Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I think I love inFamous.

...and it's weird. I didn't think I loved it as much as I've discovered I do.

When I got my hands on it three months ago, I did what all OCD gamers do - I platinum'd it before I got my hands on The Next Game (in this case, Prototype) - and because I'd beaten that game into the bloody ground, it contentedly sat on my shelf for the duration of the summer. I didn't feel a need to go back to it, because I'd already done everything there was to be done - seen all there was to see.

But that's not how we used to play games, before achievements, is it? I'm not knocking achievements - a standardized system of keeping track of gamers' victories was a genius idea, on the part of Microsoft - and if anything else, trophies make a lovely indicator of what games we really, really don't care to platinum (Wanted: Weapons of Fate). But now, getting 1000 gamerscore or a platinum trophy feels like we're "finished" with a game. Why play it again? There's no point.

Sure there is. The same point there was before a platinum trophy was the symbol of your ultimate mastery of a title. The pleasure of it.

So having that trophy sort of blinded me to the old ways. Funny that the pursuit of another platinum trophy is what brought me back to inFamous this week.

I realized I only had five trophies left to go in Prototype - not too tall an order - so I started a fresh save file and started hunting for collectibles. It only took me a day or two, and once I was finished I happily continued on my way through the story. Happily, that is, until I remembered how godawful some of the mission designs are.

Like, really awful.

But I was still in the mood for open-world super-powered shenanigans, so I started up a new game of inFamous. And the more I played, the deeper I fell in love with a title I'd already played to death.

It's just so fun. I'm not talking story or production values or anything but the way the game plays - which is, in a word, perfectly. Well, no - not perfectly - it would be nice if, by holding down the drop button, Cole McGrath wouldn't reach for every bloody handhold on the way down a building. Aside from that? Perfect.

It feels absolutely right. Running and jumping around - unleashing a barrage of electricity into a crowd of enemies - calling down a storm from the sky to fry everything in its path. The fact that Sucker Punch nailed the platforming element is no great shock (the Sly games are brilliant platformers), but the way they married it so flawlessly to classic third-person shooting and an open world is what makes inFamous so damn addicting.

The graphic-novel story presentation, the stylish art direction, the above-par voice work and better-than-most story aren't selling features to me - they just compliment the rock-solid base that Sucker Punch laid out with its gameplay, pacing and mission design - and playing inFamous is more enjoyable than any other title so far this year.

Think on that for a moment. That's a bold statement. I'm including consideration for some seriously great games in that judgement - Resident Evil 5, Killzone 2, Prototype and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

I think those are all great games. Alright, so maybe most of them are just very good games (Batman is great) - but it's a grand step up from appreciating that a game is very good to saying that you love it.

You can qualify and quantify inFamous all you like - graphics, gameplay, production values - but the personal experience is just that. It varies from person to person, and this person loves it.

Seriously. I love the (pretty limited) interactions with pedestrians. I hear they're in talks to make an inFamous movie. In my mind, Movie-Cole walk through the city streets with another character, just talking. It doesn't matter what they're talking about, but as they stroll Cole nonchalantly slaps his hands together and - bamf! - shocks a sick person to health.

They keep on chatting - bamf - this and that - bamf - Cole casually heals the sick.

Before I laid hands on inFamous, I thought the whole lightning powers thing was pretty stupid. "I didn't mind that game with lightning powers," I thought, "back when it was called The Force Unleashed." But now, I accept that it was a pretty brilliant choice on the part of Sucker Punch.

Not only does it perfectly (pardon the pun) plug in to the world of an urban super hero, it's so damn pretty. I love sucking the energy out of a light standard, I love the sparks that dance across the screen, I love the Lightning Storm power.

Most of Cole's powers are analogs for standard shooter weapons - which makes it perfectly easy to pick up. Sucker Punch have mastered 3D platforming - which means getting accustomed to inFamous's gameplay is about as uncomfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans.

The missions are great (aside from those tedious "Counter Surveillance" side missions), the game is gorgeous (aside from the animation during in-game cutscenes), and everything just ends up feeling right when you play it.

Honestly - if you haven't yet - try the demo.

Just finished my most recent playthrough. Teared up at the ending. Goddamn it's good.

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