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Sandboxing with a supernatural twist

The ’08 library

Sony spent 2007 as the Next-Gen underdog. When important figures like Valve’s Gabe Newell say that the PS3 was a mistake altogether and surrender the PS3 version of their flagship title to another studio, it makes a pretty hard case. We are willing to bet that that Sony will very interested in proving everybody wrong this year. And with upcoming titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy XIII, we don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be able to.

Among the extensive '08 exclusive Playstation 3 library is InFamous, a game that might have gone under many people's radars but certainly not ours. The game is under development by Sucker Punch, the company behind the genre blending Sly Cooper series. This time around, they are aiming for something entirely different, with a more mature and even serious tone.

In InFamous you play an anomaly, a regular guy who happens to acquire supernatural powers and is given the choice to use them as he sees fit. The how or why is being kept under wraps at the moment as the developers are keeping a tight lid on the plot. We do know that the city that the main protagonist grew up in, is in ruins and that he has an important choice to make. He can attempt to salvage what is left of the city and fight whoever turned it into that state –or- fall prey to his powers and deliver annihilation upon the survivors.


Unlike milestone sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto, InFamous seems to leave the driving and gunplay to the NPCs. Its primary focus is on the special powers. This fresh take on the sandbox concept sounds like a welcome step off the beaten path. Besides the special powers, there is one other thing that sets the game apart from Rockstar’s masterpiece and that is its art style. InFamous follows the recent trend to make everything looks gritty. It takes place in a dark, ruined city that may for a brief moment bring up Liberty City nostalgia. Yet the darker, supernatural tone will quickly separate the game from the car jacking, cop killing fest that was San Andreas.

It would be foolish for Sucker Punch to want to compete with the likes of Grand Theft Auto, but they will surely have noted Prototype. InFamous and Prototype are very similar and, looking at the stills, hard to keep apart. While Prototype presents things from a different angle, the resemblance between the two games will make it a tough choice buying one or the other.

Hero or villain

On the gameplay side of InFamous, the exact nature of the powers you will have access to is largely unknown. We have seen the main character produce lightning out of his hands, show telekinesis-like abilities and even something that hinted at flying (but was probably jumping). The final word is not out however, and new abilities may still be added before the game is released. We are assuming your character won’t have reason to envy the X-Men though. Speaking of which, InFamous presents a moral dilemma that will be very familiar to fans of Marvel’s comics: will you use your powers to help others and neglecting yourself or will you choose yourself above the rest and strive for personal gain?

There will be something to be said for either choice and Sucker Punch assures us that choosing sides won’t be as easy as it may seem. While speculative, we have a feeling that we will see a Bioshock inspired cause-consequence system. Acting in a benevolent way will likely yield more profitable results in the long run but short term gain isn’t necessarily the wrong choice. Other actions may lead to instant reward, or retribution.

Whatever your choice may be, the urban locale where the game is located will react accordingly and so will its inhabitants. Thrashing a building during a battle may cause it to collapse and block a road. Traffic will divert and find a different path to their destination. The population will try and avoid areas where you are fighting and may even run away on sight if you were to become a fear inspiring menace.

Waiting it out

After seeing the game in action, we are still pretty much in the dark with InFamous. There is reason to be excited about Sucker Punch’s take on this free roaming, superpower boosted and morally ambiguous world. It is a terrain where other games such as Crackdown failed and it won’t be easy for InFamous to leave its mark. Sucker Punch has a reputation for creating quality entertainment but despite that track record, we fear that the grittiness and seriousness of InFamous is a little too much of a change from their cartoonish, often humorous work. We hope we are wrong and are will be on the lookout for more information being disclosed.