Infamous is going to be with us before the end of the month, a fact that's bound to excite PlayStation 3 owners around the globe. That said, the game arrives at a strange time--just before this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, a time when gamers are generally fixated on the future. But from what we've played of a brand-new four-level demo, Infamous could well tear you away from the news announcements and game demos that are due to happen in the first week of June. From its impeccable animation, superb level design, and interesting moral system, this is a game with plenty of potential--the only thing we need to find out now is whether it can maintain that momentum over an entire game.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The Blu-ray we received from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe contained four levels from the final game. It wasn't finished code--there was no main menu, for a start, but these levels were spread out throughout the game. They took us from the very beginning of the game, where we learned the basics of the controls, right through to becoming a super-powerful dark-sided badass.
The game is set in a postapocalyptic city, devastated from a weapon that you, as the character of Cole, unwittingly delivered. The city is now quarantined--filled with survivors who have formed gangs and civilians starving on the streets. Luckily for Cole, the explosion causes him to inherit electric-based powers, allowing him to electrocute people, send out shock waves, and survive giant falls.
The first level of the demo, Food Drop, introduces you to Cole's basic powers. You start at the top of a building with your friend Zeke, a fellow messenger who helps you explore your various abilities. You can electrocute people and objects by holding L1 and then tapping R1, and you can send out shock waves by holding L1 and pressing X. You can also hold square when falling from a height to land with an electric shock, knocking enemies to the ground where you can finish them off. Using your electricity-based powers quickly drains you, though, so you have to find recharge points and hold L2 to drain them of their juice.
In the first mission, you have to head to the centre of the city where food parcels have been dropped off to the starving masses. Dallas, or The Voice of Survival as he calls himself, comes on the TV to tell people about it before scavengers get to the parcels. Once there, you get your first taste of Cole's acrobatic abilities, as he clambers up lampposts, across beams, and along ledges to make it to the top, where he electrocutes the weak joint that's holding the food parcels above the ground.
Infamous boasts what could be described as an adaptive animation system, meaning that wherever you jump, the game will automatically adapt to that surface. It's quite brilliant to see in motion, giving onlookers the impression you know the world inside and out as you move naturally around. However, in most situations you just push the direction you want to go and press jump, and the game does the rest. The game makes surprisingly few mistakes--only occasionally did we end up plummeting to our death--but there's a possibility that some gamers will find it all just a little bit too easy.
The second mission we played was actually a boss encounter called Reaper Boss, where you have to fight a deranged woman who wants to take Cole on a date. Her main attacks are tentacles that throw fireballs at you, but you can deflect them using your shock wave move. She's also able to summon basic enemies, but you can ignore them and shoot at the boss instead. Infamous incorporates quick-time events during this fight, where you have to pull off parts of her suit by tapping the X button and moving the joystick in the direction indicated onscreen.
The third mission is where things really got interesting, and it took place quite a way into the game's story. Cole had turned into a "darker" version of himself, with many abilities to fit. He was able to perform finishing moves on downed enemies. You can hold R1, press square, and tap a button to suck the life out of your foes or even civilians. This also gives you a boost of electricity, so it's sometimes your best option if you're lacking other energy points.
As Cole becomes more powerful, he also inherits some really destructive new abilities. He can throw huge bolts of energy, and he can even throw them like grenades. The purpose of the third mission was to move around a small corner of the city destroying tanks that have been firing on civilians. This was an opportunity to jump from rooftop to rooftop, picking off enemies one by one and then waiting to jump on the tanks. One great touch is being able to slide along electricity cables to move quickly from building to building, while replenishing your supply along the way.
The final mission, called Jail, was an unbelievably difficult prison break, where you have to save your friend Zeke from incarceration. The onslaught of enemies becomes so great that you need to jump on electric plates just so you have a constant supply of electricity to stay alive. We really enjoyed this section, because you get to scale the huge prison building, but the enemies were so powerful that we admit to not being able to finish this mission.
One final thing to note is how well Infamous is presented, with animated panels telling the story as you go along. They follow the same style as Mirror's Edge, but from what we've seen of Infamous, we have to admit to preferring the latter. If you want to see more of the game in action, be sure to check out our video preview above, which has plenty of HD footage about all the things we talked about. And check back next week to see our review.