NYCC: CBR Plays "inFamous"

Sony held a Playstation event at New York Comic Con to give the press some hands-on time with some of the upcoming releases for Playstation consoles. One of the big draws was the chance to play Sucker Punch's upcoming action game "inFamous" for the Playstation 3. CBR News was lucky enough to play through some of the game, and to sit down with Game Director Nate Fox to discuss what we saw.

Fox described "inFamous" as an "open world super hero action game." Players take on the role of Cole McGrath, an ordinary guy who suddenly finds himself with electricity-based powers. The sandbox that Cole will be exploring is Empire City, a fictional location inspired by New York City.

According to Fox, the story in "inFamous" starts off with a bang-literally. "The game starts with a really horrendous, awful blast that levels six square blocks of the city," he told CBR News. "And at the very middle of the blast, there's only one survivor, and that's our hero, Cole, who's given these exceptional electrical powers. In the wake of the blast, many people get sick, and the federal government puts the city into a state of quarantine. Everyone's freaked out and they want to get out, and there are riots that ensue. Most of the cops are killed, and some of the local gangs that have been in the city say 'This is our opportunity to take want we want,' and they just go crazy in the city. Cole, two weeks after the blast, kind of gets his wits about him, and it's inside of this lawless place that he decides it's time to take action."

We got to play through three levels of an early build of the game. The first level was somewhat of a tutorial, and started off with a motion comic-style cutscene. Gameplay began with Cole on a rooftop, talking to his friend Zeke and trying out his newfound powers. One of the simple powers that Cole starts off with is "bolt," which allows him to throw small bursts of electricity at enemies or objects. On the rooftop, Cole is using his bolts to recharge circuit breakers and restore power to Zeke's television. He can also run around and practice throwing bolts at mannequins, sections of fence and other objects.

Zeke asks Cole to accompany him to go pick up a gun, and it's explained along the way that Cole can't use guns because his powers cause the gunpowder to explode. He can't use cars either, as his powers don't interact well with car batteries.

Cole and Zeke make their way to a parking lot to pick up the gun, and Cole learns to use a "shockwave" power, which can knock over people, cars and other objects.

As Cole uses his powers, his energy depletes, and he needs to recharge by siphoning electrical energy from objects in the environment. Light poles and car batteries are two common sources of energy, but a simple click of an analog stock will show recharge points on the mini-map. By going up to an energy source and holding down one of the trigger buttons, Cole leeches energy and recharges his powers and health.

From there, Cole goes to a public park and sees that some food the government airlifted in has gotten stuck on a local monument. He's the only one who can free it, and he has to climb up and jar the crate loose. Once he frees the food and it drops down, Cole is face with the choice of either taking the food for himself or letting the people who have gathered around take it. We chose to let the people have the food, and were rewarded with "good karma," which is one way the game acknowledges Cole's actions in the world.

The local citizenry also reacts to Cole and his actions. If Cole needlessly injures pedestrians, the people will at first fear him and then come after him in larger numbers, throwing rocks and ganging up on him. "The citizens will actually try to stone you to death," explained Fox. There's also a guy who appears on televisions as the "Voice of Survival," who talks about Cole in a way that reflects people's perception of him in the city.

In addition to the people around Cole, the game's story will be affected by the choices that Cole makes. "There are different narrative paths that can happen based on how you're playing the game," Fox said. "We're trying to make a believable story about what would really happen if you suddenly got super powers." Fox used the analogy of choosing to be a character either like the Punisher or like Batman.

Once the food was freed, one of the local gangs arrived to try and claim it. The "Reapers" wore red hooded sweatshirts and were armed to the teeth, immediately firing on Cole. We had to take cover and recharge both our health and powers several times during the encounter, and it became clear that players will need to use their powers in combination to defeat multiple enemies. When two of the gang members took cover near one another, we were able to take the both out with a shockwave, while bolts were effectively against individual enemies. Two additional powers we picked up along the way were the "meteor drop," where Cole jumps off of an object and lands with a wave of electrical force, and "grenade," which allows Cole to throw electrical charges that explode into a ball of energy. The climax of the fight was with a gang member who had powers as well, and was able to send shockwaves of force across the ground, as well as teleport around the area.

The second section of our playthrough had Cole trying to stop the water supply from being tainted by a tar-like substance that someone was pumping into it. He had to travel to several points on the map and turn off access valves, and eventually had to make his way through a swarm of enemies in a tunnel to destroy the truck that was pumping the tar into the water. There were times where Cole came into contact with the tar, and it had a hallucinogenic effect on him, slowing things down and forcing us to take cover until the effect dissipated.

The final stage of the demo required Cole to charge circuit boxes underneath elevated train tracks in order to get the train from one point to another. The gameplay involved clearing an area of enemies, charging a box, and then jumping on top of the train to ride to the next charge point. Along the way, "Reapers" tried to snipe at Cole, and we had to use the "grenade" ability to take out some enemies from a distance.

Even though the build we played was an early one, it looked impressive. The controls were easy to pick up, and most actions were performed by either one button press or a combination of holding a button to target and using another to perform a power. Cole can scamper up almost anything that would be climbable in the real world-lightposts, vehicles, dumpsters, support beams, etc. Combat was most effective when Cole could keep enemies at a distance, although he does have melee attacks if he needs them. Outside of combat, it was fun just to roam around and climb on things, jump off structures and practice using powers. In the levels we played, power sources were plentiful and it was easy to find places to recharge. Fox did confirm there are times in the game where access to power sources is limited.

One of the most impressive characters in "inFamous" is Empire City itself. There is a huge amount of detail in the gritty, rubble-strewn environments. "Empire City is kind of a wonderland of destruction," said Fox. "The riots and the blast have left the place gutted, and as a result, it's a more interesting place to look at then the city I live in, Seattle, which is just really clean. We didn't want that. We wanted a place with grit."

Overall, "inFamous" looks very promising so far, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the game in the future. CBR would like to thank Sony, and Sucker Punch's Ken Schramm and Nate Fox for giving us an early look at the game and taking time to answer our questions. "inFamous" is currently scheduled to release in Spring of 2009. For more information on the game, head over to www.suckerpunch.com.

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