Video Game Review: "inFAMOUS"

Sony, PS3
Game ••••½ Graphics •• Sound ••••

Bad weather. Barking dogs. Pesky potholes. These are the everyday perils that plague most bike messengers. But they're nothing compared with the package that Cole MacGrath is carrying, which goes boom and decimates six square blocks of Empire City. Riots ensue. Gangs take over. Top it all off with a plague and a quarantine - plus video footage that links Cole to the scene of the crime - and the city's survivors are pretty miffed at the now wanted man.

Of course, Cole should be dead, but instead he awakens to discover he has a slew of exciting electricity-based superpowers. As Cole, you'll jolt your enemies with bolts of lightning, send foes flying with powerful shock waves, and skate through the city on train tracks and power lines. More than once, you'll be faced with a choice between good and evil - to protect the city and regain the people's trust by discovering who's really responsible for the explosion, or to simply go on your own destructive rampage. Each decision affects your character's appearance and even the look of the city itself.

Speaking of which, Empire City is a massive virtual playground. Every building, from dilapidated tenements to towering skyscrapers, is climbable. It's amazingly intuitive - not to mention fun - to jump and latch onto fire escapes, drainpipes, and window ledges as you rise above the chaos below. Too bad the graphics aren't as uplifting. Cars, people, and buildings tend to appear out of nowhere. And the lack of anti-aliasing leaves objects looking rough around the edges. Worst of all, in-game cut scenes are crudely animated.

Fortunately, the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound fares much better, with an excellent score that uses conventional instruments in unconventional ways. For example, to conjure a unique tribal feel, the game's soundtrack team stretched a bungee cord across a bass drum (whose head was covered with dried beans) and then plucked it. To make the urban environment seem weary, they took a cello bow and strummed found objects like trashcan lids and metal shelving units.

Replay value is great thanks to more than 100 primary and side missions and the choice of good or evil gameplay. And the storyline is compelling, as the mystery of the explosion unfolds and you watch your character evolve. Glitchy graphics aside, inFAMOUS doesn't live up to its name - and that's a good thing