inFAMOUS Demo Impressions

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Those in the US that have pre-ordered Sony Computer Entertainment and Sucker Punches electric superhero romp inFAMOUS at Best Buy retailers will have recieved a voucher to access the demo, originally slated to be available on the 8th of May.

Well, Sony decided to post the demo up early, and it is now available to download and enjoy. Here are my impressions of that very demo.

After the lengthy download, I finally fired up the game, and the first thing that really strikes you is how clean the game looks. Oh, the Neon District of Empire City is quite grungy and lived in, but the texture work, character detail, and overall visual presentation is sharp and slick, especially when viewed on an HDTV.

The demo begins with a stylish explosion that rips through the city. Afterwards, a brief comic book style cutscene explains that our hero, Cole McGrath, was at the center of the explosion, and was in a “coma” of sorts for 7 days. When he comes to, not only has the city changed, but he himself has developed the ability to harness electricty.

After this intro, the game cuts to Cole on top of a roof, and he has been given a mission to restart the train system in order to rescue some hostages that are being kept inside. Using his newfound abilities, Cole hops aboard the train, and it hums to life, cracking with electric energy. After riding for a brief moment, there is a slight snag: it seems some pesky reapers have shut down the power again, and Cole must eliminate them, then zap the generator located below the tracks to get the train moving again.

Combat in inFAMOUS is just one of it’s many admirable traits. By holding down the L1 Button, Cole will raise his arm to aim, and the R1 Button fires his standard blast, which is unlimited in it’s use. When aim mode is activated, the face buttons become alternate attacks that requires energy to utilize.

For the demo, these abilities were the shock grenade, and shock wave on the X and Square Buttons respectively. The Circle button was used to dive and evade whether in Aim mode, or simply running around.

The Square Button is also a melee attack, when the L1 Button is not in use. The feeling of being an ultimate badass permeates this title, especially when mixing and matching attacks for stylish takedowns (which the game keeps track of and rewards you accordingly). Electricuting someone, using shockwave to knock them back and off the roof, electricuting them again, then leaping and landing on top of them with the ground pound (activated by holding down the Square Button while in the air) is just one of the many enjoyable ways to reek havoc on the city, good or bad alike.

Animations are fluid, and you truly feel like you are in the shoes of this superhero (or anti-hero). The demo features three missions – two story missions, and 1 side mission, and they encompass both the hero, and anti-hero elements of the gameplay.

I admit that it’s more fun being “Evil Cole,” lobbing lethal grenades any which way, and leeching the bio-electricity from innocents (and enemies alike) to replenish my energy stores, but “Good Cole” is just as fun.

Traveling across the city was a blast, as the demo showcased the much talked about “free-climbing,” vertical gameplay. Cole will pretty much stick to anything you would imagine he’d be able to climb to, and the Neon District on display in the demo is expertly designed for climbing, with secrets to collect (like glowing blue shards of energy that, if enough are collected, increases the ammount of energy Cole has at his disposal for advanced attacks). I had a blast simply climbing buildings, sliding on power cables and train tracks, and hovering through the air (hover is activated by simply holding down the R1 Button after leaping into the air).

Outside of combat, the second best thing about inFAMOUS is just traversing the city, which is diverse, and rife with intrigue. The controls were incredibly responsive and intuitive, which is expected from the masterminds behind the excellent Sly Cooper series on the Playstation 2, which inFAMOUS invokes in nearly all of it’s polished gameplay (and the fact that hero Cole sports a backpack with a Sly Cooper logo plastered on the back).

The enemies in this section of the city are Reapers, and there are a few powerful ones that make Cole’s missions a pain. Aside from the grunts, there are enemies that can throw shockwaves of their own, and even an enemy that seemingly teleports in close to attack, before teleporting away. The difficulty level is good, and adjustable, and enemy AI seems relentless, if not super sharp or intelligent like in, say, Killzone 2.

The demo is timed, in that you are free to roam and explore as you see fit, but the game will continually point you towards your next objective (which is one of the three missions on display here). A timer will eventually pop up, and once it expires, it automatically transports you to the mission, but I’m not completely aware of how long that was. All in all, it took me a good hour to complete the demo, and that’s including deaths and mission restarts from me getting used to the game.

Many people have compared this game to Prototype, but in my opinion, it is more like Crackdown, but executed with much more depth and polish. The good/bad system, experience points, level up system, combat, animations, controls, and locomotion are incredibly refined, and the demo left me severely wanting more, and eagerly awaiting when it hits Playstation 3 consoles on May 26th.

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