TGS 2008: Preview: Infamous


Every time I cover a show, I hope to stumble upon a game that I’d somehow previously missed or ignored, a game that activates my gimme-gimme gland and inspires me to circle dates on the calendar in eager anticipation of release day. That game for Tokyo Game Show is Infamous for the PS3.

Sony calls it a “modern day superhero action/adventure game in an open environment,”which, while accurate, doesn’t sound neary as bitchin’ as the game looks like it’s going to be. You play as Cole, the sole survivor of a catastrophic blast that laid waste to a huge chunk of the city. The city begins falling into ruin, plagued by a huge upsurge in crime and gang activity, and eventually the authorities wall it all off to keep the violence from spreading. You’re stuck in there with the psychos, but fortunately, you’ve developed electricity-based superpowers that you can use to bring down the gangs and restore the peace.

If you’re worried that means you’ll simply be frying bad guys with lighting bolts for 20 hours, relax. The way Sucker Punch and Sony see it, “if you’re going to make a superhero game, you have to make the superpowers better than having the gun in Call of Duty 4. In other words, if all you’re doing is trading lightning bolts for bullets, the game isn’t all that special or compelling, and folks will figure that out pretty quickly.

But Cole can do more than just zap from afar. He can also hurl little electrical hand grenades, suck power from enemies to refill his power supply, call down enormous lightning strikes that can be moved through the environment with the Sixaxis, perform a powerful TK blast, and even tap into the electrical impulses in someone’s brain to see echos of their thoughts and memories. Powers develop and change depending on how you progress through the game and the choices you make, so the powers that you have when you start the game aren’t the powers you have when you finish.

You’ll have to be wise about how and when you use your powers, though; every time you use one, you expend electrical energy that will have to be replaced. You can draw volts (or is it amps? I can never remember which one kills you) from anything with a power source, like a car battery, light pole, or power station. The more energy you amass, the more devastating moves you can use, but the more energy you expend, too. So deciding whether to bank your power for a really big move or to simply use lots of smaller ones may depend on how ready a source of electricity you have nearby.

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While all of that sounds and looks pretty damn entertaining, I was just as interested in how open the game world seems to be. You can interact with virtually everything you see in the environment; if a building looks climbable, it is. If you think you could knock down a radio antenna to use as a bridge between areas, you probably can. Even more encouraging, Sucker Punch will eventually be adding supernavigation to Cole’s skillset, which will let you get up to the rooftops and move from building to building. As Sony puts it, “Getting up to the top of a building needs to be fast and easy. We want people on the roofs.” People want to be playing the game, not “solving the puzzle of how to get up the building.”

If you do feel like climbing, there are many different ways to go. Grab an awning, shimmy up a pipe, engage in a bit of parkour-style acrobatics and presto,you’re on top of the world. I didn’t get to try it myself – the build I saw was far too early – but getting around seemed intuitive and effortless.

The environment can also be used in combat situations. If your enemy is using a car for cover, for example, you can chain electricity through something metal, like a light pole, and through the car. Pump in enough juice and eventually the car will explode. Cole can also use his athletic abilities to give him an edge in a fight, like by climbing up a pole to gain higher ground.

One area I’m a bit dubious about is the game’s morality element. Decisions you make, for good or for, oh, let’s call it evil, will have a serious impact on the game, or so we’re told. Unfortunately, that’s about all we’re told; Sony and Sucker Punch are keeping quiet on specifics this far from the game’s release. Many games have promised a solid ethical undercoat, but few, if any, have really delivered, so I’m not holding my breath on that part of Infamous.

Even if the moral choices never really come to fruition the way they were promised to, there still looks to be plenty of fun to be had with Infamous.

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