By Julian Virgona
Infamous 2, released as a PS3 exclusive on June 9th 2011 and developed by Sucker Punch Productions, is a third-person action-adventure open world sandbox game and sequel to the 2009 Infamous. The gameplay and the story revolves around Cole MacGrath as he travels to New Marais (a video game copy of the south-eastern American city of New Orleans) to strengthen his current electric powers and gain new ones in order to fight the imposing force of the monstrous… monster simply named ‘The Beast.’ He must choose whether to help the city in their time of need as they fight two malicious factions of enemies or to sit back and let the city tear itself apart…
Before I get too far into this review, I’d like to mention there may be some, though very few spoilers from both this game and the first Infamous. I played Infamous just last year and it immediately became one of my favourite games yet and its sequel does not disappoint. It has some fun and thrilling gameplay, keeping the great Karmic Moral Choice system from the first game, an innovative and engaging story and some beautiful graphics to top it all off. But is it better than its predecessor?
As I mentioned before Infamous 2 is a beautiful game. The city of New Marais feels a lot more alive in terms of its terrain and citizens than Empire City in the first game ever did. The people of the city aren’t as catastrophically scarred as they were in Infamous but they still react the same way to Cole when he starts shooting at enemies usually running off, but now they help or hinder him a lot more than in the first game either helping him by punching the foes, if you are in good karma, or turning on you and trying to beat you up, if you are in bad karma.
The city itself in terms of aesthetics looks great. The towering skyscrapers and the murky swamps add a nice contract to the landscape and provide you with endless opportunities to work the game’s free-running system and roam all over the city, in completely different environments. Each district has a distinct personality, like the Flood Town, being flooded with water and tipped over power lines, perfect to help you cross the water that is otherwise deadly to you, and the Industrial Zone, populated by towering silos and factories.
The graphics are great in terms of them being able to keep up with the constant action and carnage you can bring to the game, like exploding cars left, right and centre. The Moral Choice rank you are also determines what your clothes look like, rather than just your face and lightning like in the first game, which I think is a very nice touch. Also, as you change Karmic Rank, you are treated with a short cutscene which represents unlocking new powers and displays a change in your clothes.
There is no screen tearing and the frame-rate keeps up very well. However, I have fallen into the scenery, like the base of a silo, once or twice, but it didn’t stop me playing the game, as I just needed to jump out. There is also some pop in sometimes after a cutscene with the Tesla Missile (which I will explain more about later), but these little problems don’t take away from the game, and they are bearable considering there is little to no load time between missions.
The musical score in Infamous 2 is great to listen to as you play. The mellow soundtrack that plays as you roam the city captures the sometimes glum mood of the storyline and what the city and its people are going through, with the horror that has taken over in recent events. The best part about the music is when it suddenly changed to some intense, action-packed beats as you engage in the thrilling battles with your rival factions.
The story for Infamous 2 is very well written. As I already mentioned, it revolves around Cole, mostly as he has to travel to New Marais in order to become more powerful to defeat The Beast. The game opens in a very epic way, with a massive battle with The Beast itself, as it invades Empire City, the main city from the first game. However, when Cole reaches New Marais, he discovers the Beast arriving in this city is the least of his worries. There is a group of Militia, known as the Militia, under the order of Bertrand, the evil dictator, anti-deviant and political leader of the city and the horrid Corrupted, known simply as the Swamp Monsters, who are mutated creatures that come from the swamps of New Marais. These factions will stop at nothing to get in the way of Cole getting the Blast Cores he needs to give himself the powers necessary to defeat The Beast.
The overall narrative is very engaging, smart and easy to follow. A few parts at the start are a little confusing when the characters are talking about how Cole will get his new powers, but soon enough everything is cleared up and it makes a lot more sense. The humour continues in this game and is funnier than the previous instalment, surprisingly having a few laugh-out-loud moments, which lightens the sometimes glum mood of the story. One of my favourite parts of the story was how the Conduit situation, which gives Cole and other characters in this game super-powers, is expanded on and evolved which makes it a lot easier to understand and inserts a very interesting story element into the game.
Even some of the side missions, mostly the good or evil ones, have storylines, making them a lot more engaging and fun to play, as you want to find out what happens in the next chapter in those missions. They are just like a side-mission should be, actually have a bit of a story, rather than just be ‘kill them’ or ‘do this and that’, which I won’t deny some of the missions in Infamous 2 are like.
Like I said, there are hardly any loading times in this game at all, only between main missions, where you are told in big white text how far the Beast is from New Marais and something else I don’t want to ruin. The endings for both good and bad are amazing, both being completely different to the other, I’m not going to give my preference though, because I don’t want to spoil anything. Unfortunately, I felt like there were a lot fewer comic strip-esque cut scenes from the first game, which is disappointing since they were once of my favourite parts of the last game.
In Infamous 2 we meet Lucy Kuo, an NSA agent sent to help Cole and take him to New Marais to meet up with Dr. Wolfe, the man who can help Cole gain his powers. Lucy is the character who clearly represents the good Karma, while Nix, a local super-powered being who runs into Cole during one of his runs around the swamps, is clearly the bad Karma character. Cole’s best friend Zeke returns, intent on gaining Cole’s trust after the first game. All of the characters in this game have some great arcs and you start to feel for Zeke and Kuo as they go through some tough times throughout the game.
Along with Cole’s new clothes and new powers, he has a new voice actor as well. His voice is a lot less gravelly than in Infamous but ironically, I found it harder to hear or understand what he was saying. When I think about it, a lot of the characters seemed to mumble some of their lines, causing me to need to put the subtitles on so I could understand what was going on.
Simply put, Infamous 2 is very fun to play. It’s the type of game that can distract you and keep you messing around for hours after you’ve made yourself the promise to stop free-roaming and get on with the story. The random encounters tear you away from your climbing and the collectables tempt you into straying from your path to collect the few around that area.
Some of you may be wondering why the collectables would be so tempting. Well, the collectables are two things. The first are the Dead Drops, audio files that tell you a lot more about the story of Dr. Wolfe, Bertrand, Lucy Kuo and John White, a character from the first game. Neglect them and the story is a lot shadier. Collect them, and you can understand the story a lot more. Nearly all of them will make you think ‘ohhh…’ as you link their contents with the rest of the story. The second collectables are the Blast Shards. These little shards scattered around the map help Cole gain more storage for his electric powers. The more you have, the less you will have to recharge in order to keep on firing your numerous powers at your enemies.
Just like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Cole bears some awesome electrical powers, thanks to some events that occurred in the first game. At the very start of the game, you lose some of them, like the Rockets, but the game doesn’t make you lose them all. You still have the basics like the Alpha Bolt, Blast, Induction Grind (which allows Cole to slide across electric cables) and a couple of others, so you feel like a superhero right from the start of the game, being able to take down a few Militia in a matter of seconds. One of the best new features of Infamous 2 is the power unlock and upgrade system.
This time around, as you progress through the game and gain new powers, instead of just unlocking them right on the spot, you have to complete a certain amount of stunts, say get ten ‘head shocks’, which are the lightning equivalent of a headshot, to unlock this new power and use it. This adds a lot more variation to the game and gives you a reason to run around beating up the bad guys. On top of that, the new quick-selection menu allows you to change between the upgrades of each power with just a push of a button, instead of needing to pause the game and go through the whole menu.
However, this makes some upgrades feel a bit useless. In Infamous the upgrades weren’t interchangeable, rather all in one power. Like the Re-Direct Rocket, for example, was one of my favourite upgrades in the first game but in this one, I never used it, because there were much better ones to choose from. Some of the new powers, like the Detonation Blast, are pretty pointless as well.
The most devastating of the new powers however are the Ionic Powers. These powers allow you to take out more than one enemy in spectacular fashion, whether it be with a lightning storm, the Ionic Vortex, a tornado of swirling fury, picking up everything in its path or the couple of others you can unlock. As amazing as these powers are, we only have one ‘Ionic Slot’ when we first unlock these powers and three when we unlock them ourselves, meaning that after we use an Ionic Power, we have to find another Ionic Charge to use the power again. This is rather disappointing since we can’t have as much fun destroying things with these powers as we could in Infamous where we could call down a whole Lightning Storm at will by the end of the game.
Another new addition to the combat in Infamous 2 is The Amp. This is basically a massive metal fork made for Cole by Zeke, into which Cole can transfer his energy and turn it into a deadly, electrical melee weapon. The melee is definitely a lot of fun as it allows you to build up for some one-hit kills when you manage to get some combos going, and these lead to some pretty spectacular takedowns. People complained about the camera while using the weapon, but I didn’t find a problem with it at all.
The Moral Choice system was a little bit wonky in this game I think. Usually, you’d expect the evil choice to be risker and… well more evil wouldn’t you? But instead in Infamous 2 some decisions just lead to a different opening, like with the first mission choice we have (where you choose between the good main mission or the bad main mission), we can either rally up an army of policemen to help you invade an enemy base or set up a railway tram with explosives to ram into the gates and blow the place up. With the evil choice, which in case you didn’t realise, was the latter, you’d expect half of the enemies to be killed by the explosion right? Well instead, you just crash into the building and you still have to fight the army of enemies you’d have to fight if you chose the good option, but without an army of police to help you. Not all of the choices throughout the game are like this, but a few are, which takes away from the experience for me, since it doesn’t make you feel evil, it just makes you feel like you’re selfish and mean.
One of the most annoying things in Infamous 2 was the random boss battles that would appear in nearly every single side and main missions. Seriously, after they introduce the bosses for each faction (e.g. The huge Devourers and large but agile Ravengers in the Corrupted faction), they keep on throwing them into each side mission, making you tediously need to take the time to knock their health bar (which appears on screen) down to zero every time. It got to a point when I was saying ‘Oh no’ each time I saw one of those bosses spawn. Despite this, I must admit, these bosses were pretty epic in both size and look.
In Infamous in order to put the power back on in an blacked out area (which is the game’s version of unlocking areas), you would have to run through the sewers of Empire City and switch back on the generator, picking up a new power and fighting enemies in the process. Unfortunately, Infamous 2 doesn’t include this feature, instead it is replaced by firing a ‘Telsa Missile’, a missile of electricity, into a generator to power it up, then running to the generator and protecting it from the waves of enemies that come to stop the power from coming back on. I’ll admit, that was still fun, but I found it boring compared to the sewer sequences, where you ran around in the dark, taking down the enemies with your newly found powers and avoiding the water that would kill you in your fell in, rather than just firing the missile, then running to the generator, then protecting it, three times per area.
Like in the first game (again, I know), you claim territory once you complete a side mission. Soon enough, you claim the entire city for yourself. This means that enemies stop showing up and the random events decline by a large amount. While you can still do User-Generated Content (explained below), I did miss the random groups of enemies I encountered while running around and wish they’d return. Without them and the random encounters, the game feels boring, especially if you’re bored of the UGC.
The final thing I can mention about gameplay is the User-Generated Content, or UGC. As the title suggests, users can create levels of any kind, with any amount of enemies or objects. I found quite a few of the ones people made very fun and creative, however, I never tried to make a level, because frankly, I had no idea how. Sucker Punch doesn’t give you any instructions on how to build a level, which makes it quite hard to have any fun with it.
You can put around fifteen hours into Infamous 2’s story, with twenty plus waiting around the corner with the numerous Blast Shards and Dead Drops to collect, powers to unlock and side missions to complete and not to mention of course the never ending supply of User-Generated Content that is constantly being created each day by you and other players around the world.
Overall, Infamous 2 is an amazing game to play. Although there are some one or two somewhat large flaws, the rest are very minor and neither affect the overall quality of the game, still making it a great experience. To answer my question at the start of the review, Infamous 2 is better than its predecessor in some ways more than others, so yes, I do think it is better than Infamous, but I still think had some better gameplay in terms of the sewer sequences and its Moral Choice System is a lot better and makes more sense.
With beautiful graphics, an engaging storyline and some epic and extremely fun gameplay, I would highly recommend Infamous 2, especially if you enjoy free-roam games like these. However, I recommend playing Infamous first so the story makes more sense and you get to play the game that lead to the amazing game that is Infamous 2.
I will happily give Infamous 2 a 9/10.
Find out more about Infamous 2 at The Official Website!