SFP: InFamous for PlayStation 3

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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A bomb detonates in the heart of Empire City, obliterating several blocks and leaving a huge crater in its wake. Miraculously, bike messenger Cole McGrath, who was unwittingly transporting the bomb, is not killed; when he awakes from a coma two weeks later, however, he finds that he has strange new electrical powers. Those will come in handy because he is being blamed for the blast, and it seems like everyone in the city — parts of which have been overrun by a murderous street gang, while other parts are quarantined because of a plague outbreak — is after him!

That is the basic premise of the exciting new PlayStation 3 videogame InFamous, developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America. This third-person “sandbox” (open-world) game follows McGrath as he runs and fights his way through the city, aided by a couple friends. His “missions” take him to all sorts of strange and dangerous places and bring him into contact with a rogue's gallery of desperate characters bent on mayhem. Does McGrath want revenge or redemption? The game can be played both ways.

Visually, the game is a wondrous achievement, with an amazingly gritty and detailed cityscape to explore. And the cinematics — which advance the story and set up the game-play — are bold and unique, with a sort of 3-D comics/graphic-novel imagery that feels completely complementary. InFamous also features an intriguing multistyle musical score that really gets the heart racing: It helps establish the dark, mysterious ambience of Empire City and heightens the action at every turn. It is this aspect of the game's production that brings us down to SCEA's Foster City, Calif., studios (south of San Francisco) on a sunny spring afternoon.

SCEA's involvement with the music for InFamous began in 2007, when senior music manager Clint Bajakian and music manager Jonathan Mayer met with a team working on the game up at Sucker Punch in Seattle. “At that stage,” Mayer says, as he sits in the control room of SCEA's studio complex, “the game was still being put together. We had concept art, we had a script in PowerPoint form that we were able to look at with Nate Fox, who's the creative director on the game, and at that time they had temp music all over the parts of the game that were playable, mostly in the form of big beats; no harmony, no melody — just big Taiko drums, hand drums, things like that. They were really in love with that; they thought it was great, and so did we. We put it up against game-play and there was really no argument that this worked. So the immediate task was, based on that, figuring out how to do something really original and creative [with percussion].

“So Clint and I went out to dinner and the idea came up: What if we actually honored that idea of basic tribal beats, but we did it with other instruments, so instead of a Taiko drum, we had a guy banging on a dumpster? And we started hashing out this idea of using found objects to re-create what they had done with their temp music, and also come up with something that was harsher, more desperate-sounding, a lot grittier and tugging at people more.”

Then, Bajakian adds, “Jonathan got the idea of sending up some music by Amon Tobin, and that was received very positively by the team up there, and we contacted Amon and he got excited about the project right away, which was very gratifying to us.” While not well known in pop music circles, the Brazil-born Tobin has a huge following in electronica/trip-hop/experimental music genres. He created the soundtrack for the third game in the Splinter Cell Series (Chaos Theory) and has contributed music to such films as The Italian Job and 21. In recent years, he's become acclaimed for his creative use of sampling, and his latest CD, Foley Room (2007), was pieced together from a veritable ocean of different samples.

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