inFAMOUS was one of my favorite games of 2009. Sucker Punch had done what many comic companies struggle to do: create a compelling new hero (or villain) that wasn’t just another Batman or Spider-Man clone. Even though the first game wasn’t without its flaws, I was excited by the prospect of a sequel. I was curious, though, how this new game world would react to the choices I made in the first game, and I was hoping that inFAMOUS 2’s morality choices would be so blatantly diametric. After about an hour with inFAMOUS 2, only one question remained. How did Sucker Punch manage to surpass the original in so many ways?
Picking up just a short while after the conclusion of the first game (which contradicts the comic, by the way), inFAMOUS 2 finds Cole and Zeke teaming with a new government agent, Lucy Kuo. Promising to be able to help Cole harness his powers even more in an effort to stop the Beast, Kuo brings the duo to New Marais. Along with a new city come new antagonists, though this time around, instead of there being multiple villains to confront, Cole is up against just one – Joseph Bertrand. Leader of the local militia, Bertrand hopes to wipe all conduits from the face of the planet. His iron grip on New Marais is immediately apparent, and whether you choose to play good or evil, it’ll be up to you to remove Bertrand from power. While you’re working on building Cole’s strength for his upcoming battle with the Beast, the huge monster is working his way down the East coast, as he is drawn to Cole. The devastation is massive, and the clock is ticking. This time around the story is chock full of major action moments, and the characterization is dialed back a bit. The final hours more than pay off for the forty or so hours you’ve put into both games, and inFAMOUS 2’s finale is appropriately epic. I’m dying to see what Sucker Punch has in plan for whatever inFAMOUS 3 ends up being, because both endings are doozies.
Those of you who played through the first inFAMOUS and still have your save file can import it. Though the benefits aren’t huge, Cole will start with level one abilities from whatever alignment you ended the game with, and 1000 experience points. Thankfully this time around, the moral choices actually make a great deal of sense, and aren’t as drastic as they were in the first title. In inFAMOUS 2 the good and evil choices exist independent of each other, though many of them have the same tonal feel. For example, collecting blast shards is a huge part of expanding Cole’s abilities. People who want to be good can stop bombs from exploding, then removing the blast core as the prize. People who want to be evil can chase down bystanders on the street who’ve picked up blast shards, and kill them for the prize. Since I predominantly played the game as evil, I was pleased to see that many of the choices I had to make for my alignment were independent of the good choices. In the first game you had to choose to be either good or evil for every moral decision. While that is still true of major story moments, all of the minor missions exist independently of one another, and you can complete any of them whenever you choose.
Though Bertrand is the only other big bad you’ll be fighting in New Marais, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of conduits. Cole will meet up with Nyx, a voodoo vixen that wants to do bad, and another unfortunately blessed conduit so ashamed of her powers that she only wants to do good. Depending on who you side with during the game, Cole’s powers will expand to absorb some of Nyx’s fire powers, or the other woman’s ice powers. Mixing and matching is okay, but inFAMOUS has always worked best when you commit entirely to one alignment. As great as it is to get these new abilities, you get them rather late into the game, and they don’t really change the combat experience all that much. Unfortunately, neither do Cole’s new melee abilities, which are adequate at best. The hand-to-hand combat is easily the weakest link the game has to offer, and though its inclusion is understandable, its execution is rather poor. Simply mashing square over and over again does not a good combat system make. Cole’s climbing abilities haven’t changed much for this sequel, and that’s both good and bad. You can easily traverse the world, but at times Cole can be drawn to every last outcropping or ledge, making climbing a chore.
inFAMOUS 2 is miles above and beyond the first game visually as well. New Marais isn’t quite as urbanly dense, but the scale of the New Orleans-inspired city is on par with Empire City. Character models are much better this time around, and even facial animations are more convincing than they were just two years ago. The variations on good and bad Cole aren’t all that drastic, but the subtle differences really help sell the impact your decisions have on Cole as a person. The lighting effects, as in the first game, are top notch. With so many different light sources popping at one time, the game could easily be overwhelmed by how much rendering has to be done, but inFAMOUS 2 hardly hits any sluggish notes, and explosions of light have never looked better. That said, the ice effects aren’t really all that impressive for how good everything else looks, and there are still some camera issues that will plague players from time to time. Those mostly come into play when using melee attacks though, so you don’t have to fret too much.
The biggest new inclusion in the game is also one I’m rather conflicted about. User-generated content is a key addition to inFAMOUS 2, and much was made about getting to create your own side-missions in the game. From what I’ve seen so far, there isn’t really anything to be excited about when it comes to UGC. If the PlayStation 3 has proven anything though, it’s that the console’s user base loves creating content for games. Unlike a title like LittleBigPlanet, where user creativity is an important part of the game, the addition of creation tools here seems unnecessary. Since the missions populate your in-game map just like a story-centric mission would, you can jump in or out of a UGC mission at any time. You can even create one from anywhere in the game world. The thing is, they just don’t flow within the game very well. Granted, there aren’t that many UGC levels available at the moment, and there are even less in the final areas of the game. Perhaps in the coming weeks and months the fans will really churn out some high-quality content. What’s available now though are nothing more than physics puzzles and ring races that just don’t hold the same weight as the rest of the game.
inFAMOUS was such a success that a sequel was a no-brainer. Just because the first game was good though, didn’t mean that the follow-up would be. I was happy to find that inFAMOUS 2 not only lived up to the original, but also surpassed it. The presentation is stronger. The story is more intense, though it lacks the same heart. The action and powers are just as fun to use as they ever were. I’m not sure what Sucker Punch has in store for Cole in the future, but if they keep ramping up the quality, I’ll be there day one to find out. inFAMOUS 2 is another strong example of a super-hero game done right, and serves as a great example that sequels can expand on the original formula without being derivative.
Release date : 2011-06-07
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer : Sucker Punch
Gameplay : Action-Adventure
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