inFAMOUS 2 (PS3)

The sequel to Sucker Punch’s open world superhero game ‘inFAMOUS’ is finally out. inFAMOUS 2 had a lot to live up to, and even prior to it’s release was under fire due to a redesign of the lead character’s appearance and voice acting. Do those who were so angry owe Suckerpunch an apology, or is it Sucker Punch who will need to beg forgiveness?

Well, let’s get this show started here, shall we? The game starts out with a brief comic-book style cutscene summarizing the first game’s events and leading into the arrival of ‘the Beast’ in Empire City. You fight him and get your ass handed to you. Your best friend rescues you from a watery grave, and the two of you along with one of the two female leads of the game escape Empire City and flee to New Marais, which is very obviously based off of New Orleans. New Marais is where the original Ray Sphere was created, and you’re going to get a power boost so you an take out the Beast and save the world. Upon arrival in New Marais, you find out that the same person who made the Ray Sphere also made a device that he hopes will have the opposite effect, removing The Beast’s powers and curing the plague caused by the Ray Sphere – but you’re not powerful enough to use it. This is the plot device used to generate urgency as The Beast ravages his way down the coast in pursuit of you.

Morality – Saint or Supervillain

Probably the biggest qualm I have with this game was also one of my biggest qualms with the first game. There is no middle ground. This is not a game where you can make your choices on the fly. If you want to have any real power in this game, you have to commit: Do you want to be good or do you want to be evil? And once you make your choice, don’t expect any grey areas. If you are good, you’re a saint. If you’re bad, you’re basically a psychopath, walking through the streets killing random people to drain their lives, committing mass murder, vandalism, and doing whatever you please. Luckily, the game is designed well around that, and people react to it. If you’re good, the people will rise up and help you fight enemies you run across, but if you’re evil they’ll turn on you at a moment’s notice. I died at least twice due to badly timed hits coming from a pedestrian from behind while I was fighting some of the game’s harder battles.

But if you can get past the lack of grey areas or neutrality, you’ve got a really rich story on either path. The stories aren’t hugely different until the ending, but there’s enough divergence to make it interesting to go through at least once on each alignment choice. And the characters are all well written, voiced, and really do help to define the story. None of the characters feel at all hollow, even if some of them are a bit predictable. But most importantly of all, Cole himself, while a good protagonist in the first game, was developed so much further in this title. Cole felt like a real person, dealing with everything he’d been handed in ways you could relate to. And the touching moments between Cole and the other characters were so well crafted that I really felt a growing attachment for every character. And the endings, oh the endings… I cannot say enough praise about this game’s two endings. Both of them are incredible and hugely different. You really get a feel for the weight of your decisions and the culmination of everything that has happened. And watching both of them I cried, for completely different reasons. They are both absolute masterpieces.

Lightning and Fire and Ice, oh my.

Probably the biggest gameplay change in this game from the first is that at one point you get access to either fire/oil based powers or ice based powers, depending on a choice you make and your morality. The Ice powers align to the good morality, and have a tendency to err on the side of caution. The abilities you get are all designed to cause as little collateral as possible. The fire/oil powers align to the evil, and they’re all designed to cause as much collateral damage as possible. The new abilities are incredibly fun to play around with, and due to the exclusivity really help to differentiate the feel of the combat.

There are a few other really noticeable changes to the combat. One is the addition of a new melee weapon, understandably called ‘The Amp’, complete with a simplistic and intuitive combo system. This really helped to make the combat feel a lot more dynamic. Another big one is the addition of different types of each attack that you can swap between at will. If you want to throw a cluster grenade one second and a sticky bomb the next, feel free! A minor combat gripe is that some of the larger enemies are repeated too frequently and can be a bit lengthy of a kill process – not difficult, just so lengthy it starts to feel a little unwieldy. This is most noticeable when fighting the ‘Titans’.

The addition of new mobility abilities was a pretty nice quality of life change. Both the Ice Launch ability and the Firebird Strike were very intuitive, suitable to the playstyle, and so convenient. The only ability that really felt kind of awkward to use was the final mobility technique, the Lightning Tether. Luckily it was completely redundant, and you could just ignore it so it wasn’t a big deal. A minor change they made that annoyed me a little was that they removed my favourite upgrade from the first game: Your ability to recharge from riding power lines or train tracks. I can imagine it was a balance issue, but it was such a fun ability and it’s loss saddens me a little.

Controlling Cole while navigating the city is every bit as intuitive as the first, and in fact even feels a bit more natural and smooth than the first did. However, one of the annoying problems from the first game still exists. The game will try to assume what holds you want to hit when you jump, fall, or climb. When climbing, it usually does a good job – although occasionally things that look like handholds aren’t. Sounds good so far, but the problem is that when falling the game will often steer you off-course to try to hit a handhold that it thinks you want. I remember one occurrence when I was trying to jump aiming for a specific point on the ground, and the game redirected me close to 90 degrees to get me to a handhold it thought I wanted. This can get a bit annoying especially when doing time-sensitive missions and chases.

Overall the controls have been improved in nearly every way they could have been, and the combat feels a lot more refined, smooth, and enjoyable. What few flaws exist are more than forgivable in light of the level of refinement they’ve performed.

The Extras – Collectibles and Completionists

The game is riddled with side-content that isn’t mandatory for completing the game, but can help a lot. These extras come in really 3 categories: Side Missions, Blast Shards, and Dead Drops – exactly the same as the first game… sort of.

Like the first game, the missions are short little segments that are basically just ways to give you bonus experience. They don’t really advance the story, and they are mostly quite easy. They come in most of the same categories as the first game: kill x, retrieve x, find x. The ‘ride x and accomplish y’ missions are mostly absent, but there are a few new categories. One of the more interesting ones are the side missions where Zeke asks you to take photographs of various things, from enemies using specific abilities, to certain events taking place, to even the front of some buildings. Another less interesting one is the ‘deliver x to y’ one. But I think my favourite new category of mission are the ‘overcharge’ missions. You get this special charge and you have to ride the power lines to a specific location without touching the ground for more than a few seconds. However, I think there may be a few too many side missions; with more than 60 throughout the game they can feel a little cumbersome. As with the first game, the highlights are the good/evil side missions, which give you a chance to really show your true colours and do something unique and fun. But best of all is when you get to fight alongside either of the two other characters who have powers.

Also on the subject of quests is the quest editor, allowing you to create unique quests for others to play. The editor is fairly simplistic, easy to use, and allows for some interesting possibilities. A few of the missions I saw were really creative, but since Suckerpunch made the mistake of having a trophy associated with creating a level, most of the levels are just a random template someone created without changing much if anything  just so they could get that trophy which was a disappointment since there’s another trophy for completing 25 user generated missions. One mission that deserves special credit though is a parkour tribute to ‘Sly Cooper’ entitled Sly Cooper’s Parkour Paradise by Noob_Song created using the mission editor which was truly a work of love and I recommend everyone check it out – it’s a little difficult, but it’s well crafted and fun to play through.

As to the collectibles, I think I can give the same critique for blast shards as with the missions: There were too many of them. Every time I turned a corner, I was finding another blast shard and I often got sidetracked by 20 blast shards on the way to a quest. It just felt too excessive. The dead drops were cool, I really love getting those little snippets of what the character was thinking as the backstory unfolded. My only problem was that I really felt bad killing those birds. Sure they told you ‘use a non-lethal attack’ but I don’t care how non-lethally you knock a bird out if you do it when it’s flying 40 or more feet in the air…. it’s not flying away after the fall. Both of these are very minor critiques, but they were definitely things that reduced my enjoyment of the game a little.

Lights, Camera, Explosions!

Every aspect of the graphics, from the colour palette to the animations to the character art, is improved in inFAMOUS 2. The colour palette is rich and vibrant with a lot more variety and style. The sky sets are gorgeous, the buildings look fantastic, and the swamps look genuine. The animations are fluid and appropriate. The spells look fantastic, from the bright blue-white ‘good’ lightning to the red-orange of the evil lightning. Even the greyed out look when you’re really injured looks and feels incredible. But most improved is the character art. Every character looks fantastic, and the Beast looks absolutely incredible. Although a minor gripe is the automatic tattoos you get when you change alignment. They look a little weird, and it feels kind of silly that me healing one more person will automatically give me a star on my arm…

The sound effects aren’t anything particularly special, but they’re all suitable. The voice acting, on the other hand, is definitely above the average. But as far as audio goes, the really noteworthy part of this game is the soundtrack. Most of the music is incredible, and the end theme is just so absolutely perfectly fitting and the song, ‘Fade Away’ by the Black Heart Procession, will forever be associated with this game in my mind – and as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of the song will have a prominent spot on my mp3 player. Fantastic work to the artists behind that song and to everyone involved in this game’s soundtrack.

The cutscenes of inFAMOUS 2 are split between the comic-book style scenes of the first inFAMOUS and the full cinematics. Both of which look awesome, but the comic-book scenes have such a unique style and are so well done; even better than in the original, that I wish there were more of them.

Overall

The game definitely suffered from repetition a bit, but overall it is the epitome of everything defined by the word ‘Sequel’. They’ve taken the good start they made in the first one and improved the vast majority of things that could possibly be improved; making this game better than the first one by a marked margin. From visuals to gameplay to story, this game gets high marks in every category, and is a truly worthy successor to inFAMOUS. If Sucker Punch were to end the inFAMOUS saga on this game, I would be truly satisfied with it; especially after the way they ended it. If anyone is on the fence about this game, I can assure you there’s no need to be apprehensive, the game is more than worth playing for the ending alone. The fact that the game is fantastic as well doesn’t hurt either. Oh and this is probably the easiest game to get the platinum trophy in I’ve ever seen. Just an fyi ;)

Pros:

  1. Combat is satisfying and improved over the original in nearly every way.
  2. Every aspect of the visuals is suitable and well done.
  3. Voice Acting is superb
  4. Music is great, and the ending theme is absolutely perfect.
  5. Has two of the best endings in video game history.
  6. Evil and good sidepaths vary enough to ensure that a second playthrough is satisfying.
  7. Comic Book style cutscenes are fantastic.
  8. Good, solid story.
  9. Cole is a fantastic protagonist who feels human despite his incredible powers.
  10. Every character is interesting and unique.
  11. Controls while navigating environment feel polished and smooth.
  12. Spells provide a lot of options for approaching every situation.
  13. Difficulty is suitable.
  14. New travel-based abilities are, for the most part, incredibly fun to use – especially the ice launch.
  15. The ‘Dead Drop’ is a cool mechanic to give a bit of extra story
  16. Level editor has some unique possibilities available in it.
  17. Both good and evil felt very satisfying. It was rewarding to take the time to heal and save innocents as a good player, and it was fun to go through the streets creating havoc as an evil player.

Cons:

  1.  Morality is very black and white, no grey areas.
  2. Game sometimes tries too hard to assume which handhold you want.
  3. Some of the larger enemies can take a bit long to kill.
  4. Nearly every enemy in the game is repeated multiple times, even the bosses.
  5. Lightning Tether is unwieldy to use.
  6. Way too many Blast Shards.
  7. One really cool ability from the first game was removed.
  8. Too many repetitive side missions, some of which were a bit boring.
  9. Trophy given for creating a mission in the level editor, ensuring a steady supply of boring template missions.
  10. Shooting birds out of the sky to get dead drops felt wrong to me.

 

Review written by: Sean

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