Video game review: inFamous - lightning strikes twice (and 3029 times after that)

That's two weeks in a row where I've spent a significant portion of my free time exploring a city that has recently suffered a massive explosion. Last week it was Bionic Commando, and I was just the guy to traverse the urban wasteland because I had a bionic arm. This week, it's inFamous, and I'm just the guy to explore the city because I'm the one who set off the bomb. Plus it gave me super powers.

InFamous is a super-hero game, or a super-villain (sort of) game, depending on your personal preference. You play as Cole, a bike messenger who sets off a bomb that screws up Empire City and gives you the power to control electricity. Why did you set off the bomb? You have no idea, but given the cadres of villains, FBI agents, and shadowy figures who immediately start pulling your strings, maybe you were set up. The only way to find out for sure is to explore Empire City open world, Grand Theft Auto-style, do a bunch of missions, and shoot lightning at anything that gets in your way. And when you've done all that then yes, inFamous delivers a satisfying conclusion to a solid story full of twists and turns, but really it's all about the lightning powers that get you from here to there.

Well, lightning and parkour. Because Cole can scale buildings like a monkey, leap with ease from ledge to wire to light post, and generally navigate the city via sidewalk or rooftop with equal ease. He can't climb chain link fences for some annoying reason, but pretty much everything else is scalable. And once you unlock the power of grinding along power lines and train tracks at race-car speeds, you'll have a much easier time traversing the length and breadth of Empire City's three islands. Along the way you'll fight bad guys using your basic lightning bolt attack and a host of other powers that unlock and improve over time – lightning grenades, lightning shields, lightning fists, lightning rockets, lightning waves, lightning jumps, lightning – you get the idea. All these special powers drain away Cole's internal battery, but he can suck extra juice from ubiquitous power outlets, lamp posts, cars, and other electrical sources. Each island is held by a different gang of bad guys – Reapers, Dustmen, and The First Sons – who have their own creepy looks and love to shoot the hell out of you. There's always somebody that needs shocking.

There are a host of side missions that you can take on to earn bonus experience and clear sections of the city from gang influence. These range in level of enjoyment – there are a few really tedious ones – but mostly they're quick and fun and make for a nice break from the longer, more challenging Story Missions. The story unfolds through artful and engrossing comic book-style cut scenes and voice over chat with various shadowy figures. There are some really inventive and challenging missions throughout the game, and some solid boss fights, although you'll keep returning to the sewers for some clunky platforming missions that I found dull and annoying. That's the thing about inFamous – it has a ton of little problems and annoyances. Dozens of them in fact. But the game itself is so fun, the story quite compelling, and the moment to moment game play so rewarding, that I ended up overlooking all of its many minor faults.

I've left out one huge aspect of the game – the moral choice system. Throughout the game you're presented with options to be good or bad. The game forces you to commit to one path or the other if you want to get the highest level powers (and you do!), so really once you choose a path there's never any incentive to make anything but the obvious good or evil choice. Good and Evil each have some unique powers, which basically forces you to play through the game twice to see them all. Luckily this game is actually so good you very well might want to play through it twice, but on balance I found the whole moral choice system uninteresting and forced. The people in the city might treat you different and it gives you some different side missions, but the central story remains the same. I'd have liked to see something much more nuanced or nothing at all. But it doesn't get in the way of this otherwise very good game, and the moral choices do offer a few smiles and grimaces here and there. As a PS3 exclusive, there's nothing else out right now to compete with it for your PS3's attention – and it's the most fun I've had with my Playstation in a long time.

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