As far as I am concerned controlling electricity is not a power I would want to possess if I had my pick because I don’t plan on forgoing showers anytime soon. Good thing this isn’t The Sims and hygiene really isn’t a concern to Cole, the protagonist reprising his role in InFamous 2.
At the end of game one I happily went about my business running around the city I had just saved from immediate danger, collecting trophies that did not unlock during the main story, gleefully exercising my leveled up powers. Needless to say I might have created a false sense of calm that did not quite fit with the actual ending of the story. So color me aghast when at the start of InFamous 2 my playground of Empire City is wiped off the face of the Earth by a human-shaped goliath of a volcano. What!? You say I was warned about the coming of “The Beast” in the final moments of the story? My bad. I was probably too busy looking at a pretty pretty blast shard in the corner of the screen…
Needless to say, the player comes up against The Beast in InFamous 2 much sooner than expected, AKA only one month following the events of game one, and right after pressing the start button. Unfortunately, what should be an epic moment doesn’t quite bring the excitement I felt the first time I played the opening of InFamous. As Cole made his way out of the eye of the crater, the story and basic controls were mixed in such a way that was so different from many games before that had separate training levels to catch the player up to speed (like Mirror’s Edge). Though InFamous 2 doesn’t revert back to the separate training mission, the short battle that ensues is pretty lame considering the magnitude of the situation as a hulking figure plays Godzilla to the city. Where other sequels, such as God of War 2 or 3, allow the player to fully relive their glory moments at the peak of Kratos’ perfection, this intro is dumbed down to the beginner level even though Cole is supposed to be at his peak as well, monotonously being told to throw bolt after bolt of electricity into The Beast’s face. And as any hero’s sequel goes, the protagonist leaves the opening moments of the game drained of the unmatched powers, feeling weakened as they run away with their tail between their legs to fight another day. Though it’s not as drastic as the change from hero to zero in the God of War games, it still stings a little.
With Empire City destroyed Cole sets foot in a new place down the East Coast called New Marais. On first glance it is pretty different with colorful lights and its swamps, and, um… swamps… But the basic set up of the city really isn’t all that different and after a while it actually starts to look just like how I remembered Empire City. There is a lot of coast, parts flooded by water, and a whole lot of buildings to climb. With that said, it is clear that the look of the game has definitely been improved on. The buildings may seem similar, but with the amount of time spent with Cole’s face smashed up against the walls of the buildings it is clear that a lot of time has been spent in adding textures to them to make them look real.
In addition to this the animated cutscenes (not in the comic book style) have also been improved to look like they actually belong on the PS3. The character models are solid here (though I couldn’t believe how far they went towards making a certain character look like a prostitute) and Cole also looks pretty great as he maneuvers throughout the world. Though I do have some small gripes on the subject, such as how when the camera is turned around to face Cole the lack of expression variation is a little comedic and I can’t help but wonder what he must be thinking of to make him snarl every few seconds. Shouldn’t good karma Cole smile or something? And speaking of karma, my biggest complaint of the look of the game comes with “evil” Cole and how he becomes very lost within the colorful backdrop during the progression from his opening look to his full-on villainess red attire as his skin and clothes look drained of life, hardly exuding a level of intimidation. With that said, I still appreciate what they accomplish with his character and was probably a little too happy with the little details they add to him, such as after using his powers he shakes out his hands.
No matter my gripes about how Cole looks there is still plenty to be impressed with. The powers are just as fun as ever, bringing back plenty from the first game, such as “grenades,” precision shots, and I cannot tell you how ridiculously satisfying it is to throw an ionic vortex down a street full of cars and enemies. The act alone is enough to bring smiles to anyone’s face, but something that makes it all the better is the destruction that can be brought to the environment. Cars are thrown and explode where they land, balconies are ripped from their walls, boats sink, warehouses fall to the ground, fully showing the impact of Cole’s powers on the surrounding city. Sure all of these things seem to rebuild themselves, but it doesn’t make the initial devastation any less appreciated.
To help switch between the powers so the player can use the whole range of abilities without fully moving out of the heat of the moment, a new pop in window has been added so that the player can quickly switch to the ability they deem as most appropriate to the situation without pausing, moving it to its assigned button with a simple click. With that said sometimes a good ol’ up close smashing is just what the doctor ordered. At the start of the game Zeke helps Cole build a melee weapon (“The Amp”) that allows the player to swing away at the advancing enemies. Rather than backtracking in order to have enough space to aim an electricity bolt, Cole can now dole out heaps of pain with his tool for bludgeoning, and though any gamer should be used to the cinematic finishers in third person combat by now, there are still some pretty great animated take-downs here.
Though it is obvious that great strides were made to create a sequel that outdoes its predecessor, there is still plenty holding InFamous 2 back from being an amazing game. A combo system is added in order to further integrate the allies into the fight, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to knock down what they set up b/c it is just as easy to go about my business. A cover system has also been added that doesn’t quite work as well as it does in other games. Yes it is great that the player can actually aim while Cole is still safely tucked behind the cover, but it is pretty frustrating how sensitive Cole has been made to his surroundings. Many a time as I ran up to a median I would bound over it instead of ducking behind it, and though this is not as frustrating as the many times I actually phased through solid objects (nothing like avoiding the purpose of a guardrail in order to fall to my death in the water below), it was a surefire way to lose health pretty quickly. That is to say when the AI is working correctly. Though it happens infrequently there are many occasions in which the enemies don’t seem to realize that they are being attacked, or from which direction it is coming from. I know they are supposed to be hicks and laughably so, but at least turn around when I am throwing bolts at the back of your head. Eventually more difficult enemies are added, including animalistic swamp creatures and men that control ice, but as Cole becomes stronger the “normal” difficulty becomes pretty easy. Plus the ice-men seem to trip and fall down a lot, which also works in our favor.
On top of these problems with the combat, little glitches surface now and again, such as having problems picking hidden messages off of birds, enemies floating in the air, etc. Though these aren’t enough to ruin the gameplay, a few larger problems occurred on more than one occasion, such as jarring an NPC so much by accidentally running into them that they no longer feel like offering up their side-mission. Annoying, yes, but what’s worse is when something like this makes its way into the game: at the end of a mission I had to meet up with another character to finish it, only when I got there she was lying dead on the ground for no reason (this also happened again with another character, but it was after a mission and thus did not require me to restart it).
In between battles with The Militia (the force that rose up to “defend” the people of the city), and mission / side-mission start points the player spends plenty of time moving around the map. After a while I was hoping that some day Cole will learn to bring down a bolt of lighting that can take him up into the sky and drop him elsewhere clear across the city, but I guess I have just been a little too spoiled with the quick travel options in many of today’s games. Though my laziness reared its ugly head in these moments, I was still pleased with the improvements made to make traveling as fluid as ever. In the place of the elevated trains of game one there are still plenty of telephone wires, trolley cables, and other additional lines bridging the space between buildings to speed up the pace of the movements. With that said, the weakest point of Cole’s parkour skills would easily be the simplistic way in which he moves vertically. Certain helpers have been added to make this faster and easier as well, such as electrified poles that rocket Cole up the side of a wall, but finding them can sometimes be as time consuming as just hopping up the wall. Though Assassin’s Creed only requires holding down one button to scale buildings, it has also spoiled us in how amazing and at ease the character looks doing it, whereas here Cole’s movements feel laborious as he hops from ledge to ledge, sometimes getting stuck. Though I am not saying ridiculous button combos should be required to accomplish this action, it is just clear that the repeated nature of the one button press can be animated to look much smoother and more natural (Enslaved: Odyssey to the west being a strong example of this).
Last but not least, a feature was added to the game to allow players to create missions of their own for others to play. Though this is a commendable idea, and I cannot bad talk those who actually built something considering that I took one look at this feature, got overwhelmed, and exited back into my game, I wasn’t really won over. Let’s just say that after playing through a handful of them I think I will stick to the missions created by the professionals considering the general consensus seems to be that the more enemies piled in the better, which is honestly a little more annoying that fun.
I know if you have stuck through reading all I have had to say about InFamous 2 than it is pretty clear that there was plenty that I think could be improved on, and should have been improved on between the first to second game. With that said there is still plenty of fun to be had and if you liked the first game it is pretty much a guarantee that you will like this one as well. Some great strides have been made and a few epic moments are thrown into the main story to fully explore the power of the characters (AKA more lightning storms please). And though simplistic morality options to the gameplay could still use some complexity and become less black and white, choosing a path for Cole leads to two different endings that are worth the two playthroughs necessary to get there, and bring about even more excitement for what is to come.
Final Grade: 8 / 10
PS – the soundtrack created for the game is pretty excellent so be sure to listen for it while playing.
All images are taken from the official InFamous 2 website, which can be found at http://www.infamousthegame.com/en_US/infamous2.html