Official Review: inFamous 2
Back in 2009, Sucker Punch and Sony released a new IP (intellectual property) that actually surprised many, because it really was better than expected (at least in most peoples’ eyes). That title, obviously, was inFamous. It basically followed a courier who had his entire life changed after going out to deliver a package, which contained a devastating weapon called the Ray Sphere. The bomb had been timed to go off (and Cole, your character, was specifically the target). A huge explosion destroyed a number of buildings (and killing thousands of people), creating a blast crater, which had Cole at the center of the explosion.
Though mainly battling with himself through the game, thinking it was his fault, the game was different in the way that you were able to decide whether you wanted to be inFamous (a villain) or Famous (a hero) throughout certain parts of the game. Either side also had exclusive powers, and usually, the evil powers were more destructive than the good, likely because collateral damage isn’t a concern when you’re the bad guy.
Anyway, this review isn’t about inFamous. It’s about inFamous 2, the much anticipated sequel to the first title. With the solid gameplay structure and story provided by the first game, the second one really had a bit to live up to. This review aims to show whether it does or not. It’s just a long read, as I tend to go into detail in my reviews. If you want a quick summary, skip to the conclusion.
Some Story Details
The game basically takes off where the first one left off, assuming you finished the game with good karma (and sorry if you haven’t played the first one; this means Zeke, Cole’s best friend, is alive as opposed to Trish, his girlfriend). Suddenly, the Beast that Kessler warned Cole about in the first game shows up in Empire City, and Cole isn’t powerful enough to stop it yet.
After attempting to destroy it, the Beast recombines itself and is seemingly unstoppable. Empire City is in shambles and Cole, Zeke, and Lucy Kuo (an NSA agent who went to Empire City to try to convince Cole to come to the deep south (Louisiana) where he was to meet Dr. Wolfe to gain the powers necessary to fend off the Beast) quickly boarded their ship and headed toward New Marais. This is where the rest of the story takes place (and where the Beast starts heading toward).
Now that you have some background information on why the game takes place in New Marais, it is time to tear it down a little bit. First of all, unlike the different gangs available in the first game, New Marais is crawling with, mainly, mercenaries. Bertrand, one of the game’s main antagonists (and the leader of the mercenaries), has many in a tizzy over Cole McGrath’s arrival, and conduits in general (the name given to people who have powers), putting fear of these conduits into the hearts of people.
With the fact that the Beast is still pursuing Cole, the game has a pretty cool way of expressing that, as well as happenings in the city, through newscasts on televisions (which actually use live acting). These usually show up in the corner when you walk by one. Even pressing the start/pause button, you can see a map of the eastern United States on the progression of the Beast’s travel. Between major chapter missions, you absorb the energy of blast cores (these grant you the new powers), which knock you out for a period of time, giving the Beast a bit of time to get closer, and is reflected in the loading screen.
With that said, Bertrand’s militia isn’t the only enemy in the game. You also have manufactured ice conduits (which you engage with later in the game) and the Corrupted (which are more or less monstrous-looking beings, which have a rather sinister origin you uncover as you progress through the game).
There are also a few boss fights in the game, including a couple different types of Corrupted (the Ravager and the Devourer), which, eventually, become standard specialized enemies that are easier to fight once you figure out their fighting strategy and the best ways to defeat them. There are also larger bosses, including the Beast and a giant swamp monster referred to as the Behemoth (both of which have interesting origins).
With the baddies out of the way, I do have a complaint. There aren’t too many major/memorable characters in this game. You have Zeke, Kuo, a rebel leader, and another conduit, Nix (of course Bertrand and Dr. Wolfe as well). Though it is nice to see some character development, there really isn’t enough characters to make that engaging. Zeke is basically your wingman, and seems to be looking for forgiveness for his selfish actions in the first game. Cole, really, just seems to be going along for the ride sometimes, and he’d be the one you’d expect to have the most development. The most character development is actually through Kuo and Nix’s interactions with each other.
Most of the story’s good guy/bad guy decisions are based on differences between these two characters, and since Nix is generally a problem starter who would rather cause trouble, she, by that fact, has the evil side of the plans. Kuo, on the other hand, is more tactical and prefers less collateral, and usually has the good decisions. Unfortunately, in this game, there is no real distinction between the good or the bad choice until the very last one. Nothing really changes the story at all. No characters can die off mid-game or anything, and there are only ever subtle mentions of a choice you made previously in cutscenes or inter-character dialogue. Beyond that, each mission (besides the last) is exactly the same with the same characters and same progression, regardless of which choice you make.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still an enjoyable game, but that isn’t to say the story didn’t have its problems. I did think it was good, but I think they could have done a better job differentiating between the hero storyline and the villain storyline. I think the biggest problem with the story isn’t that, though. It’s the length. For me, it seemed to have progressed far too fast and had come to its conclusion before I knew it. I finished the game in 2 days, and in those two days, I didn’t even play it for hours on end in one sitting.
Gameplay: The Most Important Thing
Just like the first game, this one is all about scaling buildings and using powers. What made the first title really good, and done well in this one (without really changing the formula), was the parkour-style navigation. You can easily scale buildings by jumping between, and grabbing, ledges. Once up top, you can hover to various areas (you will eventually unlock a faster hovering mode, because the standard seems pretty sluggish), or even grind on electrical wires to get you to places faster (the game is designed in such a way that they’re all over the place; even the trolley lines are useful for that). I think it’s this kind of navigation that makes the series great, as almost any surface is scalable.
Cole’s powers are the other side of the gameplay coin, though. Like the first one, this game has karma-specific powers. With bad karma, you have more devastating powers, and with good karma, you have a more focused attack. Some of these powers are variations of those in the first game, with more damaging powers becoming available as you become more evil, or more heroic (and gain the necessary experience points to buy those, as well as meeting some specific criteria to unlock them). There is also a quick-change option to allow you to switch between different kinds of attacks for various powers with the simple press of a couple buttons. What’s nice about this is the game seems to remember which ones you use most. Me, for instance, I constantly switch between kinetic pulse and ice launch.
The standard attacks, of course, are going to be used more often, but there are certain attacks that just have a whole lot of a** kicking. These are the Ionic attacks, which use your power, as well as the charged up power of Cole’s melee weapon, the Amp. Of course, getting access to these powers are slim pickings. You need to defeat enemies, and some of them will drop these pink orbs on occasion (it happens randomly). These are stored up (depending on your level and how many blast shards you collected; you can only store one at a time at first, and up to three times total), and upon use of an Ionic attack, will be depleted.
You start off with getting the Ionic Vortex. This is great for defeating large groups of enemies. You can also get the Ionic Drain with bad karma (if you chose the right side on one of the missions), which sucks the life out of everyone around you. Alternatively, you can get the Ionic Freeze, which creates a path of ice that freezes your enemies (but doesn’t affect any civilians and its use increases good karma; access to this by the same previously stated mission). And finally, the Ionic Storm, which creates a serious lightning storm. All of these attacks are useful and kill off any of the standard enemies in their path. It’s just having to fight off enemies who might have those orbs that hinders its use.
Besides the powers, I think that you will notice melee attacks will be used probably half the time, as enemies in this game (especially the Corrupt) are a lot more in-your-face than the enemies in the first title. That is where the aforementioned Amp weapon comes in (which looks to be a couple conduits running off of the same circuit, powered by Cole). These can take down the smaller enemies pretty quick (but do minimal damage to larger enemies). You can unlock new abilities for the Amp by completing side missions, which help make it so you can build up combos and perform finishing moves. In my experience, these finishing moves (used with the press of the triangle button when available) take down enemies quickly (depending on the enemy). Depending on our karma, the look of the Amp (as well as Cole) will change as well. Bad karma looks dark and sinister, while good karma makes you and your weapon brighter (well, the Amp is chrome plated).
Other than standard missions, and the powers and everything, inFamous 2 also has the familiar side-missions, which allow you to take over certain parts of the city and remove enemies from those areas. They’re basic missions, and aren’t very different from what you can get in the first title (and, again, don’t affect the story at all). Some of these missions need to be played to unlock others, though. There are also random events and NPCs that you can interact with as well. Mercenaries escorting prisoners (or holding them up), people walking around with blast shards (you can attack them and steal the shards), blast shard bombs (which you can disarm and collect the shards), and a few police patrols and sidewalk entertainers you can attack, just for the hell of it.
Some places are powered down, though, and are lifeless during those times. There aren’t any objects to suck power from, besides maybe abandoned cars. This requires you to fire off Tesla Missiles (which are basically missiles made from pure electricity). You have to control these by flying them from working transformers to transformers powered down in other areas, to prep them for Cole to begin feeding them electricity. When you start doing that, you have to fend off waves enemies that try to inhibit you from charging up the transformer completely. At least while it is charging, you can drain power from it to gain some of yours back, without affecting its charge.
One of the more fun aspects of gameplay are the missions that require you to use the “induction launch”. This new power is rarely used, but when you can, you overcharge yourself and electricity flies out all around you, allowing you to take out rooftop enemies in quick succession and launch up powered poles on buildings, and more quickly grind wires and fly. Even cars are affected by it. The only thing is, if you spend too much time on the ground, you essentially ground yourself and the power will fade away if you’re not fast enough to reach a conductive material.
Building upon the formula of the first game, and adding a few new things to it, still makes for a good game, but it still isn’t a completely different experience. Some might say that it is just more of the same. I would have to agree for the most part, but having different kinds of powers and faster ways of getting from point A to point B (the ice launch, I think, is one of the most useful ones you can get) helps differentiate the title from the first one. Even the melee attacks make it seem at least a little different. Despite the new stuff, though, it still feels like inFamous, in a good way.
What About the Graphics?
Upon first playing the game, I wasn’t too sure of what to think of the graphics. The color palette and everything was great, and texture details were nice, but my biggest concern were with some of the particle effects around character models. At first, I had thought that some of the background NPC models were extremely blocky (when you’re on the pier in Empire City, you can notice it especially when that other ship blows up). It didn’t dawn on me that it was the actual particle effects until smoke passed over Cole, resulting in the same issue.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that problem in a game. Gran Turismo 5 suffers from it as well. Tire smoke affects the car models in the same way, making smokey pictures really hard to take without distorting the model like that. At least the rest of inFamous 2 doesn’t suffer from similar problems, as the game, overall, looks really good. The only glaring problems I have come across are more the clipping issues (where a model passes through another without collision detection). The Behemoth, for instance, will occasionally have its whole arm pass through one of the buildings. Other times, like performing finishing moves, if you perform one close to a wall, your enemy will pass through it. With that said, I haven’t had any glitches like the first one, where you can occasionally pass through a wall/barrier.
Lighting is nice, and ambient, subtle light effects from you and your powers often look great (both as a weapon or just simply absorbing power from electrical devices), giving the ground that blue or red glow (depending on whether you’re good or not). The city is also greatly detailed (but seems a bit smaller than Empire City), including the swamp areas, which give you that eerie feeling when going through it (especially when there is a lot of fog). There also seems to be a bit more destructible set pieces as well (including those old fashioned New Orleans-inspired balconies). In my opinion, though, the coolest effects come from your Ionic powers (namely the Vortex and Storm).
Even with the aforementioned particle effects and the issues they cause, as well as the model clipping, I would still say that this game looks great overall. Even wading through water in Floodtown (which can kill you if you stay in it long enough), the electricity arcing through the water and around your body looks awesome. I don’t recall any other glaring issues with this game, either. Definitely sequel-worthy without losing the style of the first, including the motion comic cutscenes, which are nicely done and fit the overall style of the game very well.
I did, however, notice a few slow-downs, but that only happens when there is a lot of activity going on at the same time. Namely when I was making a mission (User Generated Content will be discussed later) and placed about 20 rocket launching enemies to fire at me (which also caused the audio to start cutting). It was insane, but it didn’t crash my system or anything at least.
The Sound Department
When it comes to games, in my opinion, sound can make it or break it. There was a lot of controversy over a recast for Cole’s voiceovers (which originally started from a proposed character design change). At first, I thought his voice was annoying and didn’t fit too well, but I eventually got over it. The voiceover work for all of the other characters was fitting, though, and they did a good job with the cast on them (Nix, for instance, is very distinct).
As far as music goes, it’s pretty subtle. I don’t remember any of the score off hand, only that it never seemed overly quiet or stuck out from the rest of the game. Then again, that might also be attributed to the ambient noise as well. The game doesn’t really have any “silent” moments, which, for me, are pretty irritating in a way. At ground level, it sounds like a city, except that you’re a tourist attraction and everyone wants to come up to you and take pictures. Or, if you have bad karma, they’ll run away in fear and scream (or pick fights and throw stuff at you).
I haven’t noticed any problems with sound effects (besides my insane rocket launcher mission incident). Explosions sound nice, the crackle of electricity is great, and the ice cracking is pretty punchy. A lot of sounds sound like they’re recycled from the first title, but since they worked there, they work here, too. Of course, with the swamp-based baddies, there are plenty of splattering sounds in there as well, like when the Behemoth and Devourer spew out these giant, slimy sacks at you. With that said, I don’t think there are really any sound effects that seem out of place, so the sound guys did a good job on this title.
Also, to point out, one thing I am glad to see is good lip syncing. At first, I thought it had been the cable I reviewed last week, but it wasn’t. With Killzone 3 being a first party title (and me finally getting around to playing it, after I hooked up said cable), it occasionally had some really bad lip syncing, which is an annoyance. InFamous 2 does not suffer from this problem.
And What About the User Generated Content?
User-Generated Content, something you wouldn’t expect to see in a game like this, is something new that allows you to basically create different kinds of missions, from Kill-Em-All to escort missions. After trying some other user created levels online (a decent one here and there, a bad one, and a neat/creative one), I decided to make one of my own.
You can start from a template for your first mission, which I highly suggest you at least try (even though locations and enemy placements are automatically done), as it gives you a good starting point, or even shows you a way of doing something (like how to end a mission, which I couldn’t figure out at first). There was no tutorial to get you heading in the right direction, but some of the template missions do have some tips within those.
The UGC mission creation is very complex, that’s why I suggest trying out the templates first. My first (and only) UGC so far is a simple “kill all” mission that takes place in an enclosed park. You can also edit attributes to objects and enemies, making enemy HP over 5000 (I haven’t attempted to go beyond that because I got tired of holding the right button in). A few of the enemies you can’t use, however. This includes helicopters, Ice Titans, and the Devourer. I think it would have been awesome making a mission with about 5 Devourers for you to defeat.
Once you get used to the numerous tools and how to make branching storylines, you can create a very detailed mission, with checkpoints and everything. You do have a meter with the number of objects you’re allowed, etc, so you can’t just throw in a thousand ice giants and call it a day. If you’re satisfied with your level (you can test it as you make it), you can opt to publish it. To help thwart people creating missions that are impossible to beat, Sucker Punch does require you to play through it before it is published online.
Overall, it is definitely an unexpectedly nice addition to the franchise. When I get a chance, I’m going to play some of the higher ranked ones (and yes, other people can rank your missions). The most creative one I played was a platforming mission with multiple platforms hanging high in the air, and you had to defeat ice conduits scattered around, who also jump from platform to platform. If you went outside of the mission area, you failed, of course. The levels might not be LBP-caliber, but there’s definitely a bit there to check out. You can also filter the UGC, and they will automatically populate the world based on your filter (it’s random by default).
InFamous 2 turned out to be a pretty decent game. There were no issues with the story or anything (besides it being relatively short). I would say, however, that either ending (good karma or bad) makes it kind of hard to see another sequel, but that’s fine by me. Voice work was spot on, and the sound department did an awesome job with the game overall.
I did come across a few issues here and there, as mentioned earlier, but I haven’t come across anything game breaking. Although I haven’t mentioned this earlier, there were also occasional camera problems, panning around in weird angles (like after a rocket hits you and you’re by an object or wall), but they weren’t too common. The game still looks and sounds good.
The added gameplay elements didn’t revolutionize the game, and were subtle enough to keep the game feeling like inFamous. Could they have done more? Considering how strong a Conduit Cole is, I think a fire-based set of powers would have been awesome, but ice definitely makes up for that. The new powers for traversing the map faster are also a very welcomed addition.
However, with the problems there were, I can’t really rate this game higher than I have. I think Sucker Punch could have fleshed out characters a lot better, and improved the story a bit more (adding length to it as well). With having all of these powers, and there being other Conduits, Cole could have had more powerful enemies/bosses to battle this time around, rather than the two big ones, which really actually had lackluster defeats.
User Generated Content can definitely help breath some life into this game, though. Especially if you like to do fanfics and want to create missions based on the inFamous universe. Of course, a really good mission will take a lot of practice before you can make a really enjoyable one, but practice makes perfect, right?
With that said, I think that this game is still worthy of at least renting. If you’re a big inFamous fan, I definitely recommend picking it up, but don’t expect to have a tough, enduring game on your hand. Trophies are pretty easy to attain in this game, and could be an easy platinum, though. UGC will definitely add some replayability, but that is dependent on the creativity and dedication of the UGC universe. If you didn’t enjoy the first one, don’t bother with this one, as it is generally the same. If you have never played the first, I highly recommend doing so, and then deciding on whether you want to play the second or not. Even though it’s easy to pick up the story and play the game, I think you’ll get more out of it if you’ve played the first (a recommendation for any game sequel).
Great Sound Design/Voicework
UGC is a Cool Addition
Occasional Clipping Issues and Slowdown
Occasional Camera Issues
Low Character Development
Good/Evil Difference Not Really Evident
Endings Leave Little for Story Expansion
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of inFamous 2 provided by Sucker Punch Productions.