inFamous 2 - PS3 Review
Aside from having to play through the odd bad game, the one downside to reviewing games is that sometimes good titles slip through the cracks and there's no time to chase them down. inFamous was one such game for me, but recently the ‘Welcome Back' package on PSN (where you got to pick two games out of a selection of five for free) let me get my grubby hands on it. Two years after its initial release inFamous is still a great game, letting you run around Empire City with some of the best superpowers in a videogame to date. As I neared completion of the original inFamous, the sequel arrived on my desk, and my squeal of joy could be heard three or four suburbs away. Let's just say I was excited to get my hands on it, and I couldn't wait to get back into Cole's shoes. Does the sequel live up to, and even improve on the original? Read on...
|Cole overlooks the city in inFamous 2.|
inFamous 2 picks up the action one month after the ending of the first game. Cole McGrath, the electricity-powered superhero (or super-villain), has been contacted by Agent Kuo, an NSA agent. She tells Cole that a person she is working with, Dr Wolfe, can expand Cole's powers if he meets up with Dr Wolfe in New Marais. No sooner do Cole and Kuo start to leave Empire City when The Beast shows up. The Beast was the reason Cole was given his powers in the first game – it's prophesied to, and capable of destroying the world and only Cole can stop it.
You get to take control of Cole for the first time here, as the battle with The Beast doubles as a tutorial on how to play. The Beast is too strong for Cole though and after getting pounded Cole and Kuo, along with Cole's good friend Zeke run away for New Marais and the promise of stronger powers. Unfortunately New Marais is being ruled by the iron hand of militia leader Joseph Bertrand III, a despot determined to rid the world of all conduits – especially Cole McGrath. With well-armed militia walking the streets and keeping an eye out for Cole, you know life isn't going to be easy in New Marais.
If you start inFamous 2 with an inFamous save game you get a few bonuses – level one good or bad karma (depending on your alignment in the saved game), as well as bonus experience and energy based on whether you finished the game and how many blast shards you collected. Your starting skill-set is better than last time but you don't have all the powers you earned in inFamous. Melee attacks have received an upgrade thanks to Zeke, who has created a weapon known as the Amp for all your melee needs. It's a cross between a baseball bat and a tuning fork, but it dishes out the pain when Cole wields it. From the get-go you have access to standard bolt attacks as well as grenades and shockwave blasts. Cole can still slide on powerlines and has static thrusters that help him glide through the air rather than plummet to the ground.
|Visual effects in inFamous 2 are impressive.|
You earn new powers in a variety of ways; some are unlocked as you progress through the game, others as your karma level increases (there are three levels of good and bad karma), while others are unlocked by performing specific takedowns (e.g. climbing takedowns or blasting enemies off rooftops) and then purchasing them with experience points. Powers are broken up into groups; bolts, grenades, blasts, rockets, miscellaneous, karma and ionic, and within each group there are a bunch of powers to unlock. Take bolts for example; there's your standard alpha bolt, then there's the pincer bolt which splits into three and attacks from a variety of angles, the artillery bolt has unlimited range, the magnum bolt is more powerful than other bolts, and the bolt stream allows you to fire a stream of bolts by holding down a button.
At any time you can only have one power of each type equipped. Changing which powers you have equipped is as easy as pushing the left direction to bring up the powers menu, then pressing the button that corresponds to the power you want to change. It's simple and effective, and before long you'll be swapping powers like a pro. Although there are more powers this time around, most of them are variations of those you had in inFamous. There are a couple of exceptions like the kinetic pulse that lets you throw cars around, and the lightning tether used to pull yourself to nearby objects without the need to climb. Using powers drains Cole's power, but you can recharge it by draining electricity from any nearby source, such as street lights, car batteries and generators. This time around draining electricity will also restore Cole's health which is an intuitive change.
|Red = Evil in inFamous 2!|
Morality choices return, with the choices you make determining your karma level, as well as how your friends and the population at large respond to you. Throughout the game two characters represent the good and evil choices you can make; Agent Kuo always sides with the moral choice, while Nix, another conduit with superpowers, plays devil's advocate. There are missions where you have to align with one of these two, and as you make your way to the mission of your choice the character whose mission you aren't siding with will contact you in a last gasp effort you get you to side with them. As you run around New Marais there are opportunities for good and bad karma as well. Occasionally the militia will abduct or mug the locals and stopping them will earn you good karma, while beating up cops and street-performers will earn you bad karma.
The structure of inFamous 2 is much the same as the original – side missions, dead drops and blast shards all return and give you something to do outside of the main quest. There are at least sixty side missions to play, with each one helping out the residents of New Marais. Every side mission you complete removes enemies from that section of the map forever, so there is incentive to do them. Dead drops are now attached to pigeons flying around, so you have to zap them and then grab the messages they carry. The messages expand the back-story of Dr Wolfe and Agent Kuo among others, giving you insights into what they were doing during the timeline of the first game. Collecting blast shards increases the amount of power at Cole's disposal, and there are 305 to collect. Unlike the first game, you can unlock a power that directs you to the nearest blast shard, so collecting them all is not a huge challenge this time around.
|Cole takes on several enemies.|
New to inFamous 2 are user-generated content (UGC) missions that allow anyone playing the game to create their own missions, or build one from a template. UGC missions are all over the map and show up as a green icon. Most of the missions have Cole fighting off various enemies, or going through all checkpoints to complete a race. There are a few imaginative missions out there, that ask you to navigate a tricky platforming section, or play car dominoes, but you never know what you're going to get until you start the mission. I'm not the most creative person so I didn't spend much time creating my own missions, but the tools are there for anyone interested. Generally speaking the UGC missions are quite simplistic, but you do stumble across the odd gem that is a lot of fun.
While there's no denying inFamous 2 is a very good game it does have some issues. It seems a trend in modern gaming to include morality choices, and like many of them, inFamous 2 doesn't do a good job of making your choice matter. Whether you side with Kuo or Nix during missions you get the same cutscenes, and they both turn up for the next mission regardless of who you side with. The story isn't especially satisfying either. During the first game I got the feeling that it was working up to something epic, but the reality is something less. Without going into specific plot points, I felt some of the story here diminished some of the key moments of the first game. The story also fails to address simple things like the fact Cole has lost a stack of powers in the one month since the end of the first game. He probably had to since he would otherwise have been way overpowered, but it's not even mentioned in the game which I found lazy.
|No point just hanging around...|
Like last time there is some repetition in the side missions, but the good news is that the worst of the side missions from the first game (i.e. taking out objects on the side of buildings, and following evil-doers) are gone. One of my favourite things about the first game was that by the end of it Cole was one badass dude. His powers were awesome and he could dish out the pain where and when he pleased. I know it's subjective but this time around I didn't get the same feeling or the same amount of fun from wielding his powers. Don't get me wrong I still had a good time, but the experience didn't equal the first game.
One area where the game has received a major overhaul is the graphics. Everything looks better – cutscenes, characters, environments and explosions. There's no doubt the original game looked good, but the environments were a bit plain. Here the buildings have more colour and have verandas that can be destroyed, making them more interactive. There's a greater variety in the landscape too, with more water, green grass and swamp-land to go with the busy city streets. Cole has always moved well and now he has a few extra animations to make his climbing faster and better looking. Enemies are improved too, with more variety in the types of enemies you face, as well as their weapons and weaknesses. Explosions have always looked great in inFamous and it's the same again here. The biggest improvement in this area is the scale of the explosions, with more destruction evident when you let loose with your ionic vortex and your other strong powers. All in all inFamous 2 looks fantastic.
|inFamous 2 is an impressive PS3 exclusive.|
Having played the original game so recently, one of the first things I noticed when playing inFamous 2 is that the voice actor for Cole has changed. While I was disappointed with the change because I liked the original voice actor, it doesn't take long until you warm to Cole's new voice. There is heaps of dialogue in the game and the vast majority of it is delivered very well. Cole has depth and personality, Zeke provides some humorous moments, Kuo is serious and Dr Wolfe sounds sufficiently knowledgeable. The only downside for me was Nix who is way too over the top. In fairness it likely has more to do with her script than the actor themselves, but Nix was the one character I didn't warm to or care about.
The music is impressive, and has a more sinister edge thanks to a string-heavy (violin maybe?) soundtrack. The sound effects are great; you can almost feel the force behind Cole's powers. The people of New Marais react believably to all the destruction going on around them, freaking out when Cole sizzles a pedestrian, or when a fight breaks out nearby.
|Cole causes a massive explosion!|
inFamous 2 is a very good game, one that oozes class and high production values. The graphics have received an overhaul, the more tedious side missions of the first game are gone, and you can now make your own missions via UGC. Unfortunately the storyline isn't great, the morality choices have no major effect on how the game plays and Cole's powers aren't quite as much fun this time around. If you enjoyed the original inFamous, or missed out on it, then inFamous 2 is definitely worth checking out. It's a quality game, and while it may not be a giant leap forward for the series, it's still a lot of fun.
Review By: Mike Allison
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|GRAPHICS||The first game looked great, but this is better. More variety in environments, better looking characters and cutscenes and the explosions still look awesome.||91%|
|SOUND||The new voice-actor for Cole takes a while to get going, but he, along with almost everyone else does a fine job with their lines. The music and sound effects are excellent||90%|
|GAMEPLAY||Cole is slightly less fun to play with this time because his strongest powers take a long time to learn, and aren't as strong as the first time out. The morality options are poorly implemented.||84%|
|VALUE||It's a big game (10-12 hours) and you'll want to play as both good and evil Cole. UGC missions potentially add limitless replay, though not many of the missions are quality at the moment.||88%|
|OVERALL||inFamous 2 is a very good game, but it's not a huge leap forward for the series. More of the same then, but when the first game was so good this is not a bad thing.||85%|