The original inFAMOUS was a nice surprise back in 2009, a new IP in a market crowded with sequels and reboots. The game cast you as Cole MacGrath, a young bike courier who gains electrical superpowers after being caught in the middle of a large explosion that leaves him as the only survivor. inFAMOUS combined open-world aspects with a touch of RPG progression, awesome super-powers and threw it all together with a fun method of travel and a moral compass that you influenced through your actions.
As enjoyable as the game was it did have a few flaws, most notably its very binary karma system, but it was a refreshing, fun game that we don’t get a lot of these days. Hopping around Empire City blasting lightning at bad guys and helping or hindering the common folk (depending on your alignment) was so engaging that I had no trouble playing through twice to see the good and bad outcomes of the game. Two years later, Sucker Punch Productions is bringing Cole back, sending him down south to New Marais in order to gain new super powers in order to fight The Beast, an apocalyptical enemy mentioned at the end of the first game. Does inFAMOUS 2 pull of an “Uncharted 2” leap in quality, or does the game fizzle out?
One of the most noticeable changes made between the two games are the graphics, which have received a significant boost. The original inFAMOUS was fairly rough looking, especially when viewed with modern eyes, but the sequel looks significantly better, especially in the areas of character animation and facial expressions. The in-game cut-scenes actually have real lip-syncing this around as opposed to the simple open-close marionette actions of the first game. Cole MacGrath also had a change in voice actors, and despite earlier fan outcry over the difference, his new actor carries a much more believable presence befitting a young super-hero as opposed to the grizzled world-weariness of the old actor.
The characters in inFAMOUS 2 are much more fleshed out than they were in the previous game, especially Cole’s friend Zeke who actually has a real character arc and becomes integral to the final act of the game. He’s also now some sort of super engineering whiz, but the other two supporting characters, Kuo and Nix, wouldn’t believably know how to make new gadgets for Cole or operate the main MagGuffin of the game, the Ray Field Inhibitor. Speaking of Kuo and Nix, they act as the angel and devil on Cole’s shoulders respectively, personifying the good and evil aspects of his personality and the use of his powers. While they are serviceable characters for the most part, Nix is particularly annoying, her dialogue and voice acting grating my nerves every time she talks. It’s not fair to count this as a real knock against the game, more of a personal annoyance. She’s a glaring stand-out against the rest of the game, though, so take from that what you will.
The city of New Marais has a lot more character than Empire City, moving from an urban zone to an industrial area and a section of the city clearly meant to invoke the devastated areas wrought by Katrina. Each of the different zones force you to take on combat encounters in a different way, especially the ruined Flood Town which has areas covered in water; as you can imagine, spending a lot of time in liquid is anathema to a man with electric powers. There are lots of little nods to other franchises all around the city, specifically on the marquee boards of the theaters in the Red Light District. Movie titles such as Assassins Need (Love Too), Latch it and Skank, and Epic Hickey star alongside Red Ring Electronics stores, and Zeke reads a book called Thievius Raccoonus, a nod to Sucker Punche’s Sly Cooper series.
Combat is mostly the same from the first game, taking familiar weapons from games and turning them into electrical-based attacks. Fortunately, inFAMOUS 2 doesn’t Metroid you quite as hard as you would expect, giving you access to a fair range of powers that you had from the original game. As you absorb the various Blast Cores sprinkled throughout the game, you gain access to a wider range of powers like the new Ionic abilities which include electrical tornadoes and lightning storms. In a new twist this time around, you can gain the powers of either Kuo or Nix depending on your karmic alignment. Good karma will gain you Kuo’s Ice abilities, and evil players will get access to Nix’s Fire powers. The further you go on the karma scale the more powers you gain access to, helping you either avoid collateral damage to civilians or gain experience points to buy more powers by killing bystanders. All the powers are great fun, especially once you gain access to the karma-influence Ionic abilities. Draining the bio-electric energy of everyone in a small radius and getting a temporary overload from it is a lot of fun, and so is casting lighting storms later in the game.
Close combat also recieved a boost, giving Cole a melee weapon to use in the form of the Amp instead of relying on his fists. This makes going toe-to-toe much easier as the Amp gives you a decent range instead of having to reach with your fists like you did in the last title. You can also upgrade the Amp to give you Ultra Combos which replenishes your energy meter to the max when you preform a special hit. My only complaint about melee fighting is that the camera angle sometimes obscures the actions, meaning that landing a big hit is supposed to look cinematic but it instead points your view into a tree or another object so all you see is a flash of lightining before you’re reverted back to your typical over-the-shoulder view. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s frequent enough to become an annoyance.
Another small gripe is that the climbing retains its unfortunate tendency to become tricky to manage at times, leaving Cole hopping around in place as you try to grab onto the right object, or flinging you off ledges when you didn’t mean to. It’s improved over the first game, but there’s still times where it’s more frustrating when it should be. One of the biggest offenders in this area are the the new launch poles which are supposed to function as a vertical form of the grind wires that get you going from A to B faster than normal. That’s how they’re supposed to work anyways; based on Cole’s aversion to actually grabbing onto them, they must carry an opposite charge, refusing to allow Cole purchase. When you’re doing a timed mission and you have to dance around trying to grab one of these poles, this can turn into a big annoyance.
These sound like very minor nitpicks, and really they are. While inFAMOUS 2 didn’t quite make an Uncharted 2 type leap, it’s still a great game that’s hard to put down. Much like the first, you’ll be inspired to play it through twice, and that’s before even touching the User Generated Content system where players can make their own missions and put them up for other gamers to try. These are represented by green mission icons on the map, and you can either remix existing missions or create ones of you own. The ones currently available are made by Sucker Punch employees and are pretty bog-standard like races or defeating waves of guys, but much like Halo’s Forge Mode or Little Big Planet, this content system will take off once fans dig way down into the creating system and start making complex, amazing missions. Who knows, this might even land someone a level designer job.
inFAMOUS 2 is a really strong game, and one of the PlayStation’s best exclusive franchises. While Uncharted is beloved by gamers everywhere, this series is a close second. Sucker Punch took a solid foundation and built a fantastic title on top of. A few more touch ups, and inFAMOUS will be widely considered a top-tier series.
So that’s what I thought of inFAMOUS 2. It’s no real surprise that I love the game, but I think that anyone could pick up this game and have a great time. Has anyone else played it, and what do you think?
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