Infamous Updated Hands-On: New Island, New Powers, New Enemies

We try out an updated version of Sucker Punch's upcoming action game that lets you live the highs and lows of a superhero.

Seattle-based Sucker Punch's upcoming Infamous aims to offer up an interactive approximation of what it's like to be a superhero. This open-world game is an original title for the PlayStation 3 and has been making waves for the past two years at Sony's press conferences and assorted events. We recently had the chance to try out an updated version and run through some old and new missions as well as check out an all-new island that makes up another section of the once-shiny metropolis of Empire City.

If you've read our last few previews of Infamous you know that main character Cole is having a pretty bad few weeks. The ex-messenger is the only survivor of an epic explosion that left him with superpowers (once he got out of his coma) and that caused all manner of trouble for pretty much everyone else in the city. The upside for Cole is his amazing array of electrical powers, which, aside from being fun at parties, let him do some neat stuff. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Spider-Man's perforated Uncle Ben, with great power comes great baggage. In Cole's case, it means his heroic life is more "Batman" than "Superman" in terms of being accepted by the general population. Unfortunately, Cole is tied to the explosion that's causing all the trouble for everyone, because, as mostly bad luck would have it, his last pre-explosion delivery was to the building that went boom. This doesn't endear him to the locals--unflattering security camera footage will do that to you--and makes his budding hero career more of an uphill battle. But so it goes.

Cole's getting ready to deal some electrified pain in the PS3-exclusive Infamous.

Our demo started with a quick run through the early level that finds you guiding Cole through the start of the game and meeting his boy Zeke and lady friend Trish. The basics of the mission haven't changed; you still follow Zeke to collect his gun and head over to an airdrop of food. You help the food find its way to the ground for the people trying to get it, and you deal with the Reapers, a local gang. There's a bit more polish now, though, and the locals have some pretty distinct reactions to you. There's also some chatter from a local guerrilla broadcaster that pops up on video screens. It doesn't help Cole's social standing when that security cam footage is called up and people recognize him.

The next portion of the demo hopped forward into the game and found Cole helping Trish, who works as a makeshift field medic aiding the injured. In this particular instance, she's tending to people who are being injured by mysterious black water that's oozing out of nearby fountains. Unfortunately--and we'll say that a lot when describing Cole's situations--there's some friction with Trish, who is no longer one of Cole's fans (her sister was in the building that exploded). Still, like any good medic, Trish wants to make sure people get help, so she's chilly but communicative with Cole and explains the water problem.

Cole is able to help out by shutting off a valve that's letting the goop into the water supply, but he gets a splash of the gunk on his face. The mystery water blinds him and causes some odd side effects, which foreshadow what's coming later in the level. In addition to the vision problems, the gunk causes hallucinations and makes Cole receptive to telepathic chat with the Reapers' boss, who, in true evil leader form, is very much into monologuing.

Your first encounter with the gunk requires you to follow Trish to get some solvent to spray it out of your eyes. After you clean up, you guide Cole to three other valves, each of which spray the goop on him. This time out the effect from the gunk is temporary, although the Reaper boss just doesn't miss a chance to talk smack. Your valve-turning duties are complicated by roaming mobs of Reapers who are out to stop you. Dealing with them let us play around with Cole's powers and get a feel for using cover. While the mission was still fairly early in the game, we got access to Cole's grenade ability, which essentially let him toss sticky grenades that exploded with enough force to take out mobs. The catch, of course, is that the grenades drained his energy stores quickly, so he could toss out only a few before being tapped out and forced to recharge from available power supplies.

If we could do this in real life, you would all be our unwilling minions.

While there were ample light poles nearby, it was also handy to hop onto trees to avoid gunfire. Once the valves were shut down, we guided Cole to take out the source of the gunk, which lay at the end of an underground tunnel. The race up to the truck offered some intense, claustrophobic combat that was a nice counterpoint to the open-world aspects. We had to face off against mobs of Reapers, which was complicated because some of them were real while others appeared like hallucinations out of thin air (although they certainly hit like the real thing). We were impressed by the sheer amount of action and clutter on the screen due to explosions, gunfire, Cole's powers, hallucinatory weirdness from the gunk, and the onscreen representation of Cole's health. The frame rate dipped some, but for the most part, the action hummed along well.

Once we saved the town from the perils of black gunk, we finally got a chance to move on to a new district on the second island, dubbed the Warren. While you might assume that the Warrren may not be in the dire straits that the first island in Empire City is in because it wasn't near the blast, you'd be guessing wrong. Our first impression of Warren is that it's an even bigger mess, mainly due to the presence of a gang called the Dust Men. The aggressive group is made up of the various transients that were around the district and who, in the wake of the explosion, were mobilized into a group by a man named Alden. Since then, they've been terrorizing most of the area.

The new island, known as the Warren, looks to have a whole new set of challenges for Cole to overcome.

The local prison, staffed by the last remaining police officers, has become a fortress of sorts. Unfortunately the officers appeared to have bitten off more than they could chew at the start of our demo mission. Cole shows up just in time to help fend off an attack from the Dust Men, who are fighting mad that the officers have caught Alden and locked him up. Rather than question why their fearless leader was nabbed so easily, the surly gang assaults the prison in the hopes of springing him. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the many members of the Dust Men have gained their own unique superpowers. Unlike Cole's electric powers, the Dust Men's powers are telekinetic in nature, which makes things pretty interesting.

The level started out with you protecting Zeke from incoming debris flung over the prison walls by the gang. The most effective way to deal with the incoming balls of junk was to use Cole's EMP pulse at the right time and shove them back. While the pulse used up a fair amount of Cole's energy store, the grating he stood on was charged with electricity, which replenished him at a decent rate. Once the bombardment was over, things got nasty as the Dust Men blew some holes in the prison walls and began pouring in. Thankfully we had access to another new ability, called "precision," which essentially worked like a sniper rifle. We triggered it by hitting up on the directional pad to toggle the vision on and zooming in our view and slowing things down. We were able to target from a greater distance than Cole's standard lightning, although we were eating up energy while in the view.

Besides dealing with armed Dust Men, who wore eerie camouflage outfits, we had to contend with golem-like Dust Men soldiers who used surrounding debris to create makeshift suits of armor. As in the first part of the demo, Cole benefitted from standing on an electrified grill, which helped keep his energy high. Eventually, the Dust Men systematically took out his power supplies, which forced us to improvise. While we were still able to drain power from some objects, the faster solution was to perform the bio-drain move on normal Dust Men. To access the move, we had to engage in melee combat with an enemy and knock him to the ground. When enemies were on the ground, pressing R2 let us target them and gave us the option to bio-drain them, which leeches their personal bioelectricity to charge Cole. As you'd expect, it's not a great experience for the person you're leeching from, and it offers some very clear ideas on the game's morality system, which looks to fall somewhere in the neighborhood of Fable 2 or Mass Effect.

In fact, energy consumption and conservation became central issues in the latter part of the level as the Dust Men totally shut down the prison power grid, effectively leaving Cole with the morally ambiguous bio-drain as his only option to recharge. Our demo wrapped up with the grid being restored, which required us to do some platforming and shimmying around and up the battered prison. The trip highlighted the game's unique urban platforming, which mixes standard running and jumping with rock-climbing-style movements along nooks and crannies.

All told, the demo showed off a lot of promise, as well as the expected rough edges from a work in progress. The camera was a little troublesome in spots, the frame rate dipped in some areas, and the number of effects during some of the crazier combat segments, such as the tunnel battle, made it difficult to follow the action. Now, that all said, Infamous has a lot going for it. The game's open-world feel and the sheer freedom of hopping around and climbing places are very cool. The different ways you can use Cole's abilities and upgrade them--by collecting shards, which are debris you can absorb from the explosion--is a nice touch. We also have to call out the stylish cinematic screens that move the story along. Sucker Punch's games have always had a cool, artistic flair to them, and Infamous stays true to the spirit of the Sly Cooper comic panel motif, although clearly with a more hard-edge style. In fact, the layered, animated look of the cinematics gives them more life than some of the high production CG movies we've seen in other games.

Who's scared of flying metallic junk when you've got EMP blasts?

The visuals continue their positive development toward a finished product with more polish being layered in. We especially like the distinct personality the city is taking on the more we see of the game. The outdoor park area and claustrophobic tunnels of the black water mission had a unique look to them that was different from the first areas we saw. The Warren district offered another take on the ruined-city motif, with some subtle color-palette tweaks and different architecture that was very effective. The look extended to the Dust Men and golems we encountered, which all had a disturbing patchwork feel to them.

Based on what we played, Infamous is coming along nicely. The game seems to be doing a fine job of balancing style and substance with impressive visuals, engaging gameplay, and a meaty story. While there's still the expected assortment of rough edges, they're mostly overshadowed by the potential on display. The sense of freedom when you're going about your business, the intriguing story, and being able to mix up your powers and interact with the city are compelling draws. Infamous is slated to ship later this year for the PlayStation 3, so look for more on the game in the coming months.

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Discussion

100 comments
infamous64
infamous64

I'm a huge infamous fan i played infamous 5 times in 4 days an if it was on little xbox 360 it would be very bad!!!!

vecsim89
vecsim89

TheExpertPro is right. Prototype looks exactly like The Incredible Hulk : Ulitimate Destruction, it's a just a lot more violent. I like the looks of inFamous a hell of a lot better.

Timesplitt
Timesplitt

damn how in the hell is sucker punch still alive in this gaming environment

Newager
Newager

and also if it has bigger file size than prototype maybe its more worth it to buy this since PS3 plays bluray and 360 only normal dvd heheheh bluray disc ftw lolol, that doesnt guarantee the game will be good by just looking at its sheer size tho.. just joking...

Newager
Newager

somehow from the video i can see infamous is more fluid in movement, its just abit more slower but lets you do more stuff at the same time like when you hop onto the wall do lil bit of climbing and jumping, then land somewhere start shooting jump again kick punch combo then jump and electric stomp. I havent seen prototype dude does that, prototype somehow feels heavier on its run animation feels like he runs kinda too fast too maybe just the animation. but lets find out more...

feetonthetable
feetonthetable

I'm really excited for this game, but I'm keeping my expectations low, just in case.

TheExpertPro
TheExpertPro

prototype is just a new hulk. Ok, prototype has more cool trailers but infamous is more cool.

oblivionknight0
oblivionknight0

It's seeing great exclusive games like this which make me glad I have a PS3. I've been following this game for some time and I'm really looking forward to its release. This is gonna be a great year for the PS3 and for gaming in general if more titles with this kind of quality keep coming out.

War-Tex
War-Tex

Prototype will be better just cause it's coming on X360 too? I don't think so, Sucker Punch was always known for it's Sly Cooper games on the PS2. I'm not a fanboy, but I just think this game will be better than Prototype :|

gameie1994
gameie1994

Screw comparing the games, just buy em both :P

laser360
laser360

prototype is the best!!!

hazboticus
hazboticus

Man if only this we're coming out on 360!. kudos at shadowofkratos man, I hate when people come and console bash when we all know that this game looks amazing, and yes this year is going to be AMAZING for ps3, ff13, versus, prototype, Infamous, and probably loads more that I havent had time to drool over yet. This year is going to be fantastic for gaming overall with 360 getting some sweet content as well. My only hope is that ill have the 500-700$$ au to afford a ps3 later this year.

drgrady
drgrady

This has definite potential, but it reminds me a bit of Force Unleashed, which was a big disappointment. So until this and Prototype are released, I'll maintain low expectations for both.

paystation
paystation

carnt wait 4 this and prototype. going to buy them both. i still think this looks better. i dont like prototype as much because all you do is kill kill and kill some more. and you hv to many advatages so there wont be much of a challenge

Claverleykid
Claverleykid

brennan7777 you couldn't be more right. But this game looks better than Prototype anyway. IGN have said this themselves.

Mastema94
Mastema94

I wish I had a ps3 just have a 360 getting a job as soon as its my birthday... hopefully can't wait for this and prototype im getting this first though.

brennan7777
brennan7777

i laugh at the xbox fanboys who say "this game sucks prototype is better!" Well us ps3 owners will be getting both so mock all you want.

jagus12
jagus12

Prototype and THIS coming out... Im starting to think that 2009 will be one hell of a year :D

snake3rules
snake3rules

with the june release date now, I hope they can iron out all the "rough edges", because this seems like it could be a real winner for the ps3.

SuperSonicGoKu
SuperSonicGoKu

if your gonna buy a ps3 because of one game then im glad the recession is over cause damn thats a waste of money lol

hassy94
hassy94

Hmm, I own the Xbox, not the PS3 (hoping to quite soon), but this could be great as were the Sly Cooper games (While not amazing they were solid, fun, creative games), but for a game like this, the control scheme would need to be VERY different. I think for Prototype and Infamous, the controls will make or break them. Hoping to see both do well as while them seeming very similar at face value, I think they will both be very different experiences which should both be experienced.

Freept
Freept

I have an xbox 360 but Im not a PS3 hater, and I think this game looks awesome, I REALLY need a PS3!

Hedgyness
Hedgyness

I really need to get a PS3 soon...

tidyspidey
tidyspidey

Interesting premise, but it's easy to get a superhero type game oh so very wrong.... I'll wait for the reviews on this one I think.

ysef95
ysef95

i think the characters look good so i am thinking quite seriously about getting this game

agentarthur
agentarthur

LOL look at the character design - looks like all the cheap shaved head, slightly bearded bogans, a 3d graphic from the 90s in a 3d student short - when no-one wanted to do any hair whatsoever. when will games get proper designers to work on the lead characters? looks like he will say ' duh im that guy from resistance, oh and killzone, oh and gears of war, oh and this game, oh and final fantasy spirits within, and mass effect, and doom 3 and quake 4 oh and...it goes on..."

nemiisis
nemiisis

lol look at the little sony guys so scared of microsoft that when an exclusive with slight potential comes out they make sure to get there little comments bout how its exclusive and nothing really about their thoughts on the game....interesting

AyuSora
AyuSora

i wish i had a ps3 even more now...

auron_16
auron_16

I... want.... this.... game!!

Jackyll87
Jackyll87

'After you clean up, you guide Cole to three other valves, each of which spray the goop on him' Wow...and I thought superheroes were meant to be smart. Sunglasses anyone ?

Supericano2
Supericano2

I'm getting this & Prototype, lol @ skullcandy some people don't know how the industry works

kamos95
kamos95

It`s a great game, but it have his bit like Prototype

charonill
charonill

Looks great, but kinda reminds me of Staticshock.

funnysplay
funnysplay

One of many great sony exclusives to come this year.

Zidaneski
Zidaneski

If the story is good and everything runs really smooth it could definitely be a contender for GOTY. It will have some stiff competition like Team Ico's new game.

luismsl
luismsl

Looks awesome.Can't wait to put may hands on it. I'm confident that it's going to be much better than Force Unleashed

beekayjay
beekayjay

Nice screenshots, all I can say....still wondering if this or Prototype gets my money.

acdarkknight
acdarkknight

@skullcandy yeah infamous will get ported when uncharted and killzone do since SONY OWNS ALL OF THOSE STUDIOS TOO!!......dummy Anyway this looks sick! Quick question for all of you sony guys: GOTY 09? what do you think it will be?

billyjunxix
billyjunxix

Cant wait for this game. another GOTY for PS3.

jazilla
jazilla

this game looks great. more exclusives like this and i will definitely be getting a ps3!

IIHitandRunII
IIHitandRunII

Looks like Crackdown but much cooler.... can't wait