Written by Brock Poulsen, brockst4r Friday, 08 July 2011 05:00
Cole McGrath's latest adventure takes him to the fictional bayou city of New Marais, for a story that is grander in scale and several hours longer than the original inFamous. That's all well and good, but is it a better game?
inFamous 2 looks better than its predecessor in just about every way. Environments are crisp and interactive, with far more destruction and mayhem possible. The multitude of detail creates an immersive experience. Crates, garbage, and other various bits of debris are launched into the air or destroyed during confrontations. Standing on a pier in the bayou, the flicker of fireflies can be seen reflected on the water. Explosions and lightning powers crackle and burst with excellent lighting and visual effects. Forget fireflies; these sights are the main attraction.
The story is well-presented, and generates an ominous feeling that hangs over the player's head throughout every mission. Without venturing into spoilers, the events of the whole story are foreshadowed with the first action sequence. This sequence is a great substitute for the bland tutorials usually featured, and serves the double purpose of acclimating new players to the controls and lending a sense of weight and dread to all your subsequent actions in New Marais. There are some very compelling story arcs that are similar in tone to the X-Men; Cole (and others) received powers through genetic experiments, and there is fear and hostility from those who don't possess powers.
Many powers from the first game return; regular bolts, electric grenades and rockets, and the very useful Electromagnetic Shockwave. There's a sense of power here that wasn't quite present in inFamous. This game creates a superhero experience that allows the player a challenge, while still maintaining a feeling of strength. The progression of new powers is vastly improved as well. There are variations of existing powers in addition to brand new foe-smashing abilities.
This is where the "Stunts" from the first game make their reappearance. Instead of being simply a way to earn extra experience in cool ways, there is the added incentive that stunts are used to unlock new powers. The awesome feeling of launching an enemy then zapping them as they fly through the air, or sticking a grenade to a bad guy's face is merely a bonus. Stunts also encourage creativity and keep the combat from growing stale.
Climbing and movement have received some slight improvements, but where the new Cole really shines is combat. More specifically, melee combat. Where previously melee was more of a last resort, it has become a valuable part of Cole's arsenal. Enemies flip and flail in slow motion when struck with the Amp, the giant tuning fork Cole wields that makes all the difference in melee. Combos and finishers add variety and make beatdowns an absolute joy.
Open-world games often suffer from a few problems that inFamous 2 tries to avoid, with varying success. Level design is one difficult problem to address, since most open-world games take place in large cities where the only variety consists of different building heights. The game uses custom-made set-pieces in some cases and in another case uses a whole section of the city dubbed "Flood Town." There are some very interesting and compelling levels. Another problem is a sort of mission overload. On the "good" end of the karma scale, the game will often sidetrack the player with rescue-type occurrences - not side missions, per se, but things like muggings or kidnappings that can be stopped to make your character more heroic. These interruptions may seem burdensome at first, but the compulsion to help is a good sign about playing a "good" character: the player should want to protect the citizens of New Marais.
The game almost casually introduces frightening new mutated enemies, from creepy human-sized foes to colossal building-dwarfing enemies reminiscent of something out of Lost Planet 2. Permanent damage to buildings, even if it was scripted, would have added a sense of consequence to the more significant battles, but this feature is sadly absent. The story provides justification for the escalating challenge, but there is also the added bonus that it is loads of fun to take down gigantic monsters.
There are some fantastic moments in inFamous 2. It is very nearly everything a sequel should be, and provides an excellent story and gaming experience.