Sucker Punch’s absurdly spelled PS3 exclusive inFamous hit store shelves back in 2009. While some gamers preferred Prototype, Activision’s superhero title that launched around the same time, for the most part it was agreed upon that inFamous was a fairly good game in its own right. Now here we are in 2011 and Sucker Punch has taken another swing at Cole “Lightning Man” McGrath’s story.
Have they hit a supercharged homerun, or do some of the same issues that kept the first game from being truly great rear their ugly, mutated heads?
First thing you’ll notice when starting inFamous 2 is that the game picks up right were the first one left off. There is a brief introduction, but new gamers might want to read up on inFamous‘ story before starting the campaign. Anyway, Cole has defeated Kessler, but in the process learned that an ever greater threat — the Beast — is on its way. Cole, his friend Zeke, and new character NSA agent Lucy Kuo head to New Marais (New Orleans) to find a way for Cole to get strong enough to take on the Beast.
The second thing you’ll notice is that Sucker Punch have really stepped up their game in the graphical and visual aesthetics departments. The cutscenes don’t look anywhere near as awkward as in the first game, and while it’s no Uncharted 2, inFamous 2 sports some pretty impressive graphics.
The downtown area of New Marais in particular is a source of visual delight. The city has a distinctive vibe that Empire City in the first game sorely lacked. There are wrought iron balconies, strings of colored lights, and other architectural flourishes everywhere. Some of them are even destructible. It’s quite fun to drop a wrought iron balcony out from under an enemy with a couple of exploding lightning grenades. Sadly, the city’s distinctive aesthetic doesn’t quite carry over into the game’s second and third acts.
While the surroundings and graphics might look different, the game plays much like the original inFamous. Cole still has a variety of lightning-based powers, many which will be familiar to veteran players. There are still attacks that take the place of grenades, rockets, and sniper rifles from more conventional third person shooters. I was expecting more brand new powers rather than a handful of variations on existing powers. The lack of new tools in Cole’s arsenal was disappointing, and definitely made the gameplay feel a little tired.
Melee combat on the other hand has received a complete overhaul. Cole “Electric Boogaloo” McGrath now sports a crowbar/tuning fork looking thing called the Amp, which functions as his enemy bashing weapon. While I appreciate that Sucker Punch was trying to fix a broken aspect from the first game, they completely missed the mark. The camera becomes absolutely unbearable any time you try to use melee attacks on enemies. It’s extremely difficult to see who you’re trying to hit or keep track of all the enemies around you.
The story is another one of inFamous 2’s weak areas. Sucker Punch did a great job improving Zeke’s character, but they also squandered their goodwill by including Nix. She’s completely unlikable, and her characterization was rather upsetting. Also, by the middle of the game I’d forgotten why I was doing the things I was doing. I knew the Beast was coming, but that was about it. And then when the Beast finally shows up… Let’s just say the payoff isn’t all that great.
inFamous 2 still features a morality system, and the choices are just as starkly black and white as the first game. Do I save the children or do I just firebomb this whole shanty town? Basically, you’ll go into the game knowing what kind of playthrough you want. You’ll unlock different powers based on your karmic alignment just like in the first game. I will say that Sucker Punch did a good job making the two endings very different. It was also nice to see a developer not overtly teasing a sequel in this era of overexposed franchises.
This brings us to something completely new inFamous 2 brings to the table: User Generated Content. I can’t comment too heavily on the UGC because when I played inFamous 2 the pickings were pretty slim outside of content created by the developers themselves. Your mileage with the UGC will vary. To me, it felt more like a gimmick and a selling point to put on the back of the box.
Sucker Punch have definitely improved on certain areas, while leaving others essentially unchanged. Combat still turns into spamming sticky grenades and rockets, and the story pretty much disappears into the background. UGC is still a question mark right now, but I can say that inFamous 2 wouldn’t have been a worse game without it.
Ultimately, if you loved inFamous, then you’re going to love inFamous 2. If you had doubts about the franchise, then inFamous 2 probably isn’t going to change your mind. inFamous 2 is a good game, and definitely one of the better ones in the superhero genre, but it feels too similar to its predecessor and there are too many issues that keep it from being the electrifying knockout Sucker Punch wanted it to be.