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Sticky controls somewhat tricky

Humble Origins

I have been a fan of Sucker Punch Productions for a while. The original Sly Cooper is among my top games of all time. While I have never played another of their games, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, I have always wanted to get my hands on it. With iNFAMOUS, Sucker Punch’s is making a first attempt to broaden their horizons, adding a game with a genre they have no previous experience with. They certainly picked an ambitious title to do it with. inFAMOUS uses an open world sandbox style gameplay in the vein of Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row. Recently I had a chance to mess around with the game.

Immediately after starting the game, fans will be able to see some similarities to the Sly series. The same comic-style story telling that has been a trademark of the Sly series can be found in inFAMOUS. I have always loved the way Sucker Punch goes about telling their stories and while their games are not exactly complex basket-woven Bioware RPGs, there is an amount of storytelling in their craft that is worth mentioning.

Who is That Masked Man?

You are quickly introduced to the game’s protagonist, Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger who finds one of his packages to contain something rather unexpected. He didn’t even have to open the package to find out. It simply exploded, leaving a huge chunk of the city in ruins. What’s worse, the package also contained some weird plague that is affecting people in weird and not so wonderful ways. In a severe case of ‘shoot the messenger’, everyone in the troubled area blames Cole. The outside world, sensing something horrible is going on in the area, has quarantined the blown up part of the city that has now been overrun by chaos and lawlessness. There must be a good side right? Well, there is. Cole wakes up with a headache but also some cool superpowers that will help him survive in this new world. As Cole, you must learn to develop your given powers and use them for good or… for evil.

Right off the bat, I knew this probably was not going to be the game for me. I have never been a big fan of good versus evil games as my choice is always good and never deviate from that path. On top of that, open world games are not my first choice for navigation and exploration. I find it is very hard to capture the true feeling of a city as there is only so much a programmer can do within the limits of technology. We are always impressed by the advancements made, but nothing will ever live up to an actual city. But those are both more personal problems with the genre and not so much with inFAMOUS.

Shocking Turn of Events

The controls have a somewhat odd stickiness that took me some time to get used to. The stickiness stems from your powers: your character can climb anything. It is a big world and there is a lot of area to both cover and get around. The control system is built on being able to grab onto the nearest object and climb it. This is not a problem unless you are trying –not- to climb something. If you have had any experience with Sly, think of it as auto context sensitive buttons. It became a pain because when I was just trying to execute a jump from the elevated train to the street level my descent was very cumbersome and annoying. As I was falling I would get stuck to the side of the train, then the side of the train tracks, then a telephone pole, and then possibly some sort of street sign.

The combat is full of all sorts of punches and kicks added with some Star Wars: Force Unleashed powers like lightning and force punch. I hate to keep comparing inFAMOUS to other games but I just cannot shake the similarities to the Sly series. The way your character moves and balances on things, the way the map is set up, the way objectives are laid out, they all seem too familiar.

In the end I think that the big hurdle that inFAMOUS will need to overcome are those similarities. These areas have to be better than its peers. Is the story going to be interesting enough to make me care about this character? I guess we’ll find out when the game launches later this month.