Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Hours Played: 20
Progress: Finished campaign and all non-user generated side quests
Developer Sucker Punch brought us a sandbox-style, 3rd person, superhero game over two years ago, at the height of superhero game-madness. What set the first inFamous apart was the fact that it is a completely original IP, centered around bike courier, Cole MacGrath who, by virtue of a device called the Ray Sphere, received fantastic electrical powers. Two years later, the game, and Cole with it, is back, trading Empire City for New Orleans-inspired New Marais. Will new powers, a fresh city to explore and different enemies be enough to rekindle the magic? Read on to find out…
inFamous 2 picks up right where the first game left off. Empire City has been ravaged by a mysterious virus and the fight over control over the city seemingly has ended. Out of the dust and smoke appears a terrible new foe, dubbed the Beast. Looking somewhat like a giant, charred Mr. Clean this threat proves to be beyond Cole and along with his best friend Zeke and government agent Lucy Kuo, Cole regroups in the coastal city of New Marais, which is clearly inspired by New Orleans. Once there, Kuo intends to put the game’s protagonist in touch with one of the scientists who worked on the source of Cole’s powers, the Ray Sphere, in order to see what can be done to boost MacGrath’s powers. Upon arrival however, it turns out that New Marais has fallen into collapse with the power vacuum having been filled by a xenophobic, militant organization referred to as the Militia, lead by oil billionaire and evil tyrant, Joseph Bertrand. It does not take long for Cole and company to get tangled up in the local politics. The Militia, which opposes Conduits (people with special powers), at the same time provides protection from “the Corrupted”, tainted, biological abominations that roam the swamps around New Marais. In turn, opposing the dominion of the Militia is the faction known as the Rebels, which fight a guerrilla war in the streets of New Marais with Militia thugs.
It will come as no surprise that there are new factions and interests for the player to align themselves with. These become a springboard to embark on new missions and provide context to the story. inFamous 2 hints at a deep and complex back story that ties current characters to those of the first game, while at the same time unveiling new information on the origin of the Ray Sphere and its purpose. All of this gets very cluttered and is never fully explained to the point where it will all make sense to gamers who played the first inFamous, let alone people who are new to the franchise. Urgency for Cole to enhance his powers comes from the threat of the Beast who slowly makes his way along the East coast of the US, devastating everything in its path. Your hero needs to be ready for when the Beast makes his inevitable entrance to the New Marais region or it will continue its rampage unchecked around the entire country.
The story Sucker Punch provides us with is good enough to keep the game chugging along but won’t win any literary awards. New factions and characters provide the opportunity to replay the morality wheel we saw in the first game, while the emergence of Conduits and the xenophobic reactions from simple-minded people like those in the Militia , provide an interesting tidbit of morality-based drama. Compared to the previous game, there is not a whole lot of new and original story development however, so we caution gamers not to expect anything too exotic or fresh.
At first glance it may seem like there aren’t that many differences in the visual presentation of inFamous 2 when compared to its predecessor. Yet upon closer inspection we find an extreme refinement of what was already a very impressive graphical engine. New Marais is even bigger than Empire City from the first game, it is split up into three distinctive sections that are far more unique than the different neighborhoods we found in the original inFamous. Each has its own look, architecture and distinct ways of getting around.
Sucker Punch has managed to cram far more objects into the world of inFamous 2, the game is able to render dozens of enemies onscreen at the same time while concurrently putting these enemies in a detailed city with numerous buildings, vehicles and civilians, all at a steady frame rate. The city itself has increased structural details, there is larger diversity with each building in New Marais and the environments are more destructible than what we saw in the first game.
The lighting in the game looks great, electricity coils around metal objects and fizzles in puddles after it is discharged from Cole’s hands. The light from explosions is reflected in surrounding assets and Cole’s powers look incredible no matter where they are used. Whether it is lightning-infused grenades taking out entire groups of Militia thugs or bolts of lightning being summoned from the heavens, the developer has stepped up inFamous 2‘s visual flair in a big way. There are not too many games that can render such detailed environments while at the same time populating them with so many objects to interact with. Sucker Punch has definitely proved its mastery of the PlayStation 3 hardware and is one of the top tier developers for the platform.
There is not much to gripe about in the graphics department here, aside from from the basic-looking character models, which lack an abundance of detail or facial animation. Overall this is a great looking game with lots of interesting visual details to take note of.
The sound design is mostly unremarkable, the music, although good, is not often present but the sound effects do a decent job of keeping up with the frequent lightning powers and their devastating effects. Voice acting is capably done, what took some getting used to was the new voice actor for the game’s main character, Cole MacGraw. He sounds even more raspy than the original one and at first I was not sold. As the game progresses though, those reservations quickly evaporated and I found that the new voice work was actually quite suitable.
Sucker Punch has done a great job of effectively mapping the many different powers that the player will eventually have at his disposal. These powers can be divided into different categories, which are each mapped to specific buttons on the controller. By going into “aim mode”, by pressing L1 the player is able to deploy his full arsenal of attack powers. Your go-to weapon is the bolt, which is sensibly mapped to the R1 button, grenades are thrown with the with the square button, rockets with the triangle and blast is fired with the X button. Each weapon category has different varieties that can be unlocked by earning XP and progressing with the story. While not in aim mode, the square button deploys the new melee attack and X is used for jumping and climbing.
It will take a while for the player to memorize how all the different powers can be used accessed with the controllers, especially when you take into consideration that in addition to the aforementioned abilities there is more. For example, you are able to use special powers like electric drain and kinetic pulse by virtue of the L2 and R2 buttons and while in lock-on mode other abilities can be used still.
Nevertheless the developer has done their best to make it as easy as possible for the player to get familiar with these and outside of combat I have to say that getting around the city is a joy. Cole will automatically grab onto ledges and objects to work his way along the many buildings in New Marais. Aside from jumping and climbing and with a fair share of unlocking mind you, the player can navigate the map by hovering from rooftop to rooftop, using an electric whip to pull himself to new heights, grinding power lines and more. All in all the controls are handled extremely well and aside from their complexity, make sense of the many powers available to Cole MacGrath.
Being an open-world, 3rd person sandbox game, inFamous 2 needs to nail the game world, it needs to be fun to get around in and there need to be interesting things to do. Unsurprisingly, Sucker Punch got this right, New Marais is bigger and more varied than Empire City was in the prequel and the climbing and transportation mechanics work great. Aside from the many story quests and side missions there are blast shards to find; a big addiction of mine not unlike the orb hunting in Crackdown, dead drops (hidden voice logs) to track down and more. Once you have finally exhausted all the aforementioned options there is one of the game’s bigger new additions to sink your teeth into, the user generated missions. The developer has created a comprehensive level editor that allows the player to create a wide variety of objectives, once uploaded these missions can be viewed on the regular game world map and played at any time. A wise move as this adds near-infinite replayability once the main quest has been completed.
Although objectives get recycled a tad more than I would have liked, using your powers is so much fun I was pretty much willing to take any excuse to unleash some lightning-fueled mayhem. Because of the upgrade to the graphics engine, the developer frequently throws many simultaneous enemies at the player providing plentiful incentive to use Cole’s wide array of powers. It is extremely satisfying to be able to unleash a lightning-charged hurricane that sweeps up a pack of bad guys at the drop of a hat.
inFamous’ morality-based game play makes a return, take on quests that are evil in nature and aside from your appearance taking on a more “menacing” look, the player gets access to powers that gamers following the “good” morality path would not have access too. It is all pretty cut and dry with no grey areas or layers of depth, take on a mission that is bad in nature and it will increase your morality gauge towards becoming a bad guy and vice-versa. Beat up random citizens and your karma takes a hit, heal injured people and it takes a boost, it is all a little too simplistic and unoriginal to wow anyone, however it does provide a good incentive to replay the game as it gives the gamer a chance to experience new powers and alternate endings.
Overall, inFamous 2‘s gameplay strengths lay in the nicely detailed game world it presents us with, awesome powers we can use while in it and solid control scheme to bring it all together. The karma gauge is one of its weaker aspects yet still has it perks, like adding replay value.
I love games that buck the cinema trend of pumping out inferior sequels. Infamous 2 takes the considerable number of good things from its predecessor and polishes them to a high sheen, guaranteeing any fans of open-world action games will be pleased with the experience. The only real fault I feel harping on is at least somewhat justified for is that Sucker Punch played it relatively safe here. Those gamers that played the first Infamous, will be reminded more than once of similar game play- and design ques, the way the game world is set up and the mission structure is laid out really has not changed in any meaningful way.
The biggest exception to that however, is the mastodonic addition of “UGC” (User Generated Content). A comprehensive mission creation editor is now at the player’s disposal resulting in the world map being populated with numerous UGC side quest icons. With a potentially limitless supply of these, inFamous 2‘s replay value is enhanced astronomically. Worried about your HUD being cluttered with sub par missions at the hands of attention-deficit-disorder-afflicted high schoolers? No need, there are filter options that allow you to only see the highest rated side quests and of course you are free to apply your own ratings to the missions you have tried yourself. We have seen some amazingly creative designs already, such as a 3D imagination of Space Invaders, where Cole’s lightning bolts serve as the projectiles to take down waves of airborne targets.
inFamous 2 is living proof of the franchise’s marquee status among PlayStation 3 exclusives. As a matter of fact, Sucker Punch recently announced it was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment, finally sealing a decade-long romance that has produced some wonderful babies. Offering a bigger game world, better visuals, more devastating powers and user generated content, this is one of the best open-world games on the PlayStation 3. It is, at times, a little too similar to its predecessor however, taking a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach certainly was not a bad idea here. All in all, a must-own title for any PS3 owner.
+ Interesting new characters and foes
- Back-story intrigues are hard to follow and not all that fascinating
+ Larger game world with more variety
+ Enhanced detail and character count
+ Nice and moody soundtrack
- This game is more quiet than it should be
+ Sucker Punch has effectively mapped the many available powers across the Dual Shock controller
- The many different attacks make the combat a little unintuitive
+ Getting around New Marais is as fun and fluid as it could be
+ More devastating powers with more foes onscreen at the same time is a winning combination
- It all feels very similar to the first game
+ New User Generated Content adds far more replay value