown all instantly recognisable. The original inFamous, however, doesn’t fare so well, with repeated buildings and textures leaving Empire City looking fairly bland. The only real way to tell where you are, aside from looking at the map, is by who you are fighting, as each area of the city is populated by a different gang. There are three main enemy groups in each of the games, and similarly to the environments, inFamous 2’s foes are more varied than those in the first game, in terms of type, appearance, and attacks.
As is understandable from games released two years apart, there is a large difference in terms of visual quality when comparing the two titles. The visuals in inFamous look a little choppy, even considering its age, and there are times when characters are talking that it’s quite obvious that the audio doesn’t match up with the visual feedback. Character animation is also quite poor and repetitive in the first game, and a lot of the motions look forced, leaving an unnatural aura around many of the city’s participants. These problems are largely fixed in inFamous 2, with character animation and acting receiving an upgrade, making cutscenes and the game world as a whole much more believable. Developer Sucker Punch even saw fit to add a few visual flairs to its sequel, with Cole’s electrical powers looking particularly potent. The addition of a skeletal animation when electrocuting people is a nice touch as well, and doesn’t come across as overdone or comical.
Whilst music doesn’t play a big part in either of the games, when it does pop up from time to time, it is largely well executed, and definitely fits the character of the city you are in and even the type of action you are performing. The voice-acting is solid for the most part as well, although I must admit I found the change in the protagonist’s voice actor a little jarring going from InFamous to inFamous 2. I guess with the natural two-year break in-between games it wasn’t so bad, but when you switch one disc for the next almost instantaneously it certainly throws you for a while. Cole’s accent in the second game is a little dodgy, too, varying wildly (to my ear, anyway) from eastern seaboard to southern states.
Neither actor is particularly grating, however, which is good as in both games you’ll be hearing a lot of Cole as he peps himself up travelling from objective to objective. Cole also verbally spars with almost everyone he comes across, and whilst his plight is sympathetic, he doesn’t exactly seem like the easiest fellow to get along with.
In the first game in particular there is a good deal of explanation on offer regarding backstory for those who want it, and narrative is one of the few points where I felt inFamous was stronger than inFamous 2. The sequel felt a little heavy-handed with its storytelling and division between good and evil, to the extent where different characters were actually dressed in red and blue (the colours of evil and good in the game, respectively). InFamous’ story contains a fair amount of twists, and you can never truly be sure who is on your side right up until the end. inFamous 2 is a little clearer cut, but the story itself is still quite interesting with its themes of sacrifice. Festival of Blood, as mentioned above, is an altogether different beast, as it tells a story of Cole as a vampire who must destroy the Vampire Queen before morning comes. It’s an enjoyable tale, but I’m sure you can see why it doesn’t exactly fit into the series’ canon.
The backstory on offer is just one example of how the franchise cleverly ties in its open-world environments with its narrative. inFamous contains dead-drops based on antenna, inFamous 2 uses carrier pigeons, and Festival of Blood, although a lot smaller, presents its backstory through a series of glyphs. There is no real obligation to seek out these audio clips, but for those who want a view of the bigger picture, they are invaluable in understanding characters’ motives and true objectives. There’s also a large and varied selection of optional side missions available through both main games, which reward the player with new spawn points or blast shards, and also help to clear enemies from certain areas, making traversal through the cities much easier. Side missions range from investigations to combat missions and races, and there is enough of a variety amongst them to ensure you don’t repeat each type more than two or three times during the course of the game.
There are some memorable missions scattered throughout the main story in both games as well, with “Mind Games” and “The Rescue” from inFamous and “Signs of the Past” from inFamous 2 being the particular standouts. Whilst not wanting to spoil too much, hallucinogens and riding trains take place at various points (though not together) and were definitely above and beyond the standard “go here, beat this person up” template of some open-world games. One of the main reasons the game is so enjoyable to play, especially whilst on a mission, is because the checkpoint system is fairly forgiving when you die or mess up, which will happen a fair amount. Checkpoints are never spaced too far apart, so you won’t lose too much progress, and the loading times are admirable, considering the size of the cities and the amount going on in each one. It’s also handy that the game automatically loads you into your saved game (similar to Grand Theft Auto IV) when you boot-up the console.
With games the size of these, though, it’s not surprising that there are issues, particularly in terms of visuals. Both games suffer from clipping issues, with player characters and NPCs passing through walls (usually when thrown from an explosion) or getting stuck on scenery. The camera is also difficult to work with at times, particularly during jumping sections, as it tends to swing wildly and often doesn’t give enough information regarding jumping distances, making efforts that are too long or too short far too frequent. There was also one incident of a game-breaking bug towards the end of inFamous 2 which required a hard reset of the console, but this didn’t repeat itself on further attempts.
inFamous 2 would make a good test case as to what makes a good sequel to an already admirable game. The first inFamous is certainly an enjoyable game in its own right, and contains some excellent moments, such as the aforementioned missions, and some of Cole’s abilities are awe-inspiring upon unlocking them, good examples being the induction grind and gliding. Empire City is a decent, though limited, playground and is perhaps unfairly represented by its visuals. New Marais, in comparison, is a beautiful creation, and InFamous 2 can be seen as a clear technological step up from its predecessor. Cole keeps most of his powers from the first game, and whilst there is a smattering of new abilities, most of the game is spent building on the powers he already has and making them (and himself) more powerful. This keeps an important link between the two games, and allows the player to feel as though all that effort in the first game has not been wasted. This is also aided by the fact those who have a saved game from inFamous can transfer data over to InFamous 2, and the sequel uses decisions made in the first game to create a basic outline of who Cole will be in the second game. It also gives Cole a small boost of XP and karma at the start of the game, which is useful.
Festival of Blood, whilst containing a separate narrative, continues the upgrade of Cole’s powers, although the city of New Marais itself is downsized to a single island. Of particular note is the Shadow Swarm ability, which turns Cole into a swarm of bats and allows him to navigate the city through the air. As well as being practical, it looks awesome, and adds to the already well-executed schlock-horror atmosphere on show. Festival of Blood can be completed in four to five hours, which is short compared to the two main games’ 15 to 20 hours each, but it’s certainly an experience I would recommend for the different feel of the game if for nothing else.
The inFamous Collection is a perfect opportunity for those who’ve so far missed out on this series, and contains a huge amount of content for the price tag. Whilst inFamous is beginning to show its age, it’s still a decent game, and inFamous 2, being only a little over a year old, is a bargain as part of this set. Festival of Blood is a nice little alternative to the two larger games, offering a different atmosphere and a faster pace, at the cost of a shorter experience. If you haven`t yet checked out inFamous, this is your chance to rectify your mistake. Cole McGrath is an intriguing hero (or antihero, depending on your choices) and the world of inFamous deserves to be explored a little more. I certainly can’t wait to get back and zap some more villains.
Final score: 4.0/5.0
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