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inFamous Demo Impressions

inFamous marks a bit of a departure for Sucker Punch Productions. Most notable for its stealthy platforming series Sly Cooper, the developer has taken its latest title in an entirely different direction. inFamous is a dark superhero/antihero tale which offers players the choice to save or exploit a dying city and, from the evidence of the demo, there are some interesting concepts at work in the game.You take on the role of Cole MacGrath, an everyman courier who delivers a package to downtown Empire City, prompting a huge explosion which destroys everything in a six block radius. Apart from Cole.  Waking up a fortnight later, Cole discovers a city in chaos; a plague followed the explosion and the federal government has quarantined the city, trapping its citizens in a world of destruction and crime.  Cole, however, has somehow developed powers – based around electricity – and must now decide whether to use them to save the people of Empire City (most of whom believe him to be responsible for the disaster in the first place) or serve himself, and this is the conceit at the heart of the game.The demo begins with Cole as a Hero (indicated by blue electrical powers) and tasks him with rescuing a train full of prisoners captured by the Reapers, one of three major criminal organisations in the game. Navigating Cole around Empire City is a breeze and it’s clear Sucker Punch have put a lot of work into the way he interacts with his environment. The game is already being compared to Crackdown due to its super-powers-in-an-open-world concept and, like its 360 counterpart, verticality plays a big part in inFamous. Direct a jumping Cole towards a structure of some kind and, nine times out of ten, he will grab on to it, allowing him to climb upwards. The climbing is very well-implemented and although, essentially, the game does a lot of the work for you it still feels satisfying. Buildings can be scaled in seconds and, once up high, Cole can leap from rooftop to rooftop using his static thruster power, elongating his jumping distance considerably. But this is just one of the powers on display in the demo, with the others relating to combat.As you ride the train through the city, you’ll encounter many Reapers, determined to kill the only threat to their dominance in Empire City. Cole can deal with these in a number of ways.  For one, you can engage in melee combat using the square button, allowing you to take down enemies with a pretty basic punch and kick combo. However, the fun lies in his electrical powers – holding L1 will bring up your power target reticule and tapping R1 will fire a bolt of electricity at the target. The X button will unleash a wave of electrical energy which can launch people and cars into mid air while pressing square will throw a kind of electrical stun grenade. You can aim these powers directly at your enemies or you can get creative and use them on the surrounding environment which will award you with extra XP.The XP system rewards you for the ways in which you defeat enemies and ties into the Karma system at the heart of the game. For example you’ll gain XP for taking enemies alive by tapping R1 (when they are incapacitated) and choosing the electrical cuffs option. However, you can also choose to drain downed enemies of their energy, which causes you to lose XP. The same choice applies to fallen citizens – you can save them with your defibrillation power, or you can choose to let them die. As mentioned earlier, these decisions affect your progression through the game and, while there wasn’t much of this on show in the demo, two of the four included levels allow you play as inFamous Cole.Baddie Cole (signified by red powers), at least in the demo, has more magnified powers at his disposal. For example his shock bolt seems more powerful and his stun grenade becomes more like a cluster bomb. Without giving too much away, the two missions as inFamous Cole see him facing off against more enemies in some pretty action-packed scenarios. You’ll soon come to realise that Cole is far from indestructible and will need to monitor both your power and health closely. See, while Cole can use electricity, he can’t generate it so he must use his environment to recharge his power and health. This is done by locking onto power sources and draining energy from them. However, some areas of the city have been powered down completely so you’ll have to think tactically when engaging in combat.From our time with the demo, we found inFamous to be an impressive open-world action romp. Although we only sampled a few of the powers, they were still fun to use and really become compelling when you begin to chain them together. Equally, the way Cole moves around the city is also enjoyable and the climbing and jumping mechanics work very nicely. However, despite being able to play as infamous Cole, we still don’t know much about the Karma system and it will be interesting to see just how much choice the player is afforded in the full game, and what repercussions those choices will have.  

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