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Just A Spark: inFamous gives a jolt to the genre 

You ever see that movie called Powder?Power can make you blue. Consider Cole, the protagonist of inFamous. All he needs to do is walk up

click to enlarge You ever see that movie called Powder?
  • You ever see that movie called Powder?
You ever see that movie called Powder?Power can make you blue. Consider Cole, the protagonist of inFamous. All he needs to do is walk up to a circuit box, flex his arms, and he's suddenly streaming with power. It crackles across his hands and curls around his thighs, covering him in an electric glow. One of the residents of Empire City described it as a "halo."

Of course, that was after Cole cleaned up the neighborhood. At first, almost every resident thought that Cole was a terrorist. A mysterious explosion had destroyed the city center. They blamed his powers for the blast. They associated him with the ensuing onslaught of psychotics known as "reapers." But now that Cole busies himself with zapping the reapers and healing civilians, everyone adores him.

He could have easily used his powers for evil. Every citizen has a small spark of organic electricity, and Cole can suck it out of them as easily as he pulls it from the city's power grid. But instead of a life of infamy, Cole elected the path of fame. Of course he can always change his mind. Customization is one of the joys of being a videogame hero, and in inFamous the path between good and evil conveniently forks during obvious, awkward "Karma Moments."

Most of the time, Cole just has a lot of free-form fun. He can blast enemies with bursts of power from his hands, or pin them to the ground with electrical energy. He can glide through the air by hovering on static electricity. And he can climb and leap all over the city, hurling off rooftops and riding atop trains.

As the hero (or anti-hero) who is directly responsible for the city's resurrection, Cole is bearing up remarkably well, especially considering how repetitive his tasks are. Reapers are perpetually trying to poison water towers, and the government always needs Cole's help in restoring its communications grid. But Cole hasn't shown any fatigue. inFamous is a long game, and if the limited cycle of heroic activities is getting to him, he hasn't cracked yet. If anything, he's just looking a little blue.

THE GOOD: inFamous is dynamic. Walking across sky-spanning cables, skidding along train tracks, shooting enemies and swinging from cellphone towers all happen in the space of a minute. Yet I rarely feel like I'm unable to precisely navigate Cole. Even when he's leaping from one urban outcropping to another, he consistently moves according to my intentions. The designers of inFamous have created an extremely kinetic game in a sprawling, multifaceted landscape, and they've given it a fluid, seamless control scheme.

THE BAD: For some reason videogames have been burdened with narratives, as though they were interactive books or movies. inFamous's story-which is a confused psychodrama involving Cole, his former lover, her family, the government and a secret society-is incoherent and atrociously written. If I want bad drama, I can watch TV.

THE BOTTOM LINE: With a go-anywhere city perfect for leaping, flying, dashing and fighting, the only clunky thing about inFamous is its hero's inner life.

inFamous ★★★★✩
Rated Teen; PlayStation 3


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