inFamous 2 Review
inFamous is one of my favorite games of the generation. That addictive combination of superhero power and open-world freedom proved to be a wildly enjoyable experience. Cole is back in the sequel and despite a few drawbacks, inFamous 2 is yet another well designed, highly entertaining romp through the enemy-infested New Marais. The Beast is lumbering ever closer and our industrious hero must obtain all his new powers before facing that world-ending behemoth and once again, you can choose how you go about it: do you care about civilians or not? Is this about saving them or turning yourself into an unstoppable machine? Either way, although I’m not a fan of this new stunt system, the game is lengthy and yes, once again, it’s oddly addicting. That controller gets a workout.
Graphically, it’s a definite step up from its predecessor. There’s just more detail and slightly sharper imagery throughout, and I appreciated the more diverse enemy design and sweet animations. Normally, we typically find little – and often comical – issues that come along with free-roaming adventures; the game structure lends itself to certain technical hurdles. It’s why pop-in and collision detection can sometimes be a problem. But Sucker Punch handles the challenge quite well and for the most part, inFamous 2 remains technically sound throughout. Mind you, it isn’t entirely free of such hitches but on the whole, it succeeds nicely in the visual realm. More color, more intricate detail, more fluidity, etc.
The sound is similar to that of the first title, with sharp, distinct sound effects that will often cause your speakers to rumble, cool ambient sounds in the city, and solid overall balance. Regarding the latter, though, I did sense some balancing issues between the music and speech during particular cut-scenes, although it isn’t a major flaw. As for the dialogue, well… That’s going to be very subjective, as I believe fans of the original won’t like Cole’s new voice, which to me sounds just too “punk-ish.” Still, if we view the performances as objectively as possible, they’re pretty darn good, and the aforementioned soundtrack almost always fits the action and atmosphere. It plays an appropriately large role in significant encounters, too. I like that.
Now, I’ve heard through the grapevine that some critics and gamers have accused inFamous 2 of “playing too much like the original.” This is a little pet peeve of mine so let me tackle this first. Look, I’m all for progression, innovation, originality, and advancement. But I’m also of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it school,” as well as the still more logical, “a sequel kinda should play like the original” mindset. This is inFamous. Do you want to be able to drive cars around and turn it into GTA? Do you want Cole to tote guns around? I’m sorry, but the complaint that it plays like the first game makes zero sense to me, and here I’ll quote Arnold-
“So if there’s one hot chick with big tits and another hot chick with big tits, the second one is worse somehow?”
My point exactly. So that should solidify the fact that Cole moves and acts much like he did in the last game, although some might believe he actually zips around faster. Despite the speed, the control remains excellent with one significant caveat: he’s still too “sticky.” In other words, he attaches himself to certain objects too easily; i.e., you don’t have to be very close for him to start climbing or something, and that can get frustrating. This was an issue before and I was a little sorry to see that Sucker Punch hadn’t fixed it. Furthermore, with the addition of the up-close-and-personal amp, the camera can really be a problem in tight quarters. Personally, I also found the amp to be just a tad difficult to control in regards to targeting enemies; I would often nail civilians by accident.
While we’re on the subject of some iffy mechanics and movement, I’ll also mention – in addition to Cole’s “stickiness” – some excessive “hopping” that will take place due to some mediocre collision detection when running about. Therefore, I find inFamous 2 a little more challenging to play (and not in a good way), which is why I can’t in good conscience award an elite 9+ score. However, all that being said, the good greatly outweighs the bad and none of those hindrances can stop this game from being oodles of fun. Taking down enemies with your diverse and appealing powers never gets old and exploring the sprawling city of New Marais is a constantly invigorating adventure; it's just ceaselessly entertaining.
This time around, we can learn and directly equip a variety of different skills and abilities. By simply holding down left on the d-pad, the game will pause (yes!) and let us select a new skill; for instance, if you want to change from the standard Alpha Blast to the long-range Artillery Blast or the nifty Pincer Shot. You also start with more abilities this time around, including the incredibly useful hover, which you didn’t get for a while in 2009’s quest. Plus, if you have a completed save from inFamous, make sure to select the option to “Continue the story” when you start this new game, ‘cuz you’ll get some sweet bonuses. Gotta love that.
Running around, climbing, sliding on electrical wires, gliding through the air, zapping enemies, and in general, being a total bad-ass is just plain awesome. There are plenty of side-quests and you can once again opt to be Heroic or Infamous, although there are some definite issues with the morality system. It seems a little erratic at times (you’ll know what I mean when you reach certain decision-making points) and the story feels disjointed. But I actually like this plot more than the first, as the first always felt too vague; there was always this mystery that you could never quite understand, and that bugged me. This time around, the situation is pretty simple- power up before The Beast destroys everything.
Some will disagree, but the bottom line is that this is all about the gameplay and the story and characters just take a backseat. We also have the benefit of UGC (User Generated Content), which – if you’re connected to the PSN – will pop up on your map when playing. They’ll be denoted by green exclamation points (regular side-quests will be yellow) and you can sample original missions from both the Sucker Punch guys and other gamers. Frankly, the ones I played really weren’t very good; I’m sorry, but there’s a reason designers are designers. A few were pretty cool but they’re really only there for the sake of variety, as they don’t affect your Karma and only award scanty experience.
It’s the chaotic frenzy of the exploration and combat that cements inFamous 2 as a no-holds-barred winner. I don’t like the idea of having to perform certain stunts – i.e., get 10 headshots to unlock this ability – to gain access to my skills, regardless of experience, but it sort of makes sense from a story standpoint. The control and camera can be iffy, the Karma system is a little erratic, and the Amp isn’t perfect. But the overall package is just a huge blast; it’s always fun to play, the added skills and enemy types (especially bosses) infuse this adventure with a lot more flavor, the city is wonderfully designed, the adventure is lengthy and rewarding, and the game continually draws you in, over and over.
You just can’t stop playing. We should’ve had the old Cole’s voice but you know, the style and attitude of inFamous 2 remains unbelievably captivating. And that’s what matters most.
The Good: Upgraded visuals. Decent voice performances. Fast-paced, addictive gameplay. Great new skills. Combat has been expanded and is more fulfilling. Lengthy quest. More overall variety throughout.
The Bad: Some iffy camera movements and control. Erratic Karma system. Small pacing issues. UGC feels like more of a gimmick.
The Ugly: Seriously, Cole’s voice…wtf.
6/7/2011 Ben Dutka