This last week and a half, I have flung myself blindly into a franchise that before I looked on with Major Indifference (salute). Back in 2009, Prototype
pretty much rocked my world. It evoked memories of a campy slap-dash and gosh darn fun movie tie in by the name of Spiderman 2; a sandbox game that cast you as a super hero.
It seems many eyes were watching when this game dropped, and suddenly, in 2009, two games with very, very similar ideas were released. One was the forementioned Prototype; a game I loved because a) I could play it, as I was an Xbox owner at the time. b) It featured such potential for over the top gory fun which the likes of Rockstar Games and Voilition would vomit in their mouths at, and c) it featured a freedom of movement around the city, as you ran up the side of buildings flew, glided, and then bombed on to a street corner, devestating all in your wake. Prototype was not perfect, but it was hella fun when you could overlook the flaws. Combat controls were icky, the story was nothing to write home about, the graphics weren't spectacular and the main character, despite a well thought out physical appearence, was unlikeable. Enter Prototype 2 later this month... but that's for another time. Good game, very fun, but there's no denying that Mercer is something of a dickhole
, the first of the two games I have completed this week. inFamous features a rather more likeable protaganist in Cole McGrath, a bike carrier who through no fault of his own managed to destroy thousands of lives as well as half a city before being bestowed with super-powers, namely control over electricity.
Inevitably, it is difficult to play this game without comparing it to my summer fling from three years ago, so I thought the best idea was to simply compare them. First, how is inFamous not as good as Prototype:
-The freedom of movement is not as overwhelmingly simple and cool. Whilst Cole does learn some nifty tricks later on in the game, scaling the heights of Empire City never quite gives the same thrill as gliding like a nuclear missile as you terrorise Manhatten. It does come close though, with nice touches like the ability to grind telephone wires and train tracks, as well as the eventual skill for hovering/gliding.
-It has a much duller colour pallete than that of Prototype. Whilst Mercer's Manhatten was similiarly a sea of grey and silver, there were touches of red as the virus took over the city. inFamous, on the other hand, never really comes alive as a city, least of all in colour. That's not to say Prototype had an utterly convincing world; it merely beat out inFamous by appearing a little more interesting.
As for how inFamous is better than Prototype, I was pleasently surprised to find the list was a little bit longer than I anticipated:
-Cole McGrath is a more likeable and relatable character than Alex Mercer. He's not fantastic, but he's better. Assuming you'ved picked a pathway for whether you wish to be good or evil (I was good, so can't comment easily on the evil side) his motives and choices do carry some weight. Very often, the good path can be the harder one, either testing you as a player, or emotionally testing Cole as a person. Additionaly, side characters carry some worth. Not much, just some, which makes what may or may not happen to them all the more interesting when it pans out.
-Combat is much better. Whilst Alex Mercer didn't really deal in projectiles, inFamous handles this aspect of combat rather well. Melee fighting has little joy, but shockwaving, rocketing, blasting and other electric shockings all provide some thrill, and allow for some diverse tactics when dealing with a tricky situation. On the other side of things, I would have to say combat mechanics was one of Prototypes greatest weaknesses.
-The story is presented in a much better way, with comic book style animations taking place as opposed to live action cutscenes. This would mainly be due to how the developers were primarily inspired by comic books, as well as the recent Batman Begins movie.
-Speaking of being inspired by Batman Begins, that kind of shows. One of the main themes of the game is Cole's growth as a person and a superhero, similar to Bruce Wayne and Batman in what I consider to be the best Batman film ever made (well, only real contest is surely The Dark Knight). These ideas, as well as the plot, which whilst not perfectly structured and a little dismissive and forgetful at times, make for a game that thoroughly trounces the weak plot elements in Prototype. Graphic novel style cutscenes help ground inFamous as a game that very much sits comfortably alongside comic book lore.
Aside from this crude comparisons, I really rather enjoyed this little freebie courtesy of the PSN outtage. Whilst my quibbles are existant, they are considerably minor, and I was pleasantly surprised at how dedicated I was to doing side missions and collecting Blast Cores; the kind of chores I haven't usually particpated in since Crackdown, and before that Vice City. Whilst a bit ugly by todays standards and not exactly stellar in the writing department, inFamous whips up a believable enough world in a disagreeable situation with varied enemies to kick in the face and a variety of stuff to do and abilities to learn right up to the closing chapters of the main quest. I award it a 7
. Didn't set my world on fire like Prototype did three years ago, but I can't help but think it would have if I'd just owned a PS3 back then.
And on to game number two... inFamous 2
Yes, inFamous really did leave a good impression. So much so, that I delayed my playthrough of Ico HD in order to go out and buy the sequel straight away. No regrets. This might just be the most fun I've had with a sandbox game since Vice City. Sure, Prototype allowed you to fly around and wreck shit. Why yes, GTA IV did involve a new direction towards grittiness and realism with just a hint of Rockstar charm. And okay, Saints Row 2 did have ATV riding in underpants and shit cannons. But whilst I loved two of these games, and mildly liked the latter, inFamous 2 provided a perfect cocktail for my tastes. It made you feel like a super hero/villain on a quest to shape the world to your liking, or to save it from your kin. It retained the simple but appealing side missions, but totally revamped its main story (right down to the voice actor, who you get used to after five minutes). Okay, there was one flaw so far as I can see, which is the only reason you would choose to participate in the evil fork missions is because you're deliberatly choosing to do nasty stuff to get extra karma points. Unless that's what you're aiming for, the good fork missions just make a lot more sense, and the shared cutscenes in between these fate deciding missions make more sense if your Cole is of a more righteous standing than a self-righteous one. With this little fella right here, inFamous finally has workable melee combat.
That said, I can go on about how the new lightning tether power and the ice jump thing all add the much desired freedom of movement, and how the new combat abilties keep things fresh, and how Cole's melee weapon, the Amp, finally makes melee attacking a viable option even against the toughest of foes. But the true feather in this games cap is one which would (apparently) put a certain sci-fi trilogy to shame; inFamous 2 has not one, but two very good endings. Both contain elements of victory with massive overtones of sacrifice. The ending for the evil side (I should note that I actually played the game twice to get both endings; dedication, huh?) contains a death that would not have been so sad had it not been for the excellent composition of the scene, the music, and the fact that the character in question had built up such a believable relationship with the protaganist, that the actions the game forces you to perform should you choose the evil path just might make you hesitate. Equally, the good ending also features some surprises, and is possibly even sadder and more impressive (and a very brave move for Sucker Punch I might add) than the evil ending. The ending is very often the players last interaction with a game, and Sucker Punch really delivered in this respect. But to have such a well crafted game preceeding this ending, with likeable characters, solid and fun mechanics, a pretty decent look as well as a nice variation in colour as the setting moves to New Marais, and the soundtrack! I know it's sucky if you're reviewing a game to simply speak about the soundtrack like it's all important, but fuck you! Because it's 1:37am, I'm sitting here in a dressing gown and cowboy boots and a top hat and scarf (it's cold), and this isn't a review. It's a critique by a badly dressed man! Anyway, the music in some scenes
(like the one where you rescue Kuo) really empower the scene with a sense of importance, of urgency, and of general epicness as the orchestral roll booms over the sound of the hoodlums spine cracking as you blast him backwards into a lamppost. Sucker Punch have become a developer I shall eagerly watch in future, (for starters, I'm going to hunt down some Sly Cooper games), as this game has really really impressed me, and I shall be playing it for weeks to come, tying up every loose end and mopping up every scumbag street performer that dare point his harmoica at me. inFamous 2 gets a 9
Next time, I recall my time with LittleBigPlanet and Ico HD, which is proving to be a real bitch. Ta-ra.
LOOK WHO CAME: