You’re probably wondering where the heck this one came from. It’s way out in left field, I know. The sequel has already replaced it in everyone’s minds, so why even bring it up now?
Well, Sony made me do it!
Okay, no, not really. But in Sony’s attempts to win annoyed Playstation 3 owners back after totally betraying their trust by not properly handling security and by remaining quiet when they should have been open about their hack, they offered a “Welcome Back” package of two free PS3 game downloads. From a short and very uninspired list of old games and cheap downloads.
Hence why suddenly I’m playing inFamous, as it was one of the games I didn’t already own.
Which, itself, might surprise some people. Let me explain.
Years ago I downloaded the inFamous demo. And frankly, while the idea behind the game was pretty interesting, the actual game itself just felt very … unfinished. It was chaotic and unrefined and just plain not much of a joy to play. Back then, in my mind, the horrible playability of the demo affirmed to me that inFamous was certainly not worth the money to buy.
Years later, free download, what the heck. For free, I can give it a shot.
Well, at least the real deal was somewhat improved from the demo. It’s still Fractured Fairy Tales time, and plays like asterisk. But at least it’s kind of interesting enough that I haven’t just quit in spite of its many flaws.
I think my biggest contention is that it was obviously designed to be played a certain way. In so many certain ways.
To start with, the camera controls… I’d really love to invert the x-axis. And, indeed, there IS an option to invert the x-axis. But doing so doesn’t just invert the camera control. It also inverts the targeting reticule control, which I don’t want inverted. There’s no way to fix that, and from the start makes the game nearly unplayable to me. No matter how I change the settings, something is always inverted from how I want to control it. In the end I decided that the greater of the two evils was having an inverted targeting reticule, so I chose to leave things un-inverted, as the developers obviously intended the game to be played. It sucks. It makes for some rather twitchy moments as my camera is still often twitching in the wrong direction first, but slowly, I’m retraining my brain from how other video games have obviously trained it to perceive.
Here’s where the certain way it was meant to be played comes into screw-you-part-two. inFamous was obviously designed to be played as a gun-and-run game. Not the other way around. What do I mean? Okay, say you’re Spider Man. You jump into a group of thugs, punching and kicking and such. Someone runs away from you. You spray him with a web and then kick his asterisk. You don’t chase him willy-nilly all around the city. You don’t have to. Because you have a ranged approach, even IF you prefer to drop in for the up-close-and-personal melee approach most of the time. Only in inFamous, even though you have a lot of nifty melee potential, it doesn’t blend with the ranged combat at all.
One would think that with the ability to power-drop off of a building into a group of thugs, and amped-up melee attacks and shocking vorpal blades sprouting from your arms, that the intent might be there for a strong melee player. Nope. Throwing lightning bolts may be restorative, somehow, but punching someone in the face, all right up in their bio-electric field, isn’t. But it’s hairier than that. And here I don’t fault the AI itself. It’s right that everyone scatters in different directions to shoot you with their guns when you drop in on them like that for some punching and kicking. Only a fool brings a knife to a gun fight, and they have the guns. So of course the bad guts put some distance between themselves and you the first chance they get and run around all headless-chicken-like to hide behind cars and stuff to use everything that they can for cover. That makes sense. Well … mostly. Why don’t any of them have knives? Why do they all have guns? I guess on the streets guns and ammo must be dirt cheap…
But okay. I get the AI is working smartly for what they have, and it’s just bad programming that they all have guns. That makes sense at least… mostly. Only, here comes the problem, so you’re punching and kicking and blading them up after your big drop, and they all start running away. Hey! Come back! So you chase them down, thinking, “Gee, if only I had some ranged attack like throwing lightning bolts…” Because even though you do … you don’t! Switching from melee to ranged combat is nigh on impossible in the heat of the moment. The two systems are extremely dissimilar. Directionality and proximity in melee becomes move the circle in the center of the screen around to target something when you switch to ranged combat. It makes it near impossible to do something as simple as zap the dude running off to the left in the back, because the guy running off to the left, that you were punching at a second ago perfectly well, is not even remotely in the center of the screen where the targeting reticule pops up to aim your shots. And by the time you swing it around to target him … he’s found cover. So it becomes a choice between a game of chase-the-baddie-while-getting-shot, or a game of aim-at-the-baddie-while-getting-shot. If you play chase, you’re a harder target for all of his buddies, but it takes you a lot longer to take him down. If you play the ranged game instead, you take him down quicker, but you get shot a lot more by everyone else. It’s a lose-lose proposition and to borrow a line from Joshua, “The only winning move is not to play.”
A simple target-lock mechanism here would have made a world of difference. You could bad-asterisk your way in and then take them out quickly and easily as they run away. Even if you’d have to be in touch-range to paint a target first, fine. I could live with that! But, alas, no. Leaving the two methods of fighting nearly impossible to combine. And so while you might have all sorts of super-keen melee super powers, so long as your enemies are smart enough to scatter in all directions to hide behind things when you jump them, and then shoot at you over and around their cover, you’d be a fool to jump into melee like that, especially when more and more fights become one-against-many instead of one-on-one.
Basically, what could have been really cool instead relegates melee attacks to “for emergencies only” fighting. If you want to survive, you’ve got to master ranged attacks instead.
Again, meant to be played a certain way … and not the way I wanted to.
But here’s where it gets even more schizophrenic, because while ranged combat is clearly how the game was meant to be played … you’re left with two distinct problems. First, detecting enemies at range is very flawed. Your HUD has a limited scope, less than your line-of-sight. So identifying targets in time, and especially avoiding traps, isn’t always easy.
Worse, enemies don’t seem to have this problem with you. All the time I get into situations where I hear gunshots, but I don’t receive any signs whatsoever of where they’re occurring. You would think if someone starts shooting at you that they at least would turn red on your HUD. But no. All too often you’re left with a mystery of who is shooting where. No Spidey Sense to guide the way, even if you press L3 to activate your… Uh … yeah. Huh? So sometimes you literally just have to sit there and wait to get shot, just to have any idea where the shots are coming from. It’s not a great tactic for any combat, but especially for ranged combat, where hoards of baddies could be closing in while you wait, and wait, and wait. Because, again, the range on your HUD is far shorter than your line of sight.
Speaking of coming up short, here’s the next area where ranged combat suffers. The range of your lightning bolts is less than the range of the bullets baddies shoot at you. Eh? Yeah. I know! Makes you want to just pick up a darned gun already. (Which, by the way, would have been an interesting option. Electrified bullets even?) Plenty of times I’ve sat there on rooftops, at the very corner, as far as I could walk, being shot, and yet not damaging the bad guy shooting me, with my own lightning bolts thrown at him. They just fizzle out right in front of his face. I know he’s laughing at me. Heck, I would be laughing at me too. It’s not a matter of accuracy, but of range. It’s a pretty lousy limitation for a game designed to be played with ranged combat. If only you could simply snipe…
Okay, so apparently, one of your hidden powers is the ability to snipe. I only just learned that while looking up something for the review. When you get this power, I don’t know. Why such an obvious power gets delayed while you pick up useless powers like amped-up melee that you can’t properly use when everyone runs away from you all the time, I don’t know. Again, a lot of lack of refinement here. It’s like no one actually bothered to play the darned game through from beginning to end. Or even beginning to … beginning. I mean I can’t be all that far into it, and already I’m baffled by the lack of clarity.
Speaking of a lack of clarity, so here’s one that has me befuddled. When I first started playing, raging melee seemed like the way to go as a solution to my x-axis inversion dilemma. Invert the camera and just don’t use ranged combat and all would be good. So I started out with the obvious melee and blade upgrades. And at first, that was good. Then I kept running into more groups, and they’d scatter, and I ran into that no-win situation of chase-the-baddie while his buddies shot me. So the next obvious upgrade was to lessen the amount of damage I was taking. Only here, again, lack of clarity. So 10%, 20%, 30% … is that cumulative? Or do we seriously onlt get 30% damage reduction at best? But even if it is cumulative, best case scenario makes it a damage reduction of 60%. Meh! That’s only able to take slightly more than twice as much. That’s the best that someone who can manipulate electricity and electromagnetism can do against bullets? Eh?!?! Lame. Melt bullets before they even get to you maybe? (Heck, melt their guns!) Deflect bullets like they were nothing with a wave of lightning? They are metal after all. Lead melts quickly.
Meanwhile baddies get riot shields? And gun turrets to hide behind? WTF?! Why can’t I pick up a riot shield?!
Though, again, in quick research it looks like another hidden power yet to be unlocked is some kind of shield. Well great. But why can I max out my damage reduction without unlocking that no-brainer? Seriously, did anyone even think this game through?
(And do you think that you could Magneto all those bullets hitting your shield and then repel them back like he could in a deadly bullet storm effect? Wouldn’t that have been something? Even if lead isn’t magnetic, energy could do something…)
Any even then, it still seems like a pretty lousy defensive list of powers. Can I at least don a freaking bullet-proof-vest or something here? They come out in swarms with automatic weapons, grenades, freaking bazookas, and trucks with machine guns, and I’ve got … 30%? 60%? And maybe, eventually, a shield of some kind…
There’s a dead cop wearing a vest over there. And that bad guy dropped his riot shield there. Can I just take a moment in sanity and “power up” my damage reduction here?
More confusion comes as you just play the game. I’m powered up by the same device that has left shards of itself all over the city, but I can run right past a shard without it even showing up on my HUD. Even if I press L3 to further power up that Spidey Sense, still no appearance by Mr. Shardy. But that one across the bay over there where it’s guaranteed death to try to walk to right now, that one shows up on my HUD? Eh? Shouldn’t there be some kind of affinity to the darned things? So confusing!
Equally befuddling is when I complete a plot mission, a requirement to go through the game, turning on lights for all the scared city folk no less, and hurting no one in the process, and it gives me a RED evil-karma outcome? Huh?! Why?!
And speaking of a lack of clarity, karma itself is a bi***. Sucking the life out of someone is evil. Okay, I kind of get that. Though considering the dude just started shooting me in the face for simply walking down the street … the evil of it seems a little contrived. Is it “evil” to kill someone in self-defense in general? Do I get bad karma for not taking them down “alive”? Do I get evil karma for stomping on them after taking them down? Killing civilians is wrong, but what about killing the nefarious ones who offer you evil side quests? Shouldn’t killing them be a did-the-world-a-favor moment? Do I get good karma for bothering to take the time to restrain them? Maybe yes? Maybe no? The game doesn’t indicate one way or the other on any of these actions. I would assume that at least bothering to cuff a baddie should reward you for making the effort, but I could easily be wrong. And as for the rest, only god knows apparently, and he ain’t telling!
And back to speaking of side quests, more agitation comes when you’re walking up to talk to someone about a side quest when suddenly bad guys jump out and shoot him/her in the face! WTF?! Well I guess I didn’t need that quest after all then… But seriously, I don’t think there’s any way to get it back. Once they’re gone, their quest is gone too. And you’re just SOL. Gee, if only they had like a brother or sister or mommy or daddy or son or daughter or husband or wife or friend or coworker tenant in the same bugged apartment building or someone in this whole doomed city who knew about / was affected by whatever problem they had too and would seek you out in the event of their demise… But then, that’d have required putting some thought into the quest system I guess.
Further lack of refinement in inFamous comes in the form of … jumping. Okay, so I tend to like when superheroes have trained in parkour. Call me crazy, but they’re super heroes, so they should be doing super things, right? Batman climbs up buildings and he doesn’t even have any special powers. So I like that part of the game … when it works. The converse of that being that you can’t just hold down the drop button to keep dropping. So some guy is shooting at you as you climb up a building. You press the drop button … and drop a whole two feet to grab the next thing down. And again for the next. And again. And again. And … getting shot really hurts! Gee, if only there were a concept as simple as holding the drop button down to NOT GRAB THINGS AS I FALL! Seriously. Heck, call me crazy, but it’d have made even more sense to require you to hold a button to hold on to something in the first place. I mean sometimes you’re just trying to jump over a garbage can and the next thing you know you’re freaking hanging from a ladder when all you wanted to do was vault the object the guy you’re chasing just ran around. But then, oh right, you can’t really play this game as melee-oriented anyway. So that’s not supposed to be a problem because you don’t chase after bad guys in the first place.
And why is it that a guy who can fart lightning and practically fly can’t light up a simple room? Seriously, what the heck is up with that? Some of those sewer missions get pretty crazy to navigate simply for lack of a freaking flashlight … or lightning-based alternative. Mr. Sparky Glowy Hands neads to learn to project. Or just grab a Maglite from one of the downed cops.
Speaking of the sewer quests, another puzzling inconsistency is his inability to control his conductivity around various things. Step in a puddle of water and everyone around is all twitchy and then lifeless on the ground, but you’re unharmed, so it’s all good. Walk over a manhole cover or climb a pipe though and … nothing. So I guess that makes metal less conductive than water? Likewise fall into the sewer and zap, zap, Toasty! Painful but not actually life threatening. Yet fall into the harbor and nature is all like, “Finish him!” Kapow! Dead. Bummer. So I guess in the world of Physics According To inFamous, metal is non-conductive (unless you want it to be and you’re a good guy and a baddie is hiding behind it), puddles are entertainingly conductive (especially if you’re a bad guy), sewage is painfully conductive, and ocean water is hyper-deadly conductive. Kind of makes you wonder why your enemies don’t just fill up some squirt guns from the harbor or crack open a fire hydrant.
But then again poisonous water sprayed into his face didn’t hurt him … unless you count a few psychedelic trips as hurt, which I don’t. Though it was cool. But it also really begged the question, why the heck didn’t he just grab the danged wheel from the side? It’s not like he had to stand directly in front of it to turn it! And certainly standing to the side would have been a smarter choice than taking it in the face … again, or zapping some poor bloke until he turned it for you. Talk about poor problem solving skills…
And by the way, how the heck does this guy use his cell phone if he can’t even walk over a puddle? You’d think the thing would have fried right in his pocket when he zapped the city. But no, the cell phone magically survives? And in spite of all of his electromagnetic zappiness, not once does that cell phone pick up any static either. Darn amazing phone! Where can I buy that model?
Of course then there’s that wonderful world of physics again, asking why electricity isn’t grounding out to the nearest opportunity, ruining all of his lightning bolt shots. Or, conversely, why you can’t get those lightning bolts to in any way home in on a target if they can be controlled from doing things against nature.
Basically, the sad part is, I could rant on and on and on here with all of the inconsistencies and flaws of inFamous until Father Time smacked me upside the head, and there’d still be more to list.
Is the CONCEPT of inFamous any good? Heck, it’s great! I’d love to see more!
Is the IMPLEMENTATION of inFamous any good? Not really. No.
Bottom line, it’s not worth the money. But for free, maybe.
Will I bother with it all the way to the end? Maybe? Well, not likely. We’ll see.
Twice through to see both good and evil sides played out? Definitely not likely!
I give inFamous 2 half-baked lightning cookies out of 5.
But for a plethora of simple playability refinements, it could have shot up to 4. But, frankly, the engine used itself is still kind of not-so-spiffy in my opinion, so I doubt even with all of the bugs and problems fixed I could give it a perfect 5. Which is a shame, because the concept really is cool.
I wonder if they’ve even addressed the multitude of playability issues in inFamous 2…
And to end on a smile, while writing this blog, on many occasions I had to correct my fingers when they typed it as inFamouse. Because that’s all we need, a glowing red evil Disney cartoon spitting lightning bolts while giggling maniacally. (No, really, we need this! Someone get on it! inFamouse!)