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inFAMOUS: Comically Bad Storytelling

For an excellent P*N review of this game by Delano Townsend click this link.

http://www.platformnation.com/2009/06/07/review-infamous/

This isn’t my review it’s just something that struck me as annoying while playing. Sloppy-ass storytelling via minimalist cutscenes.

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Developers Sucker-Punch are clearly going for a dark, comic-book style to the game. It fits the gameplay perfectly as you’re playing an electric superhero/superantihero who leaps around a city in chaos, dealing death to wrongdoers and/or innocent bystanders. So that would fit with presentation that matches today’s black, gritty comic books from the likes of Frank Miller, Mark Millar, J. Michael Straczynski, Brian K. Vaughan and Brian Michael Bendis, right? Wrong? The comic scenes are spliced in between each major action section with such clumsiness it feels as though they’re just placeholders that never got replaced.

Here’s how it goes.

1. You do a mission, running from A to B, and killing dudes 1 thru 20.

2. The mission ends, we cut to a swift montage of pretty competent comic art, complete with a voiceover as gravely protagonist Coal explains how he met someone new and had a conversation with them. This process takes about twenty seconds to watch.

3. Cut to Cole, straight after that, somewhere else. Go do another mission.

Did you spot what was missing? Character interaction, development, empathy, identifying with our hero in any way.

“But that’s fine too!” You say. “All I want to do is bust heads. Make with the zapping already. We don’t like getting bogged down in those hour-long Kojima style cutscenes.” True, sometimes they can screw up the pace and have you longing for some more gameplay, but those bits between the action are absolutely crucial for us caring about what’s going on. If we’re simply told “Then I met this woman. She worked for some company or other. Told me I had to work for her.” we learn nothing except the basic framework for the maguffin Cole’s been sent on. He has no more motivation to complete his tasks than before. It short-changes us as an audiance and crucially it falls way short of Sucker Punch’s aim. The real meat of graphic novels are the taut scenes of character interaction. They define the story, justify and strengthen the action and give us something to really get hooked on. Imagine watching only the last third of The Matrix. Sure it would be cool, but we wouldn’t know why Neo was really fighting, or care what happened to him.

The game itself is fine. A prime example of accomplished, sandbox action with some spectacular moments. I just don’t care about what happens to anybody in it. Next time you’re riffing on comics developers be sure to read one or two first. I reccomend Powers and The Ultimates.

  • snakeman555

    I disagree, I though the cut scenes were very good. Thought they were brief, I do think they managed to convey enough feelings and emotions. It’s not like I was at all confused about the plot. If you bought this game for a lot of character interaction you came to the wrong place, but this doesn’t break the game in any way shape or form.

  • Alphathon

    Totally agree with snakeman. I really like deep storytellingand characterisation, but that’s not why you play this game. Bear in mind it’s similarities to Crackdown (spoilers ahead if you havn’t played it). There was even less story to that – you basically got briefs about all of the bad guys every so often, then a breif “you have cleaned up this area – it is much safer” type cutscene. Then when you kill all of the bosses, you get a voice over saying “the city is safer, and it is now clear to be controlled totally by the peacekeepers”. That’s it. inFamous on the other hand actually has a story. Being open world, it’s very easy to develop a character and have fun playing without even playing the story. Just look at Fallout 3 and Oblivion. In both of those, you could probably play through the story in maybe 5-10 hours if you wanted to. It’s the side missions (and mod on the PC versions) that give it so much replay value (I have 100s of hours in both). So inFamous isn’t very deep. It doesn’t have to be – it’s just damn fun.