Lightning and Fire and Ice, Oh My: A Review of InFamous 2

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It would be quite an understatement to say that the development process of InFamous 2 was indeed an uneven road. Fans of the first InFamous back in 2009 were immediately taken in by the game’s strong sense of action and variety. It took the GTA open sandbox motif, and turned it on its head with superpowers that grew and grew over time, to the point where you felt like Zeus, Thor, Raiden, and every other god of thunder combined. While the characters, story, and overall visuals lacked polish and made the experience feel very raw, the gameplay and mission types were so creative and fun that it was very easy to overlook the games shortcomings. For its sequel, Sucker Punch sought to go beyond the first game’s aesthetic and create a world that could live up to something as immersive as, say Uncharted 2 or Assassin’s Creed 2. Well, since the festivities of E3 have come and gone, I got a chance to play a good chunk of the game myself, and see just how close InFamous 2 comes to reaching it’s goal.

Short answer: Pretty darn close. Here’s why.

Courtesy, from your ambiguously friendly neighborhood Electric Man.

I will say right now that as I write this review, I have yet to completely finish the game, (nor have I got the chance to explore the user made content, so I won’t be commenting on that). However, I have played at least more than half of my first run of the campaign, and believe I am more than ready to comment on the game’s quality and overall appeal. To begin, veterans of the first game will quickly realize the immense overhaul in the graphic department. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being Pong, and 10 being Uncharted 2, the animations and facial features have gone from a 6 in InFamous to a 9 in Infamous 2. The comic-book style story clips do make a return, however. The game also has some actual cut scenes this time around, which do help create more character depth that just wasn’t possible before.

Speaking of characters, Cole McGrath and Zeke “Jedadia” Dumblar are the only familiar faces, yet both have changed substantially since their last outing (though in different ways). Cole’s got a new voice actor, and thankfully, he no longer sounds like a wannabe Christian Bale Batman/Solid Snake/Rorschach who speaks out of the back of his throat. Fortunately his new voice isn’t too distracting and does fit real nicely with his character. For all of you who threw a hissy fit at Cole’s new makeover which they débuted last year, you can rest easy that Cole has been re-re-modeled to look, more or less, exactly like he did in the first game.

As for Zeke, same voice actor, same overall personality, but last time he was not only completely pointless, but in fact hindered our progress in more ways than one, making him the character everyone was hoping would die in the sequel. This time he’s actually useful and calls you for important stuff, so way to go Sucker Punch for making an obsolete character legit. (As I said, I haven’t played all the way through yet, but if Zeke does end up dyeing at the end of this game now that he’s actually trying to be helpful, that would be a “Sucker Punch” to the face if I ever felt one.)

Now, I may be the only one, but I actually liked a handful of the minor characters from InFamous 1. I was particularly curious what would become of Sasha and Alden (the two supervillians that supposedly didn’t die at the end of the game), and while Moya did annoy me almost more than Zeke did, I was still curious what her next move in tracking you down would be. But sometimes you have to give a little to get a lot. Like they say: Out with the old, and in with the new.

New city, new powers, new Zeke. Good start.

Once again, the plot is made to take advantage of what these games do best: crazy awesome superpowers. After getting his ass kicked and losing all of Empire City to the very monster you were training to destroy, Cole [and Zeke]set out to New Marais to meet with a guy named Wolf, the one responsible for creating the Ray Sphere that gave Cole his powers in the first place. Wolf informs our hero of the blast cores hidden across the city that he can use to enhance his powers so that he’ll be ready for his next confrontation with The Beast. Unfortunately, said blast cores are scattered across the city, heavily guarded by the city Militia, which just so happens to be run by this hick fascist named Bertrand.

The Morality System returns once again, however this time, instead of Cole simply thinking to himself about his options, your options are presented to you in the form of two new characters: Kuo, a former secret agent, and Nix, a city outcast. Cole spends the early portions of the game working back and forth with both women, slowly getting to know each of them, but quickly realizes they have very different ideals, which lead to drastically contrasting ways of handling the Militia and getting the blast cores they need. It won’t be long before you have to choose a side.

How can you not choose the Asian chick? She's so...cool. Oh come on, you were thinking it too.

Whether you choose a certain side based on what kind of powers you want to develop, who you want to work with further, or simply following your own sense of justice, all these different elements are what make the morality system much more interesting this time around. I, being the goody-goody I am, went with Kuo for my first play through and gained a handful of ice abilities that were used in very tactile missions. I got a glimpse of my brother’s game, and he sided with Nix, which gained him fire abilities that were downright devastating. As much as being an asshole (even in simulated form) irritates me, especially when there are more logical, reasonable methods available, I can’t deny that it does look fun to let loose.

The one thing I can say about the duality in this game is it pulls Cole in one of two directions with no middle ground, as the strongest powers can only be used at the highest karma levels at either end of the spectrum. I can see why some people can have a problem with that, as it paints a very black and white outlook on what’s good and what’s evil, yet within the compounds of this game, I think it’s for the best if it keeps this game fun. It also helps that Cole’s character comes out surprisingly consistent either way you pull him.

Ice or Fire? Precision or Destruction? Saint or Psycopath? Choices.

While Sucker Punch has done a lot to improve many of the setbacks from the first game while still keeping all the stuff that was awesome (the story’s dynamic, the characters are wonderful, the town New Marais is far more vibrant and unique than Empire City), there are maybe three glaring nitpicky things I have to comment on. For starters, the game starts off by quickly introducing us to a wide variety of enemies, from the Militia, to these corrupted swamp monsters, and then these burrow digging Ravagers, but it almost feels like the game toots its horn too quickly. The further we get in the game, the fewer new enemies we see, which can cut down the pacing as we zap through the same old guards and monsters to get to the next mission.

Second the camera has occasional freak-outs during high intensive battles. If you’re too reckless when you barrel into a fight, it is very easy to be blindsided as your vision is easily blurred by grenade explosions, rocket launcher explosions, monster sludge, blood, black and white filters, eh, you get the point. Just be careful and know when it gets chaotic, it gets REAL chaotic.

And finally, there are some game glitches I spotted, though very few, like unresponding character sprites getting stuck or missions that wont load. Nothing game breaking, but they do prevent the experience from reaching that level of immersion the developers were seeking.

Still satisfying.

Still, there is so much I love about this game. I love that the power system is far more evolved from last time and gives the player a ton more variety. I love how they created ways to get on top of buildings faster so that I won’t always be climbing. I love how the game encourages completing stunts and side missions to unlock new abilities. I love how the Kinetic Pulse allows me to lift trucks and chuck them at helicopters. I love the new Amp weapon Zeke made for me that makes melee combat awesome. I love how even after I beat the game, I get to go back to play it again and experience a whole new batch of powers.

InFamous 2 is just plain fun. Uncharted 2? Not quite, but definitely in the right direction. Now if you excuse me, I have some more blast cores to find before The Beast shows up again.

Need some games to play this summer? Why not try these:

Huge Success: A Review of Portal 2

Get Over Here and Play: A Review of Mortal Kombat (2011)

Today’s Forecast: Sunny With A Review of Bulletstorm

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