Against this, it's left up to your enemies and the level design to keep things interesting, but neither does a good job. You often simply trawl through typical locations (warehouses, tunnels, and mazes of shipping containers) blasting bad-guys from behind the cover system until there are no more. Basic enemies have guns, others have tremor attacks, and there are scuttling, crab-like enemies, Serious Sam-style suicide bombers, and turret guns. Loads of them.
Despite the fact your adversaries are identified as former addicts and tramps, they also have dead-eyed projectile skill from vast distance, and often require more than one headshot. The adequate checkpointing is little comfort as you bounce off the kind of run-and-gun scenarios that Gears of War and others have done a lot better, along with torturous protect-the-bus or protect-the-engineer sieges, which are not only weighted heavily against you, but repetitive and overlong. The need to find new sources of electricity to rearm means you're too often left with the zap attack and nothing else, and there's none of the invention you might expect from the electrical context: you seldom get to use the conductivity of your surroundings to your advantage, and nobody on the other side ever thinks to pick up a Super Soaker.
One place you do get to do this is in the one-off sewer levels, where enemies sometimes fall into the water where you can fry them by zapping the surface. You head down a manhole occasionally over the course of the game to bring power back to new sections of the city, and these levels play out more like the linear platform-and-combat challenges of Sly Raccoon, introducing and focusing the design on a new ability each time (hovering, or an energy shield, for instance), and it's within these gloomy depths that Sucker Punch showcases its most confident work.
But just as the trouble on the surface threatens to wear you down, inFamous finds a second wind, and begins to throw up a variety of interesting and engaging missions that reign in the turret guns and enemies spammed into corridors, and focus on more dramatic encounters that make use of the superior platforming alongside a few more impressive new powers. There's a massive tower ascent, a dramatic prison break that puts you up against colossal robotic energy monsters, and some interesting pursuits - helicopters and hot-air balloons best among them.
It's by this stage that the previously stumbling narrative also regains your attention, as key players reveal themselves, and double-cross one another, and the mystery of the initial explosion is made plainer. All along you have been making good-or-bad decisions that feed into the karma system, conferring particular ranks (with a few different powers available at either extreme), and although it's rather forced, it also comes good in the end, finally evolving beyond save-myself-or-save-everyone junctions informed more by your preferred upgrade path than morals, and asking you to choose between a couple of clear and personal rights and wrongs. The beautiful, hand-painted story sequences thrown across the screen to bookend the more dramatic narrative pivots and confrontations take on greater resonance as Sucker Punch plays its final hand beyond an admittedly rubbish final boss battle.
With plenty of hours behind you at that point, you may even be encouraged to start again and explore the other face of the moral divide, or to return to the city in search of more of its secrets. Along with the many side missions, there are 32 'dead drops' to locate - audio recordings that fill in more of the back-story, which you can fish for with your mini-map and GPS - and hundreds of blast shards that boost your power bar. As a material benefit it falls some way short of Crackdown's agility orbs, but as with Assassin's Creed, there is always something tempting about a shiny object lurking at the other end of an interesting climb.
But then you may also have had enough. There is more charm to inFamous than Cole's face and voice suggest, but basking in the glow of the end credits, there are also a lot of painful memories to recall; of too many missions that funnel you into shooting galleries, of difficulty spikes and enemy-spamming, and of staring at the upgrades page rather glumly, aware that for the most part you're only being invited to make things strike harder or across a broader range. But most of all, there is the realisation that by the end of the game you feel like more than a man, and the power is arresting, and yet for much of Cole's quest, you have been running out of ammo, hiding, and firing back with a popgun. The flaw is that inFamous overcomes Cole's lack of invention, but, damningly for a story about an electrical superhero, it never quite overcomes his lack of power.
7 / 10