Tales told of a monster who would come to Empire City. Cole knew he had to be prepared for its arrival, but it made its presence known much earlier than expected. Flattening Empire City, killing millions and forcing our lightning-enthused hero to speed up his move to the port city of New Merais, it didn’t come in peace. The only hope to stop it is an RFI machine, which requires eight blast cores to charge. If Cole can manage to find enough cores, he may stand a chance of saving the people of his new hometown from the devastation that wiped out his last one. Time is ticking though, because the monster is steadily making his trek down the United States’ eastern coastline. It’s only a matter of time before it shows up in the French quarter.
Such is the premise of inFAMOUS 2 from Sucker Punch Productions and Sony Computer Entertainment of America. A sequel to the open world sandbox-action game that took the console and gaming community by (electrical) storm in 2009, it expands upon the chaos, destruction and impending doom that its predecessor wove a tale of.
Empire City is no more and its plague has moved down the coastline into New Merais – a digital interpretation of New Orleans, spread over two major islands with swamp and port sections. You can choose to either save it or destroy it – it’s your choice. Be a super hero that will be loved forever or leave your villainous mark as a powerful super villain, set to destroy everything (and anyone) he can use his elemental powers upon. With great power comes great responsibility – it’s just your choice of how you tackle it.
Like its predecessor of two years past, this lengthy sequel is an open world sandbox action game with electrical abilities, combat and destruction to boot. You play the role of Cole McGrath – a former bike messenger from the streets of Empire City, who was targeted by a madman who switched his delivery package with one containing a powerful bomb. The explosion that resulted not only started a plague in his former hometown, but it bestowed powerful elemental and electrical powers unto him. They’re a lot of fun to use and you’re lucky enough to be the one who has the opportunity to unleash and upgrade them as you climb, float, run and jump around New Merais. Just make sure to stay out of the water because, as you surely know, electricity and water don’t mix.
inFAMOUS 2 plays almost exactly like its two year-old parent. You traverse the city on foot, rooftop or wire, as you complete primary and secondary missions. Your primary mode of attack is still electricity, as mentioned previously, but there’s a major new upgrade here: revamped melee combat. Your friend Zeke has used his time off between games to craft a powerful melee weapon known as the amp, which combines steel, electrical cables and a certain amount of voltage, to create one Hell of a powerful weapon. Screw swords – you’ll definitely prefer an amp. This new device adds a lot to the experience, giving players an opportunity to thoroughly punish any man, monster or soldier who dares step into their personal space. Mix the square and triangle buttons to unleash some cool looking combinations and finishers, which will leave your enemies laying on the concrete below.
Our hero is still living by his karma meter in this outing, as his actions and decisions reflect how his powers evolve, and what the citizens of New Merais think of him. If you’re a good guy, they’ll snap pictures of you, cheer you on and rejoice when you’re around, except for the odd protestor. Though, if you’re a bad man, they’ll cower and run in fright. Be as you will.
Sucker Punch went above and beyond the system they designed for inFAMOUS, giving Cole the choice to decide who he allies with at certain intervals in the campaign. The choice is between good and evil at all times, but your emotions are swayed by those who are trying to court you, making some of the decisions quite tough. It’s been discovered that there are more people with the conduit gene than just you, and two of them (each with their own plans and differing moral compasses), want your help. It’s an upgrade that really adds a ton to the experience, as you feel like what you’re choosing will actually make a huge impact on what is going to happen next, and it does. Your decisions alter the campaign’s route, decide which path the story takes and ultimately change the participants in the final encounter. It’s a great way to involve the player, but it also works well in making you want to play through a second time.
Based on your choices, inFAMOUS trophies, actions and accomplishments, you’ll earn experience points, which will act as your in-game currency. You’re not buying accessories or outfits though – just upgraded powers that are unlocked through performing ‘stunts.’ The powers at your disposal just keep getting better and it’s fun to be able to try new things. Ionic powers are the best part, letting you unleash a powerful tornado or freeze those in your path. Your choices also reflect upon the powers you can use, because there are some which are linked to a good character and some which are only available for a villain – thus adding even more reason to go through it a second time. The only issue with this system is the fact that the stunts are hard to discover. They’re listed on the power select screen, but the font clashes with the background, making them difficult to read. Otherwise, it works really well as an expansion on the abilities mechanic that was implemented in its predecessor.
Furthering the theme of being who you want, how you want to become it, is the addition of new morality-based street crime missions. As you traverse the streets and rooftops, icons will pop up on your mini-map displaying either a blue or red colour. Blue represents good, with missions asking you to stop muggings, save captured civilians or defuse bombs, which give you a blast shard to help upgrade your electrical endurance. Conversely, the red versions of these missions tend to feature some opposites. Stop the bomb or take the easy way out by stealing one from a civilian who is running down the street close-by. Or, take out a street performer just because his music annoys you. They get to be a bit repetitive, but they’re still pretty fun. Not to mention easy experience and the fact that they help you get a trophy. It also adds a great amount of morality-based choices to your bucket list, further aiding you in your quest to be as good (or evil) as you want.
Generally speaking, the evil path is easier to follow. You don’t have to worry about collateral damage when you blow things up (such as building verandas which crumble with amazing detail and physics,) nor do you have to worry about taking the tougher route to avoid unnecessary destruction during story missions. Being a good person can be challenging at times and the development team plus script writers did an excellent job of conveying it in this game.
You really feel like the choices you make are meaningful, even though it’s a virtual world full of ones and zeroes. It tugs at your heart strings as you build and abolish relationships, save or destroy everyday inhabitants of New Merais and unleash your will upon the innocent or guilty. It’s easy to become invested in the world and its issues, making it a tough game to pull yourself away from. Lucky for you, it’s quite long with tons of content on top of its thirty-seven story mission campaign. Side missions are extra.
There’s a lot of variety within the story and side missions, which helps break up the core third-person action/shooter combat. Sometimes you’ll be taking pictures for evidence. Other times, you’ll be wiping out an entire base full of foes. Perhaps you’ll even team up your powers with an ally to unleash the ultimate amount of creative terror upon those who dare confront you. Granted, some of the mini-boss enemies can be a bit annoying. They pop up a lot and feature some basic and dated defeat mechanics.
Another new addition to this release is user-generated content. What it means is simple: you and your friends can create your own missions which can be published for the community to enjoy, rate and/or share. Templates are available for use, but you’re welcome to start from scratch or edit one that the developers created for you. And it’s easy to use, while quite in-depth at the same time.
It’s sort of like LittleBIGPlanet, except these missions appear in your campaign and can be selected whenever you feel like it. You’d think that the types of missions would be limited, but they really aren’t. You can create a question game, a target gallery, or a race. Even physics-based minigames are available. It’s impressive, though there are a few bugs to be found – even in the Sucker Punch created missions. Though, what it does deliver and offer is pretty fun, even if you’ll have the odd frustrating issue. Especially since the UGC missions add a lot of replay value and customizable factors to your experience.
You’ll spend a lot of time invested in the world of inFAMOUS 2, on the streets of New Merais. It’s a fun world to interact in, with lots of cause and effect, plus tons of interactions to take part in. The road is pretty smooth, but there are a few hiccups and bumps along the way. You’ll get stuck in the odd environmental item and may find a glitch or two, but there’s nothing major. It runs well, plays just fine and provides a very fun experience without much frustration. Though its difficulty does spike in weird ways.
Running on an updated version of the genre created for its predecessor, the city of New Merais is beautiful to watch and interact with. There’s a lot of detail in the buildings, character models and environmental effects (such as beautiful dusk moments.) Each area of the world looks completely different – whether it’s a residential area, a flooded area of town or the red light district. Only some areas can be structurally demolished however, with the aforementioned visceral and realism physics system behind the destruction. Cole’s powers and abilities are a spectacle to watch, filling the sky with swirling wind or colourful electricity, blue or red depending on your morality. The only minor issue is that some dark sections can look a bit muddy.
It’s fun to just walk around and look at the world around you, which is never more true than when you visit the swamp during a mission just over half-way through the game. It’s a very beautiful moment in the game as you ride a boat through a lush and murky swamp, with tons of tree cover. Sun filters through the trees in a realistic and colourful fashion, making it look amazing. There’s a blanket of fog covering the area, which reacts impressively with the light filtering in. Even if you don’t end up picking up the game (though you should), you should check that mission out online. It’s a great visual feat.
Major story events are told through the use of well-drawn and detailed motion comics, which do a good job of depicting in-game happenings in a stylish way. They’re few and far between, only showing up at certain intervals. The other times, the game’s visual engine is used for cutscenes shown before, during and after missions. It does a good job and shows some nicely polished character models, though there can be a bit of clipping. Most of those won’t wow you, but they get the job done.
Those who’ve played the first game in the series will notice that Cole looks a bit different this time around. That’s because the development team went with a new motion cap/voice actor, whose facial structure is different from that of the first iteration of our morally ambiguous protagonist. Eric Ladin from the popular television show, The Killing, takes on the role as does a great job with it. He really fits the mood of the game and delivers Cole’s lines with great emotion, empathy and indecisiveness. The rest of the voice cast is no slouch either. Civilians you run into will also have a positive or negative remark for you, but they don’t feel lively enough due to a lack of actual spoken dialogue.
During your travels, you’ll spend a lot of time without any music, as the world lives around you. At these times, there really isn’t a lot of sound other than what you instigate or create. It’s a questionable design choice, because it leaves the city feeling a bit less life-like than it should, but it’s not anything to really drone on about. When there is music, it’s loud and works really well within the virtual experience. The song that plays during the credits sequence is an excellent choice, which sounds great and accompanies the visual montage incredibly well.
If you’ve been looking for a great PlayStation 3 exclusive to sink your teeth into, inFAMOUS 2 is it. You cannot go wrong by picking this one up. It offers tons of content out of the box, while the addition of user-generated content allows for the constant addition of new content from the community. Though it’s arguably a lot like its predecessor, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you were one of the many who picked up inFAMOUS and played through it, chances are that you’ve already put your money down on this adventure. It’s a wise choice because Cole’s trip to New Merais is an exciting one with tons of explosions, great mission variety and an engaging storyline. Just remember to come back and visit the real world on occasion. Don’t get yourself too lost in New Merais, though it’s hard to blame you if you do.