Tuesday, June 09, 2009
A game which will live in infamy
My review of inFamous is up at thephoenix.com. It's the most negative review of the game I'm aware of. Most people I've talked to like the game, or even love it. So let's stipulate now that I'm a total idiot, I should be fired, and Microsoft is paying me off. It's all true.
Although I wasn't having fun almost all the time while playing this game, in the interest of fairness I should say that inFamous did speak to the completionist in me. The side missions get repetitive fast, but almost all of them take only a couple of minutes to complete. And when you finish one, a big chunk of your map gets transformed from "gang territory" to "liberation nation."* It's really satisfying -- more satisfying than blowing things up, for sure.
inFamous also scatters a liberal amount of collectable "Blast Shards" around the environment. Collecting the shards nets you a small amount of XP, and also earns you more electrical energy for your crimefighting. It's not as fun as hunting for the agility orbs in Crackdown, because the rewards aren't as great, and the platforming isn't as fun. (Often, the shards are below you on a building, and inFamous makes it very hard to move downward.) But it's still pretty absorbing, especially because your radar shows you where they are, which is a feature I could definitely use in my ongoing quest to find the last agility orb in Crackdown.
Still, moment-to-moment I thought the game was no fun at all, because the action was a grind, and the platforming was obnoxious. Battles played out the same from start to finish, no matter what powers you had or who the enemies were. As for the platforming, I was not a huge fan of the massive auto-assist. The only time I really liked it was when I'd jump off the roof of a building onto a powerline. The rest of the time, it seemed like the game was constantly overturning my decisions. I don't know if my armchair quarterbacking is all that helpful, but I think both of these problems might have been solved, or at least ameliorated, with the same fix.
First, I think they should have reduced the number of Cole's powers. I'm not joking. There are so damn many that I tended to forget about them, and a bunch of them never came in handy (I'm thinking specifically of the charged shot, which was mapped to R2). Other than the Lightning Storm, which you get late in the game, none of them really take advantage of the electrical conceit. They were the same attacks you see in any action game. So one or more could have been jettisoned without adversely affecting the gameplay.
Then, a spare button could be used for a Shadow of the Colossus-style "grab" function. That way, Cole would stick to things only when the player wanted him to. I can't tell you how often he would cling onto a light pole or something while I was trying to get away from a pack of enemies, or how often I tried to jump off of a building, only to have him spin around in mid-air and get sucked back like it was a black hole. Also, the actions to take cover and to dive out of the way are mapped to the same button, which means that you often dive out of the way when you mean to take cover. A grab button would have done away with all of this.
There are probably a million reasons why that wouldn't have worked. I'm trying to be constructive here!
*Not in-game terms.