inFamous 2

inFamous was, as I indicated in my post for it, a great game.  If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have had the patience to grab every single blast shard, listen to every dead drop, do every stunt, and otherwise Platinum the game.  So when Sucker Punch announced inFamous 2, you can bet I was interested.  As I read more and more coverage of the game, though, very little led me to believe that the sequel wouldn’t just be more of the same.  A new location, some new powers, and a couple new characters added to the same core gameplay.  Having finished my first playthrough of inFamous 2, I can say with some confidence that for the most part I was right.  And yet that’s not a bad thing.

The game begins not long after the first one–you should skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t finished inFamous.  An introductory cutscene explains what’s occurred in the interlude: Lucy Kuo, a government agent, contacts Cole and Zeke, telling them that her and an informant in New Marais have figured out a way to take out the Beast.  As they’re packing their bags, though, the Beast finally makes its appearance, apparently ahead of time.  Cole stays behind to fight it off (which serves as the game’s basics tutorial), but even though he manages to defeat it momentarily, the Beast drains many of his powers in the process, before reviving itself and resuming its rampage.

The story’s direction is still governed by the Karma system, which remains unchanged.  One of the complaints made against the first game was how black and white the Karma system was, in contrast to games like Mass Effect and Red Dead RedemptioninFamous 2 ignores this complaint, and in fact embraces the rigid polarization.  When you are presented with a choice or opportunity, it is almost always immediately apparent which is good and which is bad.  And like Mass Effect 2, you’re encouraged to pick an alignment and stick with it, because some powers only unlock at higher levels of Good or Evil Karma, and the final plot choice requires you to be either full evil or full good.

Still, inFamous 2 does what it can with the Karma system.  There are more choices like the one regarding Trish in the first game–you know what I mean.  A new addition is random events, which has either good or evil opportunities pop up nearby as you play the game.  Good ones include crimes in progress, like muggings or kidnappings, that you put a stop to, while Evil ones include roaming cops that you can bully, and citizens in possession of blast shards who you can kill.

inFamous 2 is definitely a case of addition and refinement, and gameplay is no exception.  Most of your powers from the first game will carry over (if not immediately than soon enough), like the Lightning Grenade, Static Thrusters, and Thunder Drop.  Combat still consists of you aiming in third person to fire basic shots, and tossing in the odd grenade or rocket when necessary, and fighting hand to hand when you can.  Though your health regenerates, you can speed up the process and refill your energy by draining electricity from anything that would have it; street lamps, cars, generators, fans, etc.  To summarize, inFamous 2 does indeed play very much like its predecessor; at first.

Then you’re steadily introduced to all the new powers and abilities this sequel has to offer, the first being the Amp, which is more or less a giant cattle prod.  The Amp replaces Cole’s punches and kicks as his melee option.  Melee in general feels much more weighted, much more dynamic.  Consecutive hits fill up your “finisher” bar which, when full lets you perform a flashy attack that will instantly incapacitate most enemies.  For the most part the Amp serves as an extremely satisfying addition, and–combined with the finishers–makes close quarters combat a more viable option than it ever was in the first game.  The camera can, on occasion get a little crazy if you get too into it though.

Cole’s parkour abilities work pretty much exactly as they did previously.  You jump towards something; anything really, and he’ll grab onto it.  This was amazing to see in the first game, but with series like Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted having shown us that climbing can be more realistic looking, Cole now looks a lot like a squirrel to me.  But your mileage may vary.  What is helpful is the addition of a couple more traversal abilities.  In addition to the wires you can grind on, now there are vertical electric poles stuck to the side of many buildings that you can grab onto which rocket you upwards.  Later on you’ll get access to abilities like Lightning Tether, which lets you pull yourself to any object or surface, like the “zip-line” technique in a lot of Spiderman games.  However, another complaint from the first game still stands.  Cole’s not always easy to maneuver in tight spaces due to his being magnetically attracted to the nearest grab-able object.  In fact the attraction seems to have been upped a notch or two.

Stunts are back, and play a more central role in gameplay.  Just like in the first game, Cole can unlock new powers using XP gained from missions and defeated enemies.  But most powers remain locked, each one asking you to do a certain number of stunts before you can use it.  However, since Cole already learned the basic versions of most of the abilities in inFamous, a lot of the stuff you unlock are variations or more powerful versions of what you already know, like turning your basic shock into a rapid fire stream of electric bolts.

Many new abilities are mapped to the R2 button, like the Kinetic Pulse, which lets you hurl various objects (including cars), and the afore-mentioned LIghtning Tether.  The boomstick ability Lightning Storm from inFamous has been reworked into a new category of powers called ionic abilities.  The first ionic ability you learn is the Ionic Vortex, which you’ve likely seen if you’ve been paying close attention to coverage of the game.  Ionic abilities are extremely powerful, and as such, require the use of an ionic charge, dropped by enemies.

Overall, inFamous 2 represents an incredible maturing of the gameplay introduced by its predecessor.  Many of the new additions make some of the stuff you learn in inFamous–like the Thunder Drop and cover system–seem basic or even downright archaic.

The final major addition to inFamous 2 gameplay-wise is UGC, or user-generated content.  That’s right, Play.Create.Share has made its way into one more game.  If you’re connected online, custom missions will show up on your map as green icons.  You can apply filters to the missions that show up, and rate a mission after playing it.  The UGC missions are decent, from what I’ve played so far, but you’re not going to get a level of quality similar to what you get in the story and side missions.  To be fair though, much of that has to do with the lack of voice acting.

Visually, inFamous 2 doesn’t fail to improve upon it’s predecessor.  The new locale, New Marais, is based on a Louisiana type setting, complete with a swamp bayou on the outskirts of town.  There’s more variety to be had, including a red light district, industrial district, and an entire island that’s completely flooded, and of course the previously mentioned swamps.  Citizens still look and act mostly the same the as they did in the first game though, following a pretty limited set of actions.

One aspect of the the graphics that deserves special attention is the body animation.  It was yet another sticking point for people that played inFamous, but here it’s been given a massive facelift.  Facial animation in particular is superb, though not quite up there with LA Noire and Uncharted.  All characters–Cole in particular, of course–move with a newfound fluidity.

I noted in my review for inFamous that the game ran very well for an open world sandbox title.  The sequel retains that standard.  Glitches were few and far between, and the game did not crash or drop in framerate once during my playtime.  Loading screens are also uncommon and fairly brief.

inFamous 2 is, in short, a wonderful game.  Not as often as I’d like do we see excellent games come out, only for their successor to completely improve on them, such to the point that the predecessor suddenly looks unappealing.  Yet this is what inFamous 2 does.  It is, in more ways than one, the mature, developed version of inFamous.  Still, it raises exciting possibilities.  A 9/10.

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