'inFAMOUS' a thrilling ride

Players can choose to follow a good or evil arc as Cole McGrath.

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You're going to see lots of negative comments about this game in the early parts of this review, but I only mention them because I care. The bottom line is you won't want to stop playing "inFAMOUS" from the moment you pick up the controller, and there are few higher compliments than this.

I'll get the vitriol out of my system early by saying the story and characters of "inFAMOUS" stink. The setup falls in line with standard comic book fare, with unassuming everyman Cole McGrath coming into possession of a bomb that destroys a large chunk of his city and bestows him with electrical superpowers. But the plot and characters can't hope to match the more sophisticated tales of actual comic books.

The moral karma system, one of the game's main selling points, also feels mostly superfluous. Changing from good to evil alignment and vice versa mid-game are possible, but doing so only slows down your character's ability growth. Even if you decide to embrace pure evil, McGrath still has to take on objectively selfless and good-willed tasks to move the story along, so you'll never feel like you're playing as a true super-villain.

The gameplay differences between the good and evil arcs aren't significantly different, either. Each alignment has an exclusive ability (and neither is particularly useful), and the good and evil side missions differ only in the characters involved with them, not how you play them. If you complete "inFAMOUS" as a hero, then start a new game intending to be purely villainous and expect the journey to be radically different, prepare to be disappointed.

Developer Sucker Punch didn't get into this business for being expert wordsmiths, though, and "inFAMOUS" showcases what that team does best: fun game play. Not once in my entire playtime did I get frustrated with the controls' responsiveness, the camera placement or even dying. It perfectly hits that sweet spot between punishing and forgiving known as challenging.

The biggest reasons why "inFAMOUS" feels just right are the jumping and climbing mechanics. Scaling the buildings of Empire City is a joyous and hassle-free experience. The buildings have tons of natural-looking handholds built into them (mostly windowsills and pipes), and you can stick landings on the narrowest of surfaces pretty much flawlessly. The game predicts which platforms or ledges you're aiming for and guides you toward them with just the right amount of magnetism, which feels absolutely perfect.

The developers put plenty of thought into how a man with electricity-based powers would behave. He can restore lost energy from any source of electricity and propel himself off constant sources, such as power lines. On the flip side, water greatly harms him. The game places all of these environmental variables throughout Empire City in subtle and organic ways, so interacting with this environment makes you feel like the powerful badass McGrath personifies.

Hundreds of blast shards -- which increase McGrath's maximum energy storage -- are peppered throughout the city, and a quick click of the L3 button highlights nearby shards on your map. Getting sidetracked and devoting an entire hour to climbing buildings and collecting shards happens fairly often with gleeful addiction setting in soon after.

Playing through the game twice just to see the trivial differences between good McGrath and evil McGrath probably isn't worth it, but a single run though lasts several hours, and not a single hour feels wasted. The main focus of "inFAMOUS" is to make players feel awesome, while controlling a super-powered electrical man, and the result is as frantic and thrilling as you would expect.

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