Also available on: N/A
Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Action Adventure
The original InFamous was a comic book fan's dream. With its dark cityscapes, mesmerising superpowers and layered storyline, Sucker Punch's sandbox action-adventure is a prime example of how to launch a new IP. As anyone who played the game through will tell you, it ended on quite the cliffhanger; so the studio always intended to build on its foundations with a sequel. In this regard, InFamous 2 arrives amid much expectation, and while the end result is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences we've had this year, it falls marginally short of fulfilling its potential.
It isn't always essential to play the original before jumping into a sequel, but in Infamous 2's case it's highly recommended. Not only does the storyline pick up almost immediately after the events of its predecessor, the player is also given the option to import trophies from the first game. This allows you to start out with XP points and either positive or negative karma, depending on which path you chose previously. It adds a welcome sense of continuity, and doesn't compromise the level of challenge, since the difficulty is more than satisfying, with or without these bonuses. Our electrically-charged protagonist Cole MacGrath was initially given a radically different look for the game, before fan reaction influenced the developers to backtrack. Still, he's garbed quite differently and voiced by a different actor, but it feels like Sucker Punch made the right choice in the end.
Like its forbear, this is a character-driven tale. Fans of the original will enjoy seeing the continuing development of Cole and sidekick of sorts Zeke, while superpowered females Kuo and Nix join the roster to add some drama and spice. The story sees Cole retreat to the city of New Marais to acquire the powers he requires to defeat a creature known as the Beast, the emergence of which was prophesied at the end of the previous game. An introductory stage starts us off by pitting Cole against his new nemesis in a battle that levels the original's setting of Empire City. After suffering defeat at the hands of the behemoth (who is a dead ringer for the Fire Titan from God Of War III), Cole sets out on a journey to enhance his abilities ahead of the inevitable rematch. It's an engaging plot, bolstered by a colourful cast and a karma mechanic that enables players to influence the outcome.
InFamous 2 will feel familiar to anyone who has played its predecessor. The visuals and animation may be crisper and more fluid, but the controls remain the same, and all of the powers Cole acquired in his previous adventure are gradually reintroduced. However, the best thing about InFamous 2 is the way it builds on its forbear and takes many of its concepts to the next level. Those who enjoyed wielding Cole's electrical powers before (and let's face it, who didn't?) are in for a treat, as a number of them can be expanded on and upgraded. As enjoyable as your revamped abilities are, it's the brand new skills that steel the show. Cole can now levitate cars and other objects and hurl them at foes. This is particularly useful for downing helicopters and defeating screen-filling bosses. Other debuting attacks include the Ionic Vortex, a devastating electrical hurricane capable of demolishing half a city block, and the integration of melee combat through Cole's new weapon the Amp. Later in the game, there's even the opportunity to exchange talents with the other superpowered characters, giving Cole access to fire and ice powers.
Not all of the new gameplay features work, however. A cover mechanic has been incorporated, allowing Cole to shelter behind parts of the environment while returning fire. The only problem with this is that it isn't always beneficial. Our hero feels quite selective about which objects he will latch onto, and even when you do find suitable debris, it's usually only a matter of seconds before and enemy flushes you out with a grenade or missile. Stealth missions have also been thrown in to add to some variety, but these aren't a great fit for the game. While the developers should be lauded for introducing variation, InFamous will always be about fast-paced action and over-the-top superpowers. Since you hardly get to use your powers at all during these stages, you'll feel like a kid deprived of his favourite toys when they crop up.
The karma mechanic played an instrumental part in InFamous, and it returns in force here. As before, it's possible to take the path of either the hero or villain, and virtually every one of your actions contribute to this in some way. There are major decisions to mull over when the story reaches certain junctures, like whether to earn respect or forcibly take it, but all of the minor incidents that occur during mission, such as whether you injure civilians, are taken into account. In this regard, the impact your decisions have in shaping Cole's destiny sets InFamous 2 apart. While in the original, the difference between making a heroic decision and a villainous one was triggering an alternate cutscene, the outcomes here are far-reaching. There is now a choice between specific hero and villain missions, where the outcome of each is entirely different. Such freedom of choice creates a lot of potential for replay value. We most certainly recommend playing the game through at least twice, if only to see how radically the good and evil endings contrast.
While the game feels like a natural progression from InFamous in most regards, the backdrop of New Marais truly distinguishes it. The fictitious port city was inspired by New Orleans, right down to the devastating flood that shaped its current layout. Navigating this urban playground is an entirely different ballgame than traversing Empire City. For one, it's much more interactive. Cole can leave his mark on almost every object in the environment, regardless of whether it is bolted down. You can practically demolish entire streets, launch debris at enemies and scale every structure. There's even swamp environments on the outskirts of the city, marking a radical departure from what came before. Since water and electricity mix about as well as fire and gasoline, these areas are treacherous, but a welcome change from the urban backdrops fans are accustomed to. The new backdrops play host to a range of new foes. The Militia, a right-wing organisation with a hatred for anyone with powers, aren't radically different from the enemies from InFamous, but the inclusion of swamp mutants, superpowered villains and screen-filling monsters ensure that this sequel breaks the mould.
There's plenty to do in New Marais. From collecting blast shards to increase your energy bar, to the myriad side missions that litter the map. As if that wasn't enough, Sucker Punch has provided the tools for players to create their own missions. This is potentially a stroke of genius, and could have potentially made the game the LittleBigPlanet 2 of the action-adventure genre. Unfortunately, the tools themselves are nowhere near as intuitive as those in the Media Molecule title, and the things you can do with them are quite as profound. The user-created levels we have played were largely underwhelming, but the quality will certainly improve over time as a community amasses. This feature at least gives the game boundless potential and longevity, but only time will tell whether it fulfills that potential.
There can be no doubt that InFamous 2 surpasses its predecessor. Everything from the graphics to the gameplay has been amped up significantly and the end result is an excellent sequel. This could easily have attained classic status with a little more refinement, specifically where the level creation mechanic is concerned. The option of online multiplayer would also have fitted in well, considering there are now other superpowered character in the series roster, and Move support would have gone hand-in-hand with the new melee combat. That said, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable game that left us eager for a third instalment.
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