inFamous 2 is the super charged sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed titles on the PS3. Can Cole McGrath continue to impress a growing contingent of jaded gamers? Or is it already time to put this electrically charged hero to rest?
*some minor inFamous 1 spoilers may follow*
The story of inFamous 2 picks up right after the events of inFamous 1. We continue to follow the narrative tale of Cole McGrath (who has undergone a character design overhaul), who following a devastating explosion, found himself with a myriad of electrical powers. After fleeing from ‘The Beast’, Cole and his companions find themselves in New Marais (a thin veiled doppelganger for New Orleans). There, Cole encounters a way to defeat ‘The Beast’, the Ray Field Inhibitor (or RFI). However, despite all the upgrades and events of inFamous 1, Cole is still too weak to activate the RFI. In order to gain enough power to shock the RFI into use, Cole must absorb the power of Blast Cores. The absorption of Blast Cores is more than just a method to drive the plot forward, as each Blast Core that Cole absorbs grants him a new power to unleash upon the world.
The plot of inFamous 2 is not its strongest selling point. In fact, until about the last hour or so of gameplay, the story is completely useless; serving only as a vehicle to unlock new odds and ends for Cole and could be replaced with any generic story. That being said, the last hour of gameplay does reveal several excellent plot twists that lead to an exciting end game conclusion.
Red is Evil. Blue is Good. Purple is... Neutral?
One of inFamous 1 selling points was the moral choice system. However, in inFamous 1, 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. The majority of moral choices you will make throughout the game will drastically affect the structure of the missions you make them in. In a typical moral choice you will be given an expository cut scene, and then you will choose the ‘good’ mission start or the ‘evil’ one. It is a nice change of pace to have the moral choices in a game affect more than simply the dialogue in a game.
Are we at a point where as a society we can simply agree that all AAA titles released on current consoles are a treat for the eyes? inFamous 2 looks good. To be fair, inFamous 1 also looked quite good. In fact, inFamous 2 looks a lot like inFamous 1.
The graphics don't improve too much over the original inFamous, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Most open world games suffer at some point from graphical ‘glitches’. So imagine my surprise when throughout two full playthroughs of inFamous 2, only once did I find myself stuck in the world geometry.
An interesting point of contention upon its reveal was the character redesign of Cole McGrath. Visually, Cole looks very similar. In fact, one of my favorite improvements in inFamous 2 over the first one was the visual changes Cole goes through as he becomes more ‘good’. In both inFamous 1 and 2, Cole would change to look more like Emperor Palpatine as he became more ‘evil’; but in the original inFamous, Cole would remain mostly the same if he followed the ‘good’ moral path making the virtuous silver and bright color palette of ‘good’ Cole in inFamous 2 a welcome addition. The best change made to Cole McGrath was the decision to cut the Christian Bale ‘gravel-voice’ of the first game and replace it with a more ‘everyman’ voice. It is a jarring change at first, but is a welcome change and one your eardrums will come soon to appreciate.
Still looks like Cole McGrath to me...
inFamous 1 received glowing praise for its original approach to an open-world superhero game. inFamous 2 is just more inFamous 1, but improves on many of the complaints of inFamous 1.
inFamous 1 complaint 1: “It’s too stiff when Cole climbs things, and it takes ages to reach the top of a tall building.”
inFamous 2 addresses this problem in two ways. First of all, Cole seems to be channeling his inner squirrel. Cole is much more limber when climbing buildings, especially side to side. Beyond that, not all of Cole’s new powers are combat oriented. Some abilities, such as the Electric Tether and Ice Launch, are designed solely with world exploration in mind, allowing Cole to jump higher and attach to the rooftops and buildings like some kind of electric Spider-Man.
inFamous 1 complaint 2: “All the locations in Empire City look the same, and I hate these stupid sewer sequences.”
There are no sewer sequences in sight during inFamous 2 (and the people rejoiced). However, as far as the locations feeling similar, only 1 area in inFamous 2 has its own unique aesthetic. So out of 6 total areas created for Cole McGrath to unleash electric hell in, only 1 has its own unique feel. 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. Flood town, the one unique area of inFamous 2, presents its own unique problems. As an electric man, Cole is not really a fan of water, and since Flood town is comprised entirely of water and run-down buildings, it makes for a semi-frustrating experience. It’s a minor complaint, but still is frustrating.
Flood town is the only truly unique area in inFamous 2
inFamous 1 complaint 3: “You never fight any important battles until the end of inFamous.”
inFamous 2 is chock full of ‘mid-boss’ type enemies, which you will fight several times throughout the story. These enemies can be quite formidable (especially when the attack in groups of 2 or more). However, there is only one major foe for the majority of the game, which is disappointing to a certain degree. Superheroes have multiple arch nemeses, so Cole only having 1 for most of inFamous 2 feels like a wasted opportunity.
One new feature that Sucker Punch added to inFamous 2 was user-generated content (UGC), and frankly it is an addition I could do without. Most of the UGC in inFamous 2 feels imaginative, but it all boils down to running and shocking things. While I do appreciate the comic absurdity of some of the UGC levels (shocking cultists into submission to close a portal to hell springs to mind as one of my personal favorites) the content never feels fully fleshed out. The other problem I have with the UGC is that is really wreaks havoc on your map screen. If you leave UGC mission icons on, your entire map will be filled with green icons just begging to be completed. Thankfully, the option to turn off UGC is available, an option I took full advantage of while playing inFamous 2.
This is a UGC mission start. Now imagine the entire world littered with these obnoxious green icons.
I also appreciated the subtle nods made to the player if they completed the first inFamous game. Several times in the tapes found on dead carrier pigeons (which does make sense in the context of the story, I promise) the people speaking on the tapes will refer to moral choices you made in the first inFamous. However, the choices in the first game do little to impact the game of inFamous 2; an opportunity I once again feel was wasted here.
Overall, inFamous 2 improves upon its predecessor in many ways. But for whatever reason, the game can’t shake that feeling of déjà vu. 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.
The Good: Cole’s new powers are fun to use and offer new exploration opportunities for Cole.
The Bad: Either there was a glitch in the Matrix, or inFamous 2 feels awfully similar to inFamous 1…
The Interesting: The final hour of inFamous 2. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed it.
Final Verdict: 8.0/10