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Karma Has a Way of Hurting

August 1, 2009

     I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed so much that when a similar, sandbox sort of video game came out, I jumped on top of it.  Well, actually, the game that looked more like Assassin’s Creed, Prototype, wasn’t as good, but inFamous had superpowers, so I figured it would be a winner.  It’s about a poor bike messenger named Cole McGrath living in a fictional city called Empire City.  A package that he has to deliver ends up blowing up in his face, destroying a huge chunk of the city.  Power goes out, and a plague begins to ravage the city, so the government sets up a quarantine.  And Cole develops electricity-related powers, like Static.  Cole interacts with various other characters, including his pal Zeke, his ex-girlfriend Trish, and an FBI agent named Moya, as well as various superpowered gangs fighting over Empire City, which are led by the seductive Sasha, the old and bitter Alden, and the mysterious Kessler.  Over the course of the fighting, he can, depending the player, became a famous hero, or an infamous villain.

     So, you can run around Empire City, hopping across rooftops, using your electrity to zap, bombard, or slam into various enemies.  Or you can just punch them.  The game functions kind of like an FPS, except with electrity instead of guns.  And you can choose whether or not you kill anyone, which is nice.  Electricity is potentially less lethal than bullets.  You go around the city helping people, beating up bad guys, restoring power, and completing various other missions.  Crucial to the game is the Karma system, which determines what kinds of powers you receive as time goes on.  If you do good things, people like you more, and you get good powers.  If you do bad things (like kill people), people will run away from you or throw things at you, and you get evil powers.  Red electricity powers (Star Wars, anyone?).  You can glide, zap people, throw electricity grenades, toss objects, and even summon lightning storms.

     This is a really fun game with great gameplay and a highly compelling story.  The Karma system is a brilliant way of allowing people to pick their own path, though ultimately, either way, you end up having to make one decision that results in one of the most shocking and visceral twists in gaming (think Aerith Gainsborough).  The gameplay is quite intuitive, and you’ll pick up on how to use new powers really fast.  Certain missions can be hard, but for the most part, the difficulty curve is quite reasonable.  You may have to do some missions over, but the game’s auto-save function means that you may not even have to repeat a whole mission.  The characters are extremely interesting too, though the acting isn’t exactly the best I’ve ever heard.  Cole kind of sounds like Christian Bale’s Batman, and Zeke gets on your nerves a bit quickly.  I was happy to hear Jessica Strauss as Sasha, though, which I totally called, by the way.  The game’s cinematics look like comic book pages, which can be annoying at first, though they grow on you quickly.  And the graphics aren’t perfect, especially with faces, which often look twitchy.  But the backgrounds and actual city look great.  It’s fast-paced if you follow the story missions only, but it can also be slow and fun if you want to go around and clean up Empire City a block at a time.  So it’s your choice to be a hero or a villain.  But this is a great sandbox video game that’s one of the most fun Playstation 3 games of 2009.  If you own a PS3, it would be criminal of  you not to get this game.

Story: 9.2      Gameplay: 9.0      Presentation: 8.6      Soundtrack: 8.8      Acting: 8.2      Overall: 9.0

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