Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Infamous (PS3)

Infamous has frequently been referred to in recent weeks as "better than Crackdown." Based on my own experience, though, Infamous isn't even worthy of washing Crackdown's balls.

Obviously, your mileage and ball-washing may vary.

First off, and this is one of my all-too-frequent digressions, it amazes me how many people are now claiming that they loved Crackdown. When the game was released, it didn't review that well (average Metacritic score 83, which is solid but not spectacular), and the buzz it had going was cult buzz, not mainstream.

I throw that stone because I did love Crackdown (see here), and I have incredibly fond memories of the game. In so many ways, it was larger than life, and it's incredibly difficult to pull that off.

Then comes Infamous.

I played Infamous for a little over three hours and quit, and it's entirely possible that the game gets better. I no longer have the desire to find out.

Things I love about Infamous: the comic book-style story scenes.

Things I didn't love about Infamous:
--your sidekick Zeke, who is an incredible hick and totally annoying.
--the animation of Cole, the hero. It's funky and a little too fast for me, and it just doesn't feel right.
--Cole's superpower. It's electricity, but it feels like a gun with an electricity animation. And your second initial attack feels just like a grenade, even though it's an "electric blast" or something.
--the save system. It's a checkpoint system, and the checkpoints are way too far apart, at least for me.

Far more serious than these cumulative complaints, though, is a problem I encountered very early. In one of the very first missions, I was tasked with clearing guards from a bridge, at which point I was supposed to zap a panel to open a gate. Very straightforward.

To start off with, I couldn't just zap the panel and run like hell through the gate. That's okay. What's not okay is to clear every guard from the bridge, as well as every enemy "red dot" from the radar screen, and still not be able to open the gate.

It was dead-solid obvious what I was supposed to do, but I couldn't--the game wouldn't let me. I tried multiple blasts of electricity on the panel, I tried longer blasts of electricity, I tried everything I could think of that involved electricity, and I still couldn't open the gate.

I got so pissed off that I went to a freaking walkthrough and verified that I was supposed to be opening the gate by blasting the panel with electricity. Confirmed.

At this point, I'm so annoyed (and old and grouchy) that I'm ready to stop playing the damn game right there. But I'm also curious as to what's happened.

Eventually, I decide (entirely by chance) to jump off the bridge and take a look at the streets below. That's where I find three guards wandering around like the Keystone Kops--three guards who didn't show up on radar, and who seem entirely unable to walk up a ramp and find me on the bridge. Even though I was the one who knocked them off the bridge.


Once I took out the guards, even though they were no longer a threat, I was able to blast the panel once and the gate opened. Hooray!

When I see something like this so early in the game, I'm pretty much done. I never expect the second half of the game (with only rare exceptions) to be as polished as the first half, and if one of the very first missions is that stupid, I have better things to do.

There certainly other issues--most notably for me, that the density of enemies is high enough, and those enemies are skilled enough, that I never get the feeling of freedom that I did in Crackdown.

Like I said, I only played Infamous for three hours. I'm long past the days of wanting to finish a game just so I can write about it. If it doesn't keep me interested, I'm done.

The good news, though, is that Red Faction: Guerilla is a crazy-good, absolutely brilliant combination of Crackdown and Mercenaries, although in this case, 1+1=5. I'll be writing about it tomorrow or Monday, but in the meantime, it is a 100% solid gold purchase.

So I'm getting the open-world Crackdown fix that I wanted. I'm just not getting it from Infamous.

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