E3 2008: inFAMOUS Preview

If there’s one thing the nation is obsessed with right now, it’s superhero stories. From the X-Men to Spiderman to Superman to Batman, we just can’t seem to get enough of these superpowered men and women in tights. While many videogame companies are capitalizing on this craze by re-creating the worlds of these pre-existing characters, Sucker Punch is taking a different route with their third-person action game inFAMOUS — they are creating a brand new, modern superhero origin story, and letting the gamer shape the star.

inFAMOUS tells the tale of Empire City, where a massive explosion leaves the urban center in shambles and effectively lawless from rioting and the elimination of the city’s police force. Worse yet, the city is quarantined by the government, stranding the inhabitants in an unfamiliar and treacherous life.

At the game’s outset, one resident, Cole, has been profoundly affected by the blast, gaining electricity-based superpowers for reasons unbeknownst to him. The player assumes the role of that guy, and sets out to take on the evils of the city. While Sucker Punch does want the player to be able to play the game and shape the main protagonist as they see fit, the main plot will remain generally the same, with few radically divergent paths. Game director Nate Fox compared it to Mass Effect in that regard.




inFAMOUS has been heavily influenced by graphic novels (DMZ in particular), and makes use of gritty storyboard animation sequences to link gameplay portions of the game while moving the narrative forward. The graphic novel feel is very evident, and the artwork looks great.

When it comes to actual gameplay, inFAMOUS will drop players into an open world where the population reacts to and remembers the choices they make and actions they carry out. Based on how someone plays, he or she may be loved or hated by each of the city’s individual groups and subcultures. Players can rescue citizens or chalk their suffering up to collateral damage; they can kill their enemies or immobilize/incarcerate them. These are the types of choices that will make Cole become either famous or infamous.

Empire City will be fully explorable, not only via the streets and alleys, but also by climbing up and over buildings, billboards, telephone poles, etc. The team’s motto has been, "If you see it and think you can climb it, you should be able to," so expect just as much freedom as in Assassin’s Creed, but this time with the ability to use all of your combat abilities from any position — on the ground or suspended from the side of a giant neon sign. There is even a "vertical duck-and-cover" system in place that allows players to do Gears of War style pop-shotting over the top of a building or around the side of a vertical column they happen to be holding onto. From what I saw in the demo, this gameplay mechanic could be very liberating to players who have felt that their combat has been restricted in the past.




Cole won’t use traditional weapons in the game, however, because until the cataclysm that befell Empire City, he was simply an average Joe with no special training or experience. What he will use are a variety of electrical attacks that grow and branch off into different disciplines as the game progresses. The choices a player makes come into play here, as well, because certain play styles will only have access to certain types of powers. The example Nate used was focused vs. area effect attacks. A "bad" guy might not care who gets in the way of his lightning bolts, but a "good" guy would probably prefer more precise attacks.

The city itself plays an important role in the use of Cole’s powers, too. Most of the structures in the urban landscape are electrically conductive, allowing players to creatively use powers in conjunction with the environment. Additionally, the city’s electrical grid acts as a source of power for Cole. After prolonged use, he will essentially need to recharge himself, and depending on where he is in the city, that opportunity may or may not be available.

Cole will encounter superpowered enemies throughout the game, although the developers were not at liberty to discuss characters and story beyond the simple introduction given earlier. One comment Mr. Fox made during the demo was very interesting, though. When asked about multiplayer, he responded with a very suspicious, "There’s nothing announced at this time."

Could we see some super-heroic multiplayer action when inFAMOUS hits the PlayStation 3 next spring? It’s a possibility, but I look forward to trying more of this game with or without it.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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