Make no mistake about it. Being a super hero is cool - well at least it should be. By the end of Sony and Sucker Punch's PS3 exclusive inFamous you'll be a bad-ass all-action hero that can compete with the best in the business, but a slow start and some incredibly dull and repetitive missions mean the game's heroic potential is fulfilled far too late on. Despite all the tools required for the job, Sony's latest mascot isn't quite yet ready for the big time.
For those who haven't been following inFamous over the past few years, you play Cole, a guy who finds himself in the crater left behind after a major explosion rips apart Empire City. Amazingly he survives, but the blast has left its mark on him. Cole suddenly finds himself with the power to control electricity, a city to explore (albeit one that's without electricity - bummer!) and a populace to defend from the newly formed enemy menace. The problem, however, is that the entire city thinks you're responsible for setting off the bomb that reduced it to rubble, so the people hate your guts and believe you to be a terrorist.
It's up to Cole to decide what path he's going to take in this new world. He can choose the path of righteousness, helping people out often to the detriment of his own health, or he can take the path of evil, doing deeds to help himself rather than for the good of the city. This is all controlled by a karma system, with good and bad deeds each awarding you with XP. The game hands out new abilities and upgrades based on your superhero level, as either a goody two shoes or death-dealing bully, so trying to be something in the middle simply isn't an option - you're going to want to pick a path and go all the way with it.
These moral choices in video games are hardly a new thing, but we'd hoped what would be on offer here wouldn't be a simple case of making a very obvious choice between good and bad; sadly that's more or less exactly the case in inFamous. Throughout the game you're presented with Karmic moments in which you're told to do one thing to be good or do another to be evil, and very rarely is there much of a grey area. You can do other things, like heal injured citizens and capture enemies alive to earn good XP, or drain fallen enemies to earn evil XP, but for the most part there's no sense that you've truly carved out your own path.
This karma system aside, the rest of the game is fairly traditional for an open-world action game, heavy on action but also quite repetitive. To begin with Cole is powerful, but not exactly what we'd call super. He can leap off tall buildings and not get scratched, climb more or less anything without risk of falling to his death, fire off electric bolts as if he's got a pistol with infinite ammo and send off a repulsion blast that sends nearby enemies and objects flying. Nice enough, but not exactly stuff to compete with Spider-man, Superman and the like. This is where inFamous will frustrate; it's not until much later on, when you've built up enough powers and upgrades, that you'll finally feel pretty cool.
When you've got the ability to glide, use a sniper-like electric blast, devastate large areas with a fully charged smash to the ground, grind electrified cables and rails like Sonic the Hedgehog and fire off amazingly powerful explosive charges at a whim, you'll feel like a bad-ass. It's just a shame there's a lot of tedium involved to get to that stage and that the game rarely gives you a truly exciting mission to use those powers in. Among the biggest offenders are the regular underground missions that task you with restoring power to each of the city's districts. These are dull in the extreme and seem to exist only to extend the game's run-time while offering a different environment - albeit one that's dark, linear and uninspired.