inFamous 2 Review

By Jason Wishnov - Posted Jun 01, 2011

inFAMOUS 2 builds upon the excellent foundation established in its predecessor: give the player mass powers of electric destruction, present a standard good-and-evil moral duality, and let them loose in a city to do as they will. It's likely one of the best superhero-sandbox game ever made, and though it has its flaws, the game remains a polished experience from start to finish.

The Pros
  • The upgraded abilities of Cole MacGrath give the player an unprecedented feeling of power.
  • Great storyline.
  • New Marais feels alive and vibrant.
  • Morality decisions affect a significant portion of the game.
The Cons
  • A lack of variety in enemy types and tactics.
  • The game's pacing feels just a touch too slow.
  • Outlying areas of the city feel quite dull in comparison the lively heart of town.

inFamous 2 Review:

During certain moments of inFAMOUS 2, in what I can only blame on some kind of self-afflicted pop-culture overload, I desperately and irrationally desired that Thor himself, Norse/Marvel God of Thunder, drop down from the sky to challenge my on-screen persona, Cole MacGrath. This desire sums up rather well how I feel about the anticipated sequel from Sucker Punch Productions: I’m pretty sure I could take a hammer-wielding Viking deity in a fight, if only the designers would throw such a worthy foe my way.

High on Voltage

inFAMOUS 2 builds upon the excellent foundation established in its predecessor: give the player mass powers of electric destruction, present a standard good-and-evil moral duality, and let them loose in a city to do as they will. In the sequel, the player begins with several of the abilities learned from the first go-around in Empire City: static thrusters (a floating mechanic) and electric grinding in particular, which grant the player a more immediate mobility. This decision deemphasizes the relatively competent parkour mechanics, but they’re still there, waiting for Cole to ledge-hop and freerun his way to the rooftops, should he feel so inclined.

In combat, players are given a nearly overwhelming number of offensive capabilities. Abilities are grouped into logical types: projectile, grenade, missile, melee, precision, push, kinetic, ionic, and each of these groups is assigned its own button. As the player progresses through the game, further abilities in these categories are unlocked (through a rather well-executed pseudo-achievement system) and subsequently purchased using experience points. The experience points are a minor gripe of mine, and feel shoehorned into a game that doesn’t need such a out-of-place mechanic; the points are doled out in a very measured fashion, and simply mucking about the city doesn’t give enough of a bonus to bother grinding anything out. Still, the system hardly impedes the player’s progress. 

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And there are moments, oh, there are moments. As a gigantic behemoth tears down the city streets, I electromagnetically lifted one car, then another, and hurled them into his flank. Nary a scratch. Lesser minions begun to charge down the streets, threatening to overwhelm and divert my attention as officers and civilians die in spectacular fashion. I send a devastating, lightning-infused tornado to clean up the rabble, and then begin peppering the behemoth with the more accurate sticky grenades and precision strikes. I repel several of his projectiles with a kinetic shield, and begin my assault anew.

An impressive setpiece, to be sure. But thanks to the overwhelming power bestowed upon the player, even said behemoth offers very little real threat. Moreover, that battle is reused, in nearly identical circumstances, later in the game. In fact, literally every single enemy, even creatures you would assume are major boss encounters, are rehashed at some later point, which weakens the game as a whole. And, despite the occasional massive beast, 96% of all enemy encounters are with one of three basic enemy types: pushovers, the lot of them. I felt like a God, but one reduced to burning ants with a magnifying glass.

Electric Lights

The game opens in Empire City, but after a brief and humbling encounter with The Beast--essentially a giant lava monster, alluded to heavily in the previous game--Cole flees to Louisiana’s New Marais to augment his abilities. Your primary allies are Dr. Kuo, a defected CIA agent, and your old pal Zeke, a sort of Jack Black/Elvis hybrid. You’ll also encounter the chaotic and fiery Nix, and the traditional southern-baptist-turned-maniacal-villain, Bertrand. Your overarching goal is collect enough energy to power something called the RFI, the only thing capable of downing the Beast.

It’s a bit over-the-top, but it works, in no small part due to the fine voice acting from the cast. Dr. Kuo in particular (voiced by Dawn Olivieri) is a standout performance. The morality system is given a hefty bit of weight as well: besides altering your available abilities, your moral decisions will affect available missions, change alliances within the narrative, and offer two vastly different endings. The duality between Nix and Kuo, each pushing the player in a different moral direction, is particularly well done.

The city of New Marais is vivid and bright, even if its denizens feel a bit daft with regards to artificial intelligence. The city is large enough to feel expansive, but limited enough to allow the player to become mostly familiar with their surroundings as time progresses. Later in the game, two previously closed off areas open up to expand the city even further, but these regions are simply far too dull to sustain any kind of extended interest in the surroundings. The main thoroughfares are where the city’s charm lies.

Circuitous Structure

The game’s structure is standard but effective: the open world gives waypoints and markers denoting the next objective, which usually consists of tracking down and taking out some number of enemies. The game occasionally shows flairs of creativity in mission design, but in general, combat is the bread-and-butter. These are broken up by one of two types of cutscenes: in-engine, with motion capture tech, or the stylistic comic-book-esque presentations from the original. Both work equally well. While the mission variety and pacing do tend to drag, especially toward the end, the narrative’s conclusion is certainly a compelling enough reason to move forward.

There’s plenty to do outside of the game’s primary missions: over sixty optional missions allow you to regain control over sections of the city, expelling any sort of violent encounter in the area. Hundreds of blast shards hidden around the city offer an increased electrical capacity, “Dead Drops” offer an expanded view of the game’s narrative, and Sucker Punch has thrown in a new wrinkle in the form of UGC, or User Generated Content. Players can construct, albeit with relatively rudimentary tools, custom missions and share them with the world. These require a bit of technical ability, and I’ve yet to see one really blow me away, but it adds a nice additional touch in a world already loaded with nice touches. Even discounting additional content and playing the alternate morality, there’s easily fifteen hours of content.

inFAMOUS 2 is a game that easily improves on its forebear. It’s likely one of the best superhero-sandbox game ever made, and though it has its flaws, the game remains a polished experience from start to finish; “I’m too absurdly powerful” is one criticism that the development team will just have to live with. A graphical powerhouse with gameplay to match, Sucker Punch Productions delivers a fantastic addition to any Playstation 3 owner’s library.