As in the first Infamous, superheroes will always resonate with me; as a kid, I ran around with a towel on my shoulders like I was Batman even still I have a bedroom full of comic book paraphenlia that I could never get rid of willingly. When I played the original Infamous in 2009, it gave me a taste as to what being a superhero could be, much more than an X-Men Legends or Marvel Ultimate Alliance, it delivered that satisfying feeling of power that you only see in comic book movies. I did not think it could get any better, until I played through the sequel.
The improvements in Infamous 2 begin by avoiding a common symptom of sequel-itis, which is removing all your powers from the prior game and making you feel like a chump. Granted, you will not be calling down lightning storms or redirecting rockets right off the bat, but you also will not be relying soley on a standard bolt during the first hours of the game. Rather than the first game’s method of 10-13 powers with karmic variations, the powers are divided into bolt, blast, grenade, and other power types. all the powers pack the punch needed to take down enemies. Switching between the different power variations is as simple as can be, and experimenting is its own reward and tied into the game’s story. Halfway through the game, you’re given the option to add fire or ice powers to the mix, both of which are awesome. Fire powers are more about taking down enemies gathered together, while ice powers have larger areas of effect and get more destructive. With the exception of the utterly useless car jump power, they are all fun to use for traversal and combat.
The other main selling point of Infamous 2 is the morality system, which has been greatly improved. In Infamous 1, choices were pretty simple. You were either a good guy, or a bad guy, with little deviations or tricks to make you feel otherwise. This time around, the karmic choices are much more frequent in the story, and the city in general. For example, you can do the right thing and free cops to help you storm a base, or you can risk the lives of others and rig a trolley to explode and lead it to the front door. Choices like that pop up pretty much everywhere, allowing you to be more consistent, even if the people of New Marais probably get threatened at gunpoint more often than people in Gotham City. And without spoiling anything, the two endings are fantastic and offer different directions for the franchise.
At the end of Infamous 1, players were given a horrible vision of future events. A mysterious enemy known as the Beast had destroyed the world, and a future version of Cole helped the events in the first game transpire as a test of Cole’s will. With the final exam over, it comes as no surprise that you face the Beast at the beginning of Infamous 2. The battle is believably epic, with the player watching the city they worked so hard to save (or ruin) get re-ruined as the Beast rampages through the city in a fiery haze. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Cole gets beat down badly and is forced to high-tail it to New Orleans–er, New Marais. Fortunately, New Marais is home to a scientist with extensive knowledge on Conduits (Infamous’s term for superpowered people), lies the key to defeating the Beast. Unfortunately, New Marais is also home to a denizen of swamp monsters and a gang of racists who’ve taken it upon themselves to defend the city from anything abnormal (aka, anything you-shaped). And, of course, there is still the Beast, which is rampaging down the coast looking for you. The fact that the game constantly reminds you of your inevitable second round with the Beast through the pause menu and news reports is a great move by Sucker Punch, and adds a sense of urgency to the story.
What is compelling about the Infamous franchise is the dynamic mix between realistic characters and the comic book elements. Cole and the rest of the cast hold the story together well, with sharp writing and good voice acting. Cole’s voice better fits him as a person, and everyone else comes alive thanks to the improved facial animations used during cutscenes. The two leading ladies in your karmic decisions, Kuo and Kix, have interesting motivations and interactions with Cole throughout the game, and do great jobs in acting as the angel and devil on Cole’s shoulder. As much as I am loving Infamous 2–and believe me, I am loving the electrical hell out of this game– it is not perfect. The platforming controls feel more awkward than in the first game. I swear that mashing the X button has made my thumb twitch like half my hand is suffering a seizure. There are times where I was trying to leap somewhere and I had to wrestle the controls to land where I need to, and it gets terrible with power lines where you use your induction grind power. Also, those swamp monsters I mentioned earlier? Yeah, the ones with the giant flipper arms are not so bad, since they go down easily with your Amp weapon, but the larger ones have this annoying habit of launching these giant green balls of gunk that seem to have a bead on your bald, electric self 3 out of 5 times. The same frustration will go to later enemies who possess ice powers, such as those that run up and shotgun you like a Gears of War match, or a larger foe that launches ice shards at you (last I checked, ice shards that stand still don’t explode).
And what of the user-generated content? Sucker Punch put in a handful of their missions to give a glimpse of what it can be down the line, and there are a ton of missions out at this time. You can filter your search down to what you are in the mood for, which is an easy task. Using the tools, on the other hand, will take some work. You are going to have to fiddle around a lot if you want to make something great with none of the templates. In fact, speaking as somone who did not use a template and is stuck with something clunky, using a template would be much better and less time-consuming.
Infamous 2 is the ultimate superhero fantasy–a game that grants you the feeling of being a true superhero without making you so godlike that the tasks feel beneath you. Whether it is grinding around the city on rails and shooting people in the face, or calling down a lightning storm, there is a lot of fun to be had with Cole and friends again.
5 out of 5