inFAMOUS Review: City of Saints and Madmen

It's possible to scrub each of the islands clean of enemies and establish safe zones that nullify enemy re-spawns by signing on to side missions. These take the form of dozens of low-repeat incentives to fool around with your abilities and chalk up experience points (which unlock new abilities) between the main story beats. They're also fairly creative: Stalk a courier without being spotted. Disable surveillance equipment tacked to the sides of a building. Escort criminals who'll try to escape en route. Trail the electric green afterimages of criminals to their source. Find a hidden package using only a photograph taken from a wonky angle. Even the "protect a pedestrian" cliche has a twist designed to minimize frustration — instead of dying in an ambush, they'll go to ground until you've mopped up. The spotlight's on you, in other words. You're in danger. You could die. Not some aggravating albatross that careens stupidly into the line of fire and botches the mission time after time.

The broader tale unfurls as various people contact Cole and send him pinballing from task to task, starting with platforming odysseys through each island's sewer system to turn back on the juice, and culminating in an epic battle or three before migrating to the next island. The story's also revealed through recordings stashed near satellite dishes scattered about all three islands. Finding these "dead drops" is an end in itself, part of a collectible angle that'll also see you scrabbling around the tops, sides, and under-hangs of anything hunting for hundreds of glowing blue shards — irradiated bits of something-or-other that gradually charge your maximum electrical capacity.

Occasionally your radar map points you at goals indirectly. Instead of tracking down static colored blips on a mini map, you're fed the visual equivalent of clicks from a Geiger counter. You'll have to do slightly more than follow your map to X, which in this case marks the general area instead of the determinate spot, but nothing unseemly. You don't need to be clairvoyant, just mildly intrepid. "Explore," says the game, beckoning, and after realizing how boring laser-precise radar is, you'll listen.

Even then, the design practically trips over itself to accommodate: The way train tracks loop around each island allowing you to quickly grind from one side to another. The way power lines snake between buildings and eventually across the bridges between the islands, a map of twisting highways in the sky. Fail or die during a mission and you'll restart almost from the point you left off. Go-go-go, says the game, and from start to finish, it's hard not to.

In the end, do we care that inFAMOUS's payoff isn't Hugo Award winning? Not really. It's on par with most Twilight Zone episodes, and world's better than the phoned in pablum other games dish out. I don't know how electricity helps you fly, or why no one picks up a fire hose (or squirt gun — hey, it worked for David Tennant) or why it never rains in Empire City, but it's probably just as silly puzzling over the illogic. You're a hopping, leaping, line-grinding, rail-surfing, lightning storm. Go with it.

PCW Score: 90%

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