Whether they knew it or not, there was a ton of pressure riding on Sucker Punch to deliver on InFamous 2, especially from yours truely. I couldn’t wait for this follow-up to one of my favorite PS3 games. Another chance to step back into the shoes of bike messenger turned electricity based hero (or villain), Cole MacGrath. Picking up after the events of the first game, Cole has to venture down to New Marais, Louisiana to further increase his power to stop an entity known as The Beast, set to destroy anything in its path. Before long in the south, Cole stumbles onto a new situation and batch of crazies which might throw a monkey wrench into his plans.
So am I shocked at the disappointment of this sequel or was I amped up by its greatness? Check after the break for my full review on InFamous 2.
One of the reasons I loved InFamous so much was because it had a very strong narrative. Thankfully, InFamous 2 continues that. Picking up relatively soon after the events of the first game, Cole is preparing to leave Empire City to increase his powers even further before the arrival of “The Beast”, a malevolent entity bent on destroying everything in its path. Joined by Agent Kuo of the NSA and Cole’s best pal, Zeke, they’re preparing to pull away from the docks when The Beast unexpectantly appears and starts destroying the already battered city. Cole, jumping into action, goes toe to toe with the giant fire man in a one on one battle. Unfortunately for Cole, he gets knocked around pretty good and is forced to make a quick retreat to New Marais and leaving Empire City to be leveled. While in New Marais, Cole stumbles upon a local leader named Bertrand, bent on removing the conduits and “freaks” as he calls them by any means necessary. So in addition to preparing for the arrival of The Beast, Cole must also deal with Bertrand, his Militia, and the growing sentiment of anti-conduit feeling spurred on by their efforts. What follows is a series of twists and turns that’ll keep you on your toes till the very end.
While the story element is indeed very strong, I should also point out that InFamous 2 doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the first game’s events to new players. You’ll still find lots of enjoyment here if you haven’t played the first game, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately, the characters mention events, places, and people from the first game that will go right over your head if you didn’t play through it due to the lack of explanation. There is a very short cut scene that plays at the beginning catching you up to the main events that took place, but many plot points and even the major twist of the first game were strangely omitted. Again, a minor gripe but nothing major.
Missions are plentiful as usual between side missions, naturally occuring events, and story missions. The game will take you probably around 12ish hours to complete and even longer if you want to do everything the game has to offer including finding all 305 blast shards. Plus, you can always play through the game again as the other side of the karma meter if you want. Missions seem to be more varied than they were from the first game, especially side missions. I didn’t feel like I was basically doing the same few side missions like I did in the first game, especially near the end. Karmic decisions also make a return and they’re heavily influenced by two characters who you meet along the way named Kuo and Nix. For better or worse, the choices are pretty much black and white as the color red is used to represent evil and blue for good. I do wish there was a bit more subtlety to them, but that’s not to take away from the actual decisions you have to make. There are some huge ones here and they help set up some really great/shocking moments in the story for Cole. Kuo and Nix are featured prominently in the first half of the game but take a backseat in the latter half. They’re really interesting characters so it’s a shame that they go missing for a portion of the game.
Graphically speaking, InFamous 2 is much stronger than it’s predecessor. Not to say that the first game was lacking because it wasn’t, it’s just that inFamous 2 brings a ton to the table. Animations, facial capture, and lip syncing are very much improved and add a ton to making you care about these characters and the issues facing their world. Much was made about Cole’s new voice actor and I will accuse myself of being very hesitant about the new guy as well. I’m happy to tell you that after playing through it, I believe he does a much better job overall and makes Cole a stronger character by adding actual emotions to his normally gruff and tough personality from the first game. You’ll see Cole crack jokes, act sarcastically, and show general emotion in certain situations this time around. Basically, the new voice does a better job of humanizing Cole and making him easier to relate to. I know, being able to relate to a guy with super powers? Trust me though, the connection you’ll feel to him by the end of the game will be much stronger.
By changing the location to a new city like New Marais, which was inspired by New Orleans, Sucker Punch was able to add much more variety and color into the game. There’s a definite Mardi Gras feel to certain sections of town with the greens, purples, and yellow colors of neon lights and each section of the city has it’s own look and feel. Similar to the first game, New Marais is broken up into sections in which you’ll need to “activate” the power grid in order to “unlock” that area. Unlike the first game of going underground to juice up an old power station, Cole can now fire a Tesla Missile, which you guide to the next generator. You’ll get to experience the main city proper and eventually investigate “Flood Town”, an area devastated by flood waters, and eventually the Industrial Gas Works section which its fuel tanks, docks, and towering structures. It adds great variety to the game, something the first game was lacking in it’s environment design. Flood Town plays very differently from the core city for example. Each section features it’s own set of foes as well, with Bertrand’s Militia holding down the city, the ice based Vermaak 88 holding the northern island, and finally the Corrupted springing up throughout. Each group will cause you to change-up your style as they play very differently from one another.
Sucker Punch has also added new features into it’s engine as well including minor destruction. While it’s certainly no where near the likes of Red Faction or Battlefield, Cole is able to destroy certain objects like verandas. It’s very satisfying to destroy a veranda with a bunch of guys shooting you on it and watching them fall with the debris. Also new to the game are what I call lightning poles. These have been included to help you get up buildings fast as Cole will channel lightning to shoot straight up. It definitely helps the movement aspect of the game and is a welcome addition.
If you’ve played the first InFamous then the controls will feel natural to you. Really not much has changed in that department so if you didn’t like something before, this one won’t change your mind much. Cole still acts ultra sticky to ledges and will gravitate towards them while in the air just like he did before. Stunts also make a return but this time they’re more meaningful. No longer do you have a laundry list with just experience as a reward. Sucker Punch has managed to tie them in with unlocking new powers. Each power has variations of it including the karma based options as well. While there aren’t nearly as many or nearly as hard to pull of, doing 10 head shots for example will unlock a new power. Personally, I think it’s a great idea as it makes trying the stunts actually mean something. Melee takes a bigger focus this time around as well. Cole uses a weapon called the Amp, which can increase his hand to hand strikes. You’ll also be able to pull off finisher moves with slow down time to show off flashy melee strikes. Unfortunately, doing this can sometimes confuse the camera and leave you disoriented as you try to figure out where you are in relation to where the camera is.
Cole’s abilities have also been increased this time around. There’s no “Metroid” moment to be seen with Cole losing all of his abilities and powers at the beginning of the game, so you’re constantly adding to your repertoire. New powers and abilities are unlocked by collecting blast cores and buying them from a menu. You’re also able to switch them out on the fly by pressing the left d pad and swap powers assigned to a particular button on the controller . Each base ability has different variations on it, so a regular blast can be changed up to be explosive, send guys flying in the air, or create a smaller force blast. Again, it gives the player options and that’s never a bad thing. Only thing I’ve noticed is that not all of the abilities you get access to are great so you’re not going to use most of them once you find the ones you like. In addition, Cole has access to “Ionic” powers like summoning a lightning infused tornado or the lightning strike from the first game. These are very powerful and effective moves but are balanced nicely by needing special shards dropped by enemies to use. I’m sure you’ve heard but Cole will also be able to enhance his powers midway through the game with either fire or ice based abilities. I won’t spoil why or how, but this is a fantastic addition as it helps to mix up the familiar with the new. One power that unfortunately and curiously doesn’t make an appearance this time around is Induction Grind so don’t expect to regain energy by grinding on rails and power lines.
The music in the first game was a major high point for me. In fact, I love dit so much that I wrote about it. (If you’re interested) Featuring the talents of Jim Dooley, Amon Tobin, and JD Meyer, it had a gritty urban vibe to it that definitely fit the game like a glove. InFamous 2 brings everyone back except for Tobin (unfortunately), but the general sound remains the same. Featuring heavy percussion instruments, violins, and cellos, the music really amps up the action and tension coming in during high points, yet never obstructing or getting in the way. Personally, I find the first game’s music to be a bit more memorable, but again, it’s a perfect fit.
One of the biggest problems with the first game was that it ended. Sucker Punch knew this going into the sequel and decided to remedy that with their new mission creation tools and dubbed this section of the game UGC or User Generated Content. Now players can create and play all kinds of levels to keep the game’s lifespan going. The better news is that there are many filters you can use to sort through everything so you won’t have to worry about playing through really poor levels. Sucker Punch will even promote and push really high quality levels to the top so they can be found and played much easier. One knock against this though is the fact that it’s not user-friendly. You are going to struggle with creating your own missions at first as it can get very technical and hard to understand what you need to do. Thankfully you can always remix other levels or using premade templates to help you get started and see the logic behind how certain things work. There’s also a wealth of mission options such as obstacle course, wave defense, collection, and a ton of random and off the wall missions. Sucker Punch created a giant skeeball mission so you can pretty much do what you want with the tools. While it’s strictly and optional feature, it’s certainly a welcome bonus.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the verdict is. Does this one dethrone the first from the top of my PS3 game pile? Short answer: I’m not sure. InFamous 2 does everything right. The visuals are improved, the powers are increased, the story is fantastic, and its plain fun. So I’m not going to decide. I love this franchise. Seriously, if you’re looking for one of the best superhero sandbox style game out there, InFamous 2 is a sure thing. After finishing the story I was ready to jump back in to see the game from the other side. Sucker Punch knows how to make you feel powerful (but never overpowered) and gives you all the tools to make it happen. Without any hesitation, InFamous 2 is a gem worthy of your collection.
InFamous 2 gets 5 blast shards, out of 5