Infamous 2 once again is proof that you don’t need an established or widely mainstream hero to create an outstanding comic book style superhero game. While Infamous 2 may be far from the standard cliché white in shining armor & happy ending scenarios that are in other projects based around people with extraordinary abilities, the game is still entertaining with its nice mixture of adult tones and good characterizations. The action offered in Infamous 2 will make fans of the first game more than happy as it improves upon the basics while adding a fresh dose of new powers that result in even crazier action scenarios. It may not happen often, but Infamous 2 is a sequel that more than lives up to its predecessor.
+ The graphics are unbelievable as the city of New Marais looks gorgeous and the character models have tons of detail.
+ If you like blowing stuff up or throwing cars at enemies then you’ll love the action Infamous 2 has to offer. Super powers + open-world = tons of fun.
+ The story of Infamous 2 may not be as good as what was featured in the first Infamous, but I did like the added character depth that was given to Cole.
+ Exploring New Marais was enough to keep me occupied for a good chunk of time and the city itself has a lot of diversity in how it looks compared to Empire City.
+ The aspect of user-generated content may be limited right now, but there are a few cool missions online right now and as a whole the feature is a nice addition to the game.
- Some of the missions towards the end of the game feel like they’re going through the motions a bit.
- The addition of Nix is a low point for the game since she’s so damn annoying.
- While the focus is clear, the story in Infamous 2 just doesn’t feel as cohesive and it’s a shame that the element involving The Beast isn’t pushed as much as it could’ve been.
- I did encounter quite a few bugs/glitches in the game, some of which had me restarting an entire mission.
- Outside of the opening and closing boss encounters, the boss battles throughout the game are a bit predictable and don’t utilize a specific ability of Cole’s in a huge way.
Often in life we’re faced with difficult decisions that will either have an immediate impact on our life or in some cases the lives of others. I’m not just talking about deciding what we’re going to have for dinner or what movie we’re see but more pertinent things like what college we’re going to attend after High School or where we’re going to live. Its things like this that can have a monumental impact on our lives so just imagine how much of a burden it may be to decide who lives or dies. Hopefully none of us will be in such a quandary in real life but in Infamous 2 gamers will once again have to make such decisions which will test your morale compass. The follow-up to the surprise PS3 hit of 2009, Infamous 2 once again finds the electricity based super powered conduit Cole MacGrath as he preps for his showdown with the Beast, an entity whose apparent goal is to destroy everything in its path. The events of the first Infamous pushed the will of gamers to the max but with Cole going through moments that once again make him a tortured soul, Infamous 2 really takes gamers through an emotional rollercoaster, albeit one that’s fun as hell to play.
As gamers I think we’re all both excited and afraid about sequels. On one hand we’re excited to see a game pop up once again in a form that’s bigger and badder but at the same time we can’t help but wonder “what happens if the developers somehow ruin a good thing?” We often hear of sequels being the victim of intense focus testing which can lead to major additions or redesigns, an example of which being Cole’s initial quasi-dudebro I’m an everyday extreme sports loving superhero character design. Personally I thought Cole’s redesign was good but it just didn’t fit that well given how he was previously a bald chap with a face that showed he had an immense chip on his shoulder. Its stuff like a character getting a redesign that can tick gamers off and make it appear like all hope is lost. But as we saw Cole got a new design that was in tune with his original look and I can thankfully report that Infamous 2 basically builds on top of the already solid foundation established in the first game to create a sequel that is easily one of the best superhero games ever made.
Set shortly after the events of the first game, Cole is still doing his superhero thing with his best friend Zeke helping him out when he can. After losing someone close to him and facing off against the titan that is Kessler (the big villain from the first game) Cole is stronger but he’s still not quite there, probably because the safety the world is being put on his shoulders. With his goal now being to face off against the entity known only as the Beast, Cole’s self-esteem gets a massive punch in the gut after the Beast appears in Empire City earlier than expected and completely destroys the city and nearly kills Cole. With his motivation to destroy the Beast now at an all-time high, Cole and Zeke regroup down south in New Marais with the Beast inching ever so closer.
Once again Infamous 2 utilizes a graphic novel art style for certain cutscenes and it still looks cool.
Aside from having to contend with the Beast, Cole also finds that New Marais isn’t the place he once knew it was as a force appropriately dubbed the Militia has taken over with their goal being to flush out anyone who’s special i.e. can fly or shoot electricity out of their fingers. As Cole and gamers soon realize there’s more afoot to the Militia beyond their hatred of people with abilities (known in the game as Conduits) as there’s a bigger plan at hand which could have as big of an impact as the destruction caused by the Beast. In a move that really surprised me, the narrative aspect involving the Militia and its leader Bertrand (voiced by Graham McTavish) takes center stage in the game as the plot involving the Beast almost plays second fiddle until the very end. The impending doom caused by the Beast isn’t ignored throughout the game as Cole goes along collecting Blast Shards to power a device which may or may not take him out for good. But most of the missions in the game involve Cole with the assistance of NSA Agent Kuo or fellow Conduit Nix taking out Bertrand’s Militia in the hopes of loosening his stranglehold on New Marais.
I don’t know if it’s the sudden narrative shift towards Bertrand and the Militia, but the plot for Infamous 2 just doesn’t feel as focused as it did in the first game. On the surface it’s clear what Cole’s mission is and it’s brought up several times, whether it’s through brief missions in which Cole upgrades his abilities or through brief indicators informing how far the Beast is away from New Marais. It’s not that the plot involving Bertrand isn’t entertaining as it starts off slow but ramps up really well over the course of the game but there just doesn’t seem to be an immediate driving force in the game like there was in Infamous 1. The amount of tension in Infamous 2 is still present as the game didn’t have a major tonal shift and in fact I would actually say that things are a bit more depressing and serious than they were in Infamous 1. If you thought the certain incident involving Cole towards the end of Infamous 1 really made him a sad superhero then just wait until you play Infamous 2 as he just gets the living crap beat out of him, both physically and mentally. I really felt the burden put upon Cole as he’s just not a chipper dude in the game and it’s not hard to understand why given what he goes through. But with that being said, it’s just a bit hard to get into the game as the flow or certain narrative points aren’t handled as well as they could be. The relationships in Infamous 2 definitely feel richer as the bond between Cole is Zeke is fleshed out and feels natural instead of falling victim to a bad case of dudebroitis like in other games.
A brief cutscene involving Cole and his allies.
I wouldn’t say that developer Sucker Punch tried to do too much by building the bond between Zeke and Cole, explaining Bertrand’s Militia, setting up hints of a South African PMC group, dealing with Kuo and Nix and of course setting up the grand finale that is the Beast. I think in the end it may have just helped things if certain elements were streamlined a bit better or in the case of Nix, completely cut. I was worried about the addition of Cole’s NSA helper Kuo but she actually turned out to be one of the better additions of the game, partly because the voice acting is really nuanced but mainly because she’s a well-rounded character that has an excellent arc throughout the game. Nix on the other hand just doesn’t come off as interesting as Kuo, which could be attributed to her character design (it’s the one sore point of Infamous 2) and her general tone which is grating to say the least. The inclusion of Nix in the game is understandable as she represents the evil side of things (much like Sasha did in Infamous 1) but trust me when I say there’s not a lot to like about her and she was honestly one of the aspects that I think Infamous 2 failed to build-upon by having an excellent evil entity to enjoy. But I will say (without trying to spoil things) that both Kuo and Nix undergo a bit of a change at the end of the game which is a surprise but doesn’t feel like more than a lame last minute twist in an attempt to be clever. The outcome of both characters are fulfilling, especially Kuo’s last scene if you opt for the good ending, but the sudden character shift is just another example of Sucker Punch having to tighten things up a bit if we receive another game set within the Infamous universe.
Sucker Punch may not have provided a narrative that was as sharp as it could be, but the gameplay more than delivers as it’s basically the definition of fun. Well at least I found it to be the definition of fun if you have a thing for throwing cars around via kinetic powers or enjoy shooting mass bolts of lightning at people. The first Infamous game provided some moments of pure excitement as hopping around Empire City occasionally getting into fights with one of the factions or just scouring every inch of the city for Blast Shards was beyond fun on just about every level. Infamous 2 provides many moments just like those in Infamous 1 except now there are tougher enemies, more elaborate side missions and best of all new powers to play with.
One thing that I really appreciated about the first Infamous was how crafted the platforming was. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, the parkour action of Infamous wasn’t entirely automated to a degree but it had a sticky feel to it in how Cole grasped the edge of a building or would grab an electrical wire if he suddenly fell from a rooftop. Outside of making Cole a bit faster and more responsive in a few areas, Sucker Punch didn’t do a damn thing to the platforming controls in Infamous 2 and for that I just want to hug them since the game is beyond perfect. Seeing Cole run on rooftops and jumping to another building or using his newly equipped Lightning Tether ability (think of it as an electric lasso) to jump to buildings is a sight that to me is beyond cool as every facet captures that feeling of being someone endowed with special abilities. All of the animations are executed perfectly and some of the comic book poses that Cole strikes when performing certain actions such as throwing a car 200ft away just left me smiling since such a thing is hardly seen in video games.
Many of Cole’s abilities from the first Infamous return in Infamous 2 either at the start of the game or later one once he gets powered up sufficiently. Cole may not have his shield or Sonic Thrusters abilities right off the bat, but he hasn’t been nerfed entirely and is pretty powerful at the start of the game, that is until he becomes an absolute boss towards the end of his adventure in which nothing, even foreboding Frost Titans, can stand in his way. Cole mostly becomes a complete badass since many of his abilities have countless upgrades to them such as his standard bolt shot. So instead of just having one simple shot, I was able to upgrade my moves with the XP I earned in missions or side activities to purchase a faster shot or even a grenade that splinters off to become five separate grenades. Some of the abilities Cole can acquire require certain stunts to be fulfilled (use the sniper like Precision Shot to shoot 10 enemies in the head) but none of the requirements are as hard as some of the stunts were in Infamous 1 so there’s no major wall or barrier in the game at all. I will say that at times it does seem like certain enemies, especially the frost soldiers that appear in the 2nd half of the game take too many shots to take down, but with a few precision shots or a few cluster grenades it’s easy to wipe them out if you’re careful and don’t get too cocky, as I sometimes did before a rocket blew my ass up.
Cole takes on both the Militia and some Swamp Monsters in this combat segment.
I didn’t find the missions in Infamous 2 to have quite as much immediate variety to them like the first game had (I didn’t have to destroy blimps spreading gas or shoot down unmanned drones) and instead the majority of the missions had me doing what Cole does best: shooting fools up. Infamous 2 very much has a more prominent action feel to it which is perfectly fine with me since the combat is fun thanks to the refinements that have been made. The melee combat itself is one of the best things to happen in the game since Cole now wields a new Tesla Coil weapon which allows him to unleash some pure punishment on those who stand in his way. I don’t think that a lot of gamers will focus on using Cole’s new melee abilities, but in some cases it is the way to go since the unique camera moves that are used for the finishing moves are flashy yet don’t break up the gameplay momentum too badly. Most of the core missions in Infamous 2 may not have an obvious Good or Bad route to them (outside of whether or not you opt to kill civilians/villains) and the choices that are available to gamers are a bit more clear cut than the small level of ambiguity that was featured in Infamous 1. I would’ve liked to see Sucker Punch push the good and evil choices a bit more but they do save the best for last as the end of the game will probably have people contemplating their final decision unless you’re dead set on playing the game a certain way.
The majority of the side missions included in Infamous 2 feature some returning themes from the previous game (watch this prisoner, chase the enemies) but a major source of content comes in the form of User Generated Content. This time around gamers can create their own Infamous 2 missions using a near limitless toolset whose only limitation is that you can’t alter any of the existing structures in New Marais. Right now the amount of UGC is still small given how Infamous 2 has only been out for almost three weeks but the content that is online already is good, if not a bit simplistic. There are some standard kill all the enemies type UGC missions and even Sucker Punch has added some thematic content in the form of a side story involving Zeke telling a somewhat over-exaggerated tale of Cole’s adventure or another one involving a deadly disco ball. Not all the UGC missions (which are available whilst playing online via green map icons) are kitschy but some of them offer a decent amount of challenge such Climbers Club which had me climbing a structure high above the river of New Marais. The UGC tools are rather easy to use and get a hang of so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more inventive content pop up down the line. I don’t know if the overall Infamous 2 experience will be extended greatly by the inclusion of UGC, but it is nice to see a game try such a thing as it could be a big reason for people to come back to the game after they finish up the core story and side missions.
The user created Climbers Club UGC mission.
A major element that makes Infamous 2 fun and roaming around like a madman a fun pastime to do is the design of New Marais itself. Heavily inspired by New Orleans, New Marais is once again a small yet dense city filled with mixtures of architecture that looks like it has been there for a better part of the century combined with new elements like industry complexes or casinos basked in neon lights or fleur de lis symbols. There’s very much an organic feel in how New Marais is designed since seeing stuff like a small park or even a graveyard makes the city feel like an actual living entity instead of a mere sandbox for gamers to cause destruction in. There really aren’t any low points in New Marais or areas that disappointed me outside of the exclusion of an elevated train track/subway system (I always enjoyed surf riding trains) but grinding atop of cable car trolley lines is fine with me.
Something that did wholly surprise me in Infamous 2, more so than Cole getting ice abilities, is the design for the second island of New Marais, which is partially flooded. Being a man that has electrical power running through his body falling in a pool of water isn’t the best thing to do so as I was running around New Marais’ Floodtown as Cole I tried my best to not mess up otherwise I would likely be a dead superhero. The flooded nature of New Marais’ second island does change up the game a bit since I had to plan my run lines a bit better instead of being entirely carefree since landing on a building isn’t always a sure thing. As a whole the second island of New Marais does provide more platforming elements, especially in the industrial sector in which I played a game of “let’s see how far I can go without touching the ground.” There’s really nothing disappointing about the design of New Marais and the only way gamers are bound to be disappointed is if they expected a Liberty City type clone to appear, which Infamous 2 is far from being.
The first Infamous game wasn’t a real graphical showpiece for the PS3 but it was admirable given the scope for the game and it had some dazzling visual effects. Infamous 2 on the other hand has received such a massive overhaul that I still couldn’t believe how damn good the game looked when I was in my 8th hour playing it. Not only have the character models gotten a huge boost in detail (all the cutscenes in the game are rendered real-time utilizing the in-game engine) but the world of New Marais has some real beauty to it. It’s almost staggering that Infamous 2 looks as good as it does since it’s an open-world action game that has next to zero graphical hiccups like pop-up or huge texture loading. I don’t know how Sucker Punch did it, but Infamous 2 is without a doubt one of the best looking sandbox games released this generation since even the lowly NPCs of New Marais have received a nice boost in detail as well.
With every swing of the Tesla Coil weapon and electrical blast that Cole sends out, Infamous 2 is simply a fun game that hardly has a slow spot. The story of Cole’s quest to become a better hero or villain (depending on how you opt to play) could’ve been fleshed out a bit more since it simply doesn’t feel as focus as it did in Infamous 1. However weak the story may be, the character growing that Cole goes through makes up for the weak parts of the plot and it is a joy to watch the cutscenes in the game since the voice acting (including Cole’s new vo Eric Ladin) do an excellent job of making a fantasy scenario seem entirely real. Featuring a slew of powers that are beyond fun to use (the Lightning Tether is almost akin to Spider-Man’s web slinging ability) and missions that are always action packed, Infamous 2 offers a lot of content that never gets repetitive since there are so many damn ways you can play the game. Infamous 2 may not be the most polished game out there as there are a few bugs/glitches and a couple of missions that are simply meh. But with the sheer abilities that Cole can perform and with an opening and closing boss battle that tops anything from the first game, Infamous 2 ultimately lives up to the hype we as gamers had for it and it’s easily one of the best games to appear on the PS3 this year.