Cool karma system helps to lift inFAMOUS above its pedestrian roots

Empire City is under attack by terrorists. A plague has been released and buildings have been destroyed by a blast. The government issues a lockdown to quarantine the whole city, thus allowing gangs to take over as everything falls apart from within.

Your quest begins 14 days after quarantine. Cole's partner in crime, Zeke, the "go to" guy for information and light entertainment, issues your first mission to fetch some food from the drop-zone where the government is leaving supplies of food for the city.

The game’s cut-scenes are presented through beautifully animated comic-styled frames that are chained together in chapters; giving it the dreary look and feel of Sin City mixed with a dash of Heroes.

There are a few scenes in the game where heavily pixelated graphics can be spotted, but once the pace picks up it is still fairly pleasing to play without any considerable drops in frame rate.

The moment you're confronted by mobsters in the city or a battle kicks off, the music picks up to really get the pace cracking. Unfortunately, the majority of the game is lacking music, so you'll only be hearing urban sounds such as cars driving by, people chatting, TV broadcasts and of course the sound of you frying up baddies.

But how does it play?

The interesting thing about Infamous is that you can choose what happens next. Using a karma based system, you can lead Cole towards a path of moral righteousness or turn him into a hell-bound killing machine by deciding between good or evil actions - it brings back old memories of reading those "choose your own adventure" books.

Although I tried to be good for this review, immediately after my first good deed of sharing some of the food in the drop-zone, the civilians turned on me like the pack of rabid dogs they are. They were throwing rocks and trying to beat me up. That’s the last time I'm helping those jerks out!

Good deeds such as sharing food, healing injured civilians and capturing baddies alive will earn you good karma. On the flipside, actions such as scaring civilians away so you can hoard the food, killing innocents, bio-leeching bystanders and executing baddies (live capturing then electrocuting, my personal favourite) will sway the karma meter to the dark side. The game provides main story missions and side missions, where the bulk of your karma points will be earned.

The karma also controls how people react to you. If you're good, people will stand around saying things like "Oh look it's him!" and admire your awesomeness or even take photos of you. However if you're evil, they'll run like rabbits. Attention to detail on this aspect is quite impressive.

The pace starts off quick, throwing you into the action after the obligatory tutorial section. It’s non-stop action, with wave after wave of enemies everywhere. It works well with the life-gauge system borrowed from Gears of War (i.e. – Cole will start to die if under heavy fire without a moment to rest or recharge.)

Unfortunately as soon as the first hour passes by and the novelty wears off, you realise that the game has taken a big leap into the land of mundane. Walking around the city is horribly tedious; especially when there are enemies on the rooftop of every damn building you walk near.

You are constantly being shot at (which is rather distracting). By the time you've climbed up the building just to punch those goons in the face a few times, remembering also to kick them off the ledge for a bonus evil point (because every little point counts), you would've forgotten what you were actually meant to be doing.

Also the major gang factions are all the same – gun wielding goons that all look the same, apart from a different colour palette of clothing: seen ‘em once, seen ‘em all. Just remember how to take them out.

Your karma will dictate the different powers you can learn. This is very much like the Star Wars Jedi Knights system where you pick your alliance between good and evil, except in Infamous the decisions are made in-game. Luckily, the game takes a turn for the better once new powers are acquired such as lightning grenades, levitation and cable surfing.

Additional to the powers you can learn, there are collectable shards around the world which increase Cole's power level. This will provide some motivation for world exploration to those who are gaming perfectionists.

Another point on attention to detail: the karma system also defines how your character looks, which is pretty awesome. The more evil you become, the more Cole turns into an albino with glowing red lightning. Fans of Fable will be familiar with this gimmick, but it remains effective nonetheless.

It is slightly ironic and fitting that the depressing mood set by the environment is lifted by the dark humour exchanged between characters, even if the voice acting for Cole is fairly monotonous.

Perhaps it is the lacklustre character or storyline that leaves me feeling unmotivated to play this game. There is certainly a lull the moment you are given the chance to free roam, especially without a "mission" menu to help you keep track of what you're meant to be doing or what you've completed.

Putting aside the annoying enemies which litter the rooftops of every building, constantly spraying you with speeding bullets, Infamous is still an interesting game worth looking into, especially with multiple endings thanks to the karma system.

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