The Good: Exciting combat, great powers, lots of replay value
The Bad: User Generated Content, doesn’t expand much from inFAMOUS
The Interesting: After negative fan reception at E3 of a newly redesigned Cole for inFAMOUS 2, developer Sucker Punch re-redesigned him to look more like Cole from the original inFAMOUS.
Boss Kowbel: The first inFAMOUS began with a bang, and inFAMOUS 2’s opening is no different. The Beast, whose coming was foretold at the end of the prior inFAMOUS, shows up to destroy the peace Cole worked so hard to achieve or to prevent. A ruinous backdrop of an Empire City in flames sets the tone as Cole clashes with the two hundred foot behemoth, but despite his best efforts, Cole’s lightning-based powers are no match for his opponent’s psychic abilities.
In the aftermath of the brawl, Cole is forced to flee to New Marais, a town plagued with as many if not more problems than Empire City. Will Cole fulfill his heroic destiny or become the very monster Kessler (future Cole) tried to stop? Moral choices return but are devoid of any lasting impact until the final mission; you won’t be killing off your girlfriend a second time around. The inclusion of a third party, authoritarian leader Bertrand Russell, manages to keep the narrative complex, and who or what The Beast is, is a revelation that I never saw coming.
Cole retains most of his previous powers too, but his enhanced abilities are what keep inFAMOUS 2’s gameplay fresh and exhilarating. With the aid of Dr. Wolfe, Cole will amplify his powers to an added extreme without trekking through mundane sewer tunnels like the original inFAMOUS. Instead, players must locate Blast Cores scattered across the city to acquire new powers that make mincemeat of the opposition.
The introduction of melee combat further mixes up the formula. With the use of the Amp, Cole can deliver devastating blows to his hapless adversaries up close and personal. However, it’s in the midst of combat where the camera really fights the player. Trying to navigate around the environment while tracking the enemies’ movements and dodging incoming missiles is frustrating at times, but it’s a minor gripe overall.
The firefights are now more electrifying as well. In my first playthrough, I stormed a military fort, ransacked a local graveyard, and dangled from a helicopter to topple a fifty foot monstrosity. Standard missions typically consist of eliminating dozens of foes, but these intense exchanges are hindered by the limited enemy variety. Between the warring factions of the local Militia, mutated freaks, and forced Conduits, there are only three or four enemy types per faction. Even the mini-bosses wear out their welcome a few hours into the game.
In terms of production values, inFAMOUS 2 doesn’t disappoint. Explosions encompass several city blocks, bosses tower over the surrounding buildings, and the environments are semi-destructible. Climbing to the tallest points in the city only to Thunder Drop on unsuspecting civilians is strangely gratifying, and the frame rate never misses a beat even with thirty-plus foes populating the screen. The writing is witty too, as Zeke and Cole spurt cheesy one-liners to make light of the inevitable – that Cole will eventually save the world or destroy it.
New Marais is alive with rich and vibrant colors, and each section of the city provides a distinctive vibe. The neon-light district is blooming with game title parodies, Flood Town is a rundown shell of its former self, Gas Works reeks of industrialization, and the backwater bayous provide additional platforming challenges. I can’t say much in the way of interactivity between the citizens of New Marais though, because, well, there’s almost none. The occasional crowd may gather to cheer Cole on or throw rocks in his direction based on his karmic alignment, but there’s little actual dialogue exchange between Cole and populace he is trying to protect or oppress.
Ultimately, inFAMOUS 2’s moral decisions take a back seat to the action. The good and evil opportunities may lack the impact of the previous inFAMOUS, but players that wish to experience the game’s full potential will have to play through the story twice. Between the in-progress street crimes, side quests, main missions, and collecting dead drops and blast shards, there’s hours’ worth of content to keep gamers busy. Cole’s new powers make him a significant force to be reckoned with and the inclusion of user-generated content is a welcome change of pace, but the camera angles in the heat of battle could use some work and the meager enemy variety is a disappointment. Nevertheless, fans of the first inFAMOUS should not hesitate to experience the conclusion of Cole’s ethical journey, and newcomers to the series should not hesitate to witness what one of the best PlayStation 3 exclusives has to offer.
Johnny Lightning: One of inFAMOUS’ selling points was the moral choice system. However, in inFAMOUS, most of the moral choices only came into play at the end of a mission and only had a minor impact on the narrative arc of the game. inFAMOUS 2, for the most part, improves on this aspect of the game. While some moral choices are still very inelegant (such as choosing between blowing up a village of innocent women and children and killing a handful of generic enemies), but this type of moral choice is few and far between. Most of the moral choices you will make in inFAMOUS 2 drastically alter the mission structure (usually locking you out of one mission entirely).
The character development has not improved much over the previous game. Characters are still defined by their dialogue (which I found to be cringe-inducing, especially when Zeke was talking), but now that Sucker Punch has done away with the ‘gravel-voice’ Cole, at least it makes the lines of dialogue easier to listen to.
Cole’s new abilities range from supremely useful (How did I ever survive without Ice Launch and Electric Tether?) to the pointless (Why would I use melee combat when I can shoot things with an electric rocket?).
Unfortunately, I must disagree with Kowbel on the ‘vibrant’ world of New Marais. I found the world of New Marais to be very similar to Empire City. In fact, with the exception of Flood Town, 5 of the 6 areas created for Cole to jump around in through two games now all feel very similar. An argument could be made that the industrial area of inFAMOUS 2 is unique, but in my opinion it is all still a collection of tall, fictional buildings for Cole to climb on.
Overall, inFAMOUS 2 improves upon its predecessor in many ways. But for whatever reason, the game can’t shake that feeling of déjà vu; for every step inFAMOUS 2 takes forward, it takes a half step back. I don’t not regret my time with inFAMOUS 2, I just wish it offered the same novel experience I felt when I played through inFAMOUS 1. Trust me, playing this game will not feel like a complete waste of time (at least not a bigger waste than playing video games already is), but inFAMOUS 2 will never be regarded as the defining game of this generation.
John Tarr: The short: inFAMOUS 2 is a well crafted, all around enjoyable successor to the also great inFAMOUS 1 (which is now free on PSN). inFAMOUS 2 is no Game of the Year contender, but worthy of your time and money if you’re looking for a game to entertain for many hours this summer.
The long: inFAMOUS 2 is one of the smoothest running, best looking open world games available. Too often the GTA clones suffer from common ailments; odd glitches, finicky controls, repetitive missions, and many other shortcomings that gamers simply accept as normal for an open world game. inFAMOUS 2 certainly distinguishes itself from the plethora of other sandbox titles by avoiding these many pitfalls with unprecedented levels of polish.
Unfortunately, inFAMOUS 2 did not evolve much from the first inFAMOUS. New environments, more diversified good/evil powers, and a new story with new moral choices expands slightly on what was already a fun franchise, but left me wishing Sucker Punch experimented and innovated more.
An obvious parody of New Orleans, inFAMOUS 2 is set in New Marais, which provides a great environment for an open world game. As all of Cole’s powers are electricity based, hopping precariously through the bayous of New Marais is more dangerous than using a hairdryer in the bathtub. And running down Bourbon street past marquees advertising “Call of Booty” and “Uncharted Love” makes you wish Sucker Punch also programmed in beads to throw to pedestrians on the street.
inFAMOUS 2 does introduce User-Generated Content (UGC), a way for End-Users (EU, or the way programmers typically refer to the plebeians who play their games and get their sticky hands all over the controller) to create their own missions within New Marais. UGC has potential, but I’ve yet to play through a mission that I thought should be a part of the main game.The few UGC missions that I’ve played were glitchy and only memorable for how dumb they were. This new feature seems to be designed to prevent you from trading your game in for another few weeks by adding what is potentially a limitless source of new, sub-par challenges.
The combat in inFAMOUS 2 is the game’s strongest feature. The evolution of Cole’s powers throughout inFAMOUS 2 gives you something new to play with all the time, and keeps every fight fun from beginning to end. Cole starts the game with the majority of powers he acquired in Empire City, and can unlock upgraded versions of his powers by completing challenges (kill 10 enemies while climbing) or through completing story missions. Because of how dramatically different the good and evil powers are from eachother, playing through inFAMOUS 2 a second time and choosing a different karmic path will offer very different ways of approaching the same battles, adding a lot of replay value.
Oh, and there are unskippable cutscenes for your first playthrough. Therefore I was forced to watch all the cutscenes inFAMOUS 2 has to offer. Nothing makes me want to skip a cutscene more than not being able to skip a cutscene. Fortunately, the voice acting and story throughout inFAMOUS 2 was, for the most part, entertaining. Easy to hate super-villains and funny side quest characters keep the story interesting throughout. But the “moral choices” you make are hardly choices at all. There are major incentives to be as good or evil as possible, so after you pick whether you are going to be good or evil, you are stuck on that freeway for the rest of the game.
I’ve written mostly positive praise for inFAMOUS 2 so far, so how can I justify my score? Nothing blew me away. Very little wowed me. Nothing is inspiring me to recommend inFAMOUS 2 to everyone who owns a PS3.