Written by Micah Messer
The original InFAMOUS marked developer Sucker Punch’s first attempt at straying away from their highly under-appreciated Sly franchise, and onto a new IP. Although things like mediocre visuals and lackluster voice acting seemed to drag it down, InFAMOUS 1’s great gameplay and awesome story made it a very solid addition to the Playstation 3 library. Sucker Punch attempts to right the wrongs of their previous title with InFAMOUS 2. Smart design choices, noticeably refined gameplay, and a great new art style definitely make Cole’s electrifying adventure to New Marais worth picking up.
InFAMOUS 2’s story is a direct continuation of the original’s. To get you up to speed with current events, Cole Macgrath’s origin story was one of a classic comic book beginning. He was just a regular guy before getting caught in the middle of an explosion caused by a device called the Ray Sphere. It’s designed to drain the nuero-electric energy from a group of people, and channel it into an individual. The explosion leaves Cole with extremely powerful electrical super powers. Without spoiling anything, Cole must now prepare for the arrival of a prophesized apocalyptic force—a creature titled only as “The Beast.”
Meet Cole Macgrath, super-powered extraordinaire
Cole’s quest for power leads him South, to the New Orleans-inspired city of New Marais. The story of InFAMOUS 2 is generally told very well thanks to an expanded cast of characters and some impressive voice acting. Eric Laden in particular brings some life to the character of Cole Macgrath that just wasn’t there with the original voice actor in InFAMOUS 1. Major story events are displayed through graphic novel cutscenes, and these are just as great as they were in the first game, if not better. InFAMOUS 2 does make plenty of references to the events of the original, so I definitely recommend playing through it beforehand. It also transfers some data over from your save file, though not to the extent of something like Mass Effect.
InFAMOUS 2 has made a giant improvement in terms of visuals and presentation in general. This is a beautiful game, both in style and performance, and makes its predecessor look comically bad in comparison. The lighting effects on Cole’s powers especially standout. New Marais is also a very fun sandbox to explore, and it’s a beautifully made environment. It isn’t very big compared to other sandbox games, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in content. From the large number of side quests, to the blast shards and audio files to collect, New Marais is a densely packed locale with a plethora of tasks to perform. It really feels like every inch of New Marais has purpose behind it.
Remember when I said Cole had super powers?
Unfortunately, that beauty doesn’t stay completely consistent throughout all of the other models in the game, with Cole as an exception. Cole himself is a very well-made character. His animations are top-notch, from the way he runs to the way he hangs off a pole, or shoots someone with an electrical blast, but some of the other NPC models and animations look awkward. Thankfully, regular conversations are presented with in-engine cutscenes which, although not perfect, are a huge improvement over InFAMOUS 1’s horrible attempt at lip sync. It should be noted that InFAMOUS 2’s soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. Consisting of an exceptional use of strings, and urban percussion, InFAMOUS 2’s music fits the atmosphere perfectly.
Although Sucker Punch has stepped up their game in presentation, InFAMOUS 2’s gameplay is where it really shines. Immediately upon picking up and playing InFAMOUS 2, you will notice that everything has been tightened and refined. The gameplay mainly consists of a mixture between free running and third person action/shooting. These elements blend together perfectly because everything that you can climb, (which is just about anything) you can also shoot from. You end up using street signs as cover, and hanging from a pole while blasting people off a rooftop. A number of new powers have also been added to help make free running quicker and easier. There’s an increased emphasis on melee combat with Cole’s new device called the Amp. It’s basically a big pitch fork that Cole sends an electrical current through. It’s incredibly satisfying to smash some bad guys in the head with the stunning melee animations. From the way that your powers look, to the speed in which you traverse the environment, everything feels great.
This is a perfect example of what Cole can do.
Sucker Punch has also made some very smart design choices regarding how the game controls. They didn’t try to give you 20 different powers and then attempt to bind them all to buttons (cough Prototype cough.) Seriously, how the hell am I supposed to realistically press square and circle at the same time? Instead, you have a similar set of powers that you did in the first game with the exception of some new ones, but you can purchase various versions of all the powers with experience points you earn from defeating baddies or completing missions.
An example of this would be the shockwave ability from the first game, which you can now upgrade to be a narrow blast with longer range and more power behind it. Alternatively, you can change it to shoot out a ball of energy onto the ground, which you can then use as a super jump. Everything can be upgraded or changed. Even Cole’s basic electric bolt can be upgraded to things like a long range artillery blast or a rapid-fire boltstream ability. All of the various versions of each ability are easily accessible via a quickswap menu, and after some practice, you’ll be able to switch between them on the fly in mid combat.
This is what makes InFAMOUS 2’s combat so great. It thrives on customization. With all these variations of powers, my playstyle is going to be different from yours, and yours from your friend’s etc. The InFAMOUS games have always had a heavy emphasis on choice and morality. Throughout the game you are constantly forced to make good or evil decisions. Unfortunately, these choices fail to contain any sort of depth to them, as they are very clear black and white decisions and you won’t have any trouble at all deciding which one you want to go with. However, these decisions drastically change gameplay, anywhere from learning different powers depending on whether you’re good or evil, to playing completely different story missions.
Don’t mess with Cole… he’ll throw a car at you.
There are two new female characters, Kuo and Nix, that represent Cole’s good and evil temptations. Siding with one or the other will eventually lead to you being able to learn some of their powers, Kuo with Ice-based powers and Nix with Fire. The amount of missions, powers and content in general that is exclusive to being either good or evil is pretty nuts, and provides you with two drastically different endings. The game developers seem to encourage you to play through the game twice, as both good and evil.
As previously mentioned, there are a ton of side missions in addition to the main story, and although a little formulaic, there’s enough variety in them to keep you entertained. There are also collectible blast shards scattered across the city, that boost Cole’s power capacity, as well as audio files called dead drops that help shed some light on some of the game’s lore. As if there wasn’t enough replay value already, Sucker Punch has added UGC (User Generated Content) to the game. There’s a pretty nifty mission creator that has a crazy amount of tools available and allows anyone to make their own missions and upload them online. Missions created by other people will show up as green question marks in the game world, and you can play them anytime you want to gain experience for completing them. I haven’t played around with the mission editor all that much yet but I can tell that there is a huge possibility of potentially bringing an endless stream of content to InFAMOUS 2 players, even after they have completed the story.
InFAMOUS 2 is a fantastic game that I honestly feel most people would enjoy. Its polished visuals, superb gameplay, and exciting plot come together to make an outstanding package. If you take into consideration the strong incentive to play through the game twice, along with all the other reasons to keep playing, this game is well worth the $60 price tag.
Overall Score: 91
InFAMOUS 2 exceeds its predecessor in almost every way imaginable. Extremely polished gameplay, great visual design and an immense amount of replay value make this an excellent experience for anyone lucky enough to own a PS3
Genre Score (Third-Person Action): 94
InFAMOUS 2 boasts a wide variety of powers and upgrades, in addition to its excellent climbing system. Both of these elements come together to make dynamic combat that doesn’t disappoint.