Friday, August 13

It's not you

So after more than one year of on-and-off play, I've finally completed inFamous. I wish I had finished the game earlier because the twist at the end was worth it, even though you could see it coming. Further to that, the last time the game was in my possession, I would have only had about (unbeknownst to me) 7 story missions or about 3 hours playtime to get through. Short of collecting every Blast Shard, I've done almost all that you can do with the heroic arc of the morally-focused, open world action game. I've liberated every territory, played through every repetitive side mission and upgraded all the abilities. The last few hours of inFamous offer some of the best experiences both in terms of narrative and action sequences; one mission in particular provides a thrilling quasi-recreation of balloon parade from the first, Tim Burton directed Batman movie. The boss fights are also highly enjoyable, but for some reason are infinitely less difficult than the standard shooting/melee action.

Two months ago, I read an article in Gameinformer about the upcoming sequel, and was concerned to see that the developers had chosen to make aesthetic changes instead of addressing what (I thought) were the biggest issues with the game. Cole McGrath had been changed from a rugged, almost ugly biker into a pretty boy with the likeness of an "extreme sports star - like Travis Pastrana, Tony Hawk or Shaun White," (Stead, 2010: p49). From the article I concluded that most gamers can't relate to a protagonist unless they are attractive and "more sympathetic". IGN has reported that Cole is now looking more like his former self, however I'm yet to see revised concept art for the series' protagonist.

The problems with inFamous have nothing to do with Cole specifically, and more to do with repetitive mission design and the inordinately high difficulty of the standard action. When accepting side missions you know you will be doing one of 5 things:
  • Escorting prisoners
  • Tracking gang members to an eventual, small scale battle
  • Item retrieval (hidden packages or medical supplies)
  • Vehicle escort
  • Area clearance (routing either enemies of surveillance devices)
Apart from the vehicle escort missions which appear most infrequently, the other types of side missions rarely enable you to employ your arsenal of superpowers in an enjoyable way. You need to act within strict parameters or you will more than likely fail. Towards the end of the game, when you gain the power to summon lightning from the sky, I was dying to engage with waves on enemies without any peripheral objectives. Instead I was forced to zap gang members in the backside to keep them moving at a brisk pace. Taking back Empire City wouldn't have been such a drag if there were some more opportunities to light up the sky (and enemies).

The biggest issue I had with inFamous was the inconsistent difficulty level. On Medium setting, the average Reaper, Dustman or First Son is more durable than Superman and the Incredible Hulk merged into one stubborn super-being. These standard goons have almost infallible aim, and would be able to shoot individual flakes of dandruff off of your head if that was their intention. Unfortunately, your enemies intend to actually hurt you, not perform trick shots, and these controller-smashingly difficult grunts at times made standard combat a grind. Boss fights however were much more undemanding, to the point where the final boss battle felt anti-climatic (at least as far as difficulty is concerned).

Keep Cole gritty. Keep me looking for Blast Shards and Dead Drops. Vary the mission design, and make the difficulty more consistent and inFamous 2 will be enjoyable, if not perfect.

What are you playing this weekend? I'm intending to start playing through the single player portion of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. What do you think of Bioshock Infinite?


  1. Bioshock Infinite looks so pretty> I am glad it has been removed from the grungy underwater scene, and I personally felt that the second one should have occurred on dry land (it would have represented a nice progression from water, earth, sky).

    I never got into Infamous, however now that I know I can summon lightening from the sky, I might pick it up.

  2. It's repetitive, but my word the last few hours make a strong impression. That, and lightening grenades always bring a smile to my face. KABOOM!

    Bioshock 2 may have suffered from some narrative stutters, but in my opinion, Rapture is just as compelling the second time around.