inFAMOUS 2 Review
See PixlBit's Review Policies
On 11/29/2011 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus
I don't know what's more shocking: Cole's powers or the fact that he still hangs out with Zeke.
The follow up to one of the best PS3 games so far. inFAMOUS 2 falls a little short of its predecessor but doesn't fail to entertain. If you skip this one you're missing out on a great ride.
With the production costs of video games increasing by leaps and bounds as the years go on, platform-exclusive titles are going the way of the dinosaur. Somehow though, Sony has managed to recover from the rocky start of the PlayStation 3 and has secured some really great exclusive games. Developer Sucker Punch is responsible for one of those all-new PS3 IPs, with the inFAMOUS games. While they saw some success with Sly Cooper on the PS2, that franchise never quite “popped” like Ratchet & Clank and the Jak games. It looks like inFAMOUS was just what the upstart developer needed to make it to that next level, and the sequel to the 2009 debut cements the series as one of the best exclusives on the PS3.
You’ll once again step into the shoes and don the messenger bag of Cole McGrath, the bike courier-turned-superhero (or is that villain?) who was at the center of the events of Empire City. McGrath is on a quest to augment his powers before a creature known only as “The Beast” destroys the country, and to do so he’ll travel to the party town of New Marais. Once there, Cole finds that absorbing special blast cores will drastically boost his already impressive electrical abilities, and so the race to stop The Beast is on.
inFAMOUS 2 is an open-world action game with a definite focus on shooting. Cole can unleash rapid fire blasts of electricity much as other characters would fire a gun. The aiming is quick and responsive, and even when the odds are way in the enemies’ favor some fancy shooting will get you through every time. As you absorb blast cores, Cole will learn new moves which can be upgraded through a combination of experience points (gained from taking action) and karma points (gained from making good or bad decisions). Unlike the first game however, these upgrades can be switched out on the fly as opposed to simply replacing older powers. This really opens up your options in combat, and I found myself mixing up my moves and thinking in a more tactical way during encounters. The melee has been greatly improved as well; instead of fighting off enemies with his bare hands, Cole now has the AMP—a tuning fork of sorts that doubles as a great melee weapon. As you level up, you’ll unlock some slick finishing moves that, besides looking awesome, give you a good alternative when the enemies close in. And enemies getting too close becomes a bit of a problem later on, as this game introduces new monster-type adversaries that really do nothing for me. They lack the interesting A.I. of the human enemies, and the most annoying versions of these monsters get thrown at Cole over and over during his adventure.
Coupled with this fantastic shooting and melee combat is the way Cole traverses the vast areas of New Marais. He’s still an excellent free-runner, and his climbing skills are second only to Spider-Man. He starts off with his hover ability and his rail grind moves, so from the start, getting from place to place is much faster than before. You’ll unlock new traversal powers as you go, and these will vary depending on your choices. I had a very useful super jump, and later got a lighting tether that works very much like the grappling hook from Just Cause.
You’ll use all of these traversal moves and combat to clean up New Marais as you see fit. Like most open world games, you’ll have a story mission on your map, but on your way to activate it you might run across a side mission, or one of a handful of “good” or “evil” karma events. You can do as little or as many of these as you want—xp is plentiful, and if you want to focus on the story you can certainly do that. But as you complete side missions you’ll take over sections of the city, forcing the bad guys off of your turf. The side missions tend to be on the quick side and almost always put you right next to another one when you’re done, so it’s easy to fall into the “just one more mission” trap. inFAMOUS 2 is one of those open world games where you can play for a short amount of time and feel like you accomplished a lot, and I respect it for that. Other than the side missions and story, you’ll probably want to hunt down blast shards (collectibles). There’s a ton of them to find, but a simple click of the right analog stick will show you on your radar if any of the prized power boosters are nearby. It’s a feature that more games need to implement, and I hunted down way more of these items than I normally would have because of it.
inFAMOUS was one of my absolute favorite games of 2009, and a big part of that was just how perfect the game felt in motion. Cole’s natural ability as a parkour runner combined with his super powers made getting around town a sheer joy, and the platforming was precise and had just enough assist to keep it from becoming totally frustrating in tense situations. When I popped inFAMOUS 2 in, however, something just didn’t feel right. Cole runs way faster than he did before, and has no walking animation to speak of. I spent the first few hours of the game feeling like he was getting away from me, and it wasn’t a good sensation. But way more important (and annoying) is the fact that Cole is much “stickier” than he was before. In the first game, he had a certain amount of “cling” that would automatically take over when he jumped towards a spot that he could land or attach to. It was a little piece of brilliance, and I understand why it needs to be there. But in this game, Cole seems to stick to everything all the time. And, unlike the first game, I had plenty of times where he simply stuck to the opposite thing that I was targeting. Even though New Marais is mostly intact compared to the decimated Empire City, you’ll find a lot more detritus and…stuff around for Cole to get tripped up on. It was a frustration that stayed with me until the very end.
inFAMOUS 2 opens with a bang just like its predecessor, and if you didn’t play the first game you’ll be brought up to speed during the opening cutscenes, which once again take on a unique, sketchy comic-book style. If you have a save from the first game, a few things carry over, but it really just boils down to if you were a good guy or a bad guy the first time around. There are a couple throwaway pieces of dialogue that pertain to the first game but by and large, you’re starting from scratch here. It’s par for the course in the sequel business, but one can’t help but wish for some more tangible ties to the first adventure in a post-Mass Effect 2 world. Thankfully, the writing and voice-acting more than make up for any lack of connective tissue between the two games. Cole is no longer voiced by gravelly-voiced Jason Cottle, replaced by a much more relatable Eric Ladin. This makes all the difference for me, and I found it easier to relate to Cole as a character this time around. He has a sense of humor and comes across as a generally likeable guy compared to the gruff jerk he was before. The storytelling is also much better with snappier dialogue and cutscenes that go far beyond the poorly-animated real-time bits from the first game.
Cutscenes are much more effective as inFAMOUS 2 is leaps and bounds better looking than the original. inFAMOUS had a desaturated color scheme that may have fit in well with the dire situation in Empire City, but the festive, New Orleans-inspired setting for this story benefits from a vibrant and colorful aesthetic. The character models are much more detailed too. Everything in this game is far and away more impressive than the first go-around, and the level of environmental detail astounds. The physics this time around are off the charts, with some of your powers ripping up huge chunks of debris, pieces of the environment, and even vehicles. The level of destructibility is so awesome that you may decide to go the evil route, as the powers you unlock on that path are all bang and zero precision.
I don’t know if it’s because inFAMOUS 2 is so much like its predecessor or if it has to do with the new monster enemy types, but I got to a point around the 70% mark where I was ready for it to be over. Part of the problem is that so many of the missions don’t quit while they’re ahead; they have you do “x” activity about three times more often than you would probably want to. Thankfully, there’s more variety in the missions this time around, and many of them can be pretty interesting. By the time you get to the final act, though, you’re probably going to be sick of, say, Overcharge missions. I don’t know exactly how long I played this game, but I’d wager it was close to 20 hours, and I probably have a good 30% of the side-missions left to mop up.
In addition to the core game, there’s a pretty interesting mission creator. I played some of the User Generated Content and was impressed with the variety, but jumping in to make my own mission proved to be extremely daunting. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of it in the manual, and there isn’t any tutorial to speak of. I could probably puzzle it out if I had the time, but this is a really cool mode that would benefit from some instruction.
Even though I’d put the first game above this one, I still had a blast with inFAMOUS 2. It’s a must-buy for any action fan that owns a PS3, and one of the best open-world games I’ve played this year. I’m curious to see where Sucker Punch takes the series from here, and I’ll definitely be picking up the stand-alone Festival of Blood DLC soon. If you’re a PS3 owner and don’t buy many games, inFAMOUS 2 will keep you quite busy.