Yep. That’s right. Game reviews now, too. And for good reason.
At this point, it’s not like I see much church and state between the different types of entertainment I ingest. I play games. I watch movies. I read books. I watch TV. It all sort of cross-pollinates anyway, so why should I be afraid to wade in and comment on one part of the entertainment I enjoy? I know I’m never going to turn my blog into any sort of competition for Kotaku or Joystiq, but in a way, that might be what makes my game reviews worth reading. I’m not coming to a game as a hardcore gamer with the laundry list of demands they might have. Instead, when I play a game, I want to enjoy the experience and I have a certain set of criteria of my own that I want satisfied, and that perspective may well fit the way many of you play games as well.
For example, one of the very first blog posts I put up here was about the potential of “Fallout 3,” which I had just purchased at the time. I probably chipped away at “Fallout 3” for a total of about 50 hours over the next few months, and I barely dented the thing. It’s huge. It’s not a game… it’s an alternate world that you can get lost in. My buddy Kevin, who created that new ABC sitcom “Cougar Town,” just recently started playing the game and he told me today that he’s going to have to give the disc away if he plans on actually getting his show on the air in the fall. That’s not a casual game. That’s a lifestyle.
Something like the new Sucker Punch game “inFamous” fits far more neatly into my personal time frame, and I purchased the game just before I went on vacation. The same day I went down to E3, actually. I spent much of my vacation up late at night, bashing away at the game, and I finished playing the full campaign just a few hours before I came back to work last Friday.
And the verdict? Ridiculous amounts of fun, and highly recommended.
[more after the jump]
I’ve played a number of superhero games. After all, one of the best reasons to play a video game is to do things that you can’t do in real life. It’s a chance to try on a set of powers or a lifestyle that you would never experience otherwise. And, yes, much of what’s out there follows a very narrow set of possibilities, but I think that’s because the gaming industry is still, relatively speaking, fairly young. I just recently played “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and I abandoned it about halfway through. I was bored by the repetition of the gameplay and the way certain boss screens were just designed to punish you. That’s not fun. Not to me, anyway. I like to be challenged, but there comes a point at which it stops being pleasurable and just becomes an impossible task, gooched by some bit of faulty design or some move that’s required that I’m simply incapable of doing, evidently. I liked the extreme violence of the Wolverine game, if only because it seemed to point out just how tame and toothless most media representations are of a character who is, after all, carrying around eight giant razor blades all the time. It’s tricky when you licesnse a title or a character, too, because expectation can cripple even a creative game idea.
But with “inFamous,” Sucker Punch started from scratch, creating their own superhero character and their own world for him to explore. The game starts with the detonation of a package that’s being delivered by a guy named Cole. As Cole, you wake up in the middle of the blast radius, trying to remember what happened, and as you try to escape the blast zone, you keep getting zapped with waves of electricity from any outlet you stand near. It turns out, you’ve been transformed into a conduit for electricity, and all of your superhero powers are based on the use of that electricity. You can throw lightning, you can hurl lightning grenades, you can pull firestorms from the sky. As the game wears on, your powers continue to grow, and the last few hours of gameplay were interesting because of just how insanely powerful I’d become. I played through the campaign on the hard setting, which the game picked automatically. My fault, since I played the demo a few times before starting the game. It thought I did so well on that first walkthrough level that it decided I am an expert.
Still, I didn’t reset the difficulty because I enjoyed trying to figure out how to beat each new threat using the powers that Cole picks up. You have to use strategy as well as brute force if you plan on beating the game, and I love that the narrative is just as rewarding as the game play. I really loved playing “Assassin’s Creed” last year, but I was frustrated by the way the storyline shits the bed completely at the finish line. I know it’s part one of an ongoing story, but that’s no excuse. There’s room for more chapters in the “inFamous” story, too, but this game finishes on a very strong note, and I felt completely satisfied by the experience.
I’m definitely curious now to try “Prototype” and compare the two. Both see you playing an altered anti-hero in an urban landscape, but with fairly different sets of powers. I can tell you, though, that “inFamous” was that perfect blend of genuinely challenging gameplay, intuitive controls from the moment the game starts, and a story campaign that is engaging and entertaining the whole way through. That’s a pretty heady combination of elements, and it means “inFamous” earns a spot on my admittedly paltry game shelf. I’m not trading this one in so I can hopefully replay it. Next time, though, I’ll push the karma meter all the way to “Evil” to see what happens, after working so hard to make sure I played as “Good” this time through. I’m sure the changes won’t be huge, but it’ll be nice not to have to worry about anyone’s safety and just open up Cole’s powers all the way.
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