8.5

Assault and battery take on new meaning when you're actually a human battery.

To be a hero or to be an anti-hero: Infamous presents you with that question. You assume the role of Cole McGrath, a courier who ends up delivering a bomb that obliterates an entire island and mutates Cole into an energized weapon of mass destruction. Your quest begins, and now you have to you track down who set you up and decide whether you want to be naughty or nice about it.

The story of Cole McGrath is a gritty one. To best illustrate it, the cut scenes are told via motion comics. It takes place in a lawless quarantined Empire City made up of three islands, and very quickly McGrath is made out to be a terrorist as everyone learns it was he who unknowingly hand-delivered the key to their ruin.

Infamous is a sandbox action title and like all games of its genre, it follows the standard formula of 'start off weak with no powers and upgrade along the way to become a total bad ass at the end of the game'. Cole's powers are all electricity-based, and he'll only have a basic lighting bolt to wield at first, but will get much more powerful upgrades such as shock waves and grenades, bullet-time focusing and even the ability to command a lighting storm that you direct by moving the SIXASIS around.

The powers that you upgrade are also affected by the game's morality system. You have a karma meter that's influenced by critical decisions you make along the way, and you can only unlock certain powers by being aligned to either good or bad. Each side is divided into three ranks, and in order to obtain certain powers, your karma meter has to meet those ranks. If you want to enjoy the gameplay to the fullest, it's recommended you choose a side and commit to it until the game's conclusion.

The way the story plays out is also affected by the choices you make. Whether a character likes you or hates you all depends on if you're playing heroically or infamously. There are a good number of twists and turns that will be much different the other way around, so there's good incentive to play through the game again. Also, your character's appearance reflects that of your moral alignment; you'll look extremely sinister if you manage to achieve the rank of Infamous.

Moving around in Empire City is relatively easy. Cole McGrath is very agile, able to climb just about everything in the city including telephone poles, drainage pipes and ledges on buildings. He has a catlike grace and balance to him that lets him run along power lines and once the Induction Grinding ability is unlocked, he can zip across those lines, as well as train tracks, very quickly. With Static Thrusters unlocked, McGrath's mobility greatly increases, as he can hover and glide across building to building.

The only problem with running and jumping around as Cole is that he tends to grab onto too many things, making precision movement cumbersome. At times, the camera also works against you and flips you around so you're going the entirely different direction. There are even glitches in the game that end up getting him completely stuck in an object with no way to get out. There are also some ledges on buildings that definitely look like Cole should be able to grab but can't, and it starts to become frustrating when you know you can climb something, but the game won't let you.

Combat in the game is a lot of fun, and pretty well balanced. The game never forces you to deal with waves of opponents you can't beat without the proper powers. The reward of the combat system lies in the fact that you can deal out so much damage, and it looks so flashy and awesome when you do. It can be a bit hard to see where some enemies are shooting you from, though, as they can attack from far enough way that they won't show up on your radar. There is no target-lock ability, so the game will be a little more difficult for people who struggle with manual aiming.

Since Cole is a human battery - like all batteries - he'll run out of juice. Clicking in the left stick will send out a ping on his radar that will highlight any objects that he can drain electricity from, such as generators or light poles. Later on the game, he'll also acquire an ability that can siphon bioelectric energy from people. This is considered an Evil karma action, though, and if you don't feel like draining people, you can either heal wounded citizens or restrain your enemies.

Keeping true to the sandbox genre, Infamous contains a number of side missions to accomplish and hidden items to look for. The side missions are a double-edged sword, though, because they contain enough variety at first but become monotonous later. Cole's energy meter increases by gathering blast shards, of which there are 350 to collect. There are also 32 "dead drops", which are audio logs that reveal vital information about a conspiracy, and the wonderful thing about Cole's radar is that it helps him to locate these hidden items. This encourages the gamer to spend some of their time looking for these items.

Graphically, this is one of the better looking PS3 games of 2009. The textures are highly detailed, character models and environments are well built, and the special effects are full of light and energy. Explosions are powerful and fiery, and there's a lot of great usage of flying debris. The weaker points in the game's graphics are the awkward animations of running NPCs and noticeable dips in the frame rate. They're pretty minor, so they don't detract too much from the game's lively presentation.

Speaking of presentation, the audio does a great job in this department. The standout feature here is the simply amazing sound effects. Everything from explosions to electric sparks all sound alive and dangerous; the louder you have the volume up, the more you can get into the action. The voice acting for the most part is pretty good but Zeke's character is a goofy sounding one; it throws off the seriousness of the game a bit. The soundtrack of the game is terrific. Every track does its job in delivering mood and tension during the proper moments. It's what you'd expect to hear in a blockbuster action game.

Infamous is a complete package. It's got a great combat system and a large city to explore in, with many giant structures to climb. It's got an excellent story that changes depending on your moral choices, which welcomes another playthrough. It's a visually and audibly impressive game as well. It's one of the best titles of its genre, and it makes it very easy to recommend as a must-have PS3 game. Infamous now belongs in the Greatest Hits library, and that only sweetens the deal.

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