It’s back to business as usual with my feature. Last week I discussed a few movie based games that were all quite different from each other and weren’t even part of the same series, but “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn Part 27” will go back to the usual formula where I choose one series of games and discuss each game back to back. This is my comfort zone, baby. This article will be dedicated to the Infamous series, one of the better series of games out there that put you in control of a guy with awesome superpowers. The fact these are standalone games with their own established stories not connected to Marvel or DC comics make them extra special for me in particular. Let’s get to it!
Deciding which of the Infamous games was my favorite proved difficult for me, but I feel I have them all properly scored. I like all the games very much and they’re all really close in terms of fun factor and overall quality, but I would have to go with the first Infamous as my absolute favorite of the series. The setting and story for this game are a series high point. You take control of bike messenger Cole MacGrath as he is caught in the middle of an explosion that almost completely levels a large portion of Empire City, but instead of killing him, the explosion grants Cole the ability to absorb and manipulate electricity. The city is then quarantined and becomes a demilitarized zone, with different gangs of freaks, some of which were also granted powers of their own from the explosion, causing lots of trouble for the rest of the citizens trapped inside the city with them. Cole, as one of the stronger superpowered individuals (labeled as “Conduits”) in the city, can use his powers to do what he can to help the innocent civilians and police still left, or he can ignore the needs of others and use his gifts to make himself the dominant force of the city.
Advancing through the story will grant Cole with additional electric-based attacks like electric grenades, missiles, shockwave blasts, and even the very satisfying ability to call down a huge lightning bolt to clear out multiple enemies in front of you and greatly damage stronger enemies (this attack is pretty much the only example I can think of where the Six-Axis controls were well used). Cole can also strike enemies with electrically charged punches and kicks, but otherwise melee combat is very basic and not always advised since most enemies will shoot Cole up before he can get within striking distance. Cole’s powers can be upgraded in different ways depending on his karmic alignment, namely gaining more abilities that focus on precision if he’s good or are more destructive if he’s evil, not to mention his lightning turns red in his evil state as opposed to the blue lightning of his good persona. Getting around the city is at first a little time-consuming since Cole has to rely solely on his parkour/free running skills to climb buildings and structures, but once he acquires the ability to grind along power lines and train tracks he can traverse the city more easily. His one real weakness is, of course, water, and should he fall into even waist high water for too long, he will die.
Mission variety is respectable and can change somewhat depending on whether Cole is good or evil. Aside from the main missions where Cole will deal with the different gangs causing trouble in the city, the side-missions offer different objectives like stopping/starting gang wars, attacking police/gang strongholds, escorting/executing prisoners, assisting/assassinating civilians, and the like. The enemies themselves consist mostly of guys with guns, though there are plenty of other enemies with special abilities of their own like smaller-scaled electric powers, telekinesis, aura manipulation, and invisibility, making for a diverse collection of enemies to fight. The three boss battles are also quite fun and get progressively tougher. As previously mentioned, Cole can be a good guy or a bad guy, and his moral inclinations (a.k.a.= karma) are molded by the decisions and actions of the player. During gameplay, making sure to help and heal civilians helps Cole rise in the halls of goodness, while indiscriminately killing civilians and even harming them by accident while fighting bad guys leads to him falling into the depths of naughtiness.
Certain decisions presented to Cole throughout the story have the strongest impact on his moral standing, and they change up not only the cutscenes between missions but also how the city views Cole. Good Cole will be praised by civilians and they will even assist him in fighting bad guys, while Evil Cole will be scorned and even attacked by civilians on occasion. The moral decisions themselves are mostly black and white, making it easy for you to choose the “correct” decision based on whether you want to be good or evil, though there was one late game decision which gave me great pause. Unfortunately, the ending isn’t largely affected by Cole’s karma; the final boss battle is exactly the same in both the good and evil playthroughs, while the final end credits scene does change somewhat. Still, the narrative, interesting cast of characters, impressive enemy variety, and engrossing setting combine into what I find to be a fun and memorable game overall. Infamous gets a score of 92%.
Infamous 2 (PS3)
This sequel improves on several of the previous game’s features, but none of them were too drastic either. Infamous 2 was basically Infamous with a shiny new coat of paint, and a couple extra tweaks added in there. Taking place one month after the previous game, Cole and his friends are at Empire City preparing to catch a boat to New Marais where Cole can hopefully increase his powers in order to prepare for the impending arrival of the god-like Conduit known as the Beast. In an unfortunate twist of fate, the Beast shows up sooner than expected and starts wrecking the city, and although Cole does everything he can to defeat the Beast, he ends up getting his ass kicked and Empire City is destroyed. In New Marais, Cole must empower himself further in order to challenge the Beast again, but naturally he’s got other enemies standing in his way. An armed group of yahoos known as the Militia have placed the city on lockdown and are leading the charge on an anti-Conduit movement, another group of Conduits with ice powers are running amok, and a bunch of ugly monsters known as the Corrupted are causing havoc of their own. So, much like the first game, this one has some impressive enemy variety, and some of them are quite tough.
The city of New Marais also has a more varied look to it than Empire City before it. Whereas the first city was mostly just an urban setting with lots of gray buildings and the occasional parks, New Marais was basically the New Orleans of the Infamous universe. One part of the city had a red light district, a few mansions, a large church, and some swamp surrounding swamp lands, while the other main part of the city had an industrial district, a train yard, and even a flooded area that was previously hit by a nasty storm. Despite New Marais’ more varied look, it lacked Empire City’s character. To me New Marais was just another city, albeit a fun one, whereas Empire City was a place with a dark past, hidden secrets, and a lawless “kill or be killed” vibe to it. As for Cole himself, well he felt largely the same as he did before. He does gain some newer electric powers like stronger bolt attacks and the ability to throw a ball of electricity that creates a small tornado capable of decimating large groups of smaller enemies. Depending on his karmic alignment, Cole’s powers will gain different upgrades, and he will also gain ice-based versions of some of his powers as a good guy, while his evil incarnation will gain access to napalm-based powers. These additions do shake things up a bit, but aren’t big game changers either.
One of the main issues I had with this game was how Cole doesn’t really feel much more powerful at all in this game compared to how he was in the first one. Most of this game has him regaining powers he already possessed in the first game because, naturally, he lost them through a convenient plot device in the form of the Beast draining away some of his powers in the intro. Sucker Punch promised us a more powerful Cole MacGrath while they were developing this game, but I didn’t really feel that was the case for the most part. It’s not until Cole regains his Lightning Storm (or Ionic Storm) that he starts feeling like a slightly beefed up version of his previous self, but that doesn’t happen until the penultimate main mission, which was quite disappointing for me. At the very least, melee combat was improved upon since Cole can now use a club-like device called the Amp that he can charge up with electricity and use it to smack enemies around with some flashy looking melee combos. The story was good, but it didn’t impress me quite as much as the first game’s, however, playing as Good Cole or Evil Cole did greatly change not only how certain main missions played out but also the final mission and ending to a much greater degree.
The standalone DLC Festival of Blood changes things up a bit in a unique way. Taking place at some point during the main game, Cole’s buddy Zeke regales some woman at a bar with a (completely bullshit) story about an adventure he and Cole undertook fighting vampires in New Marais during a holiday known as Pyre Night, which is basically Halloween combined with Mardi Gras. You play as Cole through Zeke’s fictional story, which begins with Cole getting himself turned into a vampire by Bloody Mary, the queen of the vampires. This not only automatically gives him the evil version of his electric powers with the red lightning, but he also gains the ability to turn into a swarm of bats to fly through the air and use a vision-based power that lets him spot disguised vampires and normally invisible glyphs. These new vampiric abilities are fueled by a blood meter that can only be refilled when Cole drinks the blood of civilians (thankfully, the blood meter replaces the karma meter). Fighting different types of vampire enemies was fun given that they offered decent challenges, and while they could be incapacitated by Cole’s electric attacks, they could only be killed by him if he pierces their hearts with the stake he wields. Even New Marais itself looks quite different due to all the citizens running around with masks and glow sticks, as well as all the party-themed decorations like balloons, firework stations, and concert stages set up everywhere. Definitely one of the better DLC games I’ve played, probably second only to Red Dead Redemption‘s DLC, Undead Nightmare.
Overall, this game does plenty right, but to me it comes in as a close second to the previous game, both in order and in stature. Infamous 2 gets a score of 88%.
Infamous: Second Son (PS4)
Like the game that came before it, Infamous: Second Son does very little to set itself apart from its predecessors. Taking place seven years after the good/hero ending of Infamous 2, this game puts you in the role of Delsin Rowe, a juvenile delinquent of the Akomish tribe located just outside of Seattle. After being caught in the middle of a situation involving a prisoner transport truck crashing and setting loose several Conduits (now labeled “Bio-terrorists”), most of Delsin’s tribe are mortally wounded through the interrogation methods of the main villain, Brooke Augustine, head of the DUP (Department of Unified Protection) which is charged with imprisoning all “Bio-terrorists” they come across. Delsin also discovers that he is a special type of Conduit, specifically one who can copy the powers of others simply by touching them, and after acquiring the smoke powers of one of the escaped Conduits, he goes with his brother Reggie to Seattle in order to take Augustine’s concrete powers and use them to save the lives of his tribe.
Where Second Son easily trumps the previous two games is in the powers department. As fun as Cole’s electric powers were, Delsin’s ability to use multiple powers gives him much greater variety in the different ways he can do away with enemies. He can use smoke, neon, video, and concrete (though he doesn’t acquire this last power until the very end of the game), and each of the powers actually feel rather different. While all four powers let Delsin launch all manner of projectiles at enemies, they also each offer a few different specialized abilities. Smoke lets Delsin fly through air vents as a puff of smoke in order to reach rooftops in a flash, neon lets him run at increased speeds along the ground and up the sides of buildings, video lets him sprout a pair of holographic wings to make short but extra quick dashes up the sides of buildings or in the air, as well as turn invisible and summon holographic minions to fight alongside him, and concrete lets him hover in the air longer than he can with his other powers and even charge down the street encased in concrete armor. So, not only do these different powers make Delsin a force to be reckoned with in a fight, but they let him traverse the city more fluidly and stylishly than Cole ever could in the first two games.
The game’s graphics are far superior as well, with the city of Seattle looking very nice and detailed, and the lighting effects in particular are a sight to behold, especially when Delsin uses the neon power. But everything else about this game is the familiar business as usual from the previous games. The missions are fun and normally entail Delsin taking down DUP agents and chasing them out of the city, as well as dealing with the occasional drug bust and so on. Side-missions are structured differently as they are all the same in each of the different districts of Seattle: find hidden cameras, chase down undercover DUP agents, clear out DUP checkpoints, free imprisoned Conduits, and deface public property through spray painting; these were entertaining enough, but still repetitive. Enemy variety was kind of weak since Delsin would sometimes fight gangsters/police and drug dealers, but normally he deals with DUP agents and their combination of firearms, vehicles, and concrete powers. That’s it. The story was good too, though not quite as good as the first two games’ stories. Delsin’s relationship with his brother Reggie was well done and they displayed a realistic brotherly bond through their conversations and humorous disagreements. However, the strong focus on the two brothers combined with the story’s short length resulted in Delsin’s relationships with other characters lacking in depth by comparison; the other characters simply didn’t have enough screen time. The karma system is also unchanged from the previous games.
Speaking of other characters, the standalone DLC First Light puts you in control of fan favorite secondary character Abigail Walker, better known as Fetch. We get a quick glimpse of her background in the main game through a flashback, but First Light lets us experience Fetch’s tortured past firsthand in much more detail, and I personally grew to like her character a lot more after playing this DLC. While she only has access to the neon power, she utilizes it in a generally superior fashion compared to Delsin and can pull off more tricks, like being able to phase through objects like fences and balconies that would normally impede Delsin while running at light speed. Fetch can also store more neon energy and fire it at an increased rate, plus she can run through special “neon clouds” placed all over the city to momentarily increase her speed while running at light speed. Despite the fact the enemies she faces are basically the same as those in the main game, the different missions she takes part in are more varied and entail objectives like guarding friendly targets, sniping distant enemies, hunting down enemy targets, and so on. I also found the story to be even better than Second Son‘s, despite its lack of a karma system. It was intensely dramatic and made me appreciate Fetch a lot more than I did playing the main game.
So, this game was great too, but its short length and higher level of repetition earns it the bottom spot in the Infamous series, but it’s still better than a lot of other games out there. Infamous: Second Son gets a score of 85%.
This brings my discussion of the Infamous series to an end. I actually hope that Sucker Punch decides to continue the story someday with a fourth game since there are still a couple of loose threads in the story that leave things open enough for a sequel. Should they develop another game though, I would hope that they try to change things up a bit, mainly that they add a more dynamic karma system that lets you be more than just a really good guy or a really evil guy and force you to make more difficult decisions to test your morality. They should also change up how powers work. In all three of the games above, all the different powers have you blasting enemies from a distance with some form of projectile attack and occasionally getting some shots in up close through melee combat, making them all feel strangely similar. In order for another game in the series to not feel too much like the ones before it, I feel it would be best if the powers functioned differently. For example, some powers could focus more on melee combat, others on shooting projectiles, and perhaps even others could focus on stealth or even flight (there should seriously be more flying in these types of games).
I still highly recommend the Infamous series for those who crave playing as superpowered individuals in open world settings that are not already connected to previously established superhero series. Join me next week for Part 28 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” which will be a sort of two-for-one special edition that will focus on two different series of games: Prototype and Darksiders. Sounds fun, right? While you wait, take a look at more of our site’s literature below:
Kane lists his favorite gaming memes for our viewing pleasure right here.
James speaks my language in his feature article on the topic of unlocking the hard mode in video games and why it should just automatically be available in all games from the beginning. Check it out over here.
Will reviews the PC release of Code of Princess right here.
Ian proves he’s one of probably twenty people who actually enjoyed Resident Evil 6 in his review of the remastered edition, which you can find here.
Michael takes it upon himself to share an experience he had with a case of Worms in his latest “Retro Respawn” over here.