TGS 2008: Infamous Updated Impressions

When the studio that brought the world Sly Cooper showed off the latest version of its upcoming take on the superhero genre, we couldn't resist swooping in.

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TOKYO--Having caught a glimpse of Infamous at E3 and having instantly nominated it as one of the top action adventure games on show, we jumped at the chance to see a little more of this open-world superpowered endeavour from Sony. To recap: You play as a character called Cole, who was the lone survivor of a mysterious explosion that vaporised everyone in a six-block radius and who now finds himself with electrical superpowers. In response to the strange goings-on in Empire City, the government has apparently imposed a quarantine order and fenced off the entire place.

Empire City just got a whole lot more dangerous.
Empire City just got a whole lot more dangerous.

The story plays out in a graphic-novel-inspired world with very stylised cutscenes that move the story along. The idea of these is to tell the story in as efficient and interesting a way as possible to avoid "just mashing X" when you get back to the game itself, according to the the game's director.

This stylised look isn't limited to the cutscenes, either--the whole game has a slightly edgy, stylised feel to it. This doesn't make it feel cartoony but rather lends it something of a Frank Miller air of grit and edginess.

So, you are Cole, trying to make your way through Empire City, with the entire city as your playground. While there are story-led missions, the world is yours to explore as you will in a way that we've really not seen before. The game's developers assure us that anything that looks climbable is, and the world appears to be filled with all manner of items ripe for destruction and repurpousing, as well as a populace defenceless against both you and the reapers, the game's main antagonists--at least initially.

The mission shown at TGS is called Blood Trail. The main part of it kicks off when you find the corpse of the wife of the man you were sent to find. This triggers one of your newfound abilities, which we are assured will play a significant part in the game as a whole--that of postcognition. This lets you, by means of interacting with the residual electromagnetic impulses in the brain, tap into a person's final moments and the happenings around that time. In this instance you get a brief flashback to the woman's death, in which you see her husband flee the scene after they are set upon by the aforementioned reapers. Dropping out of the flashback sequence you see a trace of the husband fleeing along the route seen in the flashback. You're instructed to pursue, and a few fights ensue.

Combat looks very interesting indeed. Normal weapons are out of the question due to the lack of control that Cole has over some of his newfound abilities, but they are replaced by an array of different EM-themed attacks. An electrical grenade, for example, is a ball of energy that sticks to enemies and blows up as you might expect. Then there are more traditional electrification attacks, which can be used to idly torture passersby (if you're inclined that way, but more on that later), and the TK pulse, which sends a massive shock wave through the air that can toss obstacles out of the way. We're not just talking bits of garbage, either. A properly placed pulse tosses cars up into the air and can be a very valuable weapon in your arsenal if you get in a tight spot.

The environment can help you in other ways, too. Cole can climb seemingly anything, from walls to lampposts, but the enemies' climbing skills are rather more limited. So he can, for example, scramble up a pole and fling lightning at approaching enemies to thin them out before engaging them on the ground, or he can just rearrange the street furniture from on high to reset the battlefield to his advantage.

"Because it is there."

This type of cunning came into play later on in our demo as the enemies got tougher and we came across an elite reaper--one of the bad guys, who have been imbued with superpowers. The brief, full-on fight between Cole and this elite reaper was probably the highlight of the demo, showcasing the versatility of the combat and the superficial destructibility of the environment. Even more-excessive battles are promised, in the form of fights against the leaders of the various reaper factions, who reputedly have a combination of all the superpowers of the reapers under their command.

One thing that looks set to define Infamous is the level of freedom you have. It's possible to be reckless, cruel, and downright manic (we are assured that given suitable sadism, the people of the city will flee at the sight of you) and take the city that way, while taking your powers down a dark and destructive route. It's also possible to go down a friendlier route, using your powers to take out only the bad guys and taking time out to heal innocent bystanders who happen to get caught in the crossfire. If you go down this path, not only will your powers develop differently, but the police will start to come out of the woodwork and fight alongside you. The people of the city will adore you, and the look of the city will even improve as people begin to feel more hopeful for the future.

While we didn't get to see the deep morality system this time, or indeed the evolution of powers with it, we were assured those features would be on display soon, as would some new powers that make traversal of Empire City even easier. We'll keep you posted, so watch this space.

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