Superhero protagonists aren’t exactly new to video games. However, more often than not, those superheroes are the common newstand fodder we see in comic book shops and in the movies. What made the original inFAMOUS so incredible was not just the spectacular game play, but the creation of an original hero that felt new yet familiar. Cole McGrath managed to appeal to nearly everyone, whether they made him good or evil. Sucker Punch made the player a hero, and the world of Empire City was so alive and vibrant that it was hard not to be sucked in and feel like a real citizen. A sequel was inevitable, but the ability to make inFAMOUS a solid franchise wasn’t. Well, the world needs a hero, and Cole McGrath is once again trying to fill those shoes.
The new trend with game sequels the last few years has been to provide an experience that welcomes new players that never picked up the first game and making sure that they won’t feel left out. inFAMOUS 2 thankfully bucks that trend. While the story from the first game is recapped briefly, players are immediately thrust into the new game guns blazing. Cole retains the majority of his powers from the original, avoiding a God of War like strip down and rebuild of Cole. Players that did complete the first game are rewarded with extra power and experience, as well as a continuation of your villain or hero. The introductory sequence seems to be Sucker Punch’s way of seeing if the player had finished the original inFAMOUS, and if not, then asking what the hell is wrong with them.
Entering into Empire City in the opening moments of inFAMOUS 2 let you relive your past glories and see how the city you helped revive (or destroy depending on your choices) has fared in the time between games. That is until the foreshadowed Beast arrives on your shores. This initial battle shows how much the scale has changed in inFAMOUS 2. Your battle with the 10-story creature leads to a bruised and bloody Cole, who retreats with best friend Zeke and NSA agent Kuo to New Marais in search of the creator of the power-granting Ray Sphere in hopes of beefing up enough to stop the beast.
Thankfully, the stellar open-world game play returns once again. With the retention of power from the first game, scaling buildings and hopping through marshes is just as familiar and rewarding as before. New Marais offers a welcome change from the sprawling urban landscape of Empire City, whose three areas offered little more change than the architecture. There are red light districts (be sure to read the titles on the marquees), historic buildings, flooded our parishes and deadly swamps to navigate. Each area offers challenges of navigation, building on your old skill set and requiring new abilities as well. Your upgraded Sonic Thrusters allows for much longer flights, and the Sonic Tether allows you to grapple your way around previously unreachable places. To compliment your new powers, there are new electrified vault poles spread liberally around the city that can be used to launch Cole to previously unreachable heights. Using the new powers and terrain in tandem lead to some of the most incredible platforming experiences I’ve seen in any game.
Where the first inFAMOUS was really a simple origin story, inFAMOUS 2 wants to show the humanity of superheroes. Yes, karma is back, but this time your good or evil ways are tied to new companions, the high-minded NSA agent Kuo, or the emotionally stunted ADHD sufferer Nix. The inclusion of these characters helps tie your choices deeper to Cole’s actions and state of mind. There is an incredible human element to the choices, and while they may seem silly and comical at the outset, remaining just as stark and obvious as before, but the end results always made me take notice and helped build a richer experience as time went on. Your friendship with Zeke also deepens to a gut-wrenching level. The buddy scene on the roof top may be one of the best scripted game moments in the last decade.
Along with the character changes involved in choosing your path, your powers take notice of who you side with. The new power system allows for branching powers whose variety is tied to your karma. Instead of leaving you with one type of bolt to launch at enemies, you are given a number of them. One works on precision, one strength, and so on. You are even given a choice of machine gun like bolts, and all are able to be changed on the fly to allow for different situations during combat. This adds a new element to your battles. Instead of simply shooting at everything that moves until it stops getting up, you need to master different powers for different enemies and change them on the fly. Enemies come in far more variety this time around, in size and function. Giant golems of ice face off against mucus covered bugs while men with rocket launchers try to paste you across the terrace. Variety is the spice of life, and the enemies in New Marais certainly make you sweat.
Energy is also limited now, and even your default lightning drains vital energy, forcing you to rely on your new melee weapon, the Amp. This new focus on battle strategy helps break the repetition that bogged you down in Empire City. The mechanics for casting your electronic fury has been tightened up a great deal, making the shooting mechanic of inFAMOUS, and it is at its core a third-person shooter, some of the best you’ll find on the PS3.
While the Amp is a great new addition to the arsenal, the camera work during melee battles is absolutely the worst part of inFAMOUS 2, refusing to follow enemies and switching angles during flourishes to leave you blindsided. That same bug comes into play while climbing, but it is ultimately forgivable during exploration, when you have time to readjust your view. When rears its ugly head during combat, you are forced to mash the square button and pray that there are no civilians near to get caught in your wake. Occasionally you will feel like you are being punished for using the Amp, but the exhilaration of pulling off a perfect run on your enemies usually balances it out. Usually.
Simply placing a hero in a city with a few brutes to test your new powers on isn’t enough; you need quests to keep you sprinting across the rooftops. In the first game, quests were simply one of three or four types of missions, which lead to an incredible amount of repetition. You can only scale a building looking for cameras so many times before you want to leave the people to their fate. Thankfully, there is more diversity this time around. There are many different types of quests, as well as crimes to stop randomly around the city. Just the sheer number of quests is an improvement, and makes the trip through New Marais better, but Sucker Punch refused to let it rest at that. Introducing User Generated Content to inFAMOUS 2 means that players have an infinite number of things to do. Players can create missions based on the story, or simply have battles, collector missions or races. Templates are available, but the real joy is starting from scratch. The tools are incredibly complicated, but for those familiar with Little Big Planet, this should be an incredible addition. While online, the Sucker Punch created missions show up in green while you travel the city. You can choose to play other quests from the UGC screen, giving you an endless stream of creativity to enjoy while you’re in New Marais.
In the end inFAMOUS 2 delivers on the potential of the superhero genre. While the initial shock of leaving the urban setting was a little jarring, the result paid off. The combat additions, mission variety and new approaches to navigation showed how deep and rich the setting of inFAMOUS is and can continue to be. Having limits on your power, especially taking away unlimited attacks with your basic lighting, angered me at first, but it became apparent how much better that made not only the game, but the story and world in which inFAMOUS is set. Cole is not Superman, whose infinite power makes for the most boring superhero around. Cole is a former loser, a man who got lucky, and limiting his power shows his mortality. inFAMOUS 2 works because it keeps the player grounded instead of being able to burn though countless Militia members without breaking a sweat. inFAMOUS creates a world that, when you lie back and close your eyes, seems just real enough to be true, and that is a rare find in any medium.
|Incredible, open world environment. Tight and refined game play. Rich Story||Irritating camera. Choices are still too stark.|